When you purchased your boat, you likely heard the common phrase “the two best days of a boater’s life are the day they buy their boat, and the day they sell it.” You probably agreed with the first part of that statement, but couldn’t imagine the day you’d want to actually sell your boat. However, if you’ve clicked to this page, you may be finally considering selling your boat. Maybe your first vessel was an older, used boat that’s finally showing its age. Maybe your family has grown, and you need something bigger. Or, maybe you’re finding that you’ve outgrown the boating lifestyle, and want to do something else on the weekend. There are plenty of reasons people sell their boats, and each one is unique and valid.
Whatever reason you have to sell your boat, you probably need to know a few things before you start. Selling a boat can be a challenging process, especially if you’ve never privately sold a vehicle before. You should expect that there’s going to be some prep work, some cleaning, and quite a bit of paperwork. However, after all the heavy lifting, you’re left with an excellent opportunity that’s unique to boat owners. Once your buyer pulls away with your boat, and you have the time to settle, you can choose what to do with your weekends once more. You might even find that you have the freedom to buy a brand-new boat of your dreams.
To keep the boat-selling process fun and stress-free, we’ve created this definitive guide to selling your boat. Here, you’ll learn all about the boat selling process, from finding out whether you actually need to sell your boat, to preparing your boat for sale and getting the paperwork ready. We hope you’ll find this helpful, so you worry less about how to sell your boat, and more about what you’ll do once it’s sold.
Whatever reason you have to sell your boat, it’s valid. Some people feel very intimately about their boats, so they might feel guilty or uncomfortable with selling it. However, whether you want to upgrade or just want to spend your weekends doing something else, you can feel comfortable about your decision to part ways with your vessel. You shouldn’t feel like you have to justify why you want to sell your boat, unless, of course, you don’t really want to sell it. In that case, you probably don’t need to sell it.
Don’t have time to use your boat as much as you like? Selling it isn’t the only option. You can put your boat away for a few months, or even an entire season while you decide whether or not selling your boat is right for you. The biggest priority is to flush all water from the system. Many boats have water in lines that are used for liquid cooling the engine. There also might be water stored in any fresh water or grey water tanks that you need to remove. If you live in a cold climate, that water can freeze, causing damage to the boat’s delicate internal mechanics. Purging water from the system is a great way to prevent rust and corrosion between uses or while the boat is in storage.
Give your boat a good detailing every time you leave it after a weekend. This is especially important if you don’t know when you’re going to use it again. Some people start to feel the age of their boat if they haven’t used it in a long time and it looks shabby or aged. Most standard cleaners will work well to keep the fiberglass and windows clear of staining. You should also regularly condition the leather or vinyl seating to prevent dry rotting or cracking. Keeping your deck, seating, and cockpit in good condition can make your boat feel brand-new each time you get in it, which can help make boat ownership feel more rewarding.
If you’ve found that you just don’t use your boat enough to make ownership worth it, you don’t have to give up boating altogether. In fact, there are plenty of membership opportunities that can get you on the water in the meantime. Freedom and Carefree Boat Clubs have plenty of opportunities, so you can enjoy days on the water without the hard work and stress of owning a boat. Until that point, you want to prioritize selling your boat the right way so you get back everything it’s worth. Here’s the best way to sell your boat so that you don’t lose too much of its value.
There are two key ways to sell a boat: sell it yourself, or hire a broker to do all the heavy lifting for you. A broker can help make the process of selling your boat easy, especially for folks with limited time on their hands or those who have limited experience selling high-cost items. Boat brokers can help with valuations, advertising, and guiding you through the selling process. They can also help handle all the paperwork that comes from selling a boat, which can be a bit extensive.
That’s not to say you need to use a broker. However, they help speed up the boat-selling process. A broker can do everything from listing and advertising your boat to negotiating a sale price so that all you have to do is sign the bill of sale.
It can be that simple.
