PRACTICAL - Buying/Selling

PRACTICAL - Buying/Selling

Trade-a-Boat has been known as the ‘Book of Dreams’ for as long as I can remember. Thousands of readers scan the pages waiting for their new love to appear in vivid colour. In fact, many of us have it as preferred bedtime reading, particularly when our first cremate has a pesky headache. I call it ‘boat porn’. The headaches come later.

But the next smart alec who regales me with that old chestnut “the two best days of your life are when you buy and sell your boat” is destined for a slow lingering death. I have loved buying my various boats — the thrill of the hunt, the careful consideration of all the pluses and minuses, the bloodletting during the negotiations, and then the final handing over of the cheque.

Selling has been a pleasure, too. As I have usually already bought my next boat, it’s something of a financial relief. The main difference between many others and me is that I have thrilled at all the times in between, even when the roof fell in. And it did, several times. This is, of course, the difference between a ‘boatie’ and a ‘boat owner’ — the former having boats in his blood and the latter looking for another accessory to assuage boredom. Boaties have much more fun.


So you have decided to take the plunge. What to buy? Get out a pad, foolscap and a pen and list your requirements, where you intend to go and with whom. Power/sail, petrol/diesel, number of bunks, heads, performance, running costs, where to moor your new joy and a whole litany of details which must be filtered through to sort out what you want.

Years ago I was advised that “it costs nothing to have a look” and with every purchase I make in life I have usually checked out all the various stuff on offer. Then when I finally decide, it is usually the right thing for me. Tailor-made, as it were. Just remember that it is far easier to buy than sell, so take care that what you think is fantastic has broad appeal to the less unhinged.

Talk to other owners and, even better, former owners, as they will very gladly tell you all the pitfalls once they have sold their boat. Current owners will be much more guarded (lie) about the problems they have encountered. Try and get hold of someone’s book of invoices and receipts to get a picture of how the costs may evolve so that there are few surprises later. I have all my repairs done with a smile on my face, an inquisitive mind, and a very firm grasp of my chequebook. Sound advice.


The best boat drinks six, eats four and sleeps two, however, those with families need to consider where everyone will go and how much privacy can be enjoyed or sacrificed for all to have a good time. Make sure that your participants in this new and exciting chapter are all ready and willing and, if not able, send them for driving lessons.

Buy the biggest boat that you can reasonably afford as space equals comfort and there is no other way around that equation. However, you should also be very mindful that you don’t take on more than you can handle in respect to cleaning, maintenance and maneuvering.

I usually stick to respected brand names so that you have something to trade with when the day comes to sell. Respected meaning, well built, well designed and a good reputation for reliability, performance and resale value. That goes for the components too — engines, rigging, generators and other equipment. There is nothing harder than trying to sell an unbranded product no matter how good it may be.


Once you have decided on your new love, had a few drinks and are ready to talk dollars, you now need to proceed with great caution. A thorough inspection by experienced eyes will help ascertain whether what you think is fabulous represents quality and value. You need to know 90 per cent of the faults before making an offer, and should that offer be accepted, you will need a survey to professionally check things over and also for insurance purposes.

Many people then morph into the worst wheeler-dealers in the world, making insulting offers that ruffle the feathers of even the coolest of sellers or brokers. I have enjoyed this part, savouring it sometimes, particularly when I have been the seller and had great joy telling awful people to shove off.

One buyer tried to bully me so much — and in such a ridiculous and rude manner — that I sat patiently listening to him ramble on, a dangerous half smile on my Wilkinson Sword lips, before I stood up, told him a few home truths and walked off. There were a few other minor comments about his IQ and taste. But it serves him right. I didn’t want him to have my beautiful boat. Life is not always about money. Someone else bought that boat for much more and we are still friends.

The point of this is to achieve a win/win situation where everyone is left feeling good about themselves and the deal. If you are absolutely intent on doing some hard screwing with the price, and I have done that twice, it is best to agree with the asking price and then submit a list of repairs and refurbishments which would be required to make the boat worth that price. A little smile, drop in the fact that ‘they’ still own it, with all the ramifications that implies, and you may reach a quicker agreement.

I also like to meet people halfway with a price crunch — they want $100, you offer $50 and meet halfway at $75, if that seems reasonable. The simple truth is people like to be left with some dignity. Also, they do not enjoy you telling them how bad their boat is. Unless it is a truly stressed sale, not much is achieved by being a tough nut. Besides, you may are likely to come off worse for wear.


You need to be very mindful that the waterfront is the smallest village imaginable and everyone knows everyone. Once you have done a dud deal you can never buy back your reputation and, like mud, it sticks. Be warned that not every buyer is a fool and you may be outsmarted when trying to do a cover up, particularly with dodgy repairs or equipment. Better to admit that something needs some attention instead of making up some transparent excuse.

If, as a buyer, you have treated a broker like trash, you may end up eating a huge serve of humble pie later when you are begging the mechanic to help you with a repair. They will all be talking behind your back. So try and be nice. For some it is a struggle.

