Selling a boat in a timely manner can turn into a hassle. There are a lot of things to know before you decide to sell your boat, and you should always be prepared when you do!
Whether you are selling it for a quick buck or letting go of a precious family memory, selling your boat comes with a lot of considerations. Make sure you are doing the research and putting you and your boat first!
In this article, we’ve collected the best strategies for selling your boat without lowering the price to rock bottom.
1) Decide How You Will Sell Your Boat
There are a variety of different ways to sell a boat that you can choose from. You can either sell your boat yourself or enlist the help of a boat dealer or broker to help you sell your boat more quickly.
Keep in mind, however, that you’ll be cutting into how much money you receive from the sale of your boat if you enlist the help of a dealer to sell it.
Beyond deciding who is going to sell your boat, you have to decide where you’ll sell your boat. Are you going to attempt to sell your boat without advertising on the Internet at all? If you choose to advertise your boat on the Internet, what channels will you use?
In order to sell your boat as quickly as possible, you should choose several advertising options for your boat. Whether you park it in a high traffic area with a for sale sign and post it to Facebook, or choose to upload an online listing and take out a newspaper ad, make sure you’re getting as many eyeballs on your boat as possible.
If you’re looking to get your boat sold for the best price, enlisting the help of a dealer will help you connect with buyers that appreciate the value of your boat. If you’re looking to sell your boat quickly, consider taking the sale into your own hands and advertising your boat for sale yourself.
2) Great Places to Sell Your Boat Online
Advertising your boat for sale online is a great way to generate interest in your boat. The more interested parties you have looking at your boat, the more likely you are to find the right buyer.
Using the internet is a fast, widespread way of getting information out there – although it does have its challenges. Even if you find hundreds of interested buyers, only a few of them are going to be willing to follow through with the sale.
Even worse, there are those out there who will feign interest to swindle people who sell their boats, promising funds but not delivering on them.
However, there are many boat owners who report success buying and selling boats via social media, as well! Before you sell online, be careful with where and how you approach it.
If you are interested, here are some of the most popular websites that allow you to post ads about your boat for sale:
- Facebook Marketplace
Check with popular boating Instagram pages, Facebook groups, and forums to see if there’s an opportunity to advertise a boat for sale that has the potential to reach thousands of real, passionate boaters!
3) Complete Pre-Sale Maintenance on Your Boat
When boat owners are trying to get a boat off their hands quickly, they sometimes forget that potential buyers don’t see this boat as an old, used model. They see it as their brand new boat!
However, if your boat is in rough condition, or is a junker that you’re looking to pawn off on the next guy, you won’t attract a lot of buyers. You wouldn’t dream of showing a house for sale with dirty socks lying on your living room floor, would you?
The same principle applies to your boat. Before you take a single picture to list your boat for sale, you should give your boat a critical inspection.
Remember, if everything goes according to plan, this isn’t your boat anymore. Be ruthless and find all the flaws in your boat before a potential buyer has the chance to point them out.
Start with this list of pre-sale maintenance on your boat to get it into the best condition possible:
- Clean the boat both inside and outside
- Remove all gear and clutter
- If necessary, fix chips in the boat’s paint or gel coat
- Apply a fresh coat of wax
- Inspect small hardware such as hinges and screws for defects
- Test essential equipment and machinery
Remove all personal items and gear from your boat; the empty space will work wonders on your buyer’s imagination as they imagine the storage areas of your boat filled with their gear.
If you think that sprucing up your boat is going to cost more than you are going to get out of it, you may have a problem. Your goal with this pre-sale maintenance is to show potential buyers a clean, well-maintained boat with all the equipment and hardware in working order.
Put your best sail forward!
4) Research the Boat Market
It’s extremely important that you research the value of your boat before placing it for sale. An informed starting price can make selling your boat easier than if you were to pick a number that sounds correct.
However, keep in mind that your boat’s value will vary based on factors like the boat’s condition and your location. For example, bass boats are more valuable in areas surrounded by multiple lakes and rivers ideal for bass boating.
Nevertheless, a poorly maintained bass boat will have trouble selling for a reasonable price in a reasonable time-frame, no matter what style it is or where you are.