Brokers don’t work for free, however. They normally charge between 5-10% of the sale as part of their commission. That means that the cost of a broker can cut into the profit you’ll make by selling your boat. A private sale might be the best option for those with lower-cost boats less than $50,000, so they can get the most return on their vessel.
You don’t have to commit to one method of sale over another. In fact, many people try selling a boat on their own and then look to hiring a broker later if the process takes too long. That’s sometimes because boat owners want to see how easy or hard it is to sell a boat before they invest in a broker. Is your boat a popular type like a center console or bowrider? In that case, you probably won’t need to hire help to sell your boat. However, if you have a rare type of boat, or luxury vessel, you might benefit from the extra support a broker can provide.
One of the most important parts of selling your boat is deciding where to list your boat. Picking the right site is fairly important, because it can affect how many people can see that your boat is for sale. It’s an essential part of marketing that can impact whether or not the right people know your boat is available.
Some of the most popular sites to list boats for sale are Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Craigslist. These are well-known sites that are free to use. They also have a lot of views, which means you’re more likely to get people asking about your boat. However, sites like Facebook can come with a lot of fake offers, or people curious about your boat, with no intent of purchasing it. Facebook and Craigslist can also be location-restricted, which means people out of your area might struggle to find your boat listing. That can be important, especially for niche vessels. Often, you want far-reaching advertising, so that people from across the country can see your boat and have the opportunity to put in an offer.
Instead of listing on the most popular sites, consider looking at sites that are dedicated to boat sales. This includes sites like The Hull Truth Forum or BoatTrader, which are sites designed to connect boat buyers and sellers. When you put your boat for sale on these sites, you can feel comfortable knowing that people will be familiar with boating, and will respect what your vessel is worth.
While The Hull Truth and Boat Trader are the top sites for private sellers, you’ll need a broker to get access to the top sites for boat buyers. YachtWorld and Moreboats are two of the most popular boat listing sites, and will give you the best opportunity to find a qualified buyer. By limiting sales through a broker, these sites guarantee that the best boats make it to their page, which helps buyers build trust in the system. That benefits you as a seller, because you know that buyers are serious about getting great value for their money.
Properly pricing your boat is one of the hardest parts of selling it. Everyone thinks that their boat is worth more than it truly is. And why wouldn’t you? You likely have a lot of splendid memories from days spent on the water, and may have put in a lot of time and money keeping the boat running in perfect condition. It’s normal to want some money back for all that effort—even though you’re not likely going to get it.
Like cars and all other vehicles, boats are depreciating assets. That means they start to lose value as soon as they’re sold. If you’re looking at current boats on the market, however, you may not see much depreciation take hold. That’s because 2020 and 2021 were unique market years. Supply line shortages and occupancy restrictions forced many boat manufacturers to delay product lines, reducing new inventory and making used boats incredibly valuable. People selling their boats saw their vessels hold their value and even appreciate as new boaters flooded the market, looking to find a way to get on the water. This isn’t typical and isn’t something you should expect when pricing your boat to sell moving forward.
To find the right price of your boat, first use the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) boats. Some sites that host boat listings will even have portals linked to NADA to make it easier to find out how much your boat is worth. This is an excellent baseline, but isn’t the end-all-be-all for boat values. NADA strictly looks at factors like your boat’s purchase price and average depreciation. This doesn’t consider factors like popularity or reliability, which can cause boats to retain their value slightly better than the market suggests. If a buyer is using a loan to buy a boat, it’s likely that a bank won’t give them more than the NADA valuation, so consider that when you list a price for your boat.
After getting a baseline, check out what other sellers in your area are selling their boats for. When inventory is low, a competitive marketplace will allow you to increase your boat’s price slightly. Similarly, if your boat is rare, or in high-demand, you can likely ask for more than the base price for your boat.
A marine surveyor is a great tool that you can take advantage of to find the right price for your boat. Surveyors are the maritime version of appraisers, and will do a thorough inspection of your vessel to conclude it’s real worth. Acquiring a marine survey may be necessary to sell your boat especially if you own a large vessel like a large, custom fishing boat or a yacht that costs over $200,000. A marine survey can also make buyers feel more comfortable about purchasing a boat, as it proves that the vessel is as-advertised, with any problem areas documented and disclosed as part of the sale. A marine survey is a lot like an appraisal on a house, and can be an essential protection for you and the buyer.
