Dealer, broker or private sale: A selling guide

If you're selling a boat, should you manage the sale yourself or enlist a Broker or Dealer? The obvious benefit of using either a Dealer of a particular boat brand, or an independent Broker is that they make the job of selling your boat comparatively easy and worry-free for you – managing the sale from beginning to end. On the other hand organising the sale yourself through a site like Boatshop24 or Boat Trader magazine could potentially save you money. Here we run through what happens when you sell a boat through a Dealer, Broker or privately. 


Selling through a broker


If you decide to sell through a Broker, then you should make clear the price you expect to receive for your boat and the reasons why from the start. They'll advise you as to whether they feel you're being realistic, optimistic or indeed pessimistic. Based on their knowledge and experience you can then make an informed decision as to what price to advertise at.


They'll deal with the advertising, sea or river trials, liaise and assist with surveyors, arrange any rectification work, assist with negotiations and deal with all the paperwork. Brokers are usually insured for fraud, and in some cases, they'll even berth or store your boat at their yard free of charge to enhance their display of boats for sale and make it easier for them to show potential buyers your boat. But of course most broker services come at a price.


Typically a Broker or Dealer will charge a sales commission of between 6% and 10% of your boat's eventual selling price, plus VAT. The percentage charged principally depends upon your boat's value; the lower the boat value, the higher the percentage charged. But as a guide, for every £1,000 that your boat ultimately sells for, you can expect to pay between £70 and £120.

There may also be charges for storage, cleaning, maintenance, a contribution towards advertising, sea or river trials, as well as surveyor costs. All of this, together with the sales commission percentage, needs to be negotiated and agreed in writing with the Broker or Dealer concerned.


They'll usually provide you with a standard written agreement for you to sign. If they do, this agreement may well include clauses concerning insurance, their 'exclusive' rights to sell your boat during the term of the agreement and information about how you can cancel the agreement. Read all the clauses carefully and be confident that you understand and accept the terms stated, before signing. If you don't understand any aspect of the Agreement, always ask for a full explanation to avoid issues later on.


Top Tip: To help you choose a broker or dealer, use the our Broker locator tool 


Selling through a Dealer


If you choose to sell your boat with a Dealer who represents the same brand as your own boat - for instance, Bayliner, Quicksilver, Jeanneau, Princess - there can be several benefits.


Firstly, potential buyers will tend to be attracted to their adverts first; they're usually the 'glossiest' and there's an assuredness of dealing with a boat builder's representative of the brand that interests a buyer. Secondly, these Dealers may be in a position, depending on the age of your boat, to offer a warranty to a prospective buyer on your boat. Thirdly, Dealers tend to value used boats higher than Brokers, to preserve the perceived value for money of the new boats that they sell and because they offer a higher level of assuredness to buyers.


Selling through an Independent Broker


A major benefit of using an independent Broker is that they only earn money from selling boats like yours and if it doesn't sell, they don't earn. So the success in selling your boat rests upon how much the Broker spends to advertise your boat, whether they're used to selling your kind of boat, the quality of their advertising and how professional they are in dealing with enquiries and attracting potential buyers.

When deciding which Broker to use, do your research and make sure you agree with their terms of business before making a decision.


Our Find a Broker facility will give you the names of many leading brokers. Study their adverts, check out their web sites, form an opinion as to how professional they appear to be and try to estimate how quickly they appear to sell boats.

It can also help to make a telephone call as a prospective buyer, maybe about a boat that you really would be interested in, and see how professionally they deal with you.

Finally, find out what commission each of them charges and what their other terms are. Then you have plenty of information to make an informed decision from.


To sell your boat the broker will market it using via websites, existing client lists, boating magazines, possibly even second-hand boat shows. Ideally, they'll keep in touch and update you on developments such as letting you know when they have any viewings, and when they receive an offer. They'll negotiate an agreed sale price, which will either be conditional – that is, subject to survey and possibly sea trial and any other agreed conditions; or unconditional – as seen.


The broker will provide a Sale & Purchase Agreement which both parties sign. Any amendments must be agreed by both parties. This is a binding contract so you need to be sure before you sign on the dotted line.


When negotiations are complete - possibly after a survey and a re-negotiation on price - the broker will send the seller a Bill of Sale to complete and return, together with all the documentation and keys. They'll advise when completion has taken place (when the funds have cleared), and issue a completion statement, sending you the balance of the monies, minus his agreed commission. The Bill of Sale makes the legal transfer of ownership of the boat.


Selling Privately


Whether you’re selling a sailing boat, a motor boat, or a commercial vessel, if you choose to sell your boat privately, you'll get the benefit of saving the costs of a Dealer or Broker. But you'll need to be super organised to guarantee a sale at the right price!


