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How to Sell Your Boat: A Detailed Guide

Deciding to sell your boat can seem daunting as there are several steps you need to take to close the deal and sign it off to a new owner. But selling a boat doesn’t have to be a complicated process and there are many things you can do to help your boat sell quickly, for a good price, all while making the whole process stress-free. We’ve taken a look at Where to Sell Your Boat, from advertising it locally to using a professional yacht broker or signing up on your own to a dedicated online boat buying and selling marketplaces. Brokers typically utilize a network of digital platforms and connections including their colleagues and take a lot of the load off you as a private seller, but you also can represent your own boat on a number of online marketplaces if you have the time to put in the work. In this article, let’s take a look at what exactly is involved in selling a boat, regardless of how you do it.



man selling a boat online

Selling a boat does not have to be a complicated process and there are many things you can do to make the whole process stress-free.


Prepare Your Boat for Sale

First things first: to get interest and a fair price for your boat it will need to dazzle. Putting in some elbow grease now will put you one step ahead of the competition and ensure you get what your boat is really worth. In the same way that you would clean and tidy a car or house for sale, your boat needs to be looking its best for the photos, videos and later the viewings. You should:


  • Make sure everything works: This is the time to fix all those small things that have been on your to do list. Go over your boat thoroughly and replace broken lightbulbs, ensure the electrics are working, make sure batteries are charged, and make sure the pumps work. Check the sails and rigging, the bilge pumps, winches, taps, heads, generator, heating and lights. If something is loose or leaking, fix it. If something works but is showing signs of wear and tear then consider replacing it now. The reason for doing this is twofold. For one it presents a clean, tidy boat to prospective buyers which gives them confidence, but it is also cheaper to fix these things now than to have a buyer negotiate big amounts off the asking price because of them. 
  • Remove all personal items: Take everything off the boat that isn’t going to be on the inventory list when you sell it. Stripping the boat of personal possessions, decorative items and equipment will allow prospective buyers to get a better feel for the boat and envisage themselves on it. It also makes the boat feel bigger inside. 
  • Clean it thoroughly: It’s time to get scrubbing! Whether you hire a professional cleaning company or do it yourself your boat needs to look smarter than it ever has before. Polish brass and wood, clear the drains, wash soft furnishings, have the carpets cleaned, scrub the galley, clean out lockers and get plenty of fresh air wafting through so there are no musty smells. 
  • Clean and service the engine: Presenting a nice shiny engine to prospective buyers is a big plus in sales. You can have it professionally steam cleaned and serviced, and have an up to date service record to show.  


man cleaning a boat for selling

Whether you hire a professional cleaning company or do it yourself your boat needs to look smarter than it ever has before.


Price Your Boat for Sale

Pricing your boat is often the one aspect that sellers find the most challenging—and where working a professional yacht broker can make a big difference. Getting that all important figure right can be tricky because you want as much for your asset as possible, but if you ask too much it will deter potential buyers. So how do you get the price right?

  • Research the competition: Compare your boat’s model, age and condition with other similar ones (websites such as rightboat.com have hundreds listed) and price it competitively
  • Decide on your minimum price: The bottom line when it comes to pricing your boat correctly is that the market dictates the price. Essentially, it is only worth what the market is willing to pay for it. With that in mind you have to decide what the lowest price you will accept is. It might be influenced by how much loan you need to pay off or how much deposit you need to put down on your next boat. 
  • Be open to offers: Being open to offers will make buyers feel more confident and comfortable in proceeding with a sale, especially post survey and/or sea trial. Price your boat so that you can accept offers and still get your minimum figure. 
  • Use a boat valuation website: In the same way that there are car valuation websites, you can use tools such as JD Power, NADA Guides or Kelley Blue Book to get a valuation on your boat. Enter all the specifications honestly and objectively to see how the market values your boat. While these are helpful, it’s worth noting that they don’t include all manufacturers and models. 
  • Be realistic about your boat’s condition: It’s easy to see our beloved boats through rose-tinted glasses, but it’s important to be realistic about the condition of your boat when comparing it to others on the market. Pricing it equally to a boat in far better condition is unlikely to generate leads or sales. 


Get Your Paperwork Together

At this stage you also want to be getting your ducks in order. And by ducks we mean the arduous job of paperwork! This includes the Bills of Sale, evidence that the boat has had its tax paid or is exempt, the registration documentation, Builders Certificate, and service information for parts such as the engine, generator, water heater and sails. It’s also helpful if you have any financial records, repair bills, RCD compliance and owner’s manuals. Here again, partnering with a broker who has been through this many times can smooth out the process. 


