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When selling your boat

The day you wake up and realise it’s time for a new boat.  Maybe you want a bigger one or a smaller one or a newer one or a faster one, the reason for your decision does not matter. But before your new boat arrives, you’ll have to sell the old one you have. Here are the key tips to help you move the old one on:


The 1st impression is the most important experience your buyers will experience. It’s known fact.  People make their minds up quickly and often simply because of the 1st impression. When your buyer 1st sees your boat and sees frayed dock lines, in their mind there is an issue with maintenance straight away. When the buyer looks into the bilge or in lockers or in the engine compartment – room and finds oil and stained services they likely have already formed the opinion that you don’t look after your boat.
When the boat you’re inspecting is dirty and a mess inside you will automatically think it’s poorly maintained.  If you’re still interested and you decide to make an offer then your offer is likely to be very low.

The broker will tell you that the 1st appearance is the most important, and if your boat is pristine and well-presented it’s already half sold. In real estate, the three most important words in a home are “location, location, location.” For boats, it’s “looks, looks, looks.”
Externally the paintwork needs to be tip top, gelcoat needs to be polished, and any varnish needs to be thick and shiny. Best spend your time getting this work up to scratch and if you can’t then consider paying a pro to do it for you. A small investment in maintenance can earn you thousands in resell value. Inside the boat needs to be clean and neat.  Remove any and all loose equipment, parts etc. just like you would do when selling a house.  “Less is more”.

Timber floors need to be shiny and carpet needs to be stain free and shampooed. Curtains and upholstery also need to be dry cleaned to remove stains and unwanted smells.

Like the lounges and floors the galley needs to shine and the benches should be clear of any condiments etc. Your fridge and freezer must be sparking and smell free.  Best to have them empty to give the best impression.  Sprinkle vanilla essence in the fridge if there is any odour!  Leaving a jar of coffee open on the shelf is a common trick.

Spray and wipe all surfaces, cabinets, bulkheads using a good household cleaner, Spray the upholstery and bedding with a fragrance.  Cabinets in the cabins where you store spare sheets etc. will also benefit from a quick spray.  Remove any old or unused sheets as these will likely have a musty or diesel small if they have been there for any length of time.

Don’t leave any space unattended!  A serious buyer will open every locker and floor board and so will absolutely find the space you forgot to attend to!

If the bilge is stained then take the time to clean it and if necessary re-paint in new light coloured flow coat.


Like your much lived in house, your boat will likely have its cabinets and storage spaces filled with junk you have brought on board over the years.  Remove it and throw it away unless you’re so emotionally attached that you feel you need to take it home a box it in the corner of the garage!  Especially remove all old grease cans, WD40, paint, and spare parts etc.  Not only will this make your storage spaces look bigger but it will most likely remove a cause of some of the old smells.  If stained get in there with more light coloured paint or flow coat.  Best it looks clean and new and no better way to do this is a fresh coat of paint. 


Remove all your personal gear.  Photos, clothes, toiletries, etc.
This helps the buyer as it helps you to detach from your once loved asset! As before it also helps in the de-clutter process.

Remove the stinky wet weather gear, especially the jacket your ex neighbour left there some years ago!

Along with the items above remove anything you want to keep.  It’s always a bad look for an owner to start taking stuff off the boat on handover.  This process makes most buyers very uneasy!


If something is broken or does not work then fix it. This includes also electrics and the dinghy. You don’t need a buyer to walk or stop the process because he finds stuff not working. This always creates doubt.  Suspicious buyers start looking harder at time like this.  Always good to make sure safety equipment is up to date and in good working order.  Not a good look to find fire extinguishers and flares that went out of date in the 90’s!

Externally canopies and covers need to be clean and in good condition.  If they’re not and you don’t want to spend money replacing its best just to remove them.  If your boat looks bare without the canopies then best to dig deeper and replace them.

Operationally make sure the engines start and stop as they should and always a good idea to have them serviced so that when dipped the oil is a nice new golden colour.  Obviously batteries need to be in good condition so that engines and services are 100% operational.  You don’t need equipment to not operate because battery power is suspect.  Coming back a 2nd time to check things off always puts buyers off.