A final thing to consider when pricing your boat is ensuring that any fees and closing costs are included in the price so you get the full value of your boat. One of the most important fees to consider adding is your broker fee. Remember, a broker will cost a percentage of the purchase price as part of their commission. You can make sure that you walk away with the full value of your vessel by charging between 5-10% more than what your boat is worth. Let the buyer cover the cost of a broker, so you don’t have to.
If you want to get the best price for your boat, you’re going to need to do a little work ahead of time to prepare it to be sold. Buyers don’t want to pay for something that they think will need a lot of repair work or cleaning. Just like buying a house or a car, buyers want to know their purchase has the best value for the price. Most people will infer that value based on how good the boat looks when they buy it.
There are four parts of the presentation process that ensure that your boat is as good as it can be before listing it for sale. Those are: Fixing, Cleaning, Photos and Description. If you do each of these steps properly, you’ll put your best foot forward when listing your boat for sale.
If you were planning on making a purchase of $10,000 or more, you’d want to make sure that you were getting the best value for your money, right? That’s the case for any boat buyer. People want to make sure they’re getting a boat that they can take out and drive the first day they get it. In fact, for many buyers, a sea-trial or test drive is part of the purchase process to ensure that a boat is in working condition and doesn’t have any hidden troubles that would make it dangerous to operate. If you have any engine problems, defects in the fiberglass, or worn out rubber parts in the boat, prioritize fixing and replacing these features. The work you put into fixing your boat and making it turnkey ready for a new owner will definitely pay off in the sale price.
You can consider selling your boat as-is to avoid investing in expensive repair costs. However, make sure to carefully document all the problem areas and disclose them in the boat's listing. You may also want to explicitly state that you will not be doing a sea trial during the sale. Many buyers will still buy a boat that needs repair because hulls are valuable. The biggest thing to remember is that a boat that doesn’t run will sell for less than one that does, so price your vessel accordingly.
Nothing can make an old boat look brand new better than a deep cleaning. No one wants to step aboard a new-to-them vessel and see the evidence of previous use or ownership. We’re sure you loved stepping on your new or new-to-you boat when you bought it and seeing the fiberglass shine. Your buyer likely wants the same experience. Give it a good, deep cleaning to remove any stains on the hull or discoloration on flooring and seating.You can also use this opportunity to repaint the hull so that it shines. Disinfect all surfaces, so they’re ready for whatever the new owner has in mind, from fishing to bringing family on board.
Cleaning is also the perfect time to ensure that everything on board has a perfect fit and finish. You can use this opportunity to check any high-wear parts of the boat like rubber gaskets on windows and doors, or metal grab rails. While these parts of the boat might still work, you may consider replacing them so that they look brand-new for the new owners.
Just like in selling a car or home, photos can really spell success or failure for a boat sale. Getting the best photos can also be one of the hardest parts of listing a boat online. You need to make sure your pictures are well-lit, and show the layout of the boat well. You may even want to consider paying a professional photographer to come in and take pictures of your boat, just to ensure they’re the highest quality possible.
Make sure that you take pictures of every part of the boat. You don’t want buyers to think you’re hiding any problem areas with clever photography. This is the time to be specific and honest. There’s no such thing as too many photos. When you list your boat, put the best photos online, keeping the rest for when buyers ask questions about your vessel. Ideally, you want 6-10 pictures of the inside, the hull, and engines to give the buyers a good idea of the equipment on board. After that, keep the photos in a private, online album so they’re easy to share with buyers who want or need them.
This is the last part of your boat listing that can truly help close a sale. While a poor description might not cause you to lose a sale, a well-written one can certainly convince a buyer to go with your boat, and not someone else’s. This is your chance to highlight the unique parts of your vessel, and why they should feel comfortable buying from you.
