The Boat Sellers Checklist: What You Need To Know

How To Sell A Boat Top Tips #1 Make Sure It's Look Good
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Things To Keep In Mind When Selling A Boat

It is said that the second happiest day of one’s life is the day they purchase a boat, while the very happiest day of one’s life is the day that boat is sold.

You’ve had some good times and probably some challenges along the way during your relationship to be sure... Boats are, let’s face it, not the easiest asset to maintain and enjoy, at least not all of the time. The effort you put into your baby over months, years, or even decades can be timely and expensive.

To maintain your vessel, especially the parts which often break or corrode, can result in an extra sense of connection with the vessel, making the job of selling that vessel an emotional undertaking. Thus, the “blue sky” associated with the love you have put into her over the course of time is never really appreciated to the fullest extent by potential buyers.

For buyers, the goal is to obtain the best price for the best quality, a well-maintained vessel, usually seaworthy, with new everything including standing and running rigging for a sailing vessel, or upgrades for motor vessels.

It is wise to step back your ego once you decide to part with her, for acting otherwise will surely heighten your anxiety and quickly lead to frustration with seemingly impatient questions from those who would snap her up if only you could disseminate fact from toil.

But alas, you want to sell her...and quickly. You want to obtain the highest price possible, and as you calculate all those hours and receipts and more hours of sweat, blood, and often times tears, you must come to the realistic conclusion that your asking price needs to be a reflection of a few central components.

Those components boil down to how quickly you want to sell, need to sell, or are able to sell. Simply put, urgency and timing are the key factors involved in unloading your beautiful -- or not so beautiful -- floating asset to a willing and able buyer. Above and beyond those criteria lay the fundamental challenges of boat buyers.

Guide To Selling Your Boat - Present It It The Best Way Possible

Avoid Seller Frustration

Experience, budget, and knowledge can cause frequent frustration for sellers, and the first several phone calls or emails could put any boat seller in a state of panic. In all, when you have finally decided to sell your vessel, expect that it may and will take several painstaking months to find the right buyer and expect to be flexible on price.

After all, you have enjoyed living or cruising aboard this sweet vessel for as long as you have for a reason, but the buyer has complete control in the end. Your boat is only worth what the market will bear, and that market value can only be supported by showing a clean and thorough depiction of how she looks, travels, and her value.

Steps To A Successful Boat Sale

Similar to selling a car or house, potential buyers will want visual representation of your boat and you should plan on marketing her accordingly.

1. Find The Listings Websites

The first step is to find several websites on which to list your vessel.,, are a few popular sites to get you started.

2. Research Similar Boats

The second step may not seem as intuitive. For this step, you must put yourself in the position of the buyer. Search using parameters similar to the vessel you plan to sell. This will provide you with several useful comparable boats. Although you may have paid an arm and leg for your boat when you got her, the market will generally dictate the price at which you should list and offer your boat for sale.

A good rule of thumb is to add five percent to the price of the most similar boat you can find in terms of condition, length, age, and seaworthiness. If you are selling a boat that will be priced over $20,000, it is highly recommended that you hire a qualified boat surveyor to come out and survey the condition of your vessel prior to listing. If your boat is going to be listed for less than $20,000, be extremely detailed so as to avoid a myriad of questions.

3. Take An Inventory

Spending an hour or so assessing inventory and going through the vessel in great detail is the third step. It is recommended that you do this walkthrough without camera in hand, for doing both the assessment and the photography can lead to missing small details that a buyer will inevitably want to know about before considering making a purchase.

Be sure to make note of both the good and the bad, the old and the new, the upcoming maintenance needed along with age/make/model/size of any moving parts, standing rigging, running rigging, solar, wind, GPS, and other devices.

As technology moves faster and faster, many systems may be on the verge of becoming antiquated and therefore your valuation must be adjusted downward or upward as such.

Once you have a full list of everything, it is recommended that you begin with what is best in class on the boat. Start at a high level and tell her story. Are you the first owner? If not, when did you purchase her and how did you use her.

Were you a cruiser or a stationary liveaboard or a weekend warrior? Why are you selling? If it is because of health or other urgent reasons, be sure to state that front and center, as although you may be showing your cards by doing so, many buyers will search using keywords such as “must sell” and “retiring” and the like. After the background and the best in class features, be honest about what a new owner should expect to encounter once they take possession.

