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 Ernesto's Guide to Boat Selling 101
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RO# 20095

Posted - Sep 12 2008 :  13:36:30  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ernesto posted the comments below in the "Ask the Captain" section here at boatered with some good practical advice on how he marketed and sold his boat. I think it's got some good practical advice for anyone looking to sell their boat. As such, I've cut and pasted it below and am making it a sticky note in this forum for the benefit of all. I would perhaps add to his item #6 regarding hosting of your ad that you may want to consider posting your full ad on a blog site or similar free site that allows you a full platform to really post hundreds of pictures. I have done this recently for my boat and that ad is averaging just over 6 hits per hour since I created it a few weeks ago. And as Ernesto said- Best of luck b/c it takes a little bit of that as well!

Behold, Ernesto's original comments:

I have received at least four requests from BoaterEd members for suggestions on how to sell a boat. This, because I was successful selling the boat promptly and at a fair price. While 75% of that was probably just pure LUCK, I did work hard to get the boat sold, and in this market it probably wouldn't have sold otherwise. Here is how I went about selling the boat, this is just one person’s experience but I hope it helps! I encourage others to post their experiences, and agree or disagree with any suggestion I am making in this post. By no means am I presenting myself as an “expert” as I’ve only sold one boat in my life. For what it’s worth:

1. WORK at advertising the boat, and be willing to spend some money in doing it, but spend it smartly. Think about the fact that you'll save the 10% commission from a broker. In my case I budgeted $2k for advertising and went through almost all of it. You may also try to advertise it exclusively in free sites like and Craigslist for a month before you spend any money for other ads.

2. This one is common sense... but... Have the boat in excellent/pristine condition, I actually invested money fixing a few things before going on the market. Not big things but cosmetic issues that could have given a buyer pause. If you're marketing the boat as 'pristine', 'like new' 'cream puff' or 'in excellent shape', big hairline cracks, burnt isinglass, worn carpet and other cosmetic things aren't very expensive to fix and will not distract buyers. I spent about 1.5k fixing some things to make sure the boat looked like new. It’s impossible to know if I got any of that money back, but I’m convinced that it helped with the sale.

3. Do a GREAT write-up! Make sure to point out everything that was special, unique about the boat, any upgrades, and write a good advertisement for it, making sure you are doing your best to present your boat as unique in this tough market. There's many boats out there, what is it that makes yours unique? This is an easy one to get an advantage on, competing against boats represented by brokers who know NOTHING about them. I even advertised the fact that all the service items had already been done so the boat was truly ready to go. This included paying the marina $700 to pull and service the outdrives, I also serviced everything on the genset (anode, impeller, oil/filter, spark plugs etc)... Also, make a point of any FREE items that you are going to be including with the sale (in my case I even advertised the full tank of gas). Fenders, lines, flares, etc., all these things can add up and if you are including them make sure the prospective buyer knows. Make a point of any sweat equity you've put into the boat!

4. Detail the heck out of the boat. Seriously, grab some Qtips for the hard to reach places, and spend a weekend making the boat look like new. If you can't wash it or wax it, rub or spray it with WD-40 or CRC for a great shine (don't forget to detail the engine room, many people judge a boat's condition mainly on the engine room's condition). Oh, and clean out your stuff before you take the pictures. Clutter really detracts. We only left the decorations that really imporoved the appearance of the boat... This was not hard for us as we always keep the boat very organized.

5. PICTURE PICTURES PICTURES, take the BEST possible pictures you can take right after you've detailed the boat! The more pictures the better, highlighting the boat's better features. If there's a nice detail (grab handle, upholstery logo, woodwork joint etc) that you love about the boat, make sure to take a picture of it. In the boat I sold, the bow rail lights were unique, so not only did I mention it, I waited until nighttime and took a pictured that captured the effect. If you've recently upgraded something, before-and-after pictures may help to convey the significance of the improvement. Include at least one good running shot of the boat, peole like to see the boat in action. In my listing I had two good running shots, one at displacement speed and one on plane.

6. Host your MAIN ad in a place like BoaterEd, with ALL OF the information on the boat and tons of pictures, with an answer for ANYTHING that you could think anyone may ask you, so that anyone who responds to one of your ads with questions or asking for more pictures, you can just direct to this ad. The ad here is free and without a limit on the number or words or photos! You can still see my ad here, hopefully you'll note the effort put into photographing the boat in a very attractive manner, and all the features highlighted in the process (teak platform, rail lights, screen door, etc.):

You'll get a lot of inquiries, so it's a lot easier directing someone to a thorough listing like this than to be addressing individual questions from a bunch of people all the time.

7. Keep your Craigslist ads active, it's a pain but you need to do it. “Some people” who don't really follow the rules would suggest that you write different ads so you can put them in different markets, but of course I “cannot” advice that you do so. I just bought my new Tiara through Craigslist, and one of the Cruisers my friend sold was sold through Craigslist. Yes it will increase your of spam, but it's also a viable selling tool. My Craigslist ads were very brief, with a link to my very thorough ad. I’ve also known people that sell boats through Ebay, though I’ve never tried it.

8. Then, pay to advertise your boat in a couple of places like,, and Do spend the money to 'feature' your ad in those places, particularly in where the 'featured ad' option is a one time expense instead of a monthly upgrade. Based on how it went for me (amount of hits on my ad in each place), I'd only do and if I had to do it again. Because my boat was a Canadian boat popular up there, I also bought some ads in some Canadian classifieds, so make sure to know if there’s a particular market for your boat that you can explore.

