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What You Need To Know Before You Sell Your Boat
by: James "Doc" Lewis
As the owner/operator of a full service boat detailing-yacht maintenance
business I can't help but chuckle sometimes at seeing the extremes that
otherwise bright, intelligent, successful, people will go to in a misguided
attempt to save a few dollars.
One of the biggest mistakes that we see is that people will decide to sell their
boat without first having her completely detailed.
According to Rob Scanlan, a well known and respected Master Marine Surveyor;
"Detailing a boat is the single most important investment of time, energy and
money a seller can make because a clean and shiny boat sells faster and for a
lot more money. I strongly recommended that a seller enlist professional
assistance to do a quality job."
www.mastermarinesurveyor.com (Web site)
We at BoatDocs1, do a lot of work here on the Emerald Coast with local yacht
brokers and know what the standards are for a "ready to show" boat. These
professionals know that the cosmetic appearance says everything to the
prospective buyer as to the overall care and maintenance that the previous owner
has given the yacht. Add to that the universal wisdom about first impressions
and it's not hard to see the importance of this vital first step.
Even if you intend to do most of the work yourself we can offer the expertise to
assure that your time and money are spent wisely. Our trained eyes will often
pick up the little details that only a prospective buyer would notice and likely
Here is an outline of the standard procedures we use when preparing a yacht to
be put up for sale:
1. Thoroughly Wash and Dry the Boat
Note: For this part, pay attention to everything you see and unless your memory
is a lot better than mine, make notes on a piece of paper for later.
Wash and chamois-dry your boat top to bottom including transom.
clean Isenglass and other ports/windows
wipe down and dress all aluminum/stainless
clean and dress vinyl seats
wipe down fly bridge and cockpit
vacuum exterior carpet
clean and dress nonskid
2. Stand Back and Survey the Boat
Note: Bring your list and organize it with the following outline
* Put yourself in the buyers shoes, be critical, the buyer will.
Is it shiny? It's the first thing most people notice.
What about the smell? People have a way of getting used to almost anything. Get
a second opinion and see the hint below.
Is all hardware intact and presentable? Just because you've used that broken
table for years and are rather fond of it, to anyone else, it's just a broken
What about dings, any damage to the fiberglass? Aside from the fact that broken
gelcoat can let water into the core of the lay-up and delaminate the fiberglass,
it just plain looks BAD.
What about rust? You are probably thinking right now; (what's a little rust on a
boat?) Let me tell you. A little rust on a boat is a sure sign that the owner
let's little things go by unnoticed and if there is one thing there are always
more. What about oil changes? I wonder if he flushed out the outboard after use?
The object of this little exercise is to make the boat look like you are
conscientious and a stickler for having everything perfectly "SHIP SHAPE."
One more little tip that you have probably already thought of. Take a look
around the boat and remove EVERYTHING that isn't part of the boat.
Engine controls, compass, life jackets, flare kit, and a first aid kit ARE part
of the boat. Knick-knacks, fishing tackle, cutesy wall plaques, and half full
paint cans are NOT part of the boat-and look tacky. A few cleaning supplies, in
their own locker is probably all right as long as they're kept neat and clean.
Make a list of things that need attention, and get it taken care of. A few
dollars spent now will pay back in spades when the time comes to show your boat.
Anything that isn't right will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb, be
noticed and start the price spiraling down. (if it doesn't just send them
scurrying off shaking their heads)
Hint: If you are not a woman reading this and don't have a wife of your own, ask
your mother or sister, or see if a friend will loan you his for a few minutes.
For some reason women can smell things that a man would never notice. You may
think that men buy boats but in my experience they buy the boats their women
like. Along this same line, pay particular attention to the cabin and heads.
3. Prioritize the Job
With your list you are in good shape to decide what needs to be done and whether
or not you want to do the work yourself or have it done by a professional.
Most of the professional yacht maintenance companies we are familiar with, would
be happy to take a look and give you an estimate of what it will cost to have
the work done right. We can do part of the job, for example the
compounding/polishing and will gladly help you choose the best wax to finish the
What about those little chips and dings in the gelcoat?
Many books have been written on fiberglass repair and it isn't the intent of
this article to cover the subject in any depth but many small repairs are well
within the reach of a fairly skilled do-it-yourselfer. Like anything else
though, if you have never done it before, "consult an expert."
I've been building and repairing in fiberglass since I was 14 and while the
first wooden boat I glassed was water tight and lasted a good many years, it was
far from pretty. The small investment you lay out for expert repair now will pay
big dividends when your boat sells at the price you want.
In the Emerald Coast region the standard fees for compound/waxing run between
$15.00/ft. and $18.00/ft. for the topside (rub-rail up) which includes a
thorough cleaning and treatment of the vinyl, windows, isenglass, and metal. In
other words, for the price of doing the "hard" part we'll detail the entire
topsides and leave it in "ready-to-show" condition. Hulls (rub-rail down) run
about $8.00/ft. but, of course, the boat must be out of the water in order to do
it. (This walking on water with a hi-speed electric buffer in hand is still
beyond me, but I'll let you know;-)
Fiberglass repair runs from $45.00 to $65.00 per hour and in general as with
most everything else, one gets what one pays for. The up side to this is that
when approached in a professional manner the dents and dings of ten years hard
use can be repaired and made to look like new in an amazingly short time.
All too often we have seen people save $300.00 or $400.00 on a detail only to
loose $Thousands$ on what their boat could have sold for. Then too, our local
marinas are clogged with many examples of boats with "For Sale" signs which were
never given the least bit of attention to make the passer by want to stop and
think, "Hey, I wonder what it would be like to call that boat mine." Some of
these boats have sat for years when all they ever really needed was a little
I remember, years ago, someone saying something about being penny wise and pound
foolish? Let's not let them be saying that about us.
About The Author
James "Doc" Lewis has been "messin about in boats" for as long as he can
remember. He is owner/operator of BoatDocs1, a full-service boat detailing-yacht
maintenance business serving the Emerald Coast region of Florida. To learn more
about boats and keeping them looking their best visit his website at: