How To Sell A Boat – A-Z Boat Guide

A skier's marine employee speaking with a customer on boats.

During the boating life cycle, the time will come when you want to sell your boat or even upgrade to a new one. Everyone wants the best price and return on the original investment. You may be interested to know how to maximize your return. At Skier’s Marine, we desire to be your trusted boating education source.

How-to Video on How to Sell A Boat:

There are many reasons people may sell their boat. You may want to upgrade to a newer model, or maybe you need something larger; Perhaps you want to try a different kind of boating. Another reason to sell a boat is due to financial constraints, or maybe you no longer have the time and/or energy for boating. As your trusted education source on all things boating, we’ve created this comprehensive guide on how to sell your boat to help the process be as smooth as possible. 

Important Definitions

When selling your boat, you may find some terms you are unfamiliar with. Below we’ve defined these terms to help you prepare for the boat selling process:

  • Private Party – Refers to selling your boat on your own to another individual. 
  • Trade – Refers to selling your boat to a dealership through the acquisition of another boat/RV/auto in which you get your boat’s value reduced from the price of the new vehicle. 
  • Wholesale – Refers to selling your boat to an entity purchasing your boat and intends to resell it at a lower value than private party or trade pricing. 
  • ACV – Your boat’s “Actual Cash Value” at this time. 
  • Title – The state’s way of tracking ownership of a vessel; allows taxes to be imposed on the vessel in an ongoing manner. 
  • Bill of Sale – The legal document used to transfer ownership from one party to another. 
  • Warranty Transfer – The transfer of a boat’s warranty from one party to another, usually for a fee. The new party gets the benefit of the boat’s original remaining warranty. 

What Impacts the Value of Your Boat?

Many factors can impact the resale value of your boat. As owners, we don’t have control over all of these factors, so we’ll focus on the ones we can control in this section. 

Brand Perception

When selling a boat, brand name matters. Boats with higher brand perception (think well-established brands such as MasterCraft, Sylvan, Chaparral, etc.) will usually sell faster and for more money. You can minimize the depreciation of your boat by purchasing popular brands and boat types for your market. For example, suppose you boat on Lake Martin in Alabama. In that case, you’ll find that MasterCraft, Moomba, Supra, and other wake boats are popular on this lake. You will see a good return if your boat is one of these brands or similar. Take note of your neighbor’s boats and what your local boat dealer offers. This will help you determine how easily your boat will sell! 

Condition of Your Boat

Second, keeping your boat in great condition significantly impacts your resale value. We recommend keeping your boat indoors or undercover (boathouse, dry stack, garage, carport, etc.), as this will help protect your boat from potential damage. It is also a best practice to clean the boat with mild soap and water after each use. In addition, drying the boat before covering it will keep mold and mildew to a minimum. 

Along with general cleanliness, you should always maintain your boat according to the manufacturer’s service intervals. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule and keep those service records in a safe spot. Providing these documents will make the next owner feel more comfortable purchasing your boat and allow you to ask a little more for it. 


Finally, any remaining warranties and a used boat inspection at the time of the sale will help you receive more of your initial boat investment. Clients are more comfortable purchasing a boat with a favorable inspection report available, and remaining warranties help them ensure they aren’t getting a lemon. 

How Much is Your Used Boat Worth?

It can feel like a guessing game when determining how much you should sell your used boat for. Skier’s Marine found an easy way to always come to a fair price for you and your Buyer. 

First, we recommend visiting NADAGuides to find the value of your boat based on the bank’s valuation. When building your boat on NADAGuides, the best place to start is to select only the correct engine and trailer listed with no additional options. Remember, brands and boat types popular when you sell can bring in more than NADA, while less popular brands/types may bring in less than NADA. 

To find the exact price your boat should sell for, we suggest comparing NADA to a local (if possible) and a nationwide comparable. To do this:

  1. Go to boat-selling websites like Boat TraderOnly InboardsIBoats, or other similar sites.
  2. Search boats for sale that match your exact model.
  3. Remove the highest and lowest priced boats before averaging the sale price of the rest of them. This average (less 5% for negotiations) should be the actual sales price of your boat.

Keep in mind that if you trade in your boat, the dealer will expect to make a fair profit on your boat. So, expect to deduct another 10-13% from that average to come to a reasonable trade number. 

