How To Sell Your Boat

Selling a Boat fast in 2023 requires mainly that you offer a fair price and that you sell your boat online with plenty of information and pictures.  Some may scoff that I even have to tell people they should list a boat online but there are many who still believe the old “Boat For Sale” sign will do the trick

(Video produced by ReelReports.com

Topics Discussed In This Article

  1. When is the best time of year to sell my boat?

  2. How much should I sell my boat for?

  3. How much does a boat broker charge?

  4. Prepare your boat for selling

  5. Taking Pictures To Sell Your Boat

Unfortunately for most private boat sellers, and even boat brokers, newly purchased boats will end up where they usually do:  On a lot, in our driveway, or at the dock running up a tab in broken parts because that’s what boats do when they aren’t used- They Break!  

To make matters worse, the longer it takes to sell your boat the greater the chance you will get less of a return on your investment because people will start to think there’s something wrong with it!

I have used many boats over the course of my life, but more importantly, I was blessed to have the opportunity to sell them for a few years in my own Florida Dealership.  Luckily for me, I now get to spend my days helping others sell their boats and that’s what I am hoping to accomplish with you today!

Selling A Boat On Instagram?

Before we even get started I am going to help get you ahead of the game:  Selling Boats on Instagram!  For a small fee ($30-$100), you can use an Instagram account such as @Sportfishtrader or @Boatsdaily to create a post and run it out to their tens of thousands of loyal followers.  That’s a lot of eyeballs that will see your boat, and unlike a corporate website such as Boat Trader, these followers are highly engaged and can also easily tag a friend that they KNOW is interested in your boat but just doesn’t have the time to look.

Sell A Boat On Instagram

What Is the Best Time Of Year To Sell A Boat?

What most people (And statistics agree on) is that the best time of year to sell a boat is between February and June.  You can probably expect 3 times the amount of action in this time period as opposed to waiting to get into the heart of Summer.  And in case you live in a perpetual boating season, such as in Florida, this time period still holds up, just without as big of a spike.

boat on a trailer for sale


If you want to sell your boat fast, and get the most money for it, sell after March and before September.

Tip: Try to avoid companies or individuals who act as an online/phone broker/brokerage. If you decide to seek the help of a professional, use a broker you have been referred to from a friend or contact a reputable brokerage nearby that will assign someone to be your personal (In Person Brokerage) broker.

How much should I sell my boat for?

In my opinion, you should sell your boat at the price point where fair meets interest.  What I mean by that is:  Sell your boat at a price that makes the phone ring and moves the boat that you can live with, because as we have discussed, what you don’t want to live with is a boat you are constantly spending money to maintain!

Research and Pricing Tip: What is essential when pricing anything, much less an item as expensive and complicated as a boat, is to research the heck out of it and then price it just a hair higher than you conclude to be the right price (Just enough to give you room to negotiate).  We will get to the why in a bit below….

The most obvious starting point toward researching boat prices will be to check out the people who have already put in the work before you: Current Public Listings!  If you want to know the best places to look for boat listings, try these websites first.  We here at AH360 are the creators of Sportfishtrader, a website SPECIFICALLY for fishing boats based on our years of knowledge in the industry.  

No Two Used Boats Are The Same!

One thing that is for sure, unlike a car, you are not very likely to find your identical boat out there unless it is brand new.  Someone will have the same hull but upgraded motors.  Another boat owner will have the same motors but more/less hours and with different electronics in the dash.  For the most part, even if you Ball Park it, you will get close enough.  The best test here is the phone:  If it rings too much with people ready to come pay you before they have seen it you are too low and if the phone doesn’t ring you are too high.  

Tip:  Don’t overvalue your upgrades!  Just because your receipts add up to $60k doesn’t mean you can expect to get every one of those dollars back.  

Call A Boat Broker (Or Not?)