With your description, talk about the parts of your boat that really stand out. This is where you can share essential information about the boat, like the make, model, and year. You also want to include how many hours the engine has on it, and the yearly maintenance you’ve done. Finally, disclose any recent repairs or upgraded pieces of equipment. Don’t overwhelm buyers with too much flowery language or complicated stories. You want to tell them the information they need to know that shows your boat in the best light.
These four steps may feel daunting, but doing them well can all but guarantee that you’ll have a good experience selling your boat and finding a buyer. However, selling a boat can be hard and complicated, so make sure you know what trouble to anticipate.
Since boats are such high-ticket items, it’s safe to assume that there are some people who will try to take advantage of you. Will every buyer try some funny business? Of course not, but there is a risk. Sometimes, scammers are relatively harmless and may just waste your time and a tank of gas. However, there are some more creative or elaborate scam artists who may try to steal your boat or give you less than your vessel is worth. Here are some common scams that you should look out for ensuring that you make the most of your time and money.
Many people like looking at boats without having any intent of actually making a purchase. While selling your boat, you’ll likely have people ask you plenty of questions about your boat, or even want to come take a tour. This is relatively harmless, but can be a significant drain on your time—especially when you can’t tell the difference between a real buyer and a fake one. One of the best ways to discourage this behavior is to talk to someone over the phone. Most people will waste your time by chat or email - but they’ll get more serious through verbal conversation.
The next significant danger comes during the sea trial. When selling a vessel expect that you take buyers out for a brief ride on the boat so they can feel how it handles on the water and ensure that it’s in working condition. This is just like a test drive someone would take before buying a car. While most people who get on a boat for a sea trial are trustworthy buyers, some just want a free boat ride. It’s acceptable to ask for a small, refundable deposit between $50 and $100 to secure someone’s spot on a test drive. Having to pay, even if they get their money back, will discourage most scammers from climbing aboard.
Finally, you want to make sure any payment you take isn’t fraudulent. While it’s unlikely you’ll get a bad check when accepting payment for your boat, it does happen. Ensure all payment is guaranteed, such as a certified check that you can confirm the legitimacy of by calling the bank. You can also accept other forms of payment like wire transfer or credit card payments. Guaranteed payments is one reason why it’s good to have a broker, as they can guarantee your cash before you turn over the keys.
Like selling any high-value item, selling a boat comes with a lot of paperwork. While it’s not quite as overwhelming as selling a car, you should prepare to have some paperwork ready to sign with the buyer when you’re ready to close the deal.
If you’re going through a broker, they’ll likely go through the required paperwork you need to prepare before the sale. This is another benefit of using a broker when selling a boat. However, if you’re doing it alone, there are many resources that can help you out.
Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) likely has a list of documents needed to sell your boat. This generally includes a Bill of Sale (which you can download from the DMV), a title, and a few other documents. If the boat doesn’t have a title, or is from a state which doesn’t issue titles for boats, you may need to provide a form called a Manufacturer’s Certificate or Statement of Origin. This document is furnished by almost all boat companies, and can be requested for used boats if the previous owner has lost it. Some states will allow you to register a boat with an Affidavit of Ownership if you can’t furnish a Statement of Ownership.
Having a clean title often makes it easier to sell a boat, so consider paying off any notes before putting your boat on the market. Sometimes, sellers require a buyer’s payment to totally satisfy all liens, so make sure to bring that up with your broker or while negotiating with a buyer. This isn’t a unique situation, so you can likely work with your buyer to satisfy the lien and get a clean title before they need to register it. Selling a paid-off boat is certainly easier, but don’t let an existing loan scare you from selling your boat.
After all the hard work of selling your boat, take some time to relax. This is a labor-intensive process, and you deserve to have some time to rest once it’s over with. However, if you’re like most boaters, once you feel a warm summer breeze, you’ll miss being on the water. In fact, if you’re like most boaters, you probably already have your next boat in mind. Let’s help you find it at Moreboats.com.