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Old 19-08-2015, 08:42   #1
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Buying a boat in another country

Hello;
We live in Ontario and are in the process of buying a sailboat to live on. We've sold everything and are having fun in a somewhat frustrating way trying to figure out what boat to get, but my question is; where would we be able to get information about the logistics of buying a boat in another country? Most of the boats we are looking at are in the U.S. or south (Caribbean, Panama etc). Is there somewhere online that might provide information regarding this? I suppose if we bought through a broker they would provide details (?) but many of the boats we are looking at are on private listings.
We are on a steep learning curve with all this, but can't wait to be on the water.
Thank you in advance!
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Old 19-08-2015, 09:26   #2
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

I'm a Canadian and recently bought a boat in Cuba from a German fellow.

Its not really that difficult (if you remove the Cuba thing, that was painful).

1. You will need to engage an escrow company to handle the money transfers and down payments (a broker usually takes care of this).

2. If the value of the boat is over $75K then I would personally use a lawyer to draw up the sales contract. It will detail the down payment, closing and survey requirements. Again a broker would handle this usually.

OPTIONALLY - There are companies that will take care of steps 1 and 2 for a small fee. We used DetailsDetails in Florida and were reasonably happy.

3. Once the deal is solid, then you contact the Canadian Vessel Registry to start the registration process in Canada. Be patient, this process can take up to 3 months to complete. Depending on the size of boat, you may need a tonnage survey which you will need to organize if you don't have a broker (again DetailsDetails can do this, but its expensive). You can look over the registration document here.
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You will only owe the registration fee (I think $300cdn) until the boat is brought to Canada. If you do bring the boat to Canada, then you will owe Duty, GST (possibly HST or PST) upon entering Canadian waters.
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Old 19-08-2015, 09:27   #3
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

You'll need to look at the CRA website for tax information as well as Transport Canada website for registration information. That's a start anyway.

I know it doesn't relate to your question, but with the Canadian dollar being as weak as it is, your best bet may well be buying in Canada.

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Old 19-08-2015, 09:34   #4
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

Thanks, but we were also wondering if it is necessary to have the boat re-registered as Canadian. Anecdotally, we had heard that it's possible to leave the boat registration in whatever country it was registered in to begin with; ie U.S., Bahamas etc. We weren't planning to return to Canada with the boat anytime soon. Might there be benefits in having a boat registered in another country?
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Old 19-08-2015, 09:37   #5
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

Yes, the low Canadian dollar is causing boat buying pain at the moment, but also is the logistics of getting the boat from Ontario to the Caribbean, which is where we plan to be. We would prefer not to do the long sail down the ICW.
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Old 19-08-2015, 09:44   #6
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

You cannot EASILY leave the boat registered in USA if you are not an American citizen.

We looked up the other options (corporation in the US, island nations, ect) and determined the easiest and cheapest was to re-register in Canada. In fact there is no downside if you don't plan to bring the boat back to Canada. Aside from the long wait times, registration was easy and gave the opportunity to rename the boat. It also makes it easier to sell the boat in the future as Canada has a process for a "deregistration" certificate that is required by most sales.
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Old 20-08-2015, 13:59   #7
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

I think a buyer's broker is a great asset, especially for an inexperienced buyer who is buying long distance.

If northgirl got, say, a buyer's broker in Annapolis or Florida, would they be able to broker a deal in the Bahamas or some other third country? I would think the answer would be yes. The trick, of course, is finding a great broker who has international buying experience.
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Old 20-08-2015, 14:00   #8
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

We purchased our Catamaran 5 years ago in Florida through the same broker that "travellers" stated in the first post and he's pretty much bang on with his advice to you!
The only thing we did different was do an "offshore closing" with the broker. That meant we had to go 3 miles offshore, sign the papers and take a picture with both that day's dated newspaper and the GPS coordinates of our position all on the table at the same time.
Then, we returned to port and I paid $18-$20 dollars for a one year cruising permit in the U.S. at Port of Lauderdale Customs and Immigration office [or next door to it].
So your able to then leave the boat their for up to a year of course, but have to leave for at least 5 days after or before that before you can receive a new permit.