Should you call a Boat Broker or Not?  This is always a very delicate subject because the owner of a boat has to relinquish a portion of the sale as commission should they sign up with a broker, and giving up money on an already depreciated asset isn’t easy!  However, a broker can and often will save you headaches, money, and even potential lawsuits (If you sold something with issues that were not properly disclosed in writing). 


A broker isn’t inclined to move a boat, a broker is inclined to make money (Aren’t we all?).   If you get a good broker they will work with you on whatever is absolutely best for you, but if you get the other sort, they will constantly feed you advice that will only serve to line their pockets with the highest commissions.  

Again, we advise anyone (Especially over $300k) to use a broker because the benefits absolutely outweigh the negatives, but please:  Use someone who was referred to you by someone you trust or contact a well-known/reputable brokerage near your boat.

How Much Does A Boat Broker Charge?

Typically a Boat Broker or Yacht broker is going to charge a commission fee of between 5% and 10%.  The fee is certainly negotiable based on the amount of work the broker is going to do.  Bigger boat = More work.  Boats farther away = More Work.

What's Your Best Price?

I cringe every time I hear this because it’s a technique designed to get you to discount your boat twice!

First, you accept the idea of taking less over the phone after giving them your “Best Price”.  You assume that the tough part is over and they only want to look over the boat before paying what was agreed because you really are giving them a great price.  Magically, they show up to find something (Anything) they don’t like and now they want more money off.  

TIP: Offer to gladly negotiate prices “AFTER” they inspect the boat.  If you really want to be firm (And confident), tell them you will gladly negotiate the price once they inspect the boat and find something wrong that you didn’t disclose.  


Pricing Guides For Boat Sales

You have heard of Kelley Blue Book for Cars, well, Boats have the same type of services available:

However, just as with cars- Don’t invest heavily in what a book tells you.  The value of something will always be:  What someone is willing to pay for it.  The only value I would put on these book values is that they tell you how expensive they think your boat is to the bank.  That’s useful information for potential buyers for sure.

What you may owe the bank for your boat has nothing to do with it's value.

Boat Restoration and Upgrade Costs

In case you skimmed over it just before this section, I want to highlight again the importance (Both as a seller and as a buyer) of understanding that upgrades or restoration costs to a boat do not pass on directly to a buyer.  You may have loved that new Garmin Electronics upgrade, but your buyer is a Raymarine fan.  Why should they pay full price for your favorite gear?  They won’t…  They just won’t!

Defending Your Price

I will repeat this several times, because it’s important:  Defend your price!  No one, no matter how fair they think your price is, has any intention of paying your asking price.  It seems at times that it’s sort of implied that an asking price is a figment of your imagination and that you should “Have room to negotiate”.  

Among the many steps we have and will cover to make your price even stronger, possibly the best move you can make is to order a Marine Survey.  These guys aren’t cheap by any means, but their work is ironclad.  

Think of it this way:  If the survey costs $500, wouldn’t most people have tried to beat you up for at least that much off the price?  From my experience surveys save more in negotiation than they cost upfront.

Reliable Marine Surveyor Resources:

Prepare Your Boat To Sell

You’ve got your price nailed down, but it’s still not time to take pictures of your boat yet or even make the listing, and why?  Because it’s full of all of your stuff!  Now is when you start getting your boat prepared for selling, and everything that comes with it.


Boat Prepping Tip #1

Remove all of the non essential stuff out of the boat.  Good rule of Thumb:  If someone were driving it away now, is there anything you would need to take out of it?

-Real Estate Agents do this all the time, right?  It’s called staging.  You set up the house to look/feel as if it’s something anyone could move right into and use.  That’s exactly what you are doing here because not only are you establishing what does and doesn’t come with the boat, but you are also beginning the process of cleaning it for great pictures.

Boat Prepping Tip #2

Clean the heck out of your boat  

-Call in a professional detailer if you can.  Most of these guys work for boat dealers and brokers and know exactly where to look for dirt and grime.  The average boat detailer (Worth a darn) is going to charge you around $12-$17 a foot for cleaning without buffing and waxing.  Add on the extra process of shining up a dull hull and you are probably looking at around $20-$25 a foot.  I should also mention that these numbers are typically for boats under 30ft.  

