Rates are low, the shows are coming-up and you're drooling over the new models reviewed in BOATING. The only thing standing between you and a new boat is your old boat. Sell it quick and you’ll have more cash and more negotiating power at the dealership.
In a former life, that is to say, in the time before ethanol and political correctness I used to sell boats. New boats, plus as many as 60 used boats—trade-in and brokerage —per year. Unlike you, not selling a boat meant not paying my mortgage. I was motivated to say the least. Here’s a baker’s dozen pro tips to help you do the deal.
1. Market it!: Advertise heavily. Place ads in local boating press, the big daily newspaper and, if it’s a large boat or one of limited availability that buyers will likely travel out of state to see, place ads in the pricier regional and national venues. Picture ads draw more traffic. Rent space at some highway-side lot where hundreds of passers-by can see it—more than in your driveway.
2. Fired-up!: Start the engine and warm it up an hour before a prospect comes to see the boat. A dead battery or balky start—even for an excellent engine—turns buyers off.
3. Pledge of Allegiance: Looks are important. Spray-on furniture wax can be applied and wiped-off quick and easy. The gleam doesn’t last more than a day, but it’s perfect for that prospect who calls and says he’ll be over in an hour.
4. Empty Promise: It’s better to show empty stowage areas and remark how spacious they are then to have all your gear jammed in them to the point of overflowing. Remove your crap.
5. Touch Points: A professional detail job makes sense for a boat in pristine condition. If your boat rates “average” or “good” focus solely on the more glaring blemishes. Compound-out rust stains bleeding from fittings, re-tape shredded boot stripe, de-grease the engine, clean the bilge, etc. If the cabin is musty, surreptitiously place air freshners.
6. Fogged-out: If clear curtains are scratched or clouded by age, remove them for the initial viewing.
7. Bottom Job: If the boat is bottom painted, apply a fresh coat. It makes the boat look sharper. Also spray paint outboard and stern drive skegs that have the paint worn-off.
8. Sea Trial: With the canvas removed, all but safety gear stowed ashore and light in fuel and water, your boat will plane easier, handle more nimbly, and attain a faster top-end speed. Try to convince the buyer to limit ride-along friends and family to as few as possible, for the reasons above, and so the true “roominess” of the boat isn’t painfully obvious.
9. Paper Chase: Have all title, registration, extended warranty and, if available, service records on hand in a binder. It’s impressive, even if the buyer's initial reaction to it seems ho-hum.
10. Be Realistic: Figure out your bottom–line price well in advance of meeting the first buyer. Consider the dollar costs of advertising, storage and maintenance while it's for sale as well as the time costs involved in showing the boat.
Takeaway: Three More Tips...
11. Hush-Hush: DO NOT reveal your best price over the phone to someone who hasn’t seen the boat. Before a buyer sees your boat, he’s got no emotional investment. Besides, how do you know he can even afford it? Plus, buyers on the fence often have friends call as “new prospects” in an effort to trip you up.
12. Get Paid: Cash is king. Checks are great—once they clear. So-called “Bank Checks” are not as good as gold. All these do is “certify” that the buyer has the check amount on account on the date of issue. They can be cancelled as easily as canceling a personal check. Do not sign the boat over until you know you can spend the buyer’s money.
13. Big Question: Buyers invariably ask why you are selling. Well, for money stupid. But you can’t say that (or that your tired of tinkering without benefit of a warranty). Lifestyle changes are the best answer. Say you want to try cruising and can't do it in an open boat, your kids don’t go with you anymore so you don’t need a ski boat, you don’t fish offshore anymore so a downsize is in order, whatever.