Use A Broker Or Sell It Yourself


Like fishing, there are two approaches to selling a boat. A blind optimism that a "big one" will take the bait in time for supper is risky business. Careful consideration of just what kind of bait and lure will work usually pans out best.

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

The Boat Evaluation Checklist will help pinpoint major areas to inspect. Decide whether to make repairs or reduce the price accordingly. For fair market values, fill out the Free Boat Value Check.

Check classified ad listings to see what similar boats are selling for. And, check BUC, NADA, and ABOS used boat price guides found at boat dealerships and in the reference section of some libraries.

A marine mechanic or surveyor can help you put a price tag on repairs. Based on loan pay-off amount, if any, and improvements you may have made, 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 negotiation, but be prepared for the "hard-bargain" buyer who offers half what you're asking. And, keep in mind that when it comes to used boats, some boats hold their value better than others.

Should You Sell It Yourself?

Broker commissions on used boats are typically 10%, a good incentive for selling a boat yourself.

Selling it yourself has drawbacks, however. You will be responsible for keeping the boat in selling condition. And, since most boat shopping occurs on weekends, expect to be tied down during your time off. Finally, like many others, you may simply dislike negotiating. Boat brokers lighten the seller's burden by handling some of the paperwork, they know how to find buyers and they advertise on a regular basis.

If you decide to use a broker, check references from past customers. Most states do not require any form of boat broker licensing. It's best to keep agreements short-term in case the broker isn't successful. Ask for frequent progress reports. Remember, like a realtor, a boat broker represents the seller's interest, not the buyer's.

Brokerage agreements may take any one of the following three forms:

  • Open Listing

    The owner can sell the boat himself (commission-free) while listing the boat with a number of brokers.
  • Exclusive Listing

    A single broker can earn a commission even if the owner sells the boat.
  • Central Listing

    Commission is split between the listing broker and a broker who actual manages the sale.

Note: Multiple listing services are another option but these computerized selling outfits don't give guarantees and they won't tell you how many buyers have made inquiries.