How To Get Rid Of A Boat And Trailer

While it's sad to think about, the day will come eventually: that old boat won't be water worthy anymore. Or you won't have used it often enough that all it's doing is collecting rust. For many owners, when you want to upgrade, selling off your vessel is preferred, but what do you do with an old boat that isn't in good enough condition anymore? What about the trailer you used to tote it around?

Getting rid of something as big as a boat can seem tricky, but there are multiple outlets if you know where to go. Read on to see your potential options for correctly disposing of your old boat or trailer.

Give Away or Sell

To start with, we're going to cover the apparent option. Though you may not expect anyone to pay you many for a vessel that's not even seaworthy, that doesn't mean there won't be someone interested in it. Don't underestimate the ability to give something away for free. If you're lucky enough that your boat is still capable of hitting the water, attempt to sell it online.

For vessels that aren't in as good of shape, consider setting up your boat and trailer with a "free" sign. You can also post it online and see if you have any takers. This option works with vessels of any kind, including used outboard motors.

Salvage Yards

If you want to use a potentially more specific method, look up your local salvage yard. Salvagers are often interested in older vessels for the use of their parts, either for use in repairs or by selling them to interested parties. If you don't have the time or know-how to dismantle your boat on your own, then a salvager is a way to go.

Depending on your boat's condition, many salvagers will pay you for your ship, though they'll account for their cost of transporting and dismantling the vessel as well. Since you can get some money out of an otherwise dead ship, giving your boat to a salvager can be an appealing option.

Keep in mind that salvagers tend to have specific requirements for the size of boats they can accept, so do your research before trying to drop off a boat.


Boat donation programs won't earn you any money, but they can provide a bonus: a potential tax break. Where you donate will depend on what's near you and the condition of your boat. Vessels that aren't entirely broken down may be capable of donated to charitable organizations. Often, you can have someone check your boat to see if it's donation capable.

If your boat isn't viable for donation to the government, that doesn't mean that you are out of options. Some vocational schools, which run boat restoration and other similar programs, will accept non-sea worthy vessels for donations. Depending on which aspects the school needs, they may or may not also take your trailer. This option still counts as a donation for purposes of tax-exemption, which is dependent on boat prices.


Sometimes, there's nothing else you can do but dump everything into the junkyard. This way allows you to get rid of your old and worn down trailer without much worry as well. However, you won't just be able to drop off your boat and forget about it. Most junkyards and dumps require fees for the disposal of larger pieces of trash.

For best results, you should call your local junkyard (or yards) in advance and see if they will accept your boat and what it will cost if they do. Many junkyards also have hazardous waste restrictions that you'll want to confirm. It's much better to know for sure before you tow your ship over, saving you the time and hassle.

Government Resources

Depending on where you live, your government likely has resources available for you. Going through these channels also helps to guarantee that you're disposing of your boat within legal compliance. Most places will have a list of available resources for you to take advantage of, and some governments have a budget in place to help with abandoned boats.

Some states also have programs for surrendering your boat without having to worry about additional costs. California is one such state with its Vessel Turn-In Program, which has several agencies. This process involves reaching out to a contact and signing paperwork.

If you're ever uncertain as to the proper ways to dispose of a boat in your area, it's best to check your state's division of boating and waterways (or similar organization). Often, you'll find referrals for different programs, salvagers, and disposal locations available online.


If you know your boat won't get much more life out of being on the water and you have a knack for DIY projects, it is possible to repurpose parts of your boat. Naturally, you may not have a use for every little piece of your vessel (especially if it's on the larger side), but finding a smart method for a few pieces can help lower your overall disposal fees.

Even if you don't have any interest in repurposing your vessel, someone in your life may. Ask around before you commit to heading to the junkyard.


When it comes down to getting rid of a boat and trailer, you may invoke some expenses, though that will depend on which option we've mentioned you choose to use.

  • Giving away your boat for free will hopefully cost you nothing unless you need to meet someone to make the exchange. And even if it does, it's better than letting it rust away in your yard. The same applies to those who want to repurpose the boat.
  • In most cases, passing off your boat to a salvage yard won't cost you anything, since the salvager will be paying you for the value of the parts. However, they will usually take expenses for delivery and disassembly from your potential profit.
  • Making your boat into a charitable donation once again won't incur any expenses on your part aside from dropping it off. Depending on the value of your boat, you may even be able to gain a tax deduction for that year.
  • Taking your boat to a junkyard is likely going to cost you some money. The amount will significantly vary depending on the size of your vessel and the dump's specific rates.
  • Government programs for disposing of your boats can vary in cost depending on your area's specific budgets and policies. Check with your local offices for exact rates.

Potential Tax Breaks

For those that choose to donate their boats, it is possible to get a tax deduction. To receive this deduction, you will need documentation, such as:

  • A written statement of acknowledgment of the donation from the organization for boats with a value of more than $250.
  • IRS Form 1098-C from the charity for donations worth more than five-hundred dollars.

However, different rules apply whenever the charity uses your boat, including passing your vessel on to someone in need. In these cases, you will still receive Form 1098-C, but you can deduct the fair market value of your boat when filing your tax return. The tax form will indicate that the charity has used your boat for such a purpose.

Generally, tax law indicates the set value of donations that are necessary for itemizing when filing your return. If you have or plan to donate a personal watercraft, consult a tax professional for advice.

How Not to Dispose of a Boat

We've covered plenty of options to dispose of a boat and trailer, but there are also incorrect ways to dispose of one. Most notably, you never want to sink a vessel. Aside from being detrimental to the environment, doing so is illegal. It's not worth the risk, even if it seems fun. Stay within the law and follow our listed recommendations!

Are you looking for a new ship now that you've disposed of your old one? Use our boat payment calculator to help determine what can fit in your budget.