9. Really very important: remember your boat is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it, and your boat's probably worth a little less than you think! :-( I started advertising at over 10% of my "rock bottom price". This was a mistake. I got few hits in the first month. It won't matter how clean it is if it's priced so high that people won't even bother to come see it. I changed my asking price to just 3k over what I thought was my "bottom", and the hits/requests for info started flowing consistently. So I'd say, advertise just a bit above what you are willing to sell. Buyers will come to you, fall in love with the boat, before they realize that you're not willing to come as far down as they thought. I actually turned down two offers, and then the person who had made the first offer called me and we worked a deal right there on the phone, for about 2-3% less than my original "rock bottom price". He basically asked me what it would take to get the deal done right there. They loved the boat, their kids liked it too, and they didn't want to lose it. Notice I was willing to turn some offers down, but ONLY because at that point I would have rather kept the boat, as I owed more than I was offered and I wanted to get at least a bit of cash out of the sale. In this market, if you turn down an offer, do it only after you consider the real possibility that you may end up keeping the boat.

10. Do all the research to know exactly how the THREE blue books price your boat. Keep in mind blue books are all over the place. You can get NADA and BUC online (the latter is tricky to get but can be done). For ABOS, try to find a connection with a dealer who's willing to give you the ABOS printout. In my case, I sold for about exactly NADA price including all the options (NADA w/o options was scary!), or just below ABOS price. Also get acquainted with every single similar model boat up for sale in the major web sites within a couple years of yours. Look at their asking prices, and be competitive with them. Look for things that make your boat better than the others. In most cases when someone told me "I'm also looking at one in so-so place" I already knew which boat he/she was talking about. I had a long write-up that I sent people in price negotiations, detailing blue book values (my interpretation as seller, very different from what my interpretation would be as buyer) for the boat, and how it compared with similar boats on the market in a price/features/condition perspective.

11. When you get your showing, be prompt, don’t be in a hurry, answer all questions honestly and have that boat sparkling clean! Show your pride in ownership and be willing to let the prospective buyer look everywhere in the boat and take his time. My wife and I were scrubbing the cockpit of our shrink-wrapped boat in 10 degree weather in late December, for our first showing, since people that had wrapped the boat had stepped all over the seats and cockpit and made a mess. We made sure to be there early for the showing to connect the boat and charge the batteries.

12. Be truthful and honest. This may be controversial as some people may be afraid to lose a sale, but my very honest behaviour and willingness to be forthcoming with information helped me build a lot of trust with the person who bought our boat. In fact, without being asked, I told them about cosmetic hairline cracks around the swim platform that he had no way of discovering before closing considering the way that the boat was wrapped. I’d rather have him buy the boat with all the information than to have arguments and misunderstandings a couple of months later upon unwrapping.

The trust built made contract negotiations and the closing process a lot easier. For example, the buyer trusted me to “escrow” some money until sea trial a few months later, instead of getting a third party involved. That is actually worth some actual interest money right there. There’s just no way to overstate what building a trusting relationship with a potential buyer is worth. This buyer actually told me that he’d rather wait until April or May to buy a boat (instead of January in MN), but that he didn’t want to miss out on a chance to buy a boat from an “owner like me”.

I think many people do a lot of these things, but I've seen many that just don't do a great job with their write-ups or pictures. In a tough market, this is what can distinguish your boat from all the others out there. A lot of buyers aren't knowledgeable enough to recognize two boats are really the same, the only difference being that one is just much better staged and photographed.

In my case, my buyer found it right here on BoaterEd. Most credible buyers otherwise came through, for some reason. My thread got quite a few thousand hits, I'm assuming a lot of them coming through links from some of my other ads.

Of course, some people attribute my sale to the fact that in the listing there was a picture of my wife on the bow with a bikini... I refuse to believe it's that simple... But hey, it can't hurt.

Good luck with your sale! That's probably what it really comes down to!

~~Let's see...1987 Bayliner 4588 & 1995 Boston Whaler 17' Dauntless, and a few other water toys~~

Edited by - Woodsong on Sep 12 2008 13:39:15

Homeport: GA


RO# 12640

Posted - Sep 12 2008 :  14:46:30  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Good post, you should lock it and make it a sticky. You can remove my post before you do that.


And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.

George Carlin

Homeport: Go to Top of Page


RO# 20095

Posted - Sep 12 2008 :  14:50:26  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Walter, it's already a sticky. I've not locked it and don't see a need to unless you start saying this thread is listing to port or something, then I may lock it. :D Just kidding my friend! Anyway, i've not locked it- probably won't need to.

~~Let's see...1987 Bayliner 4588 & 1995 Boston Whaler 17' Dauntless, and a few other water toys~~

Homeport: GA Go to Top of Page


RO# 3813

Posted - Sep 12 2008 :  15:00:26  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I think you need to use a green font to get it sold!


1999 Trojan 440 Express
2005 Scout 175 Sportfish

MMSI# 338049724

Surly to bed, surly to rise...

Homeport: Haverstraw Marina, Haverstraw, NY Go to Top of Page


RO# 3672

Posted - Sep 12 2008 :  16:23:32  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HOGAN

I think you need to use a green font to get it sold!

At least for the price....

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down "happy." They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. ~John Lennon

Homeport: Vero Beach FL Go to Top of Page


RO# 15854

Posted - Sep 12 2008 :  18:07:48  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for posting

Homeport: Cotuit, MA Go to Top of Page


RO# 3813

Posted - Sep 12 2008 :  19:12:59  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
No, thank YOU for posting!


1999 Trojan 440 Express
2005 Scout 175 Sportfish

MMSI# 338049724

Surly to bed, surly to rise...

Homeport: Haverstraw Marina, Haverstraw, NY Go to Top of Page
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