Clean Your Boat Thoroughly Before Advertising It For Sale!

Be Honest When Selling!

It is unethical to state that a vessel is seaworthy if you are aware of any aspects that negate that statement. If it needs a new starter, she is not seaworthy. If there are tears in any core sails or the running rigging is showing signs of questionable reliability, she is not seaworthy. You will be asked many questions regardless but having all of the information in the advertisement will assist with the sometimes long and frustrating experience of selling your vessel.

Clean, Clean and Clean

Now, before you list her, she needs to be scrubbed clean if you expect to charge what others in the selling market are charging. A clean boat with clear photographs will have a much better chance of selling. Some people make an event of cleaning their boat, and having a BBQ is a great way to invite friends over to assist in what can be an overwhelming amount of work for one person.

If you don’t have a barbeque on board, spend a few bucks on a platter and meats at the local deli and don’t forget the ice and beer/wine. Be diligent with making the vessel presentable, especially the berths, head, galley, and dining areas.

Stow personal belongings away or remove everything into storage if there is too much to hide in the storage on board.

Once you have gone through the difficult part of cleaning, it is time to show her off in the form of photographs and descriptions.

Take Great Photographs

Present The Boat Interior Well To Help Sell It Quickly

Like many people today, you probably will be using your cell phone to take pictures of your boat. Although there is nothing wrong with doing so, many sellers often rush thing crucial step, resulting in blurry or obscure, dark and misleading photos.

The first condition to consider once your boat is clean and ready is the weather. Never attempt to take photos on an overcast or rainy day. Weather sets our moods and your representation needs to be cheerful. If possible, wait for a sunny day. If it is also calm, with little or no wind, be sure to hoist the sails and capture several angles to show off the rigging.

Take pictures of standing and running rigging, including winches, tillers, autopilots, compass, stays, and the rest. You can rest assured that having more photographs is muchbetter than having too few.

Some listing sites may limit the number of photos you may upload. If that is the case, select the best ones in each category:

  • Exterior - Hull, vessel name and port of call, steering, sails, bimini, dodger, windlass, anchors, winches, dinghy.
  • Interior - Companionway, galley, dining, berths, head. Be sure the sun is providing enough light and use a wide angle lens or setting if possible.
  • Under Way - If possible, have a friend sail or motor alongside your vessel asea to show her in all her beauty. Sailing/Yachting has a romantic nuance and capturing it can stir the emotions of potential buyers, especially those who have no experience cleaning a bilge.
  • Engine - Take at least one photo of the motor, one of the batteries, one of the solar, wind, GPS, any other electronics that make living and cruising more pleasurable.

Top 10 Tips for selling your boat [Video]

Be Nice To Potential Buyers

Once you have cleaned, deodorized, photographed, and listed your boat including a detailed description of how you obtained her, used her, and why you are selling, there is one more important step. Be pleasant. Selling anything requires patience, regardless of whether you have time to burn or are in a great hurry to sell.

On many occasions I have become enthralled with what appeared to be a great deal only to have the seller barking at me before I could say my name because they had grown tired of the process of selling. This lead to ruining the deal. Yes, of course buyers are difficult. They are searching for reasons to eliminate and your role is to divert their attention to other aspects of value.

How to Sell a Boat [Video]

Do your best to remain calm and be a good listener. Sales in general is much more about timing and proving value than pointing out features and price. The goal is to make the buyer comfortable enough so that their level of interest remains high. Answer their questions and also ask them about why they are buying.

Get them excited by telling a quick story or two about the fun you had with her at sea or in port. And once they seem satisfied, invite them to come to view the boat. Only invite serious buyers, those who have asked adequate questions to understand that you are ready to sell to them.

Create A Bill Of Sale

Be sure to draw up a Bill of Sale and have it notarized if required in your location. If you are offering financing, be sure to have the amortization schedule signed by both parties and have safeguards in place protecting you from non-payment by the buyer.

If you have followed the steps and procedures here, you should have a good chance of selling your vessel quickly and without too much headache. Fair winds and good luck!

How to Sell your Boat for the Highest Price [Video]

How to Sell your Boat for the Highest Price