As anyone knows, once you hit that 30ft mark-  Everything gets more expensive!

The reason you don’t want to put the cleaning all on yourself (If you can afford it) is because you just don’t see those crevices that a buyer will.  And to be honest, they don’t really notice them either, they feel them.

You know that feeling you get when you get in your car or walk into your house after it’s been cleaned?  You can’t pinpoint why you got that feeling, you just knew.  Well, people buying a boat will be the same way, and the worst part of it is the fact that it’s not something you can pinpoint.   So, what will happen is they will have this ehhh feeling and just never call you back.  Chances are, those buyers just got a bad feeling about your boat. 

However, if you must clean it yourself, make sure to hit this list:

  • Shine the hull and interior painted/gel coated surfaces.  Polish or wax at a minimum, buff with compound if needed.
  • Clean/Check every single door, cabinet, hinge, locker, etc for dirt.  If it opens or move, buyers will touch it and look.
  • Clean the Head (Drain The Tank As Well)
  • Clean the Bildge
  • Hit any rust with rust remover.  (strong if possible, or something more natural like white vinegar if it is around sensitive areas.
  • Scrub walking areas (Seadek or Non Skid).  For non skid use Magic Erasers. Trust me!!
  • Place scented damp rid containers in enclosed areas such as the head that had or have moisture.  (They are so good I can smell them from the dock)

Boat Prepping Tip #3

Perform Routine Service On Your Boat.

-Don’t go overboard here (Yeah, bad pun) by fixing EVERYTHING on your boat.  What you are trying to avoid is having a potential buyer assume that before they get on the water they will have to undergo some type of repair.  

I recently sold a boat and although I had the injectors cleaned I left a door that was cracked alone.  One item meant a better experience, the other was just aesthetic. 

Bonus Tip:  This also provides you with documentation that you should include in your listing description and pictures!  (Receipts, Computer Reading Printout, etc..)

Boat Prepping Tip #4

Don’t Forget You Have A Trailer.

Most of us will spend all of our time on the darn boat and forget that our buyer can’t take it anywhere if the trailer is busted or the lights don’t work.  So, if you have a trailer with your boat, make sure it is in working order:

  • Tires are not dry rotted
  • Lights function
  • Axles & Brakes are “OK”
  • Rust isn’t “Too Bad”

The condition of the trailer doesn’t have to be immaculate, but if it’s bad enough it will take money from the sale price.

Boat Prepping Tip #5

Remember Your Goal.

When you are selling anything to anyone their goal is always going to be to find a boat they like first, and following that to find as many problems as they can to drive down your price.  So, your goal is to give them the least amount of ammunition to come at you with so you can better defend your price.

Taking Pictures To Sell Your Boat

Taking Boat Pictures

If your boat is around the South Florida Area (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach) and you are in need of a photographer please give me a call.  I can make your listings stand out above and beyond even some of the largest brokerages in Florida!