Ways to Sell Your Boat:

There are three solid options for reselling your boat: between private parties, trade it in at a dealership, or sell to a dealership buying group. Depending on your financial situation, your interests, and the condition of your boat, each option has different advantages. 

Private Party

You will net the most profit for your boat when you sell to a private party. However, there are some disadvantages. Selling a boat to a private party is a lot of work. You are solely responsible for all paperwork, any demos a customer might want, transferring warranties, and more. You’ll also need to be aware of any legalities for your state; for example, person-to-person boat sales are non-taxable in some states.

In some cases, selling a boat to a private party can take almost as much investment as you did the day you bought the boat. When listing your boat for sale to a private party, keep in mind that buyers like to negotiate. Allow your posted price to include about 5-10% to negotiate the final sale price. 

Trade-in Your Boat

The second way to resell your boat is to trade it in for a newer boat. This option will net you the second most value for your boat, behind private sales. The sale as a trade-in will be impacted by the tax rate. This means your resale value for trade-ins can be about 10% less than when selling to a private seller. However, this is an excellent option if you want a newer model boat for a much lower price. 


Lastly, you can wholesale your boat to a local dealer or used boat buying group. This may bring you the least amount of return for your boat, but it is a good option when you need it. In these instances, the dealership group will handle everything, including transferring any warranties, drawing up the bill of sale, ensuring the boat is in selling condition, etc. While you may clear less profit for your boat, the trade-off is an easy and speedy deal.

How To Sell A Boat Quickly:

If you’re in a situation that requires a quick sale of your used boat, there are a few easy ways to accomplish this. 

First, list your boat in as many places as possible, especially the free ones, to get the most exposure for your used boat. Some sites are organized by city, so you may need to post multiple listings in different cities where your boat is most popular to drive interest. 

Second, you can list your boat slightly under all the other boats online to drive more interest. For example, if most boats similar to yours are listed for $49,995, listing yours for $47,995 will help bring in offers. 

Lastly, you can sell your boat wholesale to your local dealer or buying group. Again, understand that they will need to make a profit on your boat, so expect a lower offer. 

Where to Sell Your Boat Online:

The most popular place to sell your boat is going to be online. While pay-to-park locations exist, in today’s fast-paced, internet-driven world, your best bet for selling quickly is to sell online. Below is a list of some of the best sites to utilize when selling your boat online. While this list is not comprehensive, it is a great place to start:

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • Only Inboards (only if your boat is an inboard)
  • (only if your boat is actually a yacht)
  • (we recommend being careful with this one)

What Paperwork Do I Need to Sell My Boat?

Bill of Sale

The last thing to keep in mind when selling is having a Bill of Sale. A Bill of Sale lists out the terms of the transaction between a Seller and Buyer. In some states, a Bill of Sale may not be required to complete the sale, but we strongly recommend using one as it provides proof of the details of the transaction. Your Bill of Sale should include the boat’s hours of operation and the registration information. It must state “Bill of Sale” at the top of the document. 

Copy of Drivers License

We also recommend trading and attaching a photocopy of both the Buyer’s and Seller’s driver’s licenses. Include the printed information listed on it from those driver’s licenses as well. 

OFAC Report (Office of Foreign Assets Control)

To ensure your safety, you may also want to run an instant OFAC to protect yourself and avoid any possible legal repercussions. Below, we’ve provided a blank template to help you get started. 


Some states are title states and will require a transfer of the boat’s title. If your state does require a title, it might have an e-title process where you can request a paper copy to provide to the boat’s new owner. 

MSO (Manufacturer Statement of Origin)

For non-title states, an MSO may be required before the new owner can register the boat in their name. 

Be sure to check with your state’s DMV or Wildlife Department to verify your state’s requirements for selling a boat. 

We hope these tips help you get started on your journey to resell or trade-in your boat. Skier’s Marine gladly accepts trades of all types and works hard to bring you top dollar for your trade. Our passion for boating, partnership with exceptional manufacturers, and commitment to customer service create a unique customer experience. Our team is here to be your trusted guide. To get more information about reselling or to apply for a trade-in, visit us online or visit your local Skier’s Marine dealership.

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