10 Things to Do to Get Your Boat Ready for Sale

The Gist:

A well-presented boat will be appealing to buyers because it shows that you maintained and cared for it over its lifetime. Ensuring your boat is in its best condition, is visually appealing, and seaworthy are essential to a quick sale and satisfied buyer. Once damage has been repaired, any upgrades have been made, it’s been cleaned and shined, be sure also to “stage” the boat—just like when you sell your house, you want the buyers, whether they’re viewing it online or in-person— to be able to envision themselves as the boat’s new owners. Only then are you ready to begin capturing photos or videos for your listing on BoatsForSale.com.

01

Empty the boat

Yes, take everything out of it. Cleaning tools, PFDs, tackle boxes, and fishing rods.

This will better allow you clear visual assessment, and access to clean it from bow to stern. The decluttering will also depersonalize the boat so that future buyers can see it as their own.

02

Assess Repair and Upgrades

Unless you’re planning on selling your boat with non-working or well-weathered parts “as-is”, you’ll want to consider making small upgrades that are well worth their ROI.

While a full engine replacement isn’t usually something you’re going to do before you sell, most cosmetic repairs are inexpensive and go a long way. And spending a few hundred dollars for fresh cushion covers, toss pillows and a few well-placed accessories can turn up the visual appeal of the boat and are well worth it.

03

Tune that Engine Up!

Speaking of the engine—the heart of your boat’s existence, and one of the priciest parts—we can’t recommend how essential getting it checked out and tuned up is.

Inspect and replace the water pump impellor(s) if worn. Go for an oil and filter change if you have a four-stroke engine—change out the gearcase lubricant in outboard and sterndrive engines. And for all engines, change out the fuel filter, and perhaps install fresh spark plugs.

Newly tuned up twin Yamaha 300 boat engines on the back of a fishing boat
A sparkling clean engine reflects a tuned-up engine that’s been well-maintained.
04

Repair Mechanical and Electrical Issues

While you’re tending to your engine, the same applies to your boat’s other mechanical elements: be sure the engine room is sparkling clean and served by a proper working bilge pump.

While you’re focused on the engine, have a marine technician do a full check of all mechanics and electrics. These fixes should also be made before you present the boat for sale. You don’t want to lose faith of your buyer over something you should have done way before you listed it.

05

Get your Boat’s Paperwork in Order

Speaking of Maintenance—how about those maintenance records?

Same goes for the original manual, title, and any receipts for updates and accouterments. Being able to say these papers are available within your listing de-risks things for the buyer, in addition to reminding them what a responsible boat owner you are, and it adds resale value to show the value YOU added.

06

Wash, Wax, Shine

Though you’ll want to give it a once-over right before showings, a deep clean of the outside will reveal imperfections you can cosmetically update.

But mostly this is to put your boat’s best face forward, showing off how well-maintained she was in your care. If you’re using your own elbow grease, be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Places you have forgotten to clean before. Under hatches, in outboard wells. Every inch of storage and stowage zones. And don’t forget the wax and shine, either. Polish anything stainless. And if you’re passing this rite of passage onto someone else, hire them to give it the full detail package.

Family boating on well maintained Regal motor boat in open water at dusk
Whether you do this yourself or hire a pro, now’s not the time to skimp on the detailing details.
07

Don’t Forget the Trailer

The condition of the trailer should match the condition of your boat.

Consider rust removal and refinish, or just a shine. Be sure the lights are legally functioning, and the tires are up to snuff and filled to their ideal psi. Consider updating with new hooks and chains if yours are too beat up. And be sure to feature this sparkling beauty in the photos of your listing.

08

Time to Stage!

Just like on all those home network shows, it’s time to set the stage for potential buyers to envision themselves aboard.

This is where a small investment can go a long way, from making your listing more visually attractive to getting top dollar within your price range. The care you show in the details is likely to be heard by your buyer, who will associate that with the care you put into your boat during your time at the helm. But also, do not overdo it with accessories! Remove anything personal, but do stage it with new seat covers or cushions, a colorful throw pillow, some fresh, rolled towels in the head, fresh linens in the cabin, and finish it off with some air fresheners or moisture absorbers to dry and sweeten up the air.

09

Take it for One Last Spin

The pangs of nostalgia!

Get it all out now, the flashbacks of days where the ocean was glass, you caught that big one. Parties of days gone by, the kids jumping over the side in their life vests. As you wax poetic, though, be sure it’s running how it should. With all the updates and cosmetic fixes and fresh details, it’s usually at this step that a boat seller has a bit of reluctance. If this happens, just know it means you’ve done a job getting it into shape.

Family going for a ride in a newly purchased Yamaha boat
Get your last laps in to be sure it’s running as it should before you pass your boat on to its next adventure..
10

Do a Once-Over

After you’ve rubbed your boat down after your last ride together, go over all the updates and upgrades.

Inspect for any leftover dust or mildew. Check all your light bulbs. Straighten the curtains, tuck those sheets tight. Clean the spray off the windshield. Ensuring these details aren’t missed means your buyer can focus on the important things. It’s the right time to get this boat sold.