How to Prepare to Sell a Used Boat

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Thoroughly preparing a used boat for sale will make it more attractive to buyers and help sell the boat faster

sell used boatSelling a boat can be almost as difficult as selling a house. With a limited number of buyers for each type of boat, a used boat can take months or even years to sell. Few can afford to keep a boat on the market for an extended period of time. Depending on the size, an unsold boat can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a year in maintenance, storage and boat payments. Boaters who want to upgrade to a larger boat often cannot afford to upgrade until the current boat is sold.

Taking the time to carefully prepare a used boat for sale will speed up the boat selling process. Used boats that are both properly maintained and priced to sell will sell faster.

Getting a Boat Ready for Sale

A boat that appears to be neglected spells trouble for buyers. The goal is to make a used boat appear to be very lightly used. Here are some tips for making a boat’s appearance and condition more attractive to buyers.

  • Clean the boat thoroughly. A clean boat is very desirable. Be sure to make the boat shine inside and out.
  • Wax the boat hull. A properly waxed hull gives a boat a newer appearance.
  • Remove clutter from the boat interior. Don’t distract a buyer with personal items and boat gear scattered throughout the cabin. Eliminate unnecessary items from the cabin and showcase the available storage in the boat.
  • Make minor repairs. Take care of any small cosmetic or mechanical repairs to demonstrate the boat is properly maintained.
  • Make minor upgrades. Consider replacement deck carpet or upgrading the bimini boat top and canvas.
  • Change the engine oil and filters. A savvy boat buyer will always check the engine oil. Clean oil and filters is a sign of a well maintained boat and engine.
  • Clean the bilge. A dirty bilge with standing water will make the boat smell bad and potentially clog a bilge pump.
  • Keep it dry and smelling fresh inside. The cabin should be dry, mildew-free and have a pleasant smell.
  • Consider a pre-sales marine survey. A survey on file may help speed up the selling process by showing buyers the boat is in good condition. A survey will also help identify any issues that could be fixed prior to an offer.

Price a Boat to Sell

A competitively priced boat will produce more boat showings and ultimately more potential offers from buyers. A boat that is “priced to sell” will sell faster.

Evaluate boat prices for similar boats on the market by searching local and national online boat listings. Be sure to also consider regional differences in pricing. BUC, ABOS and NADA are good sources for estimating a boat value based on year, manufacturer, model and optional features. It may be surprising to see how some boats hold their value better than others.

Consider setting the asking price 10-15% higher than the expected offer price to leave room for negotiation. Most buyers will offer less than the asking price of a used boat. Also anticipate the typical 10% broker’s commission if using a used boat broker to sell the boat. Most importantly, set the price for what the boat resale value is worth on the market and not on how much money is owed on the boat. A buyer doesn’t care about how much the seller owes on a boat loan.

Keep a For Sale Boat in Selling Condition

Be realistic when selling a boat and understand that it may take longer than expected to sell. If the boat is still in use, be sure to keep the boat in selling condition as long as the boat is for sale and on the market. Be as flexible as possible with boat showings throughout the boating season. With focus and determination, a boat properly prepared for sale will stand out from the competition on the market and sell faster.

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Diane Seltzer

View posts by Diane Seltzer
Diane is the founder of as well as the boating lifestyle site for kids Active in the boating industry, Diane has also led the marketing for multiple recreational boating businesses and startups.
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