How to successfully sell your boat

If the time has come to sell your boat, what’s the best way to proceed? The team at share their advice on what to do when it comes to selling your boat… share their advice on what to do when it comes to selling your boat…

If the time has come to sell your boat, what’s the best way to proceed? The team at share their advice on what to do when it comes to selling your boat…    

Certainly by adopting a methodical approach, you’re more likely to secure a good price and avoid long delays along the way. There are four crucial areas involved in a successful boat sale:

  • Deciding on how to sell it
  • Setting the right price
  • Physically preparing the boat for sale, and, yes sorry about this…
  • Dealing with the paperwork!  

Sunny spring weather provides the ideal backdrop to show potential buyers your boat at its best says Jonty Stubbs, Yacht Broker at Williams & Smithells, and indeed there are buyers who will time their purchase specifically to coincide with the beginning of the summer.    

“But more commonly buying a yacht is not like buying fruit at the market,” he says. “There is no season and many buyers will generally base their purchase on other more key influences such as their financial position or indeed their long term plans such as retirement, sabbatical etc, rather than the time of year. Therefore, anytime is a good time to sell.”  

Stubbs says boat owners must overcome emotional ties and prepare themselves for market expectations: “Any warm-blooded boat owner will become emotionally attached to his yacht and the ties will only strengthen by the amount of time and money spent on keeping their pride and joy in tip top condition.  

“But it’s vital to do your research on the competition and be honest with your pricing. This will determine whether or not your boat will sell, and will also impact the length of time it remains on the market.”  

He advises being realistic with your marketing. “Do not over sell your boat and ensure any photos are accurate and up-to-date. The key to a successful sale is promoting your boat enough to catch the buyer’s eye and exceeding their expectations upon viewing.”    

According to Rhian Sewell, Group Brokerage Manager at Ancasta, a classic mistake is boat sellers forgetting to make clear that certain items are not included in a sale, for example a dinghy or bespoke linen.  “It’s not normally a problem, as long we, the broker, know about it from the start and we can then point this out to prospective buyers.  Also remove anything that is broken and definitely don’t include that item in the inventory.”  

Broker, dealer, or private sale?

For those who like the idea of third party professionals handling the sale of their boat, it’s worth going through a Dealer of the relevant boat brand, or an independent Broker. For their services you’ll pay a percentage of the final sale price. A potentially cheaper option is organising the sale yourself through a classified website like or in print in your local paper or a specialist publication like Boat Trader magazine.  

When choosing a Broker, carry out some research locally and make sure you agree with their terms of business before making a decision. The BoatsandOutboards Find a Broker tool will give you the names of many leading brokers around the UK.  

Brokers and Dealers should deal with the advertising, sea or river trials, liaise and assist with surveyors, arrange any rectification work, assist with negotiations and deal with all the paperwork – so they are worth every penny. In some cases, they'll even berth or store your boat at their yard free of charge to enhance their display of boats for sale, and make it easier to show potential buyers your boat.  

Jonty Stubbs at Williams & Smithells says: “We don’t bite! Just pick up the phone or send an email – some key questions to a broker in no particular order are as follows: How long have they been in business? Which associations are they a member of (ABYA, British Marine etc.)? Do they have a good track record? How well are their yachts presented online and do they have a good level of coverage? Do they have PI insurance? Client accounts?”  

He says that for brokers, what’s most important is the condition. “When we’re taking on a new boat I’ll try and step into the shoes of a potential buyer. First impressions, is it clean? Can I easily access all parts of the boat, so is it uncluttered? Are there any obvious signs of neglect? Does all the equipment appear to be in good order? Is there any water in the bilges? Any sign of leaks? Any rust stains? What’s the condition of the heads?    

Typically a Broker or Dealer will charge a sales commission of between 6% and 10% of your boat's eventual selling price, plus VAT. The percentage charged principally depends upon your boat's value; the lower the boat value, the higher the percentage charged. But as a guide, for every £1,000 that your boat ultimately sells for, you can expect to pay between £70 and £120.  

