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It’s Not Rocket Science If You Know What You Want 

Although it’s true that purchasing boats can happen on impulse, it’s always a debacle-in-waiting if one doesn’t go about it the right way because hey, it’s a boat. Unlike many other things in life, a boat rarely shares the same resale attributes like most purchases we commonly make. Buy the wrong boat, and it’s a downward spiral from thereon with a mountain of headaches and needless expenditures to justify your purchase. Thankfully though, there is a way to go about your next boat purchase in an educated and savvy manner, and to find out the methodology, it’s always good to talk to an expert. 

“When it comes to buying a boat, it is very important to understand the full picture. Most people will start by buying what looks appealing to him/her based on their allocated budget. However, as one delves deeper into what you should buy, there are actually more factors that you should be considering when choosing a suitable boat to purchase”, says Mr. Oh Kean Shen, The Grid’s longtime friend and supporter. But who is Mr. Oh you ask, and why does his view matter?

Mr Oh Kean Shen (far left) has decades of experience in yacht building and yacht charters.

Mr. Oh, or Shen as he is commonly known among his contemporaries, is the owner and founder of Pen Marine, Malaysia’s go-to pleasure boating pioneers. His yachting firm provides not just mere yacht retailing and charter services, but also a wide range of end-to-end solutions for the local and regional yachting connoisseur. Since 1988, Shen has successfully ​consulted and overseen various luxury yacht projects for clients on behalf of international brands like Princess Yachts, Grand Banks and Leopard. Interestingly as well, the seasoned seafarer has also project managed custom-yacht builds for famous Dutch superyacht builders, Heesen Yachts. His insights towards boat purchasing is second to none in Southeast Asia. So, what are some of the factors Mr. Oh highlights to his clients before they purchase their next boat/yacht?

Oh Kean Shen (second from right) is not just a yachting expert, but a lover of the open seas, which is why his approach to yachting/boating, comes from the most important place: the heart.

1- Type Of Boat: Am I A Sailor Or Do I Go For A Motoryacht?

Sailboat buyers are usually more adventurous and are probably more willing to be physically involved in handling and managing their boat. Other boat buyers may prefer to relax and unwind on their yacht and spend time with family and friends or entertain other business partners, hence a motoryacht would be more suitable for them. They may prefer to hire a crew to assist with boat handling and therefore can be less involved in the physical aspect. Motoryachts can be as small as 15ft to 40ft where they are fitted with outboard motors; or motoryachts above 40ft up to the superyacht and megayacht sizes (24metres and above) are usually propelled by diesel powered engines.

2- Size of Boats: The Bigger Your Boat, The Bigger The Cost

This stylish Princes 75 luxury yacht is just an example of the kind of boats that Mr. Oh retails to his clientele.

Don’t be put off just yet. While pleasure boating can be an expensive lifestyle extension, there is a thrifty way to go about it and it starts by deciding on the size of your new seafarer. The size of your desired boat is an important factor because the bigger the boat, the more it costs to acquire. And it’s not just about affording your new yacht. The size also affects aspects pertaining to anchorage: even though you are able to buy a big boat, it is important to identify whether you have a berth to keep the boat in the location you wish to keep it, or a home base for the boat.

Having the right crew, makes all the difference in a yacht ownership because you never know when you might want to jump in for a quick splash.

Another reason why size is a huge criteria to consider in your quest for a new boat, is the amount of crew hands you’ll need on deck. Through his manifold years in the yachting business, Mr. Oh uses this guideline to consult clients:

  • ​​- 40ft and below: Possible to be handled by an owner
  • – 40ft – 70ft: Can be crewed by the owner, owner and crew combination, and/or completely crewed by hired personnel.
  • – Above 70ft – It is advisable to hire a full-time crew unless the owner is a very experienced boat owner who knows how to manage the boat, has the luxury of time and enjoys spending most of his time on his boat.

3- New or Used: Crunching The Numbers

Here’s where things get detailed according to Mr. Oh, and the pros and cons of buying new or used boats is something the former mechanical engineer is all to familiar with. He opines that a new boat is obviously ideal as you get to choose your own options and customise the boat to your own desires and specifications. This ranges from the obvious options such as the size of the air conditioning system, the installation of bigger generator sets and also the engines to go at higher speeds with bigger horsepower options to other specially customized options which a shipyard yard can design for you. 

