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How to Choose the Best Selling Price for Your Boat

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Learn how to accurately determine the best selling price for your boat with our step-by-step guide. Explore market research, recent repairs, added options, and key factors influencing your boat’s value.

One of the most important details you need to settle before putting your boat on the market is price. But how does one decide how much to ask for one’s boat? How much is it really truly worth?

This is a touchy issue. Price the boat too high and you waste time and money advertising it, possibly alienating buyers. Price it too low, and you leave money on the table that should be in your pocket.

What you want to do is find a price range for your model boat, or similar boats if your model is a rarity, in the used boat marketplace. Then, since you have cleaned up and fixed up your boat so that it is the most desirable one of its kind being offered for sale, you will price your boat at the top of that range, maybe even slightly above the range. As part of this process, you may also want to adjust the price of your boat to reflect any installed accessories or equipment, or lack thereof.

Market Research

In order to find out how much your model boat is selling for, you are going to need to do some market research.

Time to put on shirt and tie, and maybe a white lab coat if you have one, so that you can commence your new life as a “Market Researcher”.

There are actually several places you should look for information.

To check the local market, look in your local paper. Pick up a copy of the predominant newspaper for your area and turn to the classified ads.

Make a list of the boats for sale that are similar to your boat. For each of these, make a note of the:

  • year,
  • manufacturer,
  • engine,
  • options,
  • asking price,
  • telephone number.

Diligent market researchers will visit their local library and peruse the archived copies of the newspaper ads to gather even more information. You can check the ads for last month or the month before, or even last year, noting the listing information for boats like yours.

Man looking for a best boat selling price
Make some market research
Source: unsplash.com

If you live in an area with a lot of boaters, there will be boat-advertising magazines that you can check as well. Pick one up at the local advertising magazine distribution boxes or at a nearby marine store. Flip through the ads, again making notes of those boats that are the same or very similar to yours. Once you have gathered your data compile a final list, writing down the highs, lows and average asking prices for boats like your own. You now have a pretty good idea what boats like yours are going for in your area.

Of course, for some boaters this technique may offer some problems. If you live in a major market, you may be able to get enough information from the newspapers and ad publications alone to peg your boat’s value. In many places, however, you may not find a lot of boats just like yours for sale, in which case you will need to look further afield, perusing the classified ads for publications beyond your immediate area, maybe even the entire country. Fortunately, using your computer you can do this quite easily. Indeed, using the power of the Internet, it’s a snap searching the entire country for boats for sale that are just like yours.

Internet

There are several Web sites that list used boats for sale all over the United States. These are terrific resources for the nascent market researcher. Of the many Internet sites listing boats for sale, one that I use a lot is Boat Trader Online.

Other Factors

Pricing is not an exact endeavor in which an extra $10 is too much and $10 less is too little. This goal here is to determine a range wherein the optimal selling price of your boat lies. That is the best you can do.

Keep in mind that the final selling price will be influenced by factors in addition to the condition of the boat and the abundance or absence of optional equipment. For example, the area where you will be selling the boat will make a difference. In areas of higher incomes, such as in and around large cities, you can expect to get a higher price for your boat than you would if you lived in a lower-income area. In Florida, where boats are exposed to the harsh tropical sun and used throughout the year, used-boat valuations are somewhat lower than they are in colder areas where the sun is not so strong and boats are only used a few months of the year.

Photo of yachts
Yachts in Monaco
Source: unsplash.com

The time of the year that you sell your boat can also make a big difference. In most areas of the country, the boating season starts in January or February, when people begin to anticipate the arrival of spring, and ends around Labor Day. In these markets, you will have a much smaller pool of potential buyers if you try to sell your boat during the off season, and your price will have to be that much lower to attract attention. Of course, in areas like Southern California and Florida with a year-round boating season, boats are bought and sold throughout the year. And in fact, parts of South Florida actually experience a reversed calendar, since the most pleasant part of the year begins in the fall and runs until July, when it becomes too hot to enjoy the outdoors.