Ways of Selling a Boat: Where to List Your Boat for Sale


  • Sell your boat online: It has never been easier to sell a boat by yourself. User-friendly boat selling websites offer a platform where you can list your boat, reaching hundreds or even thousands of genuine prospective buyers in your area. On the seller’s page, you will write a detailed description and upload your images, as well as receive enquiries in return. For more on advice see our article on Where to Sell Your Boat
  • Using a brokers’ services: Choosing to use a broker can save you money, time, and stress; for example, in terms of the paperwork, liaising with prospective buyers, and handling technical challenges as they come up. Brokers will advertise a quality boat extensively, including on top boat-selling websites like Rightboat. You will pay a broker between 6 and 10 percent of the final sale price in exchange for their services, but this is often well worthwhile.
  • Advertising locally: It is always a good idea to advertise locally too. It could be a sign on your boat in your driveway, in local classifieds, or at your local marina or sailing club. The more you get your boat out there, the better chance you have of selling it fast and for a good price. 


man on a boat with laptop

It has never been easier to sell a boat by yourself. User-friendly boat selling websites offer a platform where you can list your boat, reaching thousands of genuine buyers.


Take Good Photos and Videos

While a detailed description is hugely important when it comes to creating an online or broker listing, in fact it’s the images that you choose of your boat which will draw in a prospective buyer. You have a few seconds to get someone’s attention, and good quality photos (and videos) are the best way to do that. So how do you take professional-quality images that will show our boat off to its very best?


  • Take your Time: Spend time getting your photo shoot i.e. your boat ready. Make sure it’s sparkling clean, clear of personal items and clutter, and preferably staged so it looks as appealing as possible. 
  • Wait for good weather: Don’t rush taking the photos. You might even need to take images over a couple of days. For the exterior photos, choose a day with good, bright, sunny weather – there’s nothing worse than dreary, gray or rainy backdrop to put people off. When taking images of the interior you don’t want it so sunny that it creates shadows. Consider also the time of day you take the images, and avoid evening with long shadows. 
  • Choose your camera: While professional-quality cameras will take sharp, clear photos, if you don’t have access to one then most good smartphones will be of perfectly adequate quality, especially for online adverts where high resolution isn’t required. Practice first, try out different settings and see what works best.
  • Take a broad mix of photos: Take a big mixture of photos so that prospective buyers can get a really good feel for all aspects of your boat. This not only creates interest, but saves you having to communicate with people who wouldn’t have made contact if they’d had all the images and info from the beginning. You’ll need beautiful shots of the exterior, and if you can get some whilst underway too that’s even better. Showcase the beauty of your boat, lay out the dining table, anchor off a pretty coastal spot or hoist the savils. Take lots of interior shots too, showing everything from cabins and heads to storage lockers and the engine. 
  • Don’t Forget the fideos: While photos are what will draw the attention in the first instance, a good, steady video is a great asset on a sales listing. It gives perspective that photos don’t always offer, and allows buyers to feel as though they are walking through the boat. When narrating, keep it simple and clear what people are looking at, and make sure you do a rehearsal first. 


taking pictures to sell your boat

When it comes to creating an online or broker listing, in fact it’s the images that you choose of your boat which will draw in a prospective buyer.


Communicate with Prospective Buyers

Once you’ve got interested buyers it’s time to start the communication and viewing process. If you’re working with a broker, they’ll be the primary contact, filtering out the “tire-kickers.” If you’re using a boat buying and selling marketplace then you’ll receive correspondence through their secure server. You can decide at which point you might want to exchange phone numbers to help arrange a date and time for the viewing. Be sure to remain pleasant and polite at all times, and remember that this is a business transaction and not personal. Answer all questions in as much detail as possible and of course be honest. 

Being flexible when it comes to arranging viewings will go a long way to maintaining a professional relationship between you and the buyer and allow them the chance to come (and hopefully fall in love with) your boat. Once the sale proceeds to offers, surveys and sea trials keep the emotions out of your negotiations and don’t get hurt or offended if they try to negotiate the price down. It isn’t personal and you’re both just trying to find that happy middle price point. 


Complete the Sea Trials and Surveys

After viewing your boat, a buyer will make an offer that will be subject to survey and sea trial. Together you’ll agree on what’s included in the price of the boat and create a detailed inventory list. At this stage a Sale & Purchase Agreement will be drawn up that both parties sign. 

The buyer will often ask to have a survey completed on the vessel (except where the boat is very small), and they will pay for it to be conducted. Likewise, a sea trial may be requested (any lift fees are covered by the buyer). The buyer may want to renegotiate the price or ask for certain repairs to be undertaken at this stage based on any findings in the survey report. 


Closing the Sale: Paperwork and Payment

Once the buyer is happy to proceed it’s time to seal the deal. Either you or your broker will draw up a Bill of Sale which, together with the documentation and keys, will be sent to the buyer when funds have cleared. If you are using a broker then this transaction will go through them, using a secure bank account, and they will deduct their commission on transferring the funds to you. 



This article was published on March 2023 and updated in December 2023


John Burnham is a marine ​editor and writer with ​decades of journalism experience as ​Chief Editor of​ boats.com,​ Sailing World, Cruising World, and ​other boating websites. As a competitive sailor, he has led teams to world and national titles in the International One-Design, Shields, and other classes. Based in Newport, Rhode Island, John is a​ PCC leadership coach, a member of the ​America’s Cup Hall of Fame Selection Committee​, and a ​past board member of Sail America and US Sailing. For more, see johnsburnham.com.


Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

More from: John Burnham / Samantha Wilson

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