You want to sell your boat FAST, and for TOP DOLLAR! This “Boat Seller’s Checklist” lists some proven ways for you to improve your boat’s chances of selling, and was written by Joe Coons, a Past Commodore of the Bellingham Yacht Club who was a licensed Master and a Boat Broker.

These techniques will work! Are they worth it? Decide for yourself: A “super-clean” boat will invariably sell quicker, and for as much as 15-20% more than an “average” boat.  Remember the cliche, “The First Impression is a Lasting Impression”. FOR THE PDF VERSION, CLICK HERE.


Have a fresh survey (certainly less than 12 months old) on hand. Comply immediately with any safety or structural deficiencies found by the surveyor, and make the survey available to brokers/buyers. If gasoline-fueled, and the engine(s) has more than 750 hours, get a compression test on each engine cylinder, and record the compression readings. If Diesel, have an oil analysis done by a shop and have them document their work. Make the engine details available too.

Take care of the “little stuff”! Tighten loose screws and replace missing hardware, especially on hatches, handles, hinges. Tighten rails. Fix bulbs, lights, switches that don’t work.

Have the boat interior clean!

  • Bilges clean and fresh.
  • Carpets vacuumed, or if necessary, steam cleaned.
  • Headliner clean (soapy sponge).
  • Interior partitions clean (soapy sponge, teak oiled).
  • Galley counters and cabinets spotless (don’t forget dirt around handles and doorknobs).
  • Stove (especially oven) spotless. Refrigerator clean, odor-free, door ajar if not running.
  • Heads, especially nooks and crannies, immaculate, holding tank empty, deodorized.
  • Drawers and cabinets clean.
  • Engines degreased, paint touched up where necessary, engine room odor free, new oil pads.
  • Flybridge & seat lockers, cockpit hatch area clean.

Have the boat exterior bright!

  • Fiberglass rubbed out and polished.
  • Natural teak, if any, cleaned (Te-Ka or just Comet).
  • Oiled Teak, if any, freshly oiled and bright.
  • Varnished brightwork, if any, “up to snuff”.
  • Stainless & chrome polished & waxed.
  • Be sure your lines and fenders are clean, unfrayed, and shipshape.

Have the boat interior organized for showing!

  • Personal items off boat if possible.
  • Eliminate clutter! Take notes off walls, tidy up shelves or better yet, empty them. Get rid of “cute” plaques on the walls, too.
  • Make the boat look modern! Remove old floating cushions, old canvas pieces, and similar miscellaneous stuff. Get a new throw pillow or two. Get inexpensive but bright bedspreads or blankets —even if you then exclude them from the sale. Give your boat maximum appeal to any prospective buyer’s “first mate”.

Don’t forget the dinghy!

  • Dinghy clean and neat. Better no letters at all than having most of the name worn off! Paint if necessary.
  • Outboard clean. Make it look good!

Don’t forget the canvas!

Replace bungees which have no stretch left. Only costs a few cents, and helps with the first impression. Replace missing snaps. Better no canvas than canvas in tatters. If the canvas is essential, get new canvas where necessary and “brag” about it in your listing —and raise your price to cover cost.

Set a fair price! Set the price two to five percent above the survey price to give yourself a little bargaining room. But don’t let your own love for the boat cause you to set the price too high! Your best prospects are those gotten right after your boat goes on the market … don’t scare them off with a high price, later causing a “distress sale” image when you set a “New Low Price”.

Prepare a good marketing piece on the boat.

  • Take a good picture of the boat in good surroundings (doors closed, curtains open). Have a friend take some shots of your boat while underway in a nice setting, either far enough away from the shore so the background is faint, or against a wooded background so the boat’s hull and outline stands out. You’ll want copies for each advertising medium you use, and\or to give your broker.
  • Get interior photos. Best time to take them is at night, with the curtains drawn. Don’t forget to set the table, get all the clutter-stuff stored away, have some flowers, all your cabin lights on, an oil lamp, or candles in the shots, bunks made, etc. Think of the kind of photographs a boat manufacturer has in its brochure!
  • Write a specification/marketing sheet. Don’t know how? Get a spec sheet on a larger boat from a broker. A good spec sheet on your boat should answer all questions a buyer might have. Any boat should take two single-spaced pages to describe, but edit to not more than three.
  • Use your computer to combine the spec sheet and photos into one document, or take the photos to a copy center and have them color-copied onto a single page with captions. Get copies of your spec sheets. Don’t forget to include a copy of the complete survey with the recommendation sheets noted with “all complied with”). Get enough copies.
  • Your boat is worth thousands of dollars! Spending $50 on pictures, copies, and labor will be repaid with a better selling price.

Hiring out the work to comply with all of the above suggestions might cost $1,000 on the typical boat. It is virtually a certainty that you will get offers at least that amount higher if you have followed these recommendations.

Finally, let the boat be seen.

  • Put the boat in the hands of a broker, so it can be at his docks and in his ads, asking first what will be done specifically to promote your individual boat. Put an expiration date on the Listing Agreement no more than six months from the start; three or four months is better and still fair. Exempt from the listing any folks you have already heard were interested.
  • If you’re selling it yourself, spend money to advertise in the Boat Trader (under 40 feet), 48 North (sailboats only), Northwest Yachting (all boats over 20′), or in the newspaper, especially the Sunday Herald and Sunday Seattle Times/P-I. Allocate at least $500 to this for any boat over 20 feet.
  • Make sure the boat is accessible, and you can be reached by phone. Put a sign on the boat itself, and on bulletin boards around the harbor.

May 4, 2010

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