The two best ways to research the going-rate of boats of the same make and model as your boat is to ask dealers and search the Internet. Be sure to compare as many price points as possible.
You want your boat price to sell, so starting in the middle of the price range for your make and model is a good strategy.
Remember that your buyers will be doing the same research. It’s important to price your boat reasonably when compared with online and offline listings.
If your initial asking price is too high, you may find that you’re not getting enough interest to sell your boat quickly.
5) Determine your Asking Price
To determine your boat’s actual value, the price you’re willing to part with it for, you must answer a number of questions like:
What was the original purchase price of your boat?
If the original price of your boat was, say, $5,000 and you have invested nearly $3,000 in updates, repairs, additions or cosmetic upgrades, that will increase the value of your boat. You won’t want to lose out on all that time and money you spent making your boat amazing!
Now, remember, though you might have a personal value on your boat, others may still see it at a certain value. If this happens, be prepared to negotiate – but try to stay as close to your preferred value as possible!
Who did you purchase the boat from, and how long have you had it?
Where the boat came from and how long it has been in your care is very important. Buyers like to know the history of a boat, and knowing how hard it has been driven and in what conditions will wear down on the value of the boat.
For example, a retired couple who take the boat out once in a while will have a more valuable boat, as it has less wear-and-tear. A family of six who goes out every weekend, and spills or break things will decrease that value if the stains and damages show up.
Make sure you consider the wear-and-tear of your boat before you decide on a price – you want to make sure your price is reasonable, for you and the buyer!
Has the boat been well-maintained or has it spent winters unprotected in your backyard?
This is like wear-and-tear but comes down more to storage and maintenance. In our other articles, such as 14 Important Steps To Winterize Boats and 11 Important Steps For De-Winterizing Boats we discuss the major importance of maintenance and storage for your boat – and the sometimes devastating effects if you don’t do it properly. Any buyer who has owned a boat before will know what it is like when you don’t care for your boat, and they won’t want to buy your mistakes.
How much repair or maintenance work still needs to be done to the boat?
Ideally, you’ll want to eat the cost of these repairs yourself before you sell the boat. However, some work may cost more than you’re willing to pay for if you’re selling the boat anyway.
If you’re selling a boat in need of repairs, be prepared to negotiate. Just like with proper storage, buyers will not want to buy anything that is damaged or need to worry about spending more money after the sale!
Do I live in an area with an avid boating scene?
Living in an area that is huge for boating, fishing or recreational watersports is crucial for selling your boat. If you don’t live in that area, find a friend or relative to help you show your boat! If that isn’t possible, consider advertising nationally and coordinating with out-of-state buyers.
Also, remember to pick the right season! People don’t want to buy a boat and put it away for the winter. Start selling in the spring when everyone has cabin-fever and are ready to get out on the lake!
Why are you selling the boat in the first place?
If you’re looking to upgrade or purchase a different boat, it may be worth waiting for the right buyer who will pay fair market value.
If you’re looking to liquidate your boat for other reasons, you may need to sell your boat as quickly as possible. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get a good price.
Keeping these things in mind is a good way to help you tackle selling your boat. If you’ve got time to spare, take the time to find the right buyer. If you don’t have much time, make sure you aren’t getting cheated out of any expenses or hard work you’ve put in!
6) Create and Advertise Your Boat’s Listing
It’s incredibly difficult to provide too much information when creating your boat’s listing. If your mud motorboat drives like a dream but there’s a giant cosmetic scratch on the floor, mention it. Your bass boat has a holeshot professional fishermen would die for? You’d better mention that somewhere in your for-sale listing.
If you’re using a website designed solely to sell boats, make sure you fill in every information field provided. If you’re crossposting your listing on multiple sites, give the same information in every listing. You don’t want to price your boat for $10,000 less on Craigslist than on Boats.com.
Next, you’ll want to make sure you have a wide selection of pictures for potential buyers to look through. A smartphone camera will take pictures and videoes of sufficient quality to showcase your boat. Try to get at least one picture of all your boat’s best assets and be sure to take the pictures after you’ve cleaned your boat.
Once you’ve gathered your boat’s information and taken plenty of pictures, start placing your listing in as many places as possible. Crosspost your listing on a few of the best places to sell your boat, place your ad in the local newspaper, and make a Facebook post about your boat.
