How Boat Sales Work: Read This Before Buying

by whatsmind

Every day, more and more Americans are becoming boat owners for the first time. Total boat registrations hit an all-time high – fifteen and a half million – by the last count. So, what’s driving the rise in boat sales? 

There are several factors. Low-interest rates and a desire to spend more quality time with friends and family are just two of them. If you’re thinking of buying a boat, you need to know what buying a boat entails. Read on for a look at how to buy a boat, from making an offer to the bill of sale.

Boat Sales Basics

There are plenty of myths about buying and owning a boat (read here). While every boat sale is different, the basic steps remain the same. Let’s look at what’s involved in the most typical scenario: buying a used boat through a yacht broker. 

Performing a Personal Inspection

Once you find a boat that meets your criteria, the first step is to perform a personal inspection. You’ll get a sense of the boat’s condition and whether or not it meets your needs. This is just an initial look. Sea trials come later.

Presenting an Offer with Deposit

Now that you’ve looked at the boat and think it’s a good fit for your needs and budget, it’s time to make an offer. That takes the form of a Purchase and Sale Agreement which you sign.

You, or your broker, will present the agreement to the seller along with a deposit. Why a deposit? A deposit shows that you are serious. Moreover, in a legal sense, the deposit makes the agreement a binding contract. The seller now has between one and three days to accept the offer or make a counteroffer.

The negotiating process often results in changes. For example, the closing date might be adjusted, and mooring or storage costs might be negotiated. Many times the seller will add an exclusion list of items that won’t sell with the boat.

Remember two things. First, you like and want the boat. And second, negotiation involves patience and compromise.

Marine Survey and Sea Trial

As the buyer, you have the right to have the boat surveyed and to conduct a sea trial. Whether or not you complete the purchase depends on how satisfied you are with the results. It’s up to you to select a qualified marine surveyor.

Surveys and sea trials never say a used boat is perfect, so the results may mean another round of negotiation as defects are dealt with.

Acceptance or Rejection

After the survey is completed, you’ll need to accept the boat – perhaps after more negotiation to deal with outstanding issues – or reject it. If you reject the boat, your deposit is returned.


Once you’ve accepted the boat, the closing follows quickly. Final payment is made, and ownership documents are transferred from the owner to you. 

The Bottom Line

Understanding and following the steps makes boat sales a simple, painless process. Before long, you’ll be a boat owner. Congratulations! For more informative and entertaining articles, please explore the rest of our site!

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