Are you toying with the idea of upgrading your boat? Then, why not just sell it and buy a new one? Thousands of listings for boats appear on online marketplaces every day. Whether you’re looking for a speedboat, a sailboat, or a PWC, you’ll find them online.
Selling your boat online isn’t as challenging as you think. If you have the right strategy, you can sell your boat to a motivated buyer in a few days. We put together this quick guide to help you get top dollar for your boat.
- Clean Out the Boat
- Remove Your Personal Effects
- Empty the Storage Area
- Wash and Clean the Boat
- Check for Mold and Open all Hatches
- Remove Pet Odors
- Clean the Engine and Pump Out the Tanks
- Get a Professional to Inspect Your Vessel
- Set a Market-Related Price for Your Boat
- Create Your Listing
- List Online with BoatTrader
- Use Boat Brokers
- Take Professional Photos for Your Listing
- List Your Reason for Selling
- Limit Ride-Alongs during Sea Tests
- Sell in the Right Season
- In Closing – Beware of Scams
Clean Out the Boat
Before you plan your listing, it’s time to put in the work to restore your boat to as close to showroom condition as possible.
The visual component of the boat is the most important characteristic of the vessel. It’s what lures in the buyer and makes them consider the deal.
Start with clearing anything you aren’t selling with the boat from the vessel. Removing the junk from the boat clears up the floor space and gives the impression of more room.
Remove Your Personal Effects
When the buyer arrives to view the boat, you don’t want anything on the vessel that you aren’t willing to part with. Get yourself a box and mark it as “boat gear.” Toss everything into the box, seal it, and store it in the garage out of the way.
By clearing your boat of your personal effects, you give the buyer the impression that it’s a blank slate, and they can start imagining how they will use the vessel, picturing themselves as the owner. That’s the effect you’re looking for, and it increases the buyer’s interest in the deal.
Empty the Storage Area
Remove everything from the storage in the boat. The new owner doesn’t want to find anything after they take ownership. The fridge, galley storage, and berths must appear roomy and ready for the new owner’s occupation.
Wash and Clean the Boat
After clearing the boat, it’s time to get it looking in its best condition. Cleaning the boat adds value to the new buyer’s eyes. Think of it as buying a car. If you arrive at a seller’s house to buy their vehicle and find it dirty inside and out, it’s a sign of how the owner maintains the car.
It’s the same with your boat. If you find it covered in dust and dirt, you won’t get the asking price you expect. Use a wax-based shampoo to wash the boat. The paint has a gel coating that’s sensitive to harsh chemicals—removing the gel coating results in the rapid deterioration of the paint.
After washing, rinse it off and dry it down with chamois leather. Adding a carnauba wax formulation brings out the shine in the paint, impressing the buyer.
Polish the chrome railings and other accessories on the boat, and make sure the windows are streak-free.
Check for Mold and Open all Hatches
Make sure that you go around the boat and open all the hatches to air it out. Lubricate the hinges to ensure they open and close smoothly and silently. Treat the pulleys and cleats as well and make sure everything is secure.
Mold is a big problem on boats, especially in hot, humid conditions like Florida and around the Gulf coast. Black mold is toxic, and the spores from the mold will settle into the lungs and make you sick.
You’ll know mold is present if the air smells stuffy and stale. Remove any mold you find and sterilize the affected area.
Remove Pet Odors
If you bring your pet on board your boat with you, make sure you remove any traces of pet odor from the living quarters.
The last thing the new buyer wants to smell is a wet dog when they open the berth. Cats like to urinate all over the place, so make sure you wash the carpets and clean the upholstery to remove any smells.
You’ll find pet odor removal products online. However, if you want to remove the smell using a DIY method, try mixing some water and spirit vinegar with a teaspoon of baking soda. This concoction removes odors and sterilizes the area.
Clean the Engine and Pump Out the Tanks
Pump out the holding tanks and clean the bilge pump. You want everything to be ready and in order for the new buyer.
Clean the engine using engine cleaner, and polish the housing. Wipe all the grease and oil away from around the motor, and make it shine.
If you’re thinking about where you’ll find the time to clean the boat, take it to a yard for detailing or arrange a boat detailing service to collect the boat and drop it off after washing.
You might have to spend a few dollars, but you’ll fetch a higher asking price from the buyer with a clean and tidy boat.
Get a Professional to Inspect Your Vessel
It adds a lot to the buyer’s motivation if you have a certificate from a valid boating authority saying that your boat is in seaworthy shape.
The chances are the buyer will want to hire someone to inspect the vessel before they finalize the sale. Having these documents and certifications on hand keeps the buyer hot, pushing them along with the deal so they close as soon as possible.
