A hand pushes a $100 bill folded into a boat through water.


make the sale

Upon selling your boat

M ost boaters put far more time and energy into buying a boat than selling one. While buyers often price shop carefully, sellers tend to slap a price on the windshield without doing their homework.

Having just sold a boat, I want to pass along some advice that may help you sell your on-the-water home with minimal pain and suffering.

Let’s take a look at the four critical areas involved in selling a boat.


The biggest error sellers make is pricing the boat too high or too low. Go too low and you’re giving money away; too high and you can’t get rid of it.

To avoid these pitfalls, check the BoatU.S. Guide to Buying & Selling a Boat, and research the asking prices of comparable boats in your area newspaper. Clip out these ads to show potential buyers that buying your boat is the better deal. You can also find a ballpark asking price in a marine “blue book” at your bank or insurance agency. Consider these prices guidelines, rather than rules, for determining an appropriate asking price.

Selling strategy

Every boat seller has three basic choices: Sell it yourself, trade it in, or sell it through a yacht broker. Your decision will depend in part on the boat’s size and value.

Brokers rarely sell small boats because they produce too little income for the time and effort it takes to sell them. Like a real estate agent, a broker advertises and shows your boat to potential clients, handles the paperwork and takes a commission, usually between 5 and 10 percent of the selling price.

You will net the most money if you sell it yourself, but you’ll have to do all the work, and it can be hard on your ego. Trading the boat is easiest, but most dealers won’t take trades on used boat purchases, and if they do, you won’t get much for it.

Try selling your boat at the beginning of the season when buyers are most interested; off-season sales never net as much.

If you sell your boat on your own, plan your advertising campaign. Classified ads in local newspapers are an obvious choice, but magazines, like The Ensign, also have classified ads that draw buyers, especially for bigger boats. Internet sites attract buyers from across the country; this is how we sold our boat. Don’t forget to post ads on yacht club bulletin boards, and put a “for sale” sign on the boat if your marina allows it.

Expect your buyer to pay for a marine survey to determine the boat’s condition. Buyers often use surveys to negotiate a reduced price to compensate for any problems discovered. Sellers can either have the problem fixed or discount the selling price. If you agree to make repairs, spell out your obligations clearly, and set a limit on the amount you’ll spend.

Prepping your boat

A clean and tidy boat always earns a higher selling price, so invest some time and elbow grease. Scrub the deck until it shines, and clean the bilge—a musty, damp-smelling boat suggests rot and decay. Get rid of crumbs in the galley and be sure that the refrigerator is clean and odor-free. Clean the head and shower thoroughly, and add a double dose of chemicals to the holding tank. Change the oil, because dirty oil suggests poor maintenance. Charge the batteries so the engine starts immediately and the lights shine brightly.

While you’re priming your boat, remove any gear you aren’t selling. If you must leave personal items on board, make sure the buyer knows they don’t come with the boat. If you have a trailer boat, don’t forget to detail the trailer.

Paperwork and legalities

Once you’ve got the money in your hands, it’s easy to think that you’re finished. Not true. If you sell the boat yourself, be sure to type up a bill of sale that also serves as a receipt for payment. The bill should include the price, the names and addresses of the buyer and seller, the type and size of boat, registration numbers, and a list of the major equipment included. Ask for a cashier’s check or certified check for both the deposit and the balance. Agree on a closing date, and stick to it.

Cancel your boat insurance as soon as the transaction is complete and the boat leaves your control; you may get a refund on the unused portion of the prepaid insurance. If a buyer wants a sea trial, you should have a firm, nonrefundable deposit in hand, and the buyer should pay for launching or refueling the boat. If a buyer wants to make the sale contingent upon financing, set a deadline so you don’t waste time while other potential buyers get away.

If you are like most boat owners, you truly love your boat and have taken great care of it. It’s hard to say goodbye to the one you love; however, another door will open to new experiences, new opportunities and maybe even a new boat!