The more people that know you’re selling a boat, the more likely you are to find the right buyer!
7) Showing Your Boat to Potential Buyers
Once you’ve started seeing interest in your boat, it’s time to arrange for your potential buyers to come and see the boat and take it on a sea trial. Be prepared to answer lengthy lists of questions from potential buyers during the initial contact period.
When you first show the boat to potential buyers, you should always be upfront and honest about your boat. Your buyers will want to thoroughly inspect the boat and see what it’s like out on the water. Allow them the opportunity to take a good look at your boat.
If they’d like to go out on a sea trial after the initial viewing, take them out on the water and put your boat through its paces. Do your best to showcase your boat’s strong points, like a good hole shot or smooth turning. Ideally, you’ll want to perform the sea trial during calm conditions, but don’t be afraid to go out into rough waters if your boat can handle it.
Be wary with buyers who seem to be looking at your boat solely for a joyride out on the water or something to do. Serious buyers will come prepared with questions and will be willing to talk price. Do your best to weed out the less serious leads before you start showing the boat and taking potential buyers out on the water.
8) Be Willing to Negotiate (But Know Your Limit)
Remember how we mentioned earlier that buyers love to haggle? Once you’ve got a potential buyer to the point where they’re asking “how much” it’s hard to remain calm. You’re so close to selling your boat, but the still buyer wants to talk price.
If you’re looking to sell your boat quickly, don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you set your asking price slightly above your ideal price, you can afford to haggle without dropping the price of your boat over and over again for several months with no interest.
However, know that there is a time to walk away. If a buyer tries to haggle you down to a price below your ideal price, stay firm. While you may want to sell your boat quickly, that doesn’t mean you should undersell your boat by a large percent.
9) Documents You’ll Need to Make the Sale
Before you make the sale, you’ll need all your official documents and paperwork. There’s no easier way to turn a buyer off your boat than having to make multiple trips solely for paperwork. Make sure you have these documents on hand when making the sale:
- Bill of sale
- Boat title
- Warranty card/paperwork (if applicable)
- Maintenance records
- Trailer title and registration (if applicable)
Make sure you have the original copies of all documents. This will help speed up the sale process and give the buyer confidence that everything about your boat is above board. If you have any questions about the exact rules and regulations in your state, check with your local DMV office before selling your boat.
5 Final Tips For Selling Boats Quickly
While it may be difficult to sell your boat quickly, it can be done!
If you put in the work to advertise your boat, reach out to potential buyers, and take care of your boat, you’ll find that it’s possible to sell your boat in less time than you originally thought.
Here are some final tips and tricks to selling your boat quickly without lowering the price!
High-quality pictures and videos make the difference between a good boat listing and a bad one. Consider staging your boat in a nice marina and make sure your pictures have adequate lighting. If you can afford it, consider enlisting the services of a professional photographer.
Get it Surveyed!
You can speed up the sale of your boat by having a professional surveyor inspect your boat. Their expertise will help you properly price your boat. While it is expensive and not required to make a sale, it can help put potential buyers’ minds at ease.
Clean, Clean, Clean!
When cleaning your boat or having it cleaned by a professional, make sure to really clean every crevice and surface on the boat. A thorough cleaning can provide new life to your boat, whereas a half-hearted cleaning will leave buyers with a bad impression of a perfectly worthy vessel.
Don’t be afraid to share stories with potential buyers. A few stories where your boat plays a crucial role – getting you home before dark when you never thought it possible or helping you reach a secret fishing spot – can help seal the deal. Don’t just tell the buyer how great the boat is, give them concrete examples.
Don’t Go Too Low!
Don’t get sucked into the trap of “cash is king” when being thrown low-ball offers. Be willing to haggle, but remain firm in your lowest asking price. While you may want or need to sell your boat quickly, it can pay off to have patience until you find the right buyer for your boat.
When it comes down to it, selling your boat is all about your attachment to it and why you need to sell it.
If this boat was extremely important to you, filled with TLC and love, you should take pride in it and price it accordingly. If you need money quickly, remind yourself that you are willing to settle – within reason.
Take great care of your boat and yourself, and don’t forget that you have a lot of power in how the process goes!
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Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.