In many families, the day will eventually come that it is time to sell your Classic boat. Many families realize that the boat simply cannot stay within the household due to the individual circumstances of the next generation. This day is often accompanied with mixed feelings, but by ensuring that your boat is presented in its full glory you can assure yourself that the buyer will love your boat as much as you have for so many years. 

Antique Boat America is sharing some tips to help find your boat a new captain.

Peter Mellon, an ACBS member, is the Principal of Antique Boat America.  Located in Clayton, New York, in the heart of the 1000 Islands, this will be his 15th year selling Antique and Classic boats across North America and abroad. His intimate knowledge of marketing these 3-dimensional works of art is a result of many years of working with the boats and their owners which he shares with us.  

  1. Spring Cleaning  

Nothing draws the eye more than a clean, well-presented boat. This does not mean a fresh coat of varnish but rather a good cleaning with a rag, warm water and a capful of Murphy’s Oil Soap. Clean the leaves out of the bilge and remove clutter. Windex the windshield and polish the brass or chrome. Total Time: 90 minutes  

  1. Eyes and Nose! 

Now that the boat looks better, survey it again with your nose. Does the bilge smell like your Grand Mother’s attic?  Remove the gas cap and smell the gas. If it smells like turpentine, it is a good idea to remove it as it has already gone bad. Fresh air does nothing to hurt the value of the boat to make it welcoming. The aged oil filter, rags, your favorite varnish and oil in the boat will do nothing to enhance a sale so simply put these aside in a cardboard box for the future owner. 

  1. Pictures tell a thousand words  

Pictures, pictures, and more pictures. Pictures of the boat from all sides, angles, inside and outside. Pictures of the bilge, bottom, gauges and dashboard. Include pictures of the trailer if there is one available. Photos from 1992 will not suffice and will raise questions. The boat need not be in the water and should be taken at close range. Pictures of any deficiencies let the buyer see the blemishes before he travels 5 hours to see it in person. Hold up a small ruler to show the size of the blemish. We know the boat is not perfect and this tactic will not deter an interested party. Rather, they will appreciate your honesty and it will build confidence.

  1. Eyeballs

Where is your boat located and who will see it? Rule # 1: The more eyeballs on the boat, the greater the likelihood that you will find a buyer.  Rule # 2: See Rule # 1.  Consider putting your boat in your local boat show. Tell everyone you know that the boat is for sale as word of mouth still works and is FREE. Are you available to show the boat easily? If not, consider placing it with Antique Boat America. We operate a 20,000 square foot showroom in Clayton, New York where we can show your boat to potential clients. Is the boat presented in a nice area? Nothing detracts from the sale of a boat more than one covered in bird poop and bat poop in a dark barn. The rusty nails all over the floor are just waiting to go into the purchaser’s shoe and ruin the day. 

  1. Valuation

Establishing the right price is always a tricky issue. The seller almost always values the boat highly because of their emotional attachment to the boat and the long history of Family memories. Further, the value of your boat is not based on what you have invested into the boat over the years. Rather it is a complex set of variables and factors. Your best suggestion is to seek out folks who have SOLD a boat similar to yours recently. Ask them to describe their boat and try to objectively view if yours was better or worse. Speak to an Antique Boat America representative who has a history selling a boat similar to yours. Check the internet for recent boat sales.  An asking price of a similar boat is not a reflection of the market valuation, only a selling price.  

  1. Access to all

”A hobby like ours is blessed with the Internet”. Our hobby is small and spread out across North America. Listing your boat with Antique Boat America will help spread the word. The chances are very good that the buyer who is looking for your boat is in another State or Province, and as such, the efficiency in our brokerage service reaching these people cannot ever be overstated. 

  1. Step up your Game

Did you know that we can host and present a video of your boat within your online listing? The presence of digital cameras, iPhones, and other intelligent devices makes it simple and easy to make a video of your boat. Walk around the boat and tell the story of your boat. Email this video to us and you are on your way. No Steven Spielberg production required. Simply tell the viewer how long you have had your boat, where it was used, what it needs, and what it does not need. Keep it simple and straightforward, and you are many steps ahead, making your boat different and special; which it is! 

  1. Trailer  

Since your buyer may be from out of state, having a trailer will come in handy. The cost of a Transporter may hinder the sale or complicate it, as the buyer needs to factor in that additional cost. If you have a trailer, do not make it an afterthought. Tell us and everyone else. Make sure the lights work and tires are in good condition and properly inflated. Ensure that the bearings are greased and ready for a safe trip to its new home.  Include pictures of the trailer in your package. 

  1. Paperwork

A transferable registration for your boat and trailer are critical for any successful sale. Ensure that you have “Transferable” paperwork for your boat and tell someone close to you where this information may be found at any given time. 

  1. Information

Have a package of information about the boat ready for the purchaser. Receipts of work done to the boat, the names of the contractors who worked on your boat and insurance provider should be listed. This package should be well documented. Spring commissioning and winterization procedures are incredibly helpful and appreciated. Any awards bestowed on the boat should go with the boat when sold. After all, the boat got the award, and not the owner. Any historical documents about the boat, previous bills of sale and anything else related to the boat should transfer to the new owner. These items enhance the salability of the boat and inspire confidence.  

You have been the custodian of your boat and your stewardship will be appreciated not only by the buyer but for the next generation of buyer. What makes these boats so special is the ability for us to document preserve the history of these boats for years to come. The passion carries forward long after the sale has transpired and this hobby is ALL about passion.  

By following Antique Boat America’s selling tips, you will give the purchaser the confidence they need to make the sale and to transition into the continued care of “your” classic boat. 

Thank you to Peter Mellon and the staff of Antique Boat America for sharing this helpful list of tips.

Click here to see the boats listed in ACBS Classifieds


    • Please consider listing the boat as a classified ad on this website. Find directions by clicking here. You may also contact an ACBS chapter near you. See chapter names and locations by clicking here.

  1. Great advice! Thank you! One question. Do you only deal with antique boats? My father-in-law built an 18ft catboat, all wood. It’s a work of art, but now he needs to sell it. It’s only about 20 years old and wouldn’t be considered an antique. Unfortunately the whole thing is overwhelming him and causing much stress.

  2. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will often come back from now on. I want to encourage continue your great job

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