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Selling A Boat

By SarahD - Published August 31, 2009 - Viewed 10096 times

Are Selling A Boat And Tearing Out Your Hair the Same Thing?

Sometimes it does feel that way…

How does this happen? More important, what can be done to stop the hair pulling?

Sooner or later, many boat owners will confront this frustration when they get a familiar urge..not just to get back out on the water, or to spend lots of money on electronic toys..umm..I mean equipment,  but to get a new boat, and probably, get rid of the old one. The two often go hand in hand. It might be to buy a bigger boat, or buy a nicer boat, or buy something different (power to sail or vice versa), but it usually means finding a new home for one as you welcome the arrival of a new one.

For the past 5 years I have handled the classified ads for BoatUS, both in BoatUS Magazine, and on the BoatUS Classified Ads website. I’m often asked by members interested in selling their boat how successful they can expect to be with using BoatUS Classifieds. That is a hard question, maybe impossible, to answer. Different boats sell differently in different markets in different economic conditions. Plus there is a lot more selling activity going on just before the start of the season, or early in the season,  than during the middle of it. Very vague and not very helpful, I know it.

It is important to remember though, that these are challenging economic times to be trying to sell a boat (or most anything for that matter), and remaining good natured, keeping a positive attitude, and sense of humor helps to keep things in perspective. But there are a few common sense, practical ideas that I can suggest  - some things that any seller could and should do when selling a boat.

Which brings me to the next most common question:

What else can I do to help sell my boat?

Some thoughts I have to share on this subject with sellers include:

Keep it clean.
A clean boat stands a much better chance of selling than one that isn’t. Clean is appealing..dirty is not. The same holds true for selling a house: you wouldn’t place it on the market without tidying up and making sure it sparkles. Do the same thing for your boat. It is important enough to pay some to do it if you don’t have the time or energy yourself.

Price it right.
Once you have all your information handy and your photos ready for uploading, it is time to create the listing. Make sure to provide as much detail as possible, with an appropriate price. Do you need help in determining a price for your boat? BoatUS Value Check can help you by providing a boat fair market value estimate.  Go to http://www.boatus.com/buyer/valueform.asp to get a value on your boat.  

Success depends not only on price, but also on appearance, condition and seaworthiness, so take a long, critical look at your boat and be honest about the things that need to be spruced up or fixed.  


  • Decide whether to make repairs or reduce the price accordingly
  • Check classified ad listings in your local paper to see what similar boats are selling for. And, check used boat price guides found at boat dealerships and in the reference section of some libraries.

  • Based on loan pay-off amount, if any, improvements you may have made and your desired profit, establish a minimum price you are willing to accept for your boat. Many sellers set the asking price 10-15% higher than rock bottom so there's room for neotiation, but be prepared for the "hard-bargain" who offers half what you're asking. And, keep in mind that when it comes to used boats, it's a buyer's market.

Spend some advertising dollars.
Just a few. Nobody expects a seller to take out a full page ad in a major newspaper to sell their boat, but spending a little makes a lot of sense.  Spending money buys exposure in the resale boat market. The more sets of buyer’s eyes that see your boat, the greater your chances of selling your boat. Try to get maximum exposure for your boat. BoatUS Classifieds can help:

BoatUS offers classified ads both in BoatUS Magazine, and on our website. Placing a boat ad in our magazine would cost $100 for one issue, and you would be allowed 30 words for that ad.  Excess words over 30 would incur another full charge. You can now add a photo to any magazine ad for an additional $100. BoatUS Magazine is distributed to over 500,000 BoatUS members and is widely read, and adding a photo to the magazine really makes a big difference.
You can also place an ad on our website. The cost for that ad is $50, there are no limits on the number of words, and you can add up to five photos. The ad would run for three months on our site.
What exactly does maximum exposure for your boat mean? Among other things, it means you can now get a picture in BoatUS Magazine's classified ads for only $200.  To see your boat in a magazine issue, just place any web ad with at least one photo and choose the option ADD A PHOTO TO THE MAGAZINE!  Doing so, your ad will appear in a total of 4 places:

•    BoatUS Classified ads website
•    Weekly classified e-Newsletter (sent to 15,000 weekly)
•    Weekly Web Specials email (sent to 90,000 weekly)
•    BoatUS Magazine (sent to over 600,000 every other month)

If you are really strapped for cash, BoatUS Classified Ads is one of the few online places where you can still place a free web ad (it is free to members), plus add a photo.  Go to  http://www.boatus.com/classifiedads/default.aspx for more details on placing a BoatUS Classified Ad.

Some more ideas:

•    Getting the word out is another step to take. Classified ads in local newspapers are also a possible choice, but don't overlook yacht club bulletin boards and boating association newsletters. Word of mouth, brochures and flyers are also effective.
•    You can also post "For Sale" signs on your boat but be aware that some marinas may charge you a commission if you sell your boat. Check your slip or storage agreement.

Grab a camera.
Add photos to online ads, as many as you are allowed. Buyers will be less interested in pursuing a boat without seeing photos first. How interesting is a boat to potential buyers in an ad with only text vs. one with a photo?

It’s important to show as much as possible about your boat, so be sure to photograph the exterior, the interior, the engine (very important), and electronics. Full web ads allow for 5 photos, so load 5. If you are placing a basic web ad (one photo allowed) make sure it is a good exterior, full shot of your boat. Whether your photos are shot digitally or scanned in with a scanner, choose a small file format appropriate for the web. BoatUS Classifieds accepts only JPEG and GIF images and they should be under 4 MB.

Be patient.  And be prepared.

Maybe the hardest thing of all to do is wait for a sale. Be persistent. Keep at it. And being prepared for a sale is essential.

•    Prepare a complete list of the accessories that will convey with the boat.
•    Be prepared to show prospects your original bill of sale, as well as maintenance and repair records. They may also be interested in your insurance costs.
•    Be sure to be there for buyers. Answering machines are handy, but a live person is a better when it comes to selling. Return messages promptly. Keep records of who you talk to and follow up on inquiries. A classified ad with both a phone number AND email address gives the potential buyers contact options. More than once I have heard from members who are very interested in pursuing a boat for sale in BoatUS Classified Ads, but the email address does not work, or the phone number doesn’t. Make certain that the buyer can reach you.
•    Be ready to sell when you hear the words, "I'll buy her."

What was your experience in selling? Do you have any plans to sell soon? Tell me your stories & experiences. Email me @ sdoelp@boatus.com, or call toll free (888)282-2628 with your stories for this blog or to get a BoatUS Classified Ad!

Sarah Doelp
BoatUS Classified Ads Coordinator
888 282 2628 - toll free

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