7 Tips On Marketing Your Classic Boat For Sale!


This is the time of year were folks get weak in the commitment with there boat. A summers wear and tear and the thought of a winter of nothingness can put one over the edge. Here at WoodyBoater we are getting a bunch of emails from folks thinking that we broker boats. We DO NOT! We do know some great places that do though. And if you want to do it yourself. Some advice is always handed out. The first piece of advice is always. Don’t do it yourself. Sure there are stories out there about guys making bank on there own. Trust me, there is ALWAYS a back story. So.. with all that said, we thought we would offer up some advice on how to market your boat regardless of who brokers it, or if you try on your own.

1. Price. If you are not priced right don’t even bother trying. We see it all the time. Uncle Bobs Sea Skiff is worth 10K and you are asking 30K because uncle Bob put 30 in it. It does not work that way. It’s worth what the market will pay for it. Period. Hagerty marine Insurance , god bless them put together a price guide for this very reason. The banner button is on the left of this page. Start there.

2. Pictures. Take a billion pictures of the boat in its current state. I HATE partial pics taken in a garage. What the hell, would you buy a boat like that for $40K on eBay. NO WAY. So don’t do it. Take the effort to be proud, a picture is worth a thousand words.   I follow this rule. The Kathy LaPointe Rule. Show all the angles, and be honest. Show the goiters, and imperfections, and show everything. Pricing and Pictures will do 90% of the work for you. Do these two things right and you are 100% on track.Have all your pics easy to email. DO NOT SNAIL MAIL PICTURES. I know many folks that do not like email and mail stuff. Grow up, the web is how this is all done, it’s not an age thing anymore. Get your pal to do it if you are that lost. But know that is were the folks are.

3. The Story. These boats are art, tell the history, tell us what you love about the boat. We all know its BS, because its not a picture, But its nice to know. People buy based on emotion. It’s a proven fact. So this is your chance to romance the brand of your boat. DO NOT LIE. one little lie means the entire boat is a lie. Talk about why the interior is pink, and that scratch is on it. If your boat needs varnish, say it, or do it. The number one reason folks are NOT buying a classic boat is because they are scared of the work. Tell them about the support system out there if you are selling a fixer upper. Tell them about the great community, the boat buzz, WOODYBOATER

4. Media Buy. Where to place your ad if you are doing it on your own, eBay, the Chris – Craft Antique Boat Clubs TradingDock, and Craigslist are were we shop for boats that are not brokered. There are others, but these are the big ones. eBay will get the boat out there, but don’t expect to sell a 100K boat on there. Use it as awareness. So you may want to have a buy it know on it, and deal with the buyer behind the scenes. Not a good practice from a trust aspect, but manage your expectations. Craigslist is a crap fest of bottom feeders, sell crap on there and don’t dilute your show boat on there. We all shop craigslist for bargains. That’s the mind set of the viewer. Unless you are giving it away. The tradingdock is free, and were folks go. There have been issues with old stale ads on there. But we all go there. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME IN THE NEWSPAPER!

5. Brokers. We STRONGLY recommend you to use a broker. The Brokers on Woody Boater are the big ones and the ones we recommend, not just because they sponsor us by the way. We are asked all the time to advertise others. We turn down a bunch by the way. A painful choice I might ad. The ones here are the good guys. They are vetted and do an amazing job. They do all have different unique ways of doing business. So its good to understand that. Some will buy your boat at wholesale and sell it, other add a brokerage fee and sell for you. Both are viable ways to go. By the way, we also STRONGLY RECOMMEND buying through a broker. What does that tell you. Research says folks by from dealers for piece of mind, and a place to go back to. The 10% commission pays for marketing, and that piece of mind. You pay it with realtors, why not the same here. If you have a very high quality boat, you may consider one dealer over another. Look at how they market the high end boats. You never want to be the jewel of a bad collection. It’s about standards. Also, and this is very important. If you list with a broker, do not be a whore out there. I do not want to see your boat at three brokers and eBay.. Folks do not know how to buy the boat. Seriously, it’s rude, slimy and not fair to the broker, and confuses buys and makes you look rude, slimy and un-trustworthy. How you sell your boat is a reflection of the boat, and you.

6. Auctions. Auctions are good, all it is is a different way to market your boat. Match up your boat to the audience that is going to the auction. If you are going to sell a Cobra, be at an auction with Muscle cars. Thats who is there. If you are selling a rare Dodge for example, be were the Duesenberg crowd is.