There are also many new electrical and electronic options today too, such as radar systems, GPS & Chartplotter, AIS (which is compulsory in Singapore & Thailand currently) and zero speed stabilizers. Besides those technical options, yachts today also cater heavily for desired lifestyles, which is why some clients can be overwhelmed with things like the high-end entertainment systems you could have in your yacht. There are even things like underwater lights which can be included in a design. He also points out that with new boats, one can fully customise interiors with own choice of materials of upholstery, curtains, flooring ( be it carpet or wooden floors), marbles and type of wood used.

Consulting someone like Mr. Oh on your next boat purchase can translate to all your desires coming to perfect fruition.

New yachts also come with the promise of state-of-the-art technology. “New engines and equipment are continuously being launched these days and the boat yards will strive to install the latest equipment into boats. The new models often have much more volume for a given length because the yard designs them with new understanding of the material strength which has lead to the creation of higher strength, bigger volume with lower weight ratio.” explains Mr Oh.

As for used boats on the other hand, it’s a nitty-gritty case because there are a lot more considerations to be made according to Mr. Oh. In fact, he believes there is also a need for knowledge to assess the condition of the boat which directly influences the value one should pay for the said used boat. In this regard, some of the factors that affect the price include the size of the boats, the age, and its condition (state of repair and maintenance). Ultimately, for used boats, the condition of the said boat/yacht will determine the amount of monies that is needed to restore the boat to a pristine condition because boats are always surrounded by sea water which is a corrosive environment. 

“When buying new, you have a choice on the brand you want to buy. You can semi-customise to your taste things like the interior layout and the specifications. The delivery time may be longer than a used boat as it will be tagged to the production of the boat you have chosen. Moreover, everything on board is new and it comes with the manufacturer’s warranty” – Mr Oh, on purchasing a brand new boat/yacht.

In stark contrast, buying a used boat is a slightly different proposition all together. “It is recommended that a broker is involved for the purchase of a used boat. For each of the boats you have shortlisted or are considering, the buyer has to spend more time to study each boat as the specifications, layout and conditions of the boats are varied. A broker can help you do the preliminary short listing and assist you with initial negotiation and he/she will recommend you a professional surveyor to provide a technical condition report on the boat before you finally purchase.”

And when you consider the various factors surrounding used boats, it starts to look like a more tedious bit of business, as it is important for the buyer to know exactly what he/she is purchasing. This is where the surveyor’s role will prove to be crucial in assisting to assess the condition of the boat. The most common con with used boats is how quickly they become outdated accoding to Mr Oh. “Other cons of a used boat are that the equipment being used may be superseded by other new models with more features. However, some buyers who like the latest electronics will still have the option to make changes and retrofit the latest equipment where possible.” But hold up, there are some pros behind a used boat.

New yacht models are designed to suit lifestyles, and as such, come with a host of layouts and options to make the ownership experience truly memorable.

The pros of a used boat is the lower price a buyer has to pay. Some used boat buyers will also see that the present owner has done what we call the “shake down period”; which means any bugs during the initial 6 months, would have been solved or sorted out. “A boat that has been well run-in by the present owner is something we in the industry often call a boat that is ‘better than new’.”

Mr. Oh’s Conclusion?

Buying a new boat or a used boat is very much dependent on the budget a buyer puts into buying his/her next dream yacht. Upon deciding on the amount of monies you wish to spend on the yacht, you have to determine the size which will then give you a clearer picture whether you will increase your budget to buy new or look for a good used boat to fit you budget.

“It is always best to use a reputable broker who will guide you the right way, as they hope to have you as a buyer for more deals in the future. A broker who has good technical background is an advantage, as they will be able to help you find the right boat, but a buyer should not save monies to engage a surveyor to give them an unbiased technical assessment”, explains Mr Oh.

​Sounds simple now, doesn’t it? It could be a case of over-simplification, but as a start, these are some pointers from an expert to get you going. But again, it can prove to be a tremendous endeavor to nail in a solid new boat/yacht selection. Good thing though that people like Mr. Oh Kean Shen and Pen Marine are on hand to help many lost yachting connoisseurs out there. Head over to to check out what Pen Marine can do for you or contact them at +60195302288/[email protected] to setup a one-to-one consulting session at their main office down at Straits Quay, Penang. 

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