Boat Payments: 7 Tips For Sellers To Close A Deal Faster

When that moment comes for you to drop your boat off to a new owner, you’re likely to feel a bit sad to see her go. The boat which you spent many Summers cruising in with your children, or at a special anniversary evening where you ate dinner on the deck watching the sunset, is about to become someone else’s. In some ways, letting go of a boat that you’ve shared lots of warm memories and adventures on can feel like you’re letting go of an era. Suddenly you have a flashback to all of the precious moments you shared onboard. The TLC she required is likely to be comparable to some members of the family! Every week you spent hours with her, brushing her down, washing her clean, priming her in a glossy paint finish, and occasionally patching her up after a bad scrape. Finally, the moment has come to let her go. And, while she may have her shortcomings (don’t we all?), you both enjoyed a magical time together.

Final Negotiations: Agreeing On A Price

When selling a used boat, there’s generally a period in which the price is negotiated before a final sales agreement is reached. To secure a boat purchase, the buyer is clearly expected to make some form of payment. Here are seven tips on how to handle payments for your boat and incentivize buyers to pull the trigger faster:

Accept A Deposit On The Boat

Some sellers will accept a partial deposit to hold the vessel for a certain amount of time, until the final balance is paid in full. Offering this as a non-refundable deposit can be a great way to get a buyer “on the hook” and help seal the deal.

Make Sure The Buyer’s Funds Have Cleared

Although payment methods will vary from person to person depending on the scenario, a boat should not leave the seller’s possession until all funds have cleared and the boat has been paid for in full. If you accept a personal check, make sure the check has cleared and the bank can confirm the funds are available to you.

Hire Help: Lawyers And Licensed Boat Brokers

Consider using a marine lawyer, licensed yacht broker or specialist agency such as YachtCloser for a particularly large, valuable or complex boat. Documentation for high-value assets can be more involved and complicated than for smaller vessels so be sure you know what you’re getting into if you decide to represent yourself. It could be very well worth it to bring in the pros for peace of mind. For example, a superyacht would fall into this category.

Have Your Paperwork Ready

Failing to provide a watertight documents portfolio can delay progress with a boat sale. Before you reach the agreement stage, you need to ensure that every relevant document is present and correct. You can then show potential buyers a streamlined collection of relevant documents, which can simply be handed over on completion of the sale. For more detailed information, read our article Documentation Needed To Sell A Boat.

Accept Modern Payment Apps

In today’s tech-savvy, mobile-first world, accepting more modern forms of payment may incentivize potential buyers to make a deal with you over other sellers. There are many valid payment apps and services out there, including venmo (a mobile payment service owned by PayPal) where account holders can instantly transfer funds to others via a mobile phone or tablet. Square offers a small, mobile credit card reader so that buyers can accept credit cards anywhere in the world using the Square point-of-sale app on a smartphone or tablet. PayPal or Venmo may be appropriate for smaller vessels where the dollar amount is a bit less. For larger boats, some buyers and sellers might prefer an ACH/wire payment to keep the process documented electronically, rather than hand-delivering a bank note or cashier’s check.

Beware Of Cash

If you’re accepting cash, just make sure that you look out for counterfeit notes by checking the dollar bills carefully. Check the watermark and serial number – if the number is a different number to the treasury seal, or matches that of another note, it’s a fake. Holding a large bill to the light, you should be able to see the embedded security thread. Visit the Federal Reserve for more tips on how to spot a counterfeit bill.


It is a good idea to have a third-party on hand when the time comes to transfer ownership, accept payment and sign the bill of sale. Many states in the US will actually require a witness signature on a bill of sale or title. Plus this person can help to check and count the cash with you before releasing the vessel. Bringing a trusted third-party with strong concentration skills to check the notes with you and give it the time and attention it requires is a good idea.

Final Thoughts – Save Those Documents (And Make Copies)

The final transfer of boat ownership is handled by means of a Boat Bill of Sale. This can often be as simple as a signed, witnessed and dated document with basic details of the seller, the buyer, the boat and the agreed purchase price, but it remains a vital document for completing the boat selling process. To sell a boat, you will have to fill in the subsequent paperwork, which will vary by state. However, in most states, typically all that is needed for cash transactions is the title signed over to the new owner, who then takes it to the motor vehicle office department and applies for a new title.

Whether you’re selling a sailboat, a garden-variety runabout, bass boat, or a super expensive high-performance boat, you’ll want to safeguard all of your boat documentation and sales receipts to ensure that you’re not left in a vulnerable position. That final moment where the seller decides to push the button and proceed with the transaction is a nerve-wracking one, which is why it is best to be prepared and understand all of your options for receiving payments for your boat.

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Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.