7. Boat Shows. At all the boat shows out there, there is a field of dreams. Think, people actualy pay to get into a show. They are your market 100% they are going to be all frothed up about getting one of these boats, and there you are. BE PRICED RIGHT! You have ONE CHANCE. the Lake Dora Field of Dreams is INSANE and the best at the start of the year in March in FLA. Consider taking your boat there,by the way, all the top brokers are there as well, so you may decide to list it with them right there. If you do not know anything about your boat, give it tot eh broker. I know top guys in the hobby that will drag there boats down there and give them to a broker to ell. What does that tell you!

After being in the world of Marketing for over 33 years, and now owning an ad agency, marketing anything is all about presenting your product to the market that is pre deposed to buying it. That’s it. Price it right, and don’t lie or be tricky. Be honest and forthright, and nice and helpful. It is a scientific fact that people buy through emotion, they rationalize the purchase afterwords. Our beloved boats are pure emotion. Sellers confuse emotion though thinking it is flowery language. It’s not. It is representing your boat in a way that connects with the buyer. A Utility is really a family, social boat, a runabout, is sporty, performance and show oriented, a Gar Wood, is a rare boat vs a Chris Craft witch is an iconic boat. A Shepard is a step above, A Grevette is an extreme collectors boat..Your audience for your boat will in-vision them selves in your boat. They need to see them selves in it. Make it easy for them to do that. I know this has been a bit much to take in. It’s the email I wish i had time to write to help the folks that email me. no i can just send them this link. We will be doing a story, on How to Buy a boat next.

28 replies
  1. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    Well stated! Only additions are if you choose to do it yourself put a phone number ONLY in your ads. Most scam artists work through email and will not phone. Also a good thing in EBAY auctions so you can be contacted after the auction ends if it don’t sell.
    TRADING DOCK is not free.

  2. LGCentury
    LGCentury says:

    Great Piece. As WB is the first stop in my daily sequence of trolling All the Brokers, regional Craig’s List and Ebay I see plenty of “procedural error” in classic boat listings. The length that some of these boats are listed on multiple sites confirms the accuracy of your statements. The 7 tips really lay the groundwork of “best practice” in selling a classic boat.
    Nothing like seeing an over priced classic languishing on the market for years to stimulate interest. I’m looking forward the part II of the series.

  3. Alex
    Alex says:

    Amen re having good photos!

    Also, thanks Matt for the typo-derived Halloween costume idea: “a Chris Craft witch.”

    • Cobourg Kid
      Cobourg Kid says:

      Speaking of typos

      Some people say that when selling one of their many woodies the “velvet elves” always hire a qualified marine surveyor to prepare a report and offer PDF copies to all serious buyers

  4. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Great subject today Matt, though never having sold a boat I am ill-equipped to speak from that side of a buy/sell transation. As Jim Staib says, the CCABC Trading Dock is not free – there is a small one-time listing fee with free renewals. We did fix the problem with expired and stale listings about 4 or 5 months back and all listings on there should now be current.

    In all honesty, some of the ads I see and some of the asking prices are just laughable, and serve no purpose other than humor and to clog up E-Bay or do it yoruself sites. I would add to this that I hope the brokers give reasonable guidance to sellers so that the asking prices are not totally out of kilter. I have noted on some sites prices which defy reason – the seller should be told by the experts to conform his expectations to reality, or not to bother. That may be a tough conversation to have, but a good faith marketing effort includes this guidance, in my opinion.

    Your upcoming buy-side of the deal story is even more important than the sell side. We need new classic boaters to have a positive experience so they stick around. Few will have it if they are not well informed or unknowlingly buy crap that they can’t use – they’ll be ruined for life.

  5. Cobourg Kid
    Cobourg Kid says:

    Re media buys; up here in Canada Kijiji has a much higher profile than e-bay ( although its owned by e-bay) , however Kijiji is not set up to be an auction . Fixed “asking” prices are used… nevertheless most sellers expect to haggle if a buyer is serious .

  6. alfaguy
    alfaguy says:

    Agree 100% with the good photo thing, but I have one question regarding this.

    Why are so many of the photos on the sites that belong to some of the brokers (not all, but one or two of the leading sites come to mind) so crappy?


  7. ranger
    ranger says:

    the thought of ever having to sell our boat; shivers me timbers…

    but this was a very good & thoughtful article…the mispelled words and the homonyms only ad to it.
    …(yeah, i had to go search the web to find that term, so what)

  8. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    First, I think you have to remember that no one is perfect!

    My experiences with Brokers has varied widely.

    I think if you find the boat you are looking for just buckle up and prepare yourself for things to come up.

    hopefully you will have a good experience.

    One recommendation is to take the time to see what you are buying with your own two eyes.