The only small problem is that, yes , you won't receive your Canadian registration for approximately 3 months and they won't issue you a cruising permit till you show them an original copy of such. So, the officers told me to come back when I had the permit or have an agent of mine do that for me and to just leave the boat at my dock in Lauderdale for the meantime which I did.I returned 3 months later with Registration in hand wondering if I was going to go to the "clink" or not. No problem, they issued me a permit for 1 year from that date and life has been beautiful since.
When I was deciding on where to register the boat originally, the broker's agent suggested it was typically better to register the boat in the same country as the owner's passport as in some islands and countries [depending on where you plan to travel to?] lots of unnecessary but costly paperwork can be generated and a pain if not so.
We just go back and forth to the Bahamas over winter and in the end will sell the boat down there, never bringing it back to Canada to pay the duty or HST on it. works for us!
Good luck!
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Old 20-08-2015, 14:14   #9
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

This has been covered a few times before but as someone said a U.S. Documented boat cannot be owned by a non US citizen. So, if the boat you intend buying in the U.S. Is documented (with the Coast Guard) then it has to be de registered by the U.S. Owner before purchase. A foreigner can buy a state registered boat no problem. As you may be aware, and it may be the same in Canada, a state registered boat is not allowed to visit a foreign port without a country of registration. Most (if not all) foreign countries require the owner of a vessel documented (flagged) to be a citizen of that country. Maybe some of the Caribbean islands work differently? Also, the U.S. Coastguard will issue a certificate to indicate the boat is no longer documented and that certificate is then required to register in the new country. (Just proof, required in Australia, not sure if any where else)
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Old 20-08-2015, 14:29   #10
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

No duty if the boat was made in Can/US or any of the other countries we have free trade agreements with.

You still have to pay HST for Ontario though, even if made in Canada.

You don't need a customs broker. Just pay at the border if trucking it in (you'll have to meet the trucker at the commercial part of the border crossing), or declare via phone if you sail in and they'll tell you how/where to pay (you may need a credit card while on the phone).
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Old 21-08-2015, 07:08   #11
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

NorthGirl,

Buying a boat in the US is easy, we just did it this spring. We bought a old Morgan and we are KEEPING it in the US. Documenting it as Canadian is really easy, just 6 forms to fill out and send. If you don't bring the boat back to canada you don't have to pay HST on it. When you do bring it back you will as at that time you will for all intents be "importing it".

Thankfully our boat was just state registered so getting it "degreistered" was just a call to that state and they mailed me a letter stating that it was no longer registered with them. Taxes are a bit of a grey area, The state we purchased in gave us a form for submit stating that the boat was leaving within 30 days, we go lucky and moved it the day after we closed to NY so it would be closer for us to work on it. At the moment we're waiting for our Canadian Documentation to complete so we're sort of in a grey area. Not really registered anywhere! I think that matters less because the boat is on the hard and in a "state of repair" at the moment.
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Old 21-08-2015, 07:55   #12
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

So, it looks like it is best for us to re-register a boat as Canadian, though we will have to wait the 3 months and presumably would have to sit in place until that is complete. We will check into DetailsDetails in Florida as well.
Thanks for all the good info. Now just to find the right boat without having to fly all over creation!
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Old 21-08-2015, 07:55   #13
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

Quote:
Originally Posted by wannacat View Post
The only thing we did different was do an "offshore closing" with the broker. That meant we had to go 3 miles offshore, sign the papers and take a picture with both that day's dated newspaper and the GPS coordinates of our position all on the table at the same time.
I believe the reason for an "offshore closing" is to avoid incurring Florida State sales tax.

Even though my boat was bought in Cuba from a German, I still needed to supply a notorized form stating that the possession change happened outside of Florida waters. It was required by my broker as they operated out of Florida.

Thats actually a good point to bring up. Be prepared if you require a notorized document. Getting something notorized can be a royal pain in the butt, even here in Canada. It was a 2 hour drive to the closest person around here. It becomes more of a pain if you are in a different county.
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Old 21-08-2015, 08:05   #14
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

Quote:
Originally Posted by northgirl View Post
So, it looks like it is best for us to re-register a boat as Canadian, though we will have to wait the 3 months and presumably would have to sit in place until that is complete. We will check into DetailsDetails in Florida as well.
Thanks for all the good info. Now just to find the right boat without having to fly all over creation!
Like I said above.. You start the registration process as soon as the deal looks "Solid". In my case, I filed the forms long before I took possession.

Another thing that can speed the process up is to ensure you call and make payment immediately after submitting the forms (and ensure they got the forms). This seems to start moving things along quicker.

Frankly as a Canadian I was ashamed of how painful the process was. It took over a month and half just to confirm the name I wanted was free (a simple database search). Compared to any other bureaucracy in Canada it was downright pathetic. I ended up calling multiple times to check on it (call in, leave a message, get a call back the next day) and it seemed like there was only 2-3 staff in the entire office. I have plans to write to my MLA in the future detailing my experience.
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Old 21-08-2015, 11:08   #15
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Re: Buying a boat in another country

You need not buy a boat through a broker to enlist the services of one specifically to lead you through the title transfer/escrow paperwork. A fee of a few hundred $ is usually appropriate.
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