Selling Your Boat? Use the Winter to Get It Ready


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.

Prepping a boat for sale isn’t much different from prepping a house. In either case, a modest effort and possibly a small investment on your part will make your property shine and sell more quickly. Many people aren’t interested in making even a small investment in a boat they’ve decided to sell—and this is often 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 eager 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.

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.  If you decide to list your boat here, read Five Tips for Selling Your Boat on Boat Trader — it has great advice for almost any online selling situation.

More eyes on your ads means a greater likelihood of finding a buyer, and a little organization and effort during this winter will pay dividends when your well-prepared boat sells for top dollar.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2015 and updated in January 2019.