After lots of sun-filled days on the lake or ocean, there will likely come a time when you’re ready to sell your boat. Selling your boat is not easy, but these tips can help simplify the process. If you know what to expect and how to properly prepare, you’ll be more likely to sell your boat quickly and at the best possible price.

As a quick reference, these are the steps to sell your boat. They will be explained in detail later.

  1. Determine the boat’s value
  2. Choose how to sell your boat (Dealer/Broker or For Sale By Owner)
  3. Prepare tour boat for selling
    a) Clean your boat
    b) Take photos
  4. Create an online listing for your boat
  5. Sell your boat
    a) Have paperwork ready

Determine Your Boat’s Selling Price

One of the first steps of the boat-selling process is to determine how much your boat is worth. There are a lot of factors that could affect the price of the boat, so approximating the cost at the start can be a little challenging. 

Some of the factors that can influence the selling price of your boat are: 

  • Your geography/location. If you’re selling your boat in a place where lots of people own boats, you are more likely to get more offers and get your asking price.
  • Where you have taken the boat. Freshwater is not as harsh on boats, so boats that were used in freshwater tend to have higher price tags than those that were regularly taken into saltwater. 
  • Time of year you are selling. More people tend to purchase in the spring, so you can usually sell your boat for a higher amount during this time. 
  • Supply and demand. If there are a lot of boats on the market but not a lot of buyers, it will be more challenging to sell your boat for your original asking price. 
  • Fuel prices. High fuel prices might dissuade some buyers from getting a boat. 
  • Updates you’ve made to the boat. Any add-ons or upgrades you’ve made will hike up the boat’s value. 

The best starting place to determine how much to sell your boat for is online listings. You can browse boats for sale that are similar to yours to gauge how much you should list your boat for. Consider the boat’s make, model, size, year, and condition when searching. You can also view boating magazines for listings. 

Another tool to help you approximate the cost of your boat is NADAGuides.com, which publishes pricing information for boats. NADA Guides is relatively accurate because the site gets its data from dealers.

As you start deciding on a listing price for your boat, remember to be realistic about the market and your needs. Set an amount to represent the lowest price you feel comfortable selling for and don’t drop below it when negotiating.  

Choose to Sell it On Your Own or Get Professional Help

A question you need to decide on early on is how to sell your boat. Are you going to partner with a broker or dealer to help you sell the boat, or sell it by yourself? There are plenty of pros and cons for both options. 

Working with a Broker or Dealer 

Choosing to partner with a broker or dealer can be helpful in many ways. There are many situations where the best option is to go through a broker or a dealer. If you are selling a more expensive boat, for example, a broker can be a big help. Expensive boats require more paperwork, and you usually need access to an escrow account. A broker can help with both of those needs, as well as help establish the boat’s value, set the price, and qualify sellers. They can also help with haul-outs, inspections, financing, and liens. 

If you are located in a place that is different from your boat, then you will also want to work with a broker. Plus, if you want to trade in an old boat for a new one, you’ll want to contact a boat dealer. 

Whether you are choosing to work with a dealer or not, there are some downsides you should be aware of before you begin conversations. 

                Pros of working with a broker

The main benefit of working with a broker or dealer is that they can take care of just about everything for you. You don’t have to worry about where to sell a boat or setting up your listing. A broker will:

  • Create a boat listing and post it on various sites
  • Determine a good selling price for the boat
  • Take high-quality photos, and potentially videos, of the boat for posting
  • Handle conversations, showings, and sea trials with potential buyers
  • Display boat at sales events
  • Provide access to escrow accounts to hold the buyer’s deposit
  • Offer boat financing loans
  • Have procedures in place, including contracts and documents, that protect the buyer and the seller

Yacht brokers can access resources that the public cannot, so they can get more eyes on your listing. You usually pay the broker a 10% commission when the deal goes through.  

If you decide to work with a broker, you will need to also decide on the type of contract you want to sign with them. You can either do an open listing or an exclusive right to sell. If you choose an exclusive right to sell, you are agreeing to work with only one broker, while an open listing lets you work with up to three or four brokers. If you are wondering how to sell a boat fast, working with a broker or dealer is your best option. 

               Cons of working with a broker

One of the most obvious cons of working with a broker is that you will have to pay them a cut of the sale. Typically, broker fees amount to 10% of the boat’s sale price. 

This does not necessarily mean that you will end up with a smaller takeaway sum of money in your pocket, because they might be able to sell the boat for more than you are able to on your own. But, you need to factor their cut into the final cost. 

There are other services a broker or dealer might charge you for, including boat storage or slip rentals. 

The other potential downsides of working with a broker is that they will likely require a listing contract. If you’re hoping to continue to use the boat while waiting for a buyer, this can also prove challenging. The boat showings will make it hard to have easy access to your boat when you want it. 

Selling the Boat By Yourself

You don’t always have to work with a broker or dealer. If you are selling a less expensive boat or feel comfortable handling the process yourself, then you can sell your boat by yourself. There are a few different pros and cons of choosing to post your boat as “for sale by owner” that you should be aware of ahead of time. 

