If you’re in the market for a boat, or if you’re selling a boat – this article is for you. Having bought and sold a couple of my own boats over the years, I’m going to go through my top spots to buy and sell boats, some tips for shortlisting the advertisements, and what works when you’re listing your boat for sale.

Where to buy or sell your boat

The 4 main websites I use when I’m looking for, or listing a boat are:

  1. BoatsOnline – www.boatsonline.com.au
  2. BoatSales – www.boatsales.com.au
  3. Gumtree – www.gumtree.com.au
  4. Facebook – www.facebook.com

BoatsOnline

This website is a little hidden gem, and the underdog to BoatSales. Often you can find exclusive listings on here, that haven’t been listed on other sites. It’s much cheaper to list on BoatsOnline, so you’ll find that some sellers and brokers refuse to pay the exorbitant fees asked of BoatSales – listing exclusively with BoatsOnline. BoatsOnline provides all the same core features and an excellent platform allowing you to search by price, location, size, make and model, as well as being able to set up email alerts.

BoatSales

Currently the biggest online database of boats for sale, but also the most expensive to use. If your boat is worth more than $7500, you’re going to get charged a minimum of $95 to list it, with the most expensive ad being $420. In saying that, if you’re in the market for a boat worth over $100,000 or something really specific, BoatSales is the place to be looking. If your boat is priced competitively and is in the lower bracket, I’d suggest listing on BoatsOnline and Facebook before trying BoatSales. All the usual, features including ability to search by price, location, size, make, model and the ability to set up email alerts for new listings.

Gumtree

Gumtree should be your go-to if you’re buying or selling anything under $150,000, because it’s popular and free to list. Gumtree makes their money from online banner advertisements on the web page, as opposed to the users. The biggest downfall to Gumtree is that a lot of the users are “swappers”, meaning you might get offered 2 VY Commodores for your $40,000 Trophy fishing boat – even though Gumtree clearly labels listings as “For sale” or “For swap”. Like with BoatsOnline, some brokers refuse to pay for the more expensive BoatSales, and will list on Gumtree instead. It’s definitely a good option, with plenty of buyers viewing the listings.

Facebook

Facebook Marketplace has really taken off for selling anything and everything, and has been the most successful way for me personally selling anything used as of late. I often find myself falling for the trap – I’m scrolling through my feed when a for sale ad pops up for one of the boating groups I follow. Before I know it, I’m thinking “Wow, that actually looks like a great deal”, and logging into my online banking app to see if I can scrape the funds together… and I wasn’t even looking for a boat! If you’re in NSW you need to be in the Boats For Sale N.S.W group – it has over 58K members (and growing daily), and this is where all the action happens. The group is full of people who have “followed” a boat for sale group, so when a seller posts an ad, it will be published in their newsfeeds. This prompts them to see it and start thinking about it, or even tag someone who was recently talking about buying a boat. When you search for an item in Facebook Marketplace, the default settings are to “notify” you when a new item in that category comes available for sale. The only downfall is there are very few high end boats listed (above $150,000) – so it’s not the place to look for larger boats. The search tool is amazing if you have a very specific boat in mind, but the filtering is not the same as the other websites where you can search by criteria as opposed to brand.

Tips For Shortlisting

1. In Person Inspections A Must

Every so often, I get people call who are so excited to buy a boat they haven’t even inspected in person. I do my best to try and convince them to have a look in person first, because it’s not uncommon for sellers to list their boat with old photos from when they bought it. Sure, it’d be nice to think everyone is honest, but the reality is some people forget minor details when selling a boat. Everyone has different expectations, and what you might consider poor condition, someone else claims is immaculate.

2. What can I do to shortlist a boat?

  • View the service history

If the boat is immaculate but the seller can’t find the service history – what does this say about the rest of the boat? Even if he’s owned it for a short period, he should keep all documentation from the previous owner. It’s not uncommon on some surveys I am presented with a large folder of the history of the boat, entailing all the receipts that sometimes even date back 10 years. A boat without service history means you need to assume major maintenance is due, and account for it in the price unless it can be otherwise proven.

On the other side of the fence, if you’re a seller – always keep a log of your service history. I often come across people who “paid cash” for the service, and don’t have a receipt. As a minimum, log what was done and when.

Sometimes getting the service history doesn’t mean much to someone new to boating, and as a Surveyor and Engineer my job entails checking the service history. If you’re confused, reach out in a Facebook boating group or send me an email here and I can help review the history and give recommendation to where there may be missing or incomplete history.

  • Ask when the photos were taken

When selling a larger boat, for example one that lives on a mooring – it’s a pain to row out and take photos specifically to sell the boat. It’s much easier to google the last time it was sold, collect the photos and re-list. In reality, the boat might look completely different – there could have been pigeons crapping all over it, the sun blazing down each day, and the salt spraying over the boat when the wind picks up. By simply asking when the photos were taken, you can ascertain if the boat looks anything like the photos.

  • If on a trailer, has it been anti fouled?

If the boat is on a trailer, always ask if it has been antifouled. I’ve seen numerous attempts to hide it in an advert, from painting a fresh coat of white antifoal (so it blends and is hard to tell), to taking photos high enough that it just cuts the bottom of the hull out. The only reason to antifoul a trailer boat is if it lives permanently in the water. If this is the case, the boat will often be worse for wear than a non-antifouled counterpart that lives on the street, in a garage or under a cover.

3. Deposit & Inspection

I’m not sure how many times I’ve had customers book in, and then cancel because the boat sold from “under” them. If you’re serious about buying a boat, it’s good practice to leave a small deposit that is refundable if the inspection comes back unsatisfactory. I know when I’ve sold my own boats, it’s first one with a deposit before I will pause the ad. If it’s a private sale and you don’t trust the seller, leave the smallest deposit possible to secure the boat, although this may not work with a broker because they will usually dictate the deposit size. If it’s a large deposit to a broker make sure it’s into a trust account, and do you due diligence on them beforehand. Make sure you have any agreements in writing, so if anyone reneges it’s clear what was agreed on. It is normal practice for the buyer to pay for slipping costs to inspect the bottom of the hull, and any cleaning costs to assess it properly (water blasting while slipped). It is worthwhile getting the bottom cleaned, so a proper test run can be performed. A boat with barnacle growth on the bottom will not perform properly.

Selling a Boat – Boat Broker or List Yourself?

If you’ve got a boat worth less than $40,000, usually a broker is going to cost a considerable chunk that can sometimes outweigh the advantage. With that being said, maybe you don’t have the experience or you’re selling because you couldn’t use the boat (health, experience etc.) and in that case, a broker is the way to go. For anything over $40,000, and boats that live permanently in the water (meaning it’s a lot of hassle to show the boat), a broker can also be a convenience. With that said, not all brokers are created equal – so it pays to find someone who is excellent at what they do. Little things go a long way – such as staging, cleaning and photographing the boat for sale. Being at the forefront of boats being sold, I get to see who the good and who the bad brokers are – so if you ever need a recommendation, feel free to email me. I’ve seen examples when a survey has come back bad, but the brokers ability to liaise repairs or negotiation, and buyer/seller expectations has worked out well. I’ve also seen instances when a private seller hasn’t known how to take a detrimental survey report, and has lost a sale over it. When things come up in survey that are critical, it’s usually in the sellers best interest to repair them, as otherwise they will have to sell the boat at a considerable discount to account for the extra risk the buyer is taking.