Preparing Your Boat to Sell: Winter Work Is Worth It


Staging your boat to look great, even if you have to hire someone else to make it shine, is essential in making your boat sell quickly for top dollar.

Hopefully you’ve winterized and covered your boat by now. As temperatures drop, your hopes of selling your boat may also be depressed. The good news is that winter is a great time to prep your boat to sell.

While watching a real estate show on TV’s HGTV the other day, it occurred to me that prepping a house to sell isn’t much different from prepping a boat for sale. In either case, a soft market requires effort and possibly a small investment on your part to make your property shine and sell quickly. Most people aren’t interested in making even a small investment in a boat they’ve decided to sell—and this could be a mistake.

While I can appreciate the sentiment, the reality is you may never sell your boat at your asking price if there’s better competition. Boatyards are desperate for work right now and you may get a good deal on preparing your boat for sale on anything from repowering to detailing. Even if you choose to do the work yourself, now is the time to organize and tackle those tasks that will make your boat sell. So, here are my tips on getting your boat to sell quickly with apologies to HGTV for borrowing their message that works so successfully for selling houses, too.

Fix the problems: Ask yourself, “Would I buy a boat with these problems, and if the answer is yes, at what discount?” The benefit to fixing the problems is more confidence during negotiations. People don’t want problems, they want a good, working boat! Most sensible people are going to hire a surveyor to go over your boat with a fine-tooth comb before buying and these problems will be brought to light. So why not eliminate them now?

Stage the product: Make your boat shine:de-clutter, de-personalize,and organize equipment. Get rid of those rust stains. Organize your chart table. Finally, prepare a binder with equipment lists, warranties, and work records (even if you do it yourself) that you can hand to a prospective buyer to make a good first impression. Small defects that attract unwanted attention make people subconsciously think, what else must be wrong?

Adjust the price: Do some research online to see what similar boats are selling for now. has a good step-by-step guide on the pre-sale and sale process, including how to price your boat with the help of the NADA Guides. Price your boat realistically, and remember, if everything is not pristine and in working condition, be prepared to discount.

Get the word out: Take photos, establish equipment lists, and post your boat for sale on bulletin boards, websites, Facebook, Craigslist, and with a broker if necessary.  More eyes on your ads means a greater likelihood of finding a buyer.

A little organization and effort during this winter will pay dividends when your well-prepared boat sells for top dollar.



  1. Chris says:

    If you are serious, the above tips will add value. Remember a professional clean will impress, it’s just a matter of looking at your return on the investment.

  2. Whit says:

    Great Article! Taking care of your boat and staging it can make all the difference in final selling price!

  3. Ann Johnson says:

    It’s true, Whit. I volunteer for Charity Boats, a nonprofit organization that accepts boats as donations, and throughout the years I’ve noticed that just a quick cleaning of your boat will make it more desirable and fetch a much higher price.

    It makes sense, but to be honest, prior to volunteering with this charity I never would have thought that a simple cleaning would make such a big difference!