    I get generally frustrated with many for sale ads in general, not just on Broker sites. Pictures are always crappy and the descriptions are useless.

    “Boat in great condition and ready to go” Ha! What the hell does that tell you?

    Sometimes I think these poor and useless descriptions are a business strategy used to get someone to call. I would prefer to have much more accurate and important information upfront so that if and when i call that means I’m really interested!!!!

    The Internet should be elevating the level of documentation of a boats condition and what has been done to it or not. That should dictate price more than anything!

    Sorry to go negative but I’m currently looking to purchase and not liking my options.

  9. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Well said. Now all you boat sellers out there who have your boat for sale go immediately to your ad and be honest, say to yourself could I provide better pictures than these?
    99% of you could. I believe you should aim to have a good shot of the boat in the water both stationary and running as well as all the on land detail pictures.
    In this case more is definitely more.

  10. matt
    matt says:

    Go to Freedom Boat service website. He does good photgraphy. Mitch also does a very nice job with his photography

  11. K LaPointe
    K LaPointe says:

    I just heard there was a Kathy LaPointe rule… I have more rules! Get up on a ladder and shoot DOWN on the front deck so we can see the deck seams. Also photo the upholstery from the ladder. I know you guys are tall, but the ladder is taller. And yes, Matt is right, get all the angles. Once we sent a driver (Allen) half way across the country to pick up a boat we bought with not enough pictures, and when he got home we found a hole the size of a baseball on the side that wasn’t photographed! We called that boat the “Allen Boat” for 3 years until it finally sold.

  12. Bill
    Bill says:

    dont forget if your boat has the correct zippers on tops cushions and the like always document that fact it will add thousands to the price

  13. Michael Forshaw
    Michael Forshaw says:

    We at Antiqueboatamerica.com have a mission to do exactly this…SELL YOUR BOAT! We offer to list your boat at no cost for as long as needed. If you are successful in selling it yourself we only ask you let us know so we can make it sold on our website. Your listing can have 6 color photos and a video….and I totally agree with the “top of the ladder” shots…they really are great angles! And always include a shot of the engine and close-ups of the bilge if possible. I would be more than happy to assit anyone in listing their boat and help with the structure of the language for the ad. Anyone who does list with us gets expotential exposure with hundreds of boat buyers visitng the site everyday….isn’t this what evey buyer would hope for?. Please let me know if you’d like to enlist our services. Another tip….really important…a fresh coat of bottom paint is the finishing touch!!!

  14. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hi Michael (Forshaw), I wanted to suggest you modify your 6 pictures only rule. Tho I’ve bought a boat through you folks, I’ve always had to ask for more photos before considering making an offer. In this day and age, data storage (at your usage level) is virtually free.

    You, Mitch, Antique Boat Center, Carolina Classic, and others l will sell more boats if you tell your sellers to provide better quality pictures. Insist on it. That fits your goal of making sales happen.

    But also enabling owners to show as many good photos as they have will sell more too. I strongly believe so. There are so many things a buyer needs to see to get excited. Bottom, chrome, interior, wheel, gauges, motor, hull sides, decks, canvas, transom, trailer, accessories, etc.

    Hope this advice helps.

    • Philip Andrew
      Philip Andrew says:

      Alex you are absolutely right. These days the ad to sell your boat has to be so much more than the entre only.
      Today you need to provide enough pictures to close the deal. Close the deal that is, on getting that first contact of interest. Then you should have a whole lot more pictures and stories to share with the buyer. Its like fishing. You always do best with good bait.

  15. Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy says:

    Cant remember the last time I got a 10% real estate commision as a Realtor, maybe I should just sell boats.

  16. Chad
    Chad says:

    Pictures are nice but they don’t do much for me. Even the most beautiful of boat photos can hide the truth.

    I want to know what has been done (or not done) to the boat in the past. We need something similar to CARFAX in the boating world – BOATFAX.

  17. Alex
    Alex says:

    BOATFAX? Ha. I can see it now…

    Has it ever hit the dock?
    Has it ever not started?
    Has it ever leaked oil?
    Has it ever been soaked in the rain?

    Every boat’s BOATFAX would be a row of red X’s.

  18. Bobby
    Bobby says:

    One thing about brokers… make sure they list the ad with the boat’s proper name. When I found my 1948 27 foot CC Super Deluxe Enclosed Cruiser, it was listed by the broker as a 1947 28 foot CC Super Sedan. It took me a week to figure out what it really was, and I almost bailed on buying it because I figured if they can’t even list it right, the whole proposition seemed dicey. Glad I didn’t bail, love my boat.

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