What Is My Boat Worth?

Selling your boat can be a time of joy or sadness, depending on your reason for selling. But whether you are trading in for a new model or giving up the seafaring lifestyle, you want to get the best price for your boat. This means knowing what your boat is worth so that you can negotiate the best deal.

Many factors go into determining the price of your boat. These include the make, model, age, and condition, among other factors. First, let us take a closer look at how to estimate your boat’s value.

Determine The Boat’s Cash Value

Before you sell your boat, you will need to determine your boat’s cash value. Note that this is not the same as the trade-in value, which we will discuss separately. Instead, it is the amount of money you could expect someone to pay in your local market.

Those last three words are key. Boats can be worth more or less based on local supply and demand. For instance, a boat with a deep draft will have more value in a location with more deep water — and more places to take it.

Even so, it can often be helpful to check the National Automobile Dealers Association Marine Appraisal Guide (NADA), ABOS Marine Blue Book, and BOS guidelines. These are national listings that should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, they can give you a reasonable ballpark estimate of your boat’s approximate value.

To get a better estimate for your area, check local listings for boats of a similar type and age. This will tell you what similar boats are selling for in your location and give you a better estimate of your value.

Of course, every boat has its own history, and many have some kind of aftermarket modification. A dealer or mechanic can give you an excellent estimate of your boat’s value based on its individual profile. Be careful with dealership estimates, though. If they think you are looking for a trade-in, they are more likely to give you a lowball offer.

Let’s also note that boats depreciate over time. Like a new car, they will lose 20% or more of their value in the first year alone. Therefore, don’t be disappointed if your boat is worth less than you thought it was.

The Age And Type Of Your Boat

The most critical factor in determining your boat’s value is its type. Larger boats with more powerful engines and more amenities will fetch a higher price. Conversely, smaller boats and sailboats are worth relatively less to begin with and have a consummately lower value in the used market.

Age is the other main factor that affects a boat’s value. As we mentioned, boats depreciate over time, much like cars. Unless it has some collector’s value, a 15-year-old boat isn’t going to be worth much, no matter how valued it was in its prime.

The brand is probably more of a factor than it should be. For better or worse, brand names like Bayliner and Crestliner will have better resale than boats from lesser-known manufacturers.

Amenities may or may not make a difference. Some things, like towing equipment, bars, and water slides, hold their value quite well. Others, like electronics, lose their value fairly quickly. For example, a slick wet bar from 2015 is still a slick wet bar. But a state-of-the-art TV from 2015 is woefully out of date.

What Condition Is The Boat In?

As you might expect, there can be considerable differences in your boat’s value based on its condition. For example, imagine your boat’s hull has been holed and needs to be repaired. If this reality exists, it can knock a significant percentage off the boat’s value, irrespective of any other good qualities it may have.

There are two, sometimes three things you need to look at to determine a boat’s condition:

The mechanics: These include the engine hours and the physical condition of the hull and deck. Basically, are the “bones” of the boat in good condition? Is the engine in good shape for its age? If so, the boat will be worth more. On the other hand, if the boat has been driven a lot and required several repairs, it will be worth considerably less.

The cosmetics: These include all the “non-essential” aspects of the boat. Is the paint fresh? Is the trim in good condition? Is the metalwork shiny, or is it corroded? All of these factors come into play when buyers decide what they are willing to pay.

The rigging: Are the mast and boom in good shape? Are the sails reasonably new? Do all the pulleys and lines work smoothly and quietly? Obviously, these questions only pertain to sailboats.

If your boat has been in saltwater, you will need to worry about the paint, as well as corrosion. For this reason, boats depreciate more when used in saltwater than they do in freshwater.

Get A Second Opinion

If you are trading your boat in, it can be easy to fall into the trap of gullibly accepting a dealer’s offer. We are not saying that dealers are dishonest. But, if they are planning on buying your boat, you can likely expect a low offer. Note that, without another offer, you won’t have much leverage.

One way to gain leverage is to receive offers from more than one dealer. For example, if Dealer A knows you already have an offer from Dealer B, they may be willing to offer more.

Another method is to have your boat independently appraised by a third-party mechanic. This will cost you money, but it can give you a leg up in negotiations. If nothing else, getting a third-party appraisal will let you know whether or not you are getting a fair offer.

Selling vs. Trading A Boat

Selling a boat on your own can be an intimidating process. You have to list your boat for sale, meet with multiple prospective buyers, and handle all of the paperwork yourself.

When you trade-in at a dealership, the dealer handles all of the details, saving you time and headaches. It can be even more convenient if you already wanted to buy from that dealership since your trade-in value is applied directly towards your purchase. That said, dealers need to profit on the resale, so they won’t offer as much money as a private buyer.