The state of the economy, both locally and nationally, is another major factor in determining how much you should ask for your boat. If jobs are plentiful and people are feeling good about the future, they will be more willing to buy luxury items like boats, and less sensitive about how much they pay. Conversely, if times are tough, the local plant is laying off and jobs are scarce, there will not only be fewer buyers, they will also be shopping harder for a good deal.

Keeping all of this in mind, you need to gather all the available information from all available sources and then come up with three important figures:

  • how much you are going to ask for your boat; how much you expect to actually get for your boat;
  • and the amount you are going to accept as your absolute bottom dollar.

Of course, you need to run these numbers past the “boss” in your household before you make a deal to sell the boat. You don’t want to be in the middle of negotiations with a buyer and then have to tell him to wait while you check with your spouse to make sure his final offer is acceptable. The “dignified” boat seller will nurture the illusion that he is in charge by settling these matters ahead of time.

Recent Repairs

If you’ve recently sunk a pile of money into your boat for a new outdrive or similar repair, it ought to be worth at least that much more in terms of selling price, right? Unfortunately, it might not make as much of a difference as you think.

Suppose, for example, you are selling a 6-year-old Bayliner Ciera 2452 with a standard 5,7 L engine and outdrive. All of the similar boats for sale also have 5,7 L engines and outdrives, and except for the junkers, they are all in operating condition. Now, suppose you were unfortunate enough to discover that your teenage daughter, whom you imprudently allowed to operate your boat on her own last summer, was loaning your boat to a teenage boyfriend of hers who unfortunately destroyed the engine while practicing the latest in X-tream boating maneuvers. You were tipped off to this situation when you took your boat in for spring servicing and the friendly guy at the marine dealership informed you that your engine was ready to be recycled.

So now you are selling your 6-year-old boat with a brand spanking new 5,7 L engine.

The buyers will not necessarily be glad. In the case of an engine or similarly durable component, that device is designed to last a long time if properly used and serviced. The average buyer won’t see a tremendous advantage in buying your freshly replaced engine, as opposed to someone else’s boat with a used but well-cared-for engine. Not only that, your replaced engine may stand as mute testimony to the fact that your boat has been poorly maintained and/or driven abusively (the truth), causing him to wonder what other damage may lurk uncorrected within.

Read also: Top 7 Secrets to Successfully Sell Your Used Boat

On the other hand, suppose you are selling a 15-year-old Sea Ray bow rider. By the time a boat like this has been in service in Florida for 15 years, the exposed upholstery and carpet will be shot due to exposure to the sun, unless the boat has been diligently covered and kept dry while not being used. As buyers shop for boats of this age and type they will see that most of them need to have their upholstery and carpeting replaced. It is a scheduled maintenance item. If, however, you have already replaced the upholstery and carpet, it makes your boat stand out, and many buyers will be willing to pay more for your boat because this inevitable maintenance item has already been taken care of.

Man repairing engine
Yacht repair
Source: unsplash.com

A similar situation arises in sailboats. The standing rigging and sails have a finite life. After a certain number of years, they inevitably have to be replaced. Therefore, if you have already taken care of these items on your boat, it adds significantly to its appeal and value.

If you have recent repair bills, try to be objective about them. If it was a case of time on the water or neglected maintenance catching up with you, then it is simply the price you paid for the fun you had with the boat, and you should not expect to recover your expenses. This is just part of the cost of owning your boat.

On the other hand, expenditures made to spruce up the boat as discussed in Prepare the Boat for the New Owner“Step by Step Guide of How to Prepare the Yacht for Sale” can add significantly to the appeal and value of your boat.

Added Options and Accessories

If you have added options and accessories to your boat while you owned it, how does that affect your selling price? The answer is that it depends.

First of all, the added equipment has to be in good working order. It cannot appear frayed or worn out. If an added equipment item isn’t in good working order and visually appealing, either get it fixed or remove it from the boat before you offer it for sale.

