5 Tips to Help You Sell Your Boat More Effectively
1. Preparation - Cleaning
The easiest and most cost effective way you can ‘add value’ to your boat - thereby making it easier to sell and/or achieve a higher price - is to clean it. However it is important to really do this job properly, if you just spend 30 minutes running a jet wash over it, then you’re only going to get very limited results. To get the best results we would advise setting aside ideally a weekend (possibly longer if your boat is in a real state!), or at least a whole day, to properly hand wash, dry, and polish the whole boat inside and out – the more meticulous you are, the better results you will get, and it will make a difference when it comes to selling the boat.
2. Preparation – Repairs
The advice above in relation to cleaning is pretty simple – if you have the time, you should, without doubt, carry out a thorough clean and polish, as advised above. However, our advice when it comes to repairs has to be more nuanced.
As a starting point, the simple advice would be to carry out any outstanding repairs prior to sale – assuming of course that you have the spare time to do so.
However, you should only carry out repairs yourself if you have the competence, time and tools needed to carry out the repair work properly. Nothing puts prospective buyers off more than botched repairs. If you cannot carry out the repair properly yourself, you would be much better off either leaving the job undone, or getting it done by a professional marine mechanic.
That then brings us to the question of should you leave those repairs you cannot do yourself undone, and discount the price, or should you get them done professionally prior to sale. The answer will of course vary dependant on the exact circumstances. However the following would be our general advice:
If you can get the repair, or repairs, done at a relatively (relative to the value of the boat) small cost, we would generally advise getting those repairs carried out. This way you can present your boat to prospective buyers in a ‘ready to go’ condition – which is always nice. However, if the cost of the repairs is likely to add up to a substantial proportion of the finished value of the boat, we would then suggest that you might be better off leaving those repairs undone and discounting the price. The reason being that your buyer might be able to carry out some or all of the repairs themselves; and while they will of course expect the price to be discounted for parts, and an element for labour, that labour element might well be a lot less in your buyer’s eye compared to what a professional marine mechanic might need to charge.
Let us illustrate this with an example: Let’s say your boat has a nominal market value of £5000, but needs repairs, which you cannot do yourself, and which a marine mechanic will charge £2000 to carry out. So if you took the route of getting the work done first, you would effectively end up with £3000 ‘in your pocket’ once the boat was sold. However, you might well be able to find a buyer who is prepared to take the boat off you at a £1000 discount for the outstanding repairs; that way you sell the boat for only £4000, but you effectively end up with £1000 more.
Of course whether this works out in practice depends on whether you can find a buyer who is willing, and able, to take your boat on as a project, and also what level of discount they will want. We would suggest that it is certainly a selling strategy worth trying before plumping up for expensive repairs – after all we all know that marine mechanics are not cheap – even ‘less cheap’ than auto mechanics!
3. Preparation - Trailer
What we have already said in parts 1, and 2 above in relation to whether to get any needed repairs done, or discount them in the selling price instead, will also broadly apply to the trailer. However there is one important difference to bear in mind in relation to the trailer, and that is that while the boat does not need to be seaworthy in order for you to be able to successfully sell it, a trailer that isn’t roadworthy could put off even a buyer who is willing to do repairs on the boat itself. This is simply because the unroadworthy trailer makes transporting the boat back problematic for the buyer.
For this reason we would generally always advise to get the trailer repaired to a roadworthy standard if possible. If this is not going to be feasible to do, then it would be a strong reason in itself to consider selling to a trade buyer (see 5 below). The reason being that the trade buyer is likely to have, or have access to, a flat-bed type tow truck onto which the whole trailer/boat combination can be winched and transported safely ‘off the road’.
After having done 1, 2 and 3 above, you should take lots of good pictures including close-ups of the engine and hull etc. and include these in the advert. Most online advertising platforms these days also enable you to include a video within your advert, and so most prospective buyers these days therefore expect to see a video of at least the engine running, and better still the boat being run on the water, so also include some relevant video in the advert if you can.
However, whilst it is true that pictures and video can ‘speak a million words’, it is still very important to also write a detailed description of the boat. The more detailed the better, including details of the history of the boat, how long you’ve had it etc. will be appreciated by serious prospective buyers.
It’s also a good idea to dig out any and all paperwork and include details of the paperwork you have in the description. Things like the original bills of sale will be very much appreciated by serious enquirers – this is particularly because small boats do not have a DVLA V5 log book style keeper/owner verification system as cars do – so such paperwork helps verify ownership.
It’s probably also worth thinking about how you are willing to accept payment and then stating this in your advert – this could certainly avoid arguments later if, for example, you are expecting a ‘cash on pick up’ type arrangement and then the buyer turns up expecting to pay by bank transfer!5. Think About Who it’s Best to Sell to – a Private or Trade Buyer
We have put this in at number 5 but really you should probably think about and make a decision on this first, as you can then adjust 1, 2, 3 and 4 above accordingly.
Broadly speaking 1, 2, 3 and 4 above will still apply whether your target buyer is a private individual or a dealer/trader, however, some of what we have said will be less important if you are selling to a trader. For example; If you don’t have time to give the boat a proper clean, as discussed in 1, a trader is more likely to be able to ‘see through the dirt’ to the boat underneath and therefore adjust their valuation less than what a prospective private buyer might. And as we already mentioned in 3 above, a non-roadworthy trailer is less likely to be a big problem to a trade buyer as the trade buyer is more likely to have, or have access to, a flat-bed type tow truck onto which the whole trailer/boat combination can be winched and transported safely ‘off the road’.
A trade buyer also may well adjust down their valuation for work needed less than a private buyer – especially so if the private buyer does not plan to do any of the work themselves and will therefore want to adjust the full value of a marine mechanics quote.
Finally selling to a trade buyer will save you having to advertise the boat. However, taking a good few pictures and sending them to the trade buyer is still well worth doing. As is a detailed description if contacting the trader by email etc.
Overall the decision of who best to sell to will ultimately come down to how much time and effort you wish to put into the sale process. If you have the time spare, and don’t mind putting in the work, then you are definitely likely to achieve a better price selling privately. However, if you don’t have the time, and/or are unable to put in the work, then a trade sale is certainly going to be a lot quicker and easier. Good Luck :)