Your advertising campaign is very important. Read our advice on how to prepare your boat for sale here. So to begin with, think carefully about the design of your advert and the photos you'll include - which can really make or break a sale. 


Boat buyers online are proven to buy with their eyes. You can use a good quality digital camera or even a decent camera phone but for the best results, enlisting the help of an experienced photographer will guarantee eye-catching and attractive images to sell with.


In the text of your advert, remember to include all of the items and features that will help set your boat apart from the rest This will help justify your sales price and attract potential buyers. To calculate a realistic price to sell at research the market by looking at similar boats for sale.


Read our blog on how to write the most persuasive ad description here.

Saving the costs of brokerage can pay for a substantial amount of advertising, probably much more than you'll ever need to sell your boat. So decide on the package of the advert and what duration you wish to opt for. If it is your first time placing an advert, then a duration of 2 months would be a good start.


Place your ad here


Also, be sure to include full contact details and make sure that they're accurate. You do not want to go to the expense and opportunity of advertising your boat, only to be unable to answer enquiries. If possible, supply daytime and evening contact numbers, mobile and landline, as well as an email address.


Dealing with enquiries


You also need to plan how to deal with the enquiries you will receive. If a potential buyer requires more information and photographs than is featured in the advert, you should consider creating pre-prepared a 'Specification Sheet' to be able to send at a moment’s notice.


If potential buyers want to view your boat and trial it, you need to be flexible as to when and where they can. Remember the more flexible you are about this, the more likely it is that potential buyers will gravitate toward buying your boat. Do not put your boat up for sale and advertise it until you know that you have the time and availability to be able to deal with the enquiries.


Make a list of potential dates and times that buyers can view and trial your boat so that when the telephone rings, you have all of the information to hand to deal properly and professionally with the enquiry. Keep in mind that when you're selling your boat, you are competing in a marketplace for the attention of prospective buyers with Dealers, Brokers and other boat owners. You should, therefore, try to be as professional as the most experienced seller.


Negotiating the sale


The secret to sales negotiation is to be well prepared, anticipate what potential buyers are likely to say and work out in advance how you're going to react, keeping in the back of your mind what price you'll be prepared to accept.


Of course, the potential buyer may attempt to drive the price down. You should therefore, either plan to counter this (possibly with aspects of your boat that you believe to be unique in the current market place) or how much, if anything, you're prepared to adjust your price for each of the features that may be spotted by a potential buyer.


It's also worthwhile to consider any assets that you can 'trade' with, that have less of a value to you than money off the selling price. For example, there may be items of equipment or accessories that you could 'throw in' rather than accept £1,000 off the asking price. This may satisfy the buyer's need to get more of a discount and at the same time be acceptable to you. Work out in advance what options you have in this respect and keep them up your sleeve until you start the serious negotiations.


Often with boats, unless it's from a trader, the first offer you receive is usually the best offer, so think carefully before turning down an offer that falls just short of your asking price or the price that you were originally prepared to accept. It could mean waiting for a long time before you receive another offer.


Paperwork and getting the legalities right


If you sell the boat yourself, be sure that you type up a Bill of Sale that includes price, buyer and seller names, addresses and driver’s license numbers, type and size of boat, registration numbers, and a list of the major equipment included. The Bill of Sale can serve as a receipt for payment.


If you take a down payment, provide a written receipt specifying all of the above as well. It’s a good idea to make the deposit non-refundable so that you don’t take the boat off the market for an uncommitted buyer. Set an agreed closing date and stick to it.


Signing the back of the pink slip or the title isn’t enough. You also need to send a form (usually included with the pink slip) to the boat registration agency specifying when, to whom, and for how much you sold your boat. Otherwise you may remain liable for accidents or liens caused by the new owner.


Remember to cancel your insurance as soon as the transaction is completed and the boat leaves your control. You may get a refund on the unused portion of prepaid insurance.


While you don’t have a legal obligation to volunteer information about the boat, you also can’t withhold known information about a defect. If an accident occurs, your failure to disclose may come back to haunt you and selling a boat "as-is" is not always protection. If possible, include mention of any problems or defects in the written contract.


If a buyer wants a sea trial, be sure that you have a firm and non-refundable deposit in hand and that the buyer agrees to pay for any costs, such as launching the boat or refuelling it. 


If a buyer wants to make the sale contingent on getting good financing, set a deadline or you could see the sale held up, while other potential buyers get away. Beware time wasters!


Further information: 

ABYA has a very useful guide to Selling a Boat:

Advice on buying and selling a boat is available to members of the RYA here:



Abbie Rogers
Boatshop24 Marketing Team
Published on 2019-08-12