Preparing Your Used Boat for Sale

First impressions are everything when you are trying to attract buyers to your used boat for sale. Just as important as when selling a house, proper staging is critical to achieving your desired price. Boat owners should make sure that their boat is in the best possible condition – inside and out – before putting it on the market. A well-maintained boat will be more appealing to buyers and will help you sell your used boat faster.

Here are some tips to consider when preparing your used boat for sale.

If you're getting your boat ready to sell, a moderate amount of time and effort will add genuine value and help justify your asking price.

If you’re getting your boat ready to sell, a moderate amount of time and effort will add genuine value and help justify your asking price.

Give Engines a Tune-up

Engines are one of the most important and expensive parts of a power boat. Make sure your engine(s) is running well with clean oil and oil filters.Gasoline engines should also have clean carburetors that are set to a proper idle. Be certain to present a clean engine room, bilge and working bilge pump when your used boat is for sale.

Fix any Known Mechanical Issues

Unless you have set a fire-sale price, repairs should be made to any electrical, mechanical or engine issues that currently exist on your boat prior to listing your used boat for sale. Whether you have any specific concerns or not about existing mechanical issues, it’s a good idea to consult a marine technician or hire a surveyor for a pre-sale marine survey. Mechanical issues have a high probability to ruin a sale opportunity if they are discovered by the buyer during a survey.

Clean the Boat Exterior Thoroughly

A clean boat indicates the current owners took good care of the boat. If you weren’t meticulous throughout your ownership of the boat, when preparing your used boat for sale it is critical to thoroughly clean the exterior and set up a maintenance plan for a clean appearance while the boat is on the market. Be sure to put your best waxing and polishing skills to work, so your boat will shine for prospective buyers!

When cleaning your boat, please consider the environmental impact of the products you use. For green cleaning products and more information about green boating practices, please visit The Green Captain™.

Repair Minor Cosmetic Problems

When you are preparing to sell your boat, consider investing in a few inexpensive cosmetic repairs that will go a long way in making your boat most desirable. Canvas tears, broken canvas zippers, worn deck carpet or tears in seat upholstery can be an easy fix that makes a big difference to a buyer’s perception of your used boat for sale.

Downsize and De-Personalize the Cabin Clutter

Ample storage space is a big selling point for boats with interior cabins. Eliminate unnecessary personal belongings and clutter to make your boat cabin feel more spacious and ready for quick possession. A tidy and neutrally styled boat interior is more inviting for buyers and will help showcase cabin features and amenities. The removal of your personal effects will prevent potential buyers from being distracted by the evidence of your past experiences, and better allow them to imagine their future adventures in your used boat for sale.

Eliminate Mildew Issues on the Boat

Excess moisture getting into a boat cabin is very common and becomes a big problem if neglected. Signs of mildew or musty smells can – and often do – turn off a buyer. Clean up any mildew issues and keep the inside of the cabin smelling fresh and feeling dry with moisture absorbers and fresheners. Even if you think your boat smells and feels fine, preparing for the possibility of increased sensitivity in your buyer is a smart move.

The ultimate goal is to make your boat superior to its competition, and spending the time to thoroughly prepare your boat for sale will demonstrate, without debate, that your boat is well-maintained and free of any issues for potential buyers.



  1. Carla Rothacker says:

    I understand your points to be much like prepping a used car for resale, and playing up the add-ons that were after-market. The friend I am helping to prep/sell his boat has a few tricky areas I hope you can give advice on. They may help others with similar questions.

    1) the boat is older than the Bluebook guide – a 1970 Gypsy 14’11″ , with a 1969 outboard Johnson motor – there are few similar vessels to compare it to.
    2) the manufacturer, MFG Company, is long out of business, so is this a point that makes the boat more desirable to a lover of old boats? Or is it more of a liability since parts will be harder to find?
    3) When is an old boat “vintage” or “collectible”? With cars, we consider them “historic” at age 25 years.
    4) Is it safe to demo the motor by immersing the propeller in a metal trashcan of water, as one person suggested?? The boat is not kept at a marina for easy demonstration of its running fitness – and towing it to a lake only to have a prospective buyer no-show is wasteful.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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