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How to Prepare My Boat for Sale

When it comes time to sell your boat, a bit of effort in getting it ready goes a really long way towards getting what your boat is worth. The most important thing to remember is that appearances count, just as they do with houses and cars. Making your boat look clean and tidy is one thing (and an important one), but spending some time fixing all those little niggling problems will also give your buyers confidence that the boat has been well-maintained. Preparing your boat for sale may take some time, so be sure to start the process well before you want to put it on the market. Here we take a look at the steps to take to get your boat looking its absolute best, and to get the most money for it. 

Be sure to check out our detailed Guide to Selling Your Boat for a full story on the sales process. 


Sailing boat moored at portWhen it comes time to sell your boat, a bit of effort in getting it ready goes a really long way towards getting what your boat is worth. 


Preparing Your Boat for Sale: 8 Steps to Success


Step 1: Make sure everything works, and fix anything that doesn’t 

Give your boat a thorough going over and change anything that is mechanically faulty. Replace broken lightbulbs, ensure the electronics are in working order, make sure batteries are new or charged, replace rusty fittings, and make sure the pumps work! Check the windlass, the faucets, the head, generator, heating, and sails if you have them. If something is loose or leaking, fix it. If something works but is showing signs of wear and tear, consider replacing it now. Not only does this create a more impressive and reassuring overall picture to a prospective buyer but it’s cheaper to fix these things now (either yourself or by getting in a professional) than when they’re noted on the survey and the price is renegotiated.


Step 2: Remove all your personal items

While a buyer will be looking at the big picture, sometimes it’s hard to envisage the boat as theirs when it’s full of someone else’s cooking equipment, toiletries, tools, and personal belongings. Take off the boat everything that isn’t going to-be included in the sale. Not only does it save any confusion down the line with what is and isn’t included in the sale price, but it will make the boat seem much bigger. Empty all interior lockers, on-deck lockers, and storage spaces so they seem spacious when inspected. Help prospective buyers imagine this as their next dream boat. You could even make up the beds to look more inviting.


Step 3: Clean…inside and out

This is when you put some serious elbow grease into cleaning your boat inside and out. You’re aiming for deep-clean perfection here, so take your time and pay attention to detail. Whether you bring in professionals or do it yourself, consider having the gel-coat polished, making sure brass and wood are polished and cleaned (and varnished if necessary), and even putting on a fresh coat of bottom paint if the boat is out of the water. Ensure all drains are clear and there is no standing water on the decks. To clean thoroughly inside, wash any carpets and upholstery and clean under cushions, scrub the galley, and clean out all the storage lockers and closets. Open up the boat to let the fresh air blow through, and get some fragrant air fresheners. Musty or unpleasant odors are a big deterrent to anyone, especially buyers.


A man washes a motor yacht with a jet of water at a boat station

Take your time and pay attention to detail whan cleaning your boat for sale. 


Step 4: Service the engine

Present a clean, shiny engine or engine room to a prospective buyer. Start by removing any water in the bilge and then clean any oil off the engine. Consider hiring a professional to steam clean the engine compartment and make it sparkle. It’s a sound idea to get your engine serviced at this stage, too. It will be well-received by buyers when you can show a recent tip-top service record.


Step 5: Take top quality photographs and videos

When you’re confident your boat is looking the best you can get it, it’s time to take some eye-catching photos and videos that’ll lure in the buyers. These days it’s common (and hugely successful) to sell a boat via an online marketplace such as Rightboat, and therefore the images you take will be vital in how your boat is portrayed and seen by prospective buyers. You can:


  1. Get a good quality camera or smartphone
  2. Check the weather and choose the right day
  3. Get a good mix of exterior and interior images
  4. Take photos and video while underway
  5. Caption your images


For more detailed tips and advice see our guide to Taking Photos and Videos That Will Sell Your Boat


boat picture smartphone

Take top quality photographs and videos to attract potential buyers fot your boat. 


Step 6: Decide where to sell your boat

These days there are many places to list your boat for sale on dedicated online marketplaces. They generally offer a secure platform through which you can create a detailed listing, add photos and videos, and most importantly reach thousands of prospective users. but at the same time you should consider the advantages of working with a professional yacht broker, as well, given that brokers will utilize online marketplaces plus their own network of contacts and client and their years of experience. For a more thorough exploration of your options when listing your boat for sale, check out our detailed guide to Where to Sell Your Boat: Exploring Your Options


Step 7: Decide on a selling price

Deciding on an asking price can be tricky (and with many types of boats the advice of a professional yacht broker can be extremely valuable). You want to be competitive and sell your boat fast, but you also want to get as much for your asset as possible. You’ll need to research the competition, decide your minimum price, and try to look at your boat objectively and not let your emotions get in the way. Ultimately, the market will decide what your boat is worth, so knowing what boats in a similar condition to yours are selling for is key to getting it right. For more, read our article on Use Boat Values: A Guide to Pricing Your Boat.


Step 8: Gather all your boat’s paperwork

Once you’ve accepted an offer (or even before) your buyer might ask to see the paperwork for your boat, so it’s best to have it arranged in advance. Paperwork in addition to a title might include warranty cards, maintenance records, and a builder’s certificate.For more information see our guide to Paperwork and Taxes When Buying a Boat


This article was published in August 2023 and updated in December 2023.


Written By: Samantha Wilson

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.

Get in touch:Linkedin

More from: Samantha Wilson

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