How to Sell Your Boat Without Getting Ripped Off

The Two Greatest Days in a Boater's Life

One of the oldest marine maxims is that the two greatest days in a boater's life is the day he buys his boat, and the day he sells it. I’m here to tell you that’s just not so, because the latter day far outshines the former. Ask any salesperson you know: selling is harder than buying.

Long & hard I had searched for her: a stout craft that would take me and my new wife to ultima Thule and back. Using a combination of print ads, the internet, and a good salesman in St. Petersburg I zeroed in on a short list of finalists in southeast Florida and bought my plane ticket.

I was hoping to find a recent model with low engine hours, and to avoid a “bargain” boat—one that would require a lot of repairing and refitting.

In one frantic weekend I put 250 miles on a rental car, treading the decks and soles of maybe 40-boats before I saw the winner floating in the canal behind an airline pilot’s house in Punta Gorda: a 1992 Catalina 34 in mint condition. “This boat is awesome”, I told him during the test sail. “Why would you want to sell her?” He laughed and responded that, “my friends all have power boats and I can’t keep up with them.”

No question about it, the day I closed the sale did not feel like one of the greatest days of my life. How would I pay for, sail, fix, and outfit this leviathan? The newly christened Ukiyo (Japanese for The Floating World) tugged at its dock lines, mocking my ineptitude.

Docking was particularly vexing, a couple practice runs ended with the boat being “stopped” by the pier. But after a few weeks of constant practice (and careful fender placement) the initial squeamishness of this large purchase gave way to a complete sense of peace and satisfaction. How could I have lived so long without this floating home of ours? We were married on the foredeck and we never looked back. For the next five-years we touched almost every port between Pensacola and Philadelphia, putting 12,000 miles under our keel.

And then something wonderful happened that set the stage for the other greatest day in a boater's life. Two baby girls, in rapid succession, came screaming into our lives. Thank Poseidon they both enjoyed the boat, even when it bounced around, but before long our erstwhile spacious boat began to shrink. First I was evicted from the fo’c’sle to the bunk in the saloon, and then my wife found herself bumped from that comfy corner a few months later.

Here Come the Scam Artists

Obdurately, the girls and their accoutrements grew. One cartload trip from the car became four, and one Target bag full of garbage became five. Clearly, it was time to either trim the crew or increase the size of the boat. Alas, boats are not like houses that rooms can be added to, you must discard the old and purchase a larger version.

So with heavy heart I put the for sale sign on the hull a few months ago, with an asking price of a little above its book value and ran ads in various media. I believe I set my expectations appropriately: it’s a tough market out there, gasoline and home foreclosures are at record levels, adult toys do not sell quickly.

The print and internet ads I ran drew a tepid response. Most of the calls went something like this: “sounds like a nice boat, but the price is a little more than we wanted to spend.” Another cheeky respondent wanted to “rent” the boat for the summer, offering scarcely more than the cost of the slip.

But by far, the largest number of responses have been the infamous scam emails, most of which sound too good to be true (and you know what that means). Here’s one I received, word-for-word:

Hello,
I am an agent interested in immediate purchase of your item. After several consideration over the advert placed on the website,my client has really shown interest in it.The payment that will be drawn by my client would include the cost for shipping this item to my client and my commission would be included on the same payment. We shall solely be responsible for the shippment of the item and let me know how much you are sell the item last, my client wil know exactly amount is paying for.contact me asap via email for futher questions as regards this transaction,if you really show willingness in selling this item

This is the poorly spelled bait letter sent from foreign con artists to hundreds of boat owners in hopes of finding a few who are desperate enough to fall for this old ruse. Just for fun I responded, and received this reply:

Hi ,
Thank you for your response,Well happy to inform you that i have concluded payment arrangements with the client, who really commended your Boat and has instructed to move on with the deal at the price of ($55,000),He said he will be going on a vacation soon and will rest virtually all the transaction on my shoulder and assign an agent like wise that i will work with and stressed that he will be issuing out a cashier check of ($63,300) which was a refund payment of a cancelled order earlier made by him but will be filed in your name for the payment by his debtor,you are only required to deduct the cost of your Boat which is($55,000) and send the back the balance when payment gets to you to the agent whose information will be given to you as at when due, he will be needing the funds to offset shipping charges, taxes and other cosmetic repairs/touches of the goods he bought,which your Boat is inclusive,the agent will be responsible for signing and transfering of title paper and also pick-up of the Boat and other items bought by him in U.S.A accordingly.
THANKS HOPE TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU.

Smells fishy, doesn’t it? Who buys a boat without seeing it and arranging for a reputable marine survey first? This overpayment scam is listed on scambusters.org as #4 on the top ten hoaxes in history. You should never accept money orders or checks and turn around and send part of the money to anyone, no matter what the reason.

I have already seen replacement boats that would be perfect for a family of four, but the only thing worse than not having a boat, is having a boat you can’t get rid of—I insist on selling the old before buying new. Perhaps it’s time to give in and list with a broker.

And so, the girls continue their growth spurts and our weekend sails on the St. Johns are happy, if crowded affairs. Ukiyo remains posted online while I search for a buyer and dream of a large aft cabin that I can forever lay my head in; with plenty of room for family and friends.


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Comments 1 comment

B. Brother Tom  6 years ago

"beware the seller"

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