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Aug 22, 2016


Selling a boat on your own can take some luck, some money, some perseverance and a lot of preparation. So to help those brave souls who wish to set out and try to do it themselves I offer the following:

Survey your vessel. Unless you are selling your vessel “as is” (seen by some buyers as a red flag), you may be responsible for repairs. You may not want to do the work, but you should know ahead of time how this would affect your asking price and bottom line.

Keep up the Maintenance on your boat. It’s unlikely you’ll get a higher price for keeping up on routine repairs and replacements, but a cared-for boat is more attractive to potential buyers.

Fix it up. A little rust here, some peeling paint or blisters there, and tired looking upholstery are turnoffs. Even if you followed tip number 2, signs of neglect send a message to lookers that unwelcome and expensive surprises might lay ahead.

Throw out the old. Remove tattered curtains, worn rugs, and personal art.

Clean out the junk. Empty out lockers that became catchalls for everything from extra rope to spare parts and old clothing. If you were selling your home you’d clean out the closets, and the same applies here — a clean locker makes a boat look bigger.

Give your vessel the sniff test. Nothing detracts quite like a ripe bilge or head.

Shine it up. A professional waxing and buffing job make even tired old Nellies appealing.

Take lot of pictures. Photograph the hull, topside, below the water line, rigging, cockpit, controls, safety equipment, galley, head, engine room, sleeping accommodations, storage areas, and the boat underway from various angles.

Share the paperwork. I hope you saved the operating manual for every piece of equipment that came with one. Potential buyers appreciate that.

My suggestion is get some help.

Hire a pro  The commission you pay is worth every penny. These are the experts who know the market, maintain a vast network of contacts, and guide you on advertising. They show off your vessel when you are not available and handle all the paperwork. Additionally, brokers help you avoid thieves, scammers, even terrorists. Many marinas discourage “For Sale” signs posted on a hull or in the cockpit to avoid attracting criminals and a broker will shield you from losing your shirt to scammers — your broker has seen their deceptively enticing hustles but you haven’t. As a broker works just as hard to sell a $200,000.00 vessel as a $10,000.00 runabout, not every broker is the right fit. Some may turn you down or vice-versa.

Move the boat. After selecting a reputable broker, move your boat to his or her location. That’s where the selling team is, and a site with many boats for sale attracts a multitude of buyers. Someone looking for another craft may just take a shine to yours.

Let the pro work. You may think your golden craft can command more than the market does, so let your broker set the price. When someone is interested, allow the broker to do the bargaining.

When is the best time to sell? Boats change hands year round, but nautical tire kickers in colder climes start dreaming of a new vessel in the dead of winter (in part because they avoid paying storage fees). Perhaps a bargaining tool to entice an autumn buyer may be to pay for storage, especially if the cost of storage is less than your loan payments for three to six months. Other buyers prefer to shop when the weather’s warmer so they can readily schedule their own survey, conduct a sea trial, and complete the transaction within a reasonable period.

What if, instead of following my advice, you sell your boat to Uncle John or the next-door neighbor? Of course, it’s done all the time, but you are still faced with the paper work and the uncertainty of knowing whether you cheated yourself of full value. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, you may lose a long-time friend or ruin family Thanksgivings forever.