Second, in order to add value, the added item has to be something that the buyer wants. Accessories that appeal only to a small segment of the local boating population or items that too closely serve your own personal tastes may not add any appeal to your boat, and may actually make it more difficult to sell.

Suppose, for example, you have a nice 25-foot boat, and you’ve rigged it up for serious fishing. You’ve installed a deluxe fish finder, a cutting board on the transom, a bunch of rod holders and maybe even a pair of outriggers. All that is great – if the buyer wants to use the boat for fishing. If, however, a buyer comes along who wants a 25-foot boat for taking his neighbors out for a sunset cocktail cruise, all that equipment doesn’t add a bit of value. In fact, those buyers not particularly interested in fishing may decide to pass on the boat specifically because of all that fishing equipment.

With this in mind, if you’ve equipped your boat to closely serve your own particular likes, you may find that the boat will appeal to a broader segment of the buyers if you remove some or even all of that extra equipment and convert it back into a more general- purpose boat. You can always transfer the stuff to your next boat, that or possibly sell it to another boater.

A Few Final Thoughts

You can always lower you price, but once you’ve started advertising you may cause yourself problems if you try to raise it. Therefore, start out with an asking price at the top end of the range and see if you can get some buyers to come look at it. If you don’t get much of a response your price may be too high. On the other hand, if you’ve really shined things up, you just might get someone to jump on it, which is the idea.

Along these same lines decide what your bottom line is going to be before you start advertising. Reach an agreement with the “boss”, then write this figure down on a piece of paper, date it and tuck it into the boat sale folder. After that do your best to stick to it, at least for the first few weeks. If you have trouble selling the boat, you may want to sit down and reconsider, but only after you have let a few buyers walk.

Leave yourself some negotiating room in your asking price. Some buyers will feel bullied if they cannot get you to give at least a little. Therefore tack on at least 5 percent, and maybe 10 percent of wiggle room to the asking price, so that if necessary you can make concessions during negotiations to close the deal.

If people are calling and coming to see the boat, the asking price is probably a good one. However, if no one is calling after a week or so, and assuming there is no overwhelming issue temporarily freezing the buyers, you may want to start lowering your price a step at a time, in effect, auctioning off your boat. As you do so, be sure to make a written entry in your boat sale folder whenever you lower the price, so that you can keep track of the response.

Author
Author photo - Olga Nesvetailova
Freelancer
Literature
  1. Baber, Michael. How Champions Sell. New York: AMACOM, 1997.
  2. Carter, Rita, and Christopher Frith. Mapping the Mind. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.
  3. Farber, Barry J. State of the Art Selling. Piawthorne, NJ: Career Press 1994.
  4. Lawhon,John F., Sherwood Harris, ed. The Selling Bible: For People in the Business of Selling. Tulsa, OK:J Franklin Publishers, 1995.
  5. Thorson, Esther. Advertising Age: The Principles of Advertising At Work. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Business Books, 1989.
  6. Wechsler, Warren, Kristine Ellis ed. The Six Steps of Excellence in Selling: The Step-By-Step Guide to Effective Selling. Edina, MN: Better Books, 1995.
  7. Willingham , Ron. Integrity Selling: How to Succeed in Selling in the Competitive Tears Ahead. New York: Doubleday, 1989.
  8. National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Pre-Owned Boat Market Analysis”. Chicago: NMMA, 1999.
  9. “Boat Buyers Stay Loyal in Cooling Economy”. Press Release. Chicago: NMMA, December 29, 2000.
  10. “Boating 2001 — Facts and Figures at a Glance”. Chicago: NMMA, 2002.
  11. The Sailing Company. “The Sailing Market: State of the Industry 2001”. Chicago: The Sailing Company 2002.
  12. “The Sailing Market: State of the Industry 2002”. Chicago: The Sailing Company 2003.

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