Rhian Sewell at Ancasta says a prospective vendor can really help the process by getting their boat ‘ready for market’. “By this we don’t just mean that the boat is cleaned and personal items removed or put away, but also that any servicing due is carried out and that she is located in a place that is easily accessible to the active boat-buying market,” she says. “The best boat in the world is unlikely to sell quickly if she is stuck up a creek on a swinging mooring.”  

Get the selling price right

Problems can arise when boats advertised for sale are wildly overpriced and end up costing a pretty penny in ongoing advertising as no-one’s interested. Or boats can be undervalued leaving owners quickly relieved of a boat, but out of pocket. The secret to getting the price right is research, and the good news is that this shouldn’t take too long. Simply by browsing boat marketplace websites, looking through classified magazines and local papers, and noting at what prices Brokers, Dealers and private advertisers are selling your type of boat for, will give you valuable market information.  

Remember to factor in such issues as the age of your boat compared to others you see, overall condition, and additional elements of the sale – are the trailer and marine electronics to be included in the sale, for instance? The Boat Price Guide on Boatsandoutboards is a good starting point to help you assess your boat's value.  

Preparation: Is your paperwork in order?

Whether you’re opting to enlist the services of a broker or dealer to sell your boat, or aiming for a private sale, you’ll need to spend some time gathering all the relevant documents that will help impress potential buyers. This will also make life easy at the point of handing over the vessel.    

The main documents you need are the Builders Certificate (not essential but helpful) and Bills of Sale; evidence the boat is VAT paid such as the original invoice; registration documentation, evidence of RCD compliance, where applicable; service information for the engine, generator, sails, water heater; Owner’s Manual and further manuals for all the equipment on the boat; and financial records and receipts of any large repair bills.   

It’s also worth sorting out the boat insurance situation. Paul Birch, Managing Director of boat insurance specialist Bishop Skinner says that if you’re selling the boat you need to advise your insurers what the sale price is. “This should be reflected in the sum insured in order to make sure the boat isn’t under, or over, insured. You should also confirm the boat is still being used in the same way. For instance a boat might be laid up while up for sale, but the broker might need to sea trial it and the insurance will need to be extended in order for cover to use the vessel afloat.”  

Preparation: Cleaning and a service

Before listing for sale, make sure the boat is as clean as a whistle. Buyers viewing your boat’s interior won’t want to pick their way through scattered magazines, fishing rods, wine bottles in the galley and ancient toiletries in the shower cubicle. Set the scene by making your boat look as unlived in as possible. Scrub throughout, as viewers will be examining every stowage locker and compartment on board.    

Remember to polish up stainless steel fittings, scrub drains under hatches and spruce up the centre console units and space beneath. To ensure the outside of the boat gleams, it’s worth polishing and waxing the gelcoat and improving the look of teak decking. Pay a boat cleaning professional here if you can!  

Ideally you’ve maintained your boat’s engine and power pack so that everything is running in prime condition. Anyone interested in your boat would be delighted to hear that the outboard engine has been recently serviced, including oil change, and that the engines have been flushed after every use. You might want to show off some recent successful repair work or parts replacements.  

Top tips if you’re selling privately

  • Picture perfect: For your adverts in print magazines or boat marketplace websites, it’s essential to include really good quality photographs – and lots of them - if you want potential buyers to fall in love with your boat! You can use a good quality digital camera or even a decent camera phone but for the best results. Enlisting the help of an experienced photographer will guarantee eye-catching and attractive images to sell with.  
  • Be ready for enquiries: Plan in advance how to deal with the enquiries you will receive. If a potential buyer requires more information and photographs than is featured in the advert, it’s a good idea to have a pre-prepared a 'Specification Sheet' ready, to send at a moment’s notice. Make yourself readily available for viewings and boat inspections.  
  • Anticipate buyers’ concerns: The secret to sales negotiation is to be well prepared, anticipate what potential buyers are likely to say about the boat you’re selling, and work out in advance how you're going to react. Always keep in the back of your mind what price you'll be prepared to accept!    

Further information: ABYA has a very useful guide to Selling a Boat.

Advice on buying and selling a boat is available to RYA members - Buying a Boat    

Further reading - RYA Boat Buyers Handbook - Book or eBook

This article was supplied by