Most of the brokers are friendly people, well informed and happy to help you with your decision making. Be kind to them because they will offer many advantages to the inexperienced and those who treat them with dignity and respect. There are some, however, who are terrible crooks and charlatans and they would sell their own mothers and charge freight. Of course I would sell my mother, freight free, and that is the mark of a gentleman. I would also offer a substantial discount, but that is another story. If you are suspicious about anyone selling you anything in this world, ask a question which you already know the answer to and wait for the truth. No truth and you should sound the alarm bells and close all watertight doors. Move on.

You also need to remember that you are doing all this for your pleasure and sales people are in business. This does not imply any dishonesty; you just need to realise that this is a commercial transaction. Good sales people will help you find the right thing and sort out a raft of questions and problems unknown to the uninitiated. Make friends with the broker where possible.

You should also refrain from the “I must have it immediately” syndrome where the purchase becomes your only waking thought. Slow and steady and be prepared to let it go if someone else turns up first. Unless it is a one-off or collectable, just take it slowly and cool your jets.


The day has come, the chapter has closed, your goose is cooked, you are sick to death and the money has run out. It is time to say goodbye to your old boat. The object of this exercise, and you do not need to be a Rhodes scholar to work it out, is a quick sale at the highest price or, rather, a reasonable price if your boat is slightly more generic and slightly less collectable.

The first thing to do is clean it. (Please refer to my previous thrilling installment in last month’s Trade-a-Boat about cleaning your boat). No one will pay a high price for anything grubby and car dealers have elevated the word ‘detailing’ to almost an art form. Remove all your junk, clean everything until it shines, commission minor repairs and service work, replace upholstery and carpets if necessary and present your boat for sale with pride. My mindset is that if someone cannot be bothered to clean the boat for sale then why should I be bothered to pay a top price? And I won’t if I have to clean their toilet and burn their rancid sheets.

But presentation for sale involves quite a little more than just being Mrs Mops for a day or two. Recreational boats are made for pleasure and you are selling a dream, usually to a couple. Use some psychology and have a thorough inspection of the buyer and in most cases buyers, in an effort to determine their purchasing criteria. The men, dripping with unburnt testosterone, will head for the dashboard, electrics, engineroom, stereo and fridge — standard male behaviour, generally. Wifey will inspect the bedroom, shower facilities, shaded deck chairs and galley equipment. You need to have all this in order.


We are creating a dream here and I always have the boat absolutely ready to go — just add the groceries. I make up the bunks with ironed sheets, there are fluffy towels in the bathroom, the galley has all the equipment required and some expensive champagne is chilling in the fridge. The engines are serviced and spotless, everything is polished and immaculate, and the stereo is playing some slinky music.

After a comprehensive and riveting sales presentation, I retire to nearby shrubbery and monitor the progress of the sale through my headsets. Just joking, but the conversation is usually the same. He can’t wait to take the helm and give it a blast, she can’t wait to serve some drinks and get into the scratcher and those crisp ironed sheets. He rather likes the sound of that, too.

She will impress her friends more with the boat than some extra gold bling and he can’t wait to get the cork out of that Verve and watch the footy. She will like the fact that there is a huge barbecue and he can do the cooking. The list goes on.

You need to satisfy the expectations of the new owners, create a mood and have the boat in a ready-to-go status. Then you will get the money! And we do love that.


If you are not selling the boat yourself, and frankly, many people should not, you will require the services of a reliable boat broker.

There are several factors involved with this. You need good advertising and a well-placed Trade-a-Boat print presentation also linked to on the web so boats will appear in both mediums. You need quality photographs and a comprehensive specifications listing. You need the broker to be open for business on weekends, Saturday at least. And he needs to have some sales ability.

Years ago, the Mercedes-Benz people used to “phantom shop” their sales staff, sending in fake customers to test the performance. There were some very alarming results. Don’t just walk in or phone a broker to make a listing. Make an appointment, ‘sell’ your boat to him, and ensure that he will carry out his side of the bargain, presenting things enthusiastically and professionally. Otherwise, move on.

I never like multiple listings. What for? To have five brokers in on the action exposing an apparently desperate sale? It is either the broker on-site where the boat is moored or move it somewhere else to the broker of choice. Your side of the bargain is to give him something to be proud to present. Why should he take the rap for your squalid boat? Smart brokers either charge you to have the boat detailed or refuse it completely if it is a tip. Trust me, dirty boats sell for the lowest prices so go away and work it out. Start cleaning and do the minor repairs. They will find them in the survey in any event and make you reduce the price.

With either buying or selling you need to ensure that all the paperwork is in order. Satisfy yourself that the boat has a ‘clear title’ and REVS (Register of Encumbered Vehicles) can offer a service to check for money owing. A statutory declaration of ownership, registration papers and a sales contract should be correctly completed. You will also need insurance, so shop around for good quotes ensuring that you read the policy inclusions and exclusions.

Life is never perfect and nor will your new boat be. However, we all played Snakes & Ladders as children and the ownership of a boat, and anything else for that matter, has its highs and lows. Just relax and enjoy the ride.