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How to Sell a Boat Fast

Use these tips to help sell your boat.

Updated:

February 25, 2020
Top Ten Tips

Top Ten Tips For Selling Your Boat

Make sure your boat is in good condition before showing to a prospective buyer to receive the best offer price. Boating Magazine

Rates are low, the shows are coming up and you’re drooling over the new models reviewed in Boating magazine. The only thing standing between you and a new boat is your old boat. Sell it quickly 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 figure out how to sell a boat fast. Here’s a baker’s dozen pro tips to help you find the best way to sell a boat.

Find Your Boat Buyer Through Marketing

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.

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Make Sure Your Boat is in Good Condition Before Showing Customer

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. If your boat won’t start up right away, you might as well stop selling.

Clean Your Boat Before Showing to a Possible Buyer

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.

Declutter Your Boat Before Selling

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.

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A Detail Job Goes a Long Way Toward Selling Your Boat

A professional buffing of a boat 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, degrease the engine, clean the bilge, etc. If the cabin is musty, surreptitiously place air fresheners.

Consider Small Details When Selling Your Boat

For example, if clear boat enclosures are scratched or clouded by age, remove them for the initial viewing.

Give Your Boat on the Market A Paint Job

If the boat is bottom painted, apply a fresh coat. It makes the boat look sharper. Also spray paint outboard and sterndrive skegs that have the paint worn-off.

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Lighten Your Load During a Boat 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.

Have Paperwork in Order When Selling Your Boat

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.

Be Ready to Negotiate Price When Selling Your Boat

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.

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Don’t Talk Best Prices Before the Customer Sees the Boat in Person

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.

Make Sure the Customer Actually Pays for Your Boat

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.

Why are You Selling Your Boat?

Buyers invariably ask why you are selling. Well, for money stupid. But you can’t say that (or that you’re tired of tinkering without the 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.

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