Yacht Photographer in Fort Lauderdale Florida

Top Tips For Great Boat Photos

  • Take yet another moment to look around for places you forgot to clean while also keeping an eye out for random items you may have left lying around (Yes, it’s that important that you should repeat this step multiple times)  
  • Take both Wide Angles & Close Up Photos.  The top boat dealers in the county know that people want to see details, but that they also want to feel the space of the boat, so their photographers will often use lenses as wide as 14mm (Like in the picture above) to give people the sensation of having a lot of space.  Taking a picture with a regular lens may make your boat “FEEL” smaller, and that’s rarely ever something boat buyers are shopping for!
  • Make sure to capture all of those areas you meticulously cleaned up.  Focus and highlight them!  You want people to look at your listing and think, “Man, this person was crazy about their boat”.
  • Always wait for the best lighting-  It may be cloudy today, it may be cloudy tomorrow, but you must wait for good lighting unless of course, you are selling a commercial fishing boat in the Grand Banks.  When people are thinking about being on the water it’s probably a sunny day they are imagining, and that’s what pictures of your boat should line up with so they can see themselves driving it on that perfect day.  Another good reason to make sure you get great sunlight is so that your listings stand out on websites next to someone else who may have been in a hurry to take their pictures.
  •  Get Moving-  Pictures of you boat sitting on a trailer or at the dock are OK, and by all means if that’s all you have time for, then so be it.  But if you can swing it, take the boat out, better yet run it at full speed.  Not only are you again allowing potential buyers to see themselves on your boat in action, but you are also adding some validity to the fact that it runs and drives just as you are describing.
  • Take As Many Pictures As Possible-  Your boat is as clean as it can be, you have the time, so knock it out now and shoot as many photos of your boat as possible.  Yes, most listings don’t allow unlimited photos, but people that call will almost always ask you for more pictures (Believe Me).  Another good reason for more photos is that you increase the likelihood of garnering interest from distant buyers as someone farther away will want as much information online as possible.  If they can verify your boat is worth the drive on their computer, they may give you a shot.  
  • Make note of anything that changes:  If you have a top that is removable or chairs with cushions that come on and off for cruising or fishing, make sure to take pictures of those and keep them side by side in your listing.  
  • Look Your Best, But Don’t Lie-  This is the one that I see people doing the most.  They assume (like a shady dealer) that if they can make their boat look better and get more people to come that the boat will sell faster or for more money.  NO, you will only have more people coming to find out they don’t want your boat. 

Top Boat Photography And Selling Tip

If there is something that doesn’t look good, but that you know people will see, don’t run from it, in fact, highlight it.  People are skeptical of you and are trying their best to find problems:

Beat Them To it!

If the buyer finds a problem, it’s perceived to be that they found a reason to ask for money off (And they will).  However, if you present the issue upfront, there is more of an assumption that this issue must already be factored into your price which is exactly how you should frame it. 

“This (So and So) needs to be repaired which is why I am only asking X.  If (So and So) were good I would be asking for more money.

Best Place To Sell A Boat Online

The Top 5 Websites To Sell A Boat in 2023:

  • SportfishTrader ($60 for 60 days, 20 photos, Google Ranked) (Brokers: Standard listings free)
  • Boat Trader  (Basic $69, 14 days, 2 photos) (Premium $229, 12 weeks, unlimited photos, video)
  • YachtWorld (Broker Only)
  • eBay
  • Boats.com

Sell Your Boat Online For Free:

Types Of Boats Sold On These Websites:

Unlike cars, boats don’t really have many places online that you can list them (And actually make a sale anyway).  The other major problem with selling your boat online is the cost-  Boat trader and Boats.com want near $200 for a reasonable ad.

And by reasonable I mean an ad where you get enough pictures, a video, and decent run time.  Looking at BoatTrader, you don’t get anywhere near what you need with anything less than $200, and even then you only get 12 weeks!

Best place to sell a boat online

Selling My Boat On Craigslist

I feel it’s a must to address selling a boat on Craigslist because it’s that one platform that everyone believes works, but also the platform everyone is the most afraid of.

Here Is The Deal:

Craigslist rings your phone!  However, it is also true that: 

  • Many of those people will never ask you one question about the boat before asking for a discount first
  • Many of those people will be dealers or brokers trying to pitch you their services
  • Many of those people will be dealers or “Flippers” offering you significantly less so that they can sell your boat for their own profit.
  • Many of the emails or texts you receive could be (are) scam artists.
Boats For Sale On CraigsList

So, if you are in a rush (Like we are in this article) you should use Craigslist!  However, be prepared for the debris that’s going to come in with that flood of action your listing recieves.

Tip:  If a lot of people are calling you offering you cheap prices upfront, that’s a good sign.  Those are dealers or people that flip boats on the side who think your boat is in high demand.

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