One of the pleasures in buying a good used boat is knowing that previous owners have absorbed most of the depreciation. Another is knowing that they’ve added equipment or improvements that you now won’t have to add yourself. So if you’re selling, put the shoe on the other foot and make sure potential buyers are aware of the value you’ve added in your time of ownership. Although you’ll want to minimize your personal stuff on board so as to present a clean slate to the potential buyer, you do want to showcase the extra boat-related gear in your ad copy and photos. In order to to do that correctly it might mean spending some time and elbow grease bringing items up to spec. There’s no sense in drawing attention to extras that are dirty, weird, or just plain ugly.
Here are five areas where you can feature your extras and add-ons to help grab the attention of buyers. They don’t represent the whole possible inventory of extras, of course, but you can think of them as “swing” areas where first impressions are very important. For more ideas on how to value extras and add-ons, try looking at the step-by-step directions in Boat Prices with NADA Guides on our colleague site, boats.com.
Safety Equipment. Do feature well-kept PFDs, up-to-date fire extinguishers and distress signals, and first-aid kits with neat, unexpired contents. Don’t advertise — in fact remove — sun-damaged PFDs with frayed covers and foam sheets slipping out; expired flares, and dead fire extinguishers. Poor safety gear is a big turn-off for buyers. If life-and-death preparation is lax, what’s the rest of the boat like?
Electronics. It’s always a tough to know how to emphasize your electronics when you sell. Chances are they were state-of-the-art at one point, and now they’re not, even though you installed them yourself — what, five or six years ago? Or was it seven? That’s an eon in marine electronics. Or maybe the VHF is new and the chartplotter isn’t. The best policy is to list working electronic gear by date, manufacturer, and model, and let the chips fall where they may, e.g. “2001 Furuno GP1610CF Chartplotter (charts updated 2010)” or “2015 Icom M324 VHF radio with GPS.” If a piece of electronics is dead or badly sun-damaged it obviously shouldn’t be advertised, but the decision to remove it or not depends on whether you’ll leave a gaping hole if you take it out. In that case it may be better just to leave it in and simply mention the situation to the prospective buyer.
Galley Gear. Whether your boat has a dedicated galley or not, it may be home to dishes, glasses, mugs, and utensils, as well as a kettle, a few pots and pans, and so on. If you’re not planning to move these things to your next boat, take a really careful look at them and decide whether they’ll add value to the one you’re selling. A matched set of well-kept plates, bowls, and mugs that you won’t be needing is one thing; a pile of dinged-up plasticware odds and ends is another. When in doubt, take it out. The view of an empty, spotless galley area will be more appealing.
Watersports and Fishing Gear. Often boats go on the market when people’s jobs are moving them away from the water, or when the kids have grown or lost interest in some of the activities they grew up with. So sellers will decide to include things like tow-tubes and water skis, fishing rods and tackle boxes, wake boards and blow-up rafts. These things may be of interest to some buyers, but only if they’re in very good condition; not if they’re beaten up. More importantly, they violate the “get your personal gear off the boat” rule — the one where you’re trying to present as much of a factory-clean blank slate as possible. So if you decide to try to sell your fishing or watersports gear with the boat it might be best not to advertise it as included gear, but as “separately available.” Then you can decide whether to throw it in free to sweeten a deal, try to charge extra for it, or sell it separately on Craigslist or eBay.
Fenders and Docklines. Last but not least, there’s the docking gear that’s almost always included in the sale of a used boat, and that can add or subtract a surprising amount from the final price depending on how it’s maintained. New fenders and docklines, even for a 23-footer, can cost hundreds of dollars. But they tend to lead a hard life. Fenders lose air and get covered in black streaks, mold, and grunge from the water’s surface. Docklines fray and become stiff in the sun and salt. Although it’s probably not worth the money to replace these things with brand-new gear to enhance your chances of a sale, it’s certainly worth cleaning up those fenders with a good detergent and a 3M scouring pad, and whipping or melting the ends of docklines and then coiling them neatly for inspection.
A previous version of this article originally appeared on Boat Trader in July 2016.