Where Old Boats Go to Die

When I was younger, one of my hobbies was going to junkyards, and if you saw the heaps I drove in those days, you’d understand why.

Junkyards are just part of a car’s life cycle. Someone buys a new model off the lot. It goes through a series of owners until it gets crashed or just plain wears out. Then it goes to a salvage yard, where it gets stripped, crushed, melted, and recycled. And the process begins anew.

This tired old boat and its tired old trailer will be stripped for parts and pieced out, but the hull is likely to end of in a landfill.

This tired old boat and its tired old trailer will be stripped for parts and pieced out, but the hull is likely to end up in a landfill. Photo courtesy of http://www.salvage-cars-for-sale.info

A you-pull-it salvage yard seems like a good idea for boats, but I’ve never driven past or even heard of a boat junkyard. I’ve seen a couple of storage yards that looked the part, but never a bona fide boat junkyard.

It’s not so easy to figure out How to Get Rid of An Old Boat. You can trying giving it to a charity like Helping Hands for America or BoatAngel.com – or any charity or vocational school that will take it. But what if you’re stuck with it? What actually happens to old boats when nobody wants them?

To find an answer, I did an Internet search by typing in “boat junkyard.” One listing was Horne’s Marine Salvage in St. Petersburg, Fla., so I picked up the phone and I called them. Here’s what I learned.

There are machines in Europe for grinding up used FRP for use as filler in paints and road materials. As you might imagine, the machines are hugely expensive — in the millions — and somewhat scarce.

In the United States, as it turns out, a lot of old boats wind up in landfills all over the country, and the registration goes back to the state.

Some marine salvage operations will buy interesting boats. More often, they salvage the engines and drives and put the boats out in the yard, then haul them to the dump because they run out of room.

A Google search also turned up Yachtsofstuff.com, but the site was more of a virtual salvage yard. It did offer logged-in members the ability to list used parts available for purchase and exchange.

So I tried new keywords: “used boat parts.” Bingo. Up pops Shipwreck Marine in Rancho Cordova, Calif., whose website is called shipwreckusedparts.com, and judging from the site, this is  a bona fide boat junkyard. Oh, and if you ever need a used trailer, you can find one here.

But when I called to find out where their old boats go after they’re stripped, I learned it’s actually one of the biggest costs in this industry. The salvage yards actually have to pay to get rid of them. Essentially they chop them into pieces and pay $5 top $10 per linear foot have them hauled off. They fill up 40-yard dumpsters and haul them to the landfill.

So, now we know the great circle of life for a boat is … a semicircle.


  1. Bill says:

    At least wooden boats had the decency to rot. We need to develop a fiberglass eating worm. I live in Florida and junk boats are a huge problem.

  2. Rob Smith says:

    I’ve donated a few to our local fire dept for boat fire training. Once burn there’s not much left but recyclable steel.

    • Doug Logan says:

      Yep, a fiberglass boat can burn in a big way, especially with a load of fuel on board. And one of the costly parts of recycling them is removing the fuel, the engine oil, the batteries — all the things you don’t want to go into the atmosphere or the landfill.

  3. Glenn Allen says:

    We do what you have written about. We take in boats, motors and trailers. The are stripped down or put on the line and people can come and look for what they need.

  4. Lee James says:

    Your idea is superb for old boats. We have collection of old boats. Person who wish to buy online boating visit http://www.theboatonlinestore.com/.

  5. Richard Nelson says:

    I am looking for a port side corner casting for a 1986 Lund Renegade boat. Any help finding one will be appreciated. Richard

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