How to Sell a Boat.

How to Sell a Boat: Beginner’s Guide Made Up of 7 Helpful Tips

Written by Diane Byrne
June 26, 2023

Last Updated on August 17, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

It’s inevitable: At some point, you’ll eye a boat larger than your current one and start daydreaming. Oh, the things you’ll be able to do, and the places you’ll be able to go!

So you’ve determined it’s time to sell your boat. This bittersweet moment can also be a little daunting if you don’t know where to start— and disheartening if you don’t do it right. The following seven tips outline how to sell a boat for first-timers.

  1. Make sure she’s shipshape
  2. Determine your boat’s value
  3. Take good photos and videos
  4. Have the right documents handy
  5. Find the right listing tool
  6. Be honest
  7. Respond promptly to interested buyers

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Tip #1:  Make sure she’s shipshape

Cleaning a boat.

Take a good, hard look at your boat. Is the gel coat glistening, and is the metalwork shining? Set aside time to give her a good cleaning, from stem to stern and top to bottom.

Everything, from the hull bottom to exterior cushions and inside cabins, should be spotless. Overall grime and/or hull growth convinces buyers that a boat isn’t properly maintained.

Tip #2: Determine your boat’s value

While several boating websites have calculators, your best bet is to use the NADA Guide. It’s a comprehensive, trusted resource for both buyers and sellers since it collects data directly from boat manufacturers and thousands of sales every year.

Use your boat’s manufacturer, the model, the original delivery year, and the current condition she’s in to find the value. On a related note, Google searches for information on how to sell a boat might turn up websites purporting to be, or to work with, Kelley Blue Book.

Be mindful of fraud. While Kelley Blue Book is renowned in the automotive world, it does not provide value for boats.

Tip #3: Take good photos & videos

Boat sale listing picture.

Once you clean your boat, it’s time to show how great she is. Just like a dealer trying to sell new inventory, you should photograph her in the water. Take photos at speed and sit still, too. Next, capture details of the most important features, like the helm, seating arrangements, and any berths.

Optional equipment is important to photograph as well. How to sell a boat is a lot like how to sell a house: Help the buyers picture themselves there, having a good time.

READ MORE: What to Expect When Renting Out Your Boat from Owners Themselves

Tip #4: Have the right documents handy

Before you even list your boat, gather the title, warranties, maintenance records, and proof of insurance. Better yet, keep them in one folder for quick reference.

Depending on your boat’s size and age, you might also want to have a surveyor’s report accessible. Finally, double-check your state’s requirements for a bill of sale or contract.

Tip #5: Find the right listing tool

Selling a boat.

How to sell a boat also depends on whether you plan to sell yourself. If you do, you can sell back to the dealer, or you can list her on a variety of sell-by-owner websites. The websites will walk you through the specifications to enter and provide space to describe the boat in detail.

Sometimes you simply don’t have the time, unfortunately, or prefer taking a route akin to hiring a real estate agent. In that case, you can hire a broker. Of course, you’ll need to pay the broker a commission. But, it’s for all the legwork he or she will do to promote your boat and find you the right buyer.

Tip #6: Be honest

If your boat needs a little work, say so in the sales description. Someone might just be looking for a DIY project. Additionally, it will prevent someone from getting in over his or her head— something you’d surely appreciate if you were in those shoes.

Avoid hyperbole, too. When interested buyers see that the description doesn’t match reality, they’ll be turned off. Plus, boaters talk. Just as we all learned in grammar school, honesty is the best policy.

Tip #7: Respond promptly to interested buyers

On phone at marina.

Regardless of whether you sell directly or hire a broker, you need to be accessible. Buyers often have questions, so reply to emails and phone calls as quickly as possible. Serious buyers will want to do sea trials as well, so anticipate taking them out to show what your boat’s capabilities are.

Good luck with the sale

A little preparation goes a long way toward ensuring your sale goes smoothly. And remember, if things don’t pan out as you thought, you can always start renting out your boat to help pay for the new one you plan on buying. Just don’t give up.

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