If your boat is older you may even consider steam cleaning the engine and engine space.  Just remember that if you start this process you will likely have to re-paint the engine and engine room as well. Not a bad move if you have the time as this will only assist in the sale process.  Make sure that old metal parts are clean and rust free and that all sea-cocks and thru hull fittings work freely and look maintained.  Definitely remove that green stain from your thru hulls as it will only alarm the surveyor.  Remember if you do ½ the job here it will be very obvious and just give the impression that you covered bad stuff up!

If your old electronics are presentable and work that’s OK. If they don’t then consider replacing them or if they are not necessary then remove them if your budget does not allow replacement. Buyers often have a different opinion as to the value of electronics anyway so in this case it’s just about removing any negatives. 

Any work you may have done including engine rebuilds and significant parts replacements should be supported with a file evidencing all the works completed with corresponding receipts for same.  If your engine has been fully re-conditioned then always a good idea to install a new hour meter and have this covered in the receipt for works completed. This way you don’t need to get into a lengthy explanation about engine hours with a buyer.


Some boats may have additional value associated with their history.  It may be that they have won a high profile race or that they were owned by someone famous.  In these cases it’s always worth having the history documented. Where you have spent considerable sums on renewing and replacing older components or where you have altered and modernised or significantly improved the boat, it’s in your interest to have this properly documented again with invoices and receipts for all works.  These documents will always help educate your buyer and assist in a hassle free sale.

Your boat may have an identical or close sister ship and if you have ads or sale information on these boats that evidence and support the value you are seeking then it’s always good to have this information included in your file to show any prospective purchaser. Nothing better than a recent comparable sale to justify your asking price.

If you’re promoting your boat online or in a brokers window then be sure to have great quality images available. Here it’s always worth taking time to show your loved asset in its best light. You may need to email images to a prospective buyer so be sure to have enough to be able to show every feature both inside and out.


Providing a survey can be a positive and can assist in a fast sale.  Some buyers will still insist on having their own survey, as some can be suspicious about the likely independence of the one you may provide.

If you’re not an experienced boater and or your boat is older, then getting an independent report from a surveyor can be helpful in identifying issues that you can easily fix to make sure that at the time of a sale, your sale is not delayed and or called off because of a “surprise” that could have been identified and fixed before a prospective buyer came on the scene.


Always a contentious issue.

Owners have an investment both financially and emotionally in their boat.  Some more than others and this will effect what they believe their pride and joy is worth.

Buyers more often than not are looking for a deal and are likely to have looked far and wide to find and compare their new purchase.  The fair sale price is somewhere in the middle.  The best place to start is to compare like for like, and recent sales of sister ships or similar boats is a great place to start. 
The above applies well to production boats while the sale of a one off boat can be more complicated in terms of arriving at a fair sale price.  In his case its best to look for similar boats with similar equipment at a similar age.  Then look for condition and presentation and again compare wherever possible.

It stands to reason that if you list your boat at what you believe is a fair asking price and it’s still for sale 12 months later that you likely have been asking too much.  On the flip side if you list your boat and have 3 offers in the first week then it’s also likely that you have under-priced it!
When assessing what you should ask you should ask a broker for advice.  You don’t have to follow this advice 100% but at least you can use the knowledge that the broker can impart to help you determine what a fair asking price may be.

In the end it comes down to how committed you are to selling and how fast you want to move your existing boat on.


Here we consider presenting your boat like you would a house.  You can set the galley up with a bowel of fruit, set the dinette up with plates and cutlery, and you can buy new bedding for the cabins. Display images of your favourite anchorage showing crystal clear water and dolphins can also help. In this process its horses for courses! If you boat is a caravan and lightly to appeal to a buyer looking for same then dressing it up with homely features will help. Likewise if it’s a game fishing boat setting the bale as suggested above is unlikely to assist!

No matter what you do here always remember less is more!

To seal the deal don’t forget to get the bill of sale signed. A free template can be downloaded here https://www.pantaenius.com/au-en/service/bill-of-sale/


Good luck!

Your Pantaenius Team.

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