Sales Agreements & Contracts


Whether you buy a brand new boat from a dealer or a used boat directly from the owner, outlining the terms of the sale in writing is the best way to protect your interests, since oral agreements are good only as long as both parties agree.

A written agreement will eliminate or minimize questions and problems that could later turn a sweet deal at the dock into a sour one in court. By spelling out the obligations of both the buyer and the seller, as well as the time frame in which the sale is to take place, you have a legally binding, written document of the parties' intentions.

It's not necessary to have a lawyer write the contract, although this should be considered, especially if you are buying a high-ticket boat or are having one custom-built for you.

Most dealers use contracts printed with their name and address, but fill-in-the-blanks contract forms found in stationery stores will suffice. A handwritten agreement will also serve the purpose. Regardless of the form, both parties must sign the contract. If the sales agreement requires the signature of both the salesperson and an officer of the dealership, make sure both spaces are signed.

Basic Contract Terms

Sales agreements or contracts should include the following minimum information:

  • Complete names and addresses of buyer and seller.
  • Complete description of boat and engine, including make, model, year, and Hull Identification Number and engine serial number(s). A complete equipment list is a must.
  • The purchase price, including a description of any deposits (see below) paid by buyer and how the balance will be paid (for example, certified check, etc.). It should also describe the trade-in boat, if any, and its exact value.
  • A firm delivery date describing when and where the boat will be delivered and the deal finalized.
  • The boat's condition at the time of delivery, including a complete list of the accessories and items that convey with the boat.
  • A full description of any warranty from the dealer or manufacturer. When boats are sold in "as is" condition, recourse may be impossible if problems arise.
  • Buyer's contingencies: Spell out that the sale hinges on a satisfactory survey and sea trial and the ability to obtain acceptable financing and marine insurance.
  • A statement that the boat is free of all liens and encumbrances. The seller should also assume all responsibility for debts incurred during his ownership.

For other tips see the Seller's Guide Sales Agreement section.