                Pros of selling it yourself

If you sell a boat on your own, then you don’t have to pay a dealer any commission. A commission can add up to tens of thousands of dollars, so choosing to sell on your own can save you a big chunk of money. Selling on your own means you have control over the boat price and the boat-selling process. Plus, you can set your own boat showing times and have easy access to your boat in the meantime. 

                Cons of selling it yourself

Selling your boat by yourself might save you a lot of money, but it will also cost you a lot of time. You will have to create and post your boat listing, and you will be limited to where you can post the listing. It’s almost a guarantee that your boat listing will have less visibility than it would if you worked with a broker or dealer. If there are any costs to list the boat for sale, the money will come out of your own pocket. 

You will also have to handle all of the buyer inquiries and screen those potential buyers. Negotiating the sales price is left up to you, as is writing up contracts and sales agreements. 

Prepare the Boat for Selling

You’ll need to make your boat sparkly clean before selling it. That means wiping off every speck of dirt or sand, even in the hard-to-reach spaces. Remove all of your gear from the boat, then use boat-cleaning supplies to clean every square inch. Clearing away the clutter of gear has the added benefit of making your boat’s interior appear larger in photos. 

Use boat polish and wax on your boat’s exterior so it looks sparkly clean when buyers stop by for a showing. Once everything is clean, bring out the camera and start snapping. Photos are usually what catch a buyer’s attention first, so you want to showcase the highlights of your boat. One trick to how to sell your boat fast is to add videos to your ad.  

A video or two can make your ad stand out even more. Have someone film you from the shoreline while you drive the boat, or film a video of you walking through the boat to show off its features. As you take photos and videos, don’t be scared to show some of the boat’s flaws. Your honesty will make potential sellers trust you more. 

If possible, hire a professional photographer to capture high-quality photos or videos of your boat that entice buyers. 

How to Create an Online Listing for Your Boat

Once you decide to how to sell your boat, it’s time to let people know that your boat is for. An online listing lets you reach the highest concentration of buyers. Your listing should show your boat in the best possible light, but it should also be honest. You want to make a good impression on potential buyers. 

Share all of the details you can about the boat, but don’t just publish one large chunk of text. Make it easy to read by breaking up the text with smaller paragraphs and bullet points. 

The boat listing should include: 

  • Boat model and model year
  • Boat’s exact dimensions, such as length (LOA), beam width, and gross weight
  • Model number for equipment onboard
  • Brand name of equipment onboard
  • Details of the boat’s electrical system
  • Photos of the boat
  • Improvements you’ve made to the boat, including additional seating, electronics, navigation systems, sound systems, and other upgrades

Some optional information you can include in the listing are: 

  • Video(s)
  • Boat history report. Similar to CarFax, a boat history report reveals the condition of the boat. Including one in the listing instills confidence in the buyer. You can get one at boathistoryreport.com

Before clicking “post,” make sure there are no spelling or grammar errors in the text, and check to see that all of the information provided is accurate. You don’t want to turn any sellers away because of misleading or false information. 

If you’re wondering where to sell your boat, you can post your listing on some online sites or submit it to a boating magazine or local newspaper. Or, you could always just hang a “For Sale” sign on it and place it in a marina or other high-traffic area where people who are interested in boats can see. It doesn’t hurt to use a mix of selling tactics.  

About Boat Warranties & Returns

Some buyers might want a boat warranty included in the sale. The warranty protects them and allows them to return the boat if there are unforeseen problems with it. You can determine the terms of the warranty, but they typically last for 30 days. 

Boat warranties are not common, but if you do include one, you will need to keep the funds for the boat in an escrow account. A boat broker can help you with this process and provide the escrow account. 

Selling Your Boat

When someone contacts you and expresses interest in buying your boat, there are a few different steps that need to take place. 

First, you, the broker, or the dealer will show the interested individual the boat. If they like what they see, you might perform a sea trial. A sea trial allows the seller to see the boat in action.

There’s a chance that after the sea trial — or even before — the buyer is ready to buy. If they are ready, you should be, too. Make the purchasing process simple and smooth by having all of the paperwork ready to go. The paperwork necessary for a sale varies between states, but this is what you can typically expect to need: 

  • Proof of legal ownership
  • The boat’s title
  • The boat’s maintenance records
  • Boat bill of sale agreements, which all parties need to sign. Check with your state’s DMV to see if this is required in your state.
  • Documents to complete the sale and sign over the title, including the proof of sale and release of liability

You can get PDF versions of some of these documents from your state’s DMV. You can also download online templates for some of the paperwork, including the proof of sale and release of liability. 

There might be other documents necessary for the sale. For example, more paperwork is necessary if you are selling your boat to someone in a different state. If you are selling a trailerable boat and you’re including the trailer in the purchase, you also need to transfer ownership of the trailer. 

Once everything is signed, the boat is out of your hands. The process of selling your boat can be smooth and straightforward if you are honest with the buyer throughout, and if you take the time to prepare an excellent listing. 

Good luck! And If you’re in the market for a new boat to replace the one you’re selling, please stop by our showroom or give us a call. We have tons of inventory on the vessels you’ll love!