The National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) and the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) offer professional marine surveying for your boat.
Set a Market-Related Price for Your Boat
When you’re setting the asking price for your boat, take some time to research the listings currently available. Look for your boat model on the market and what people are asking for it. You’ll usually find an average market value, with some owners asking more for their boat and some asking for less.
The key to a quick sale is slightly underpricing your boat on your listing. If you sell at market price, you have to deal with all the competition at the same price level.
We’re not telling you to take thousands off the asking price, but a few hundred dollars less could make the difference between a fast sale and holding onto the boat for months.
It’s important to note that the longer the boat sits unsold, the more questionable it becomes. People will start to think there is something wrong with the vessel if you can’t find a buyer. Also, the longer you hold the boat, the more you pay in marina fees and other maintenance costs that eat into your profits.
It’s better to slightly underprice and get a fast sale than to stick to your higher asking price and never sell your boat.
Create Your Listing
There are dozens of websites and classifieds where you can list your boat for sale. You’ll need to make a listing template you can upload to any site.
When creating your listing, add as much detail as possible. For instance, don’t say you have an outboard motor; list the model number, the manufacturing brand, and other performance features.
When creating your listing, run it through a grammar check, and read through it several times before you decide to publish it. Send it to friends and family members and ask them what they think about it and if they feel you’re leaving out any critical information about the boat.
List Online with BoatTrader
When you’re satisfied with your listing, it’s time to put the rubber to the road, or the props to the water, in this case.
We recommend you start by listing your boat on BoatTrader. The site allows you to request a targeted search of other boat models, allowing you to set a price that’s in line with the market, according to what we discussed earlier.
BoatTrader is one of the most popular online boat classifieds, and it has millions of unique visitors every month. You’re sure to find a buyer using this platform, but we recommend using as many methods for selling your boat as possible.
Use Boat Brokers
After publishing your listing, reach out to a few boat brokers in your area. The brokers play the middleman for you, sourcing you a buyer in return for a commission on the sale. While it might seem hard to give away money to the broker for processing the deal, it’s worth it.
Essentially, the broker does the work for you, sourcing the buyer and handling the paperwork involved with the deal. You just sit on the couch and collect your check. Some brokers work in local markets, and others have a global footprint, selling boats into the international market.
Take Professional Photos for Your Listing
We’re not telling you to hire a photographer for this. However, it’s a good idea to look through other people’s listings for the same boat model you want to sell.
Look at the photos and examine how you could take better pictures. Pictures are what sell the listing. If you come across an online listing for a product with no image, would you buy it? No, you’ll move on to find a listing with pictures.
Make sure you take as many photos as you can from all sides of the boat, underneath, closeups on the motor, inside the berth, and specific components on the boat, like the captain’s console. Ensure the photos are clear, well-lit, and sharp.
Turn the lights on inside the cabin or berth, and remove any curtains from portholes to avoid shadows and make the room seem spacious. Take horizontal photos in high-resolution and get a friend to take an action shot or a video of you from their boat when you’re out on the water.
Finish off by taking a short walk-around video of the boat. If you can’t upload it to sites, you can always send it to prospective buyers after they reach out to you to book a viewing.
List Your Reason for Selling
Make sure that you list your reason for selling. If your boat looks great and has a good price tag, the person might find it suspicious that you’re selling. List your motivation, and prepare it before any viewing of your boat.
Limit Ride-Alongs during Sea Tests
Limit ride alongs with companions when you’re taking the buyer out on the water for a sea test. The fewer passengers, the more spacious the boat seems to the buyer.
It’s also important to ensure that you have someone on land that knows you’re going out with the buyer and when you plan to return.
Sell in the Right Season
People are generally looking for boats during the spring or summer. Get your listing up as early as possible to benefit from the flood of new seasonal buyers.
In Closing – Beware of Scams
When you’re selling anything on the preowned market, it’s a good idea to take caution with any prospective buyer. You don’t know the person, and they could be a scammer.
Ensure you receive payment for the boat before handing over the title and keys to the new owner. The last thing you want is for someone to forge a wire transfer to your account, and nothing shows up the following day after the sale. By that time, the thief is long gone with your boat.
Florida is the capital of boat thefts in the United States. The police only manage to recover around 40% of stolen boats in the state, and if yours goes missing, there is little chance that you’ll get it back.
Make sure you only cancel your insurance policy after selling the boat. If a thief steals it and doesn’t pay you, at least you can claim from your insurance provider.
Please take a photo of the buyer’s driver’s license during the deal and check to see that it looks like an original document. The buyer might want to take pictures of your boat, including the HIN and other registration numbers. This behavior is a normal buying procedure, and it’s a good sign that the buyer is genuine.