If you are a boat owner, the two happiest days of your life (according to the saying) are the day you buy and the day you sell. This detailed guide is intended to help maximize your happiness as a seller—though our advice may also help you become a savvier buyer.

how to sell a boat

When it’s time to show your boat, make sure it is clean, shipshape, and easy to see.


First of all, decide whether to sell the boat yourself. Your available time, knowledge, and sales skills are all important considerations. Brokers earn their commission by taking over most of the legwork. And local dealers may be willing to put your boat on their lot or add it to their listings, hoping you buy a new boat once your used boat sells.


Do you remember where you found your boat advertised? That may well be the best place to sell it again. Boats.com has over 150,000 boats for sale in a searchable database, and our online ads are easily updated with new photos or price changes. Newspapers, newsletters, and other online classifieds can offer additional access to specialty buyers.

An eye-catching ad with quality photos and a well-written description will encourage potential buyers to ask for more detail. As one broker puts it, “We're not selling boats, we're selling dreams.” Once a buyer visualizes a day on the water at the wheel of your boat, a sale is much more likely.

Do your homework to determine a realistic price. While auto sales are tied to “blue book” value, boat prices can vary widely depending on upgrades and maintenance schedules. Be realistic, but leave yourself room for negotiation.


When it’s time to show your boat, make sure it is clean, shipshape, and uncluttered for a positive first impression. And beware—your well-written ad might attract someone without concrete plans or purchasing power.

While you can't control the weather, you can choose a protected area for the sea trial to show your boat at its best—and stick to it unless specifically asked for a rougher venue.


Any serious buyer will quickly make an offer, probably below the intended price. Treating a lowball bid as an insult will create bad feeling and possibly cost you the sale; instead, politely counter-offer closer to asking price. During this negotiation, keep your “rock-bottom” price in mind.

Once the price is established, you must exchange some paperwork to complete the transaction, including a bill of sale and title. Make sure you cancel your insurance once the boat is no longer yours.

One final note: beware of phishing, money-back scams, and other online fraud schemes. If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is—especially if you haven’t met the “buyer” anywhere but online.


Fiberglass has a very long life, and there are many used boats available. By educating yourself with our detailed sales guide, you will maximize your happiness as a boat seller—and maybe learn something that will help make your next boat purchase happier as well.

Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.