How to Negotiate Buying Used Boat Purchase

How to Negotiate Buying Used Boat Purchase

Whether you are looking to buy a used boat from a private owner or a dealer, it’s possible to bargain and get a great deal. 

However, you need to know what to look for to ensure that you buy a boat that is still in great condition. 

Last year, a friend of mine from Baltimore wanted to purchase a second hand boat that was in pretty good condition and wanted me to help in negotiating. 

It was a gorgeous pontoon boat, and we managed to buy it at a reasonable cost after negotiating.  

I realized that buying a used boat is not always as effortless as it seems. See, the seller desires to sell their vessel at the highest price possible, while the buyer wants to pay what they think the boat is worth.

It becomes even more complicated when the seller is already strongly attached to the boat, as they tend to think that the boat is worth more than its actual value. But it’s certainly not rocket science. 

If you’ve found your dream boat or are still looking for one, I’ll show you some tips to help you negotiate a fair price. 

We’ll discuss in depth how to negotiate when buying a second-hand boat from a dealership or a private seller. 

How to Negotiate When Buying a Used Boat from a Dealer

One of the best ways to get a great deal when buying a boat is getting it from a dealership. They usually have edges to reach and may have several options for you. 

Most dealers are also totally open and comfortable with the haggling game, giving you an opportunity to negotiate and get a perfect deal. 

If you want to buy a second-hand boat from a dealership, here are some useful tips that will ease the negotiation process:

One of the best ways to get a great deal when buying a boat is getting it from a dealership. They usually have edges to reach and may have several options for you. 

Most dealers are also totally open and comfortable with the haggling game, giving you an opportunity to negotiate and get a perfect deal. 

If you want to buy a second-hand boat from a dealership, here are some useful tips that will ease the negotiation process:

Start Low and Don’t Be Scared of Upsetting the Dealer

While going low at first doesn’t mean that the dealership will readily accept your first offer, it’s a great strategy when buying a boat. 

There is a price you can mention and offend the seller. But this shouldn’t scare you as the dealer is in the business, and the chances are that they are used to hearing lower offers. 

The key point is to start with a lower price than what you are willing to offer to begin the haggling process. Although the haggling will only go up from here, you’ll be a bit safer. 

Give and Take Counter Offers 

When the dealership makes an offer to you, you can accept, reject or counter it. 

If you are not okay with the mentioned price, you can always make a counter offer instead of rejecting the deal altogether.

This will give you another chance to negotiate again, and who knows? The dealer might accept your bid after only a few circles of counterbids. 

Ask the Dealer What Could Be Added to the Offer

Another essential thing to do when negotiating for a used boat is to ask the dealer what they could add to the deal. 

This could be various boat accessories such as Bimini top, grill, PFDs, watersports equipment, or even the storage space until the off-season is over. 

Well, some boat accessories are indeed subject to taste, but there are some things you might end up liking even more, especially when simply thrown into the deal. 

Don’t Become too Fond of the Boat Already

When you finally find a boat that has all the excellent features you’ve been searching for, it’s easy to get emotionally attached to it. 

But this isn’t always a great thing as it might hinder your negotiation skills. You may end up giving way much more than the boat is actually worth. 

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean that you should skip a boat that looks attractive and go for one that doesn’t seem pleasant to you, just be able to negotiate. 

My point is that you should keep your emotions neutral until you acquire the boat. This way, you’ll remain open to varied options. 

It will also help you walk away from overpriced deals and move further to get the best value for your budget. 

I found that letting the dealer know that you have some other options makes them a little bit easy on you. 

Keep in mind that a dealer is likely to intentionally reject your offer once they know that you desperately want to buy a particular watercraft. 

Trust me, you’ll feel terrible after the purchase of an overpriced used boat only to realize later that you could have bought it at a way lower price.

Separate the Assets to Save Money

If you have found a boat with a long list of accessories, it’s easy to get swayed and forget about the boat itself. 

Sure, more equipment and accessories are usually a great bonus on new boats, but this may not be the same case with old boats. 

Some of the equipment might not be in great condition, and you may have to replace them after the purchase anyway. 

So, I’d recommend that you focus more on the boat when making offers or ask the dealer to remove any faulty equipment that would need replacement or upgrading. 

Alternatively, you can calculate the cost of all the repairs needed, from dented surfaces to ripped cushions. Then ask your dealer to lower the price accordingly. 

This is because it’s unlikely that the dealer will want to do the repairs and upgrade the accessories at this point. 

Splitting the items will also let you save some money when it comes to paying taxes once you close the deal.

For example, if you close a deal for a used pontoon boat at $30,000, but the boat has accessories worth $7,000, the bill of sale can read $23,000 and bill the extra equipment separately. 

Then you would pay taxes for $23,000, which will be less than what you’d pay when the extra accessories are added. 

How to Negotiate Buying a Used Boat from a Private Seller

How to Negotiate Buying a Used Boat from a Private Seller

Purchasing a used boat from a private owner is nearly the same as buying from a dealership, but there are a few more things to consider. 

Don’t Completely Undercut the Asking Price with Very Low Offer

First of all, private sellers might not react so well when you offer insanely low bids. Some of them may not even take you seriously. 

In a worst-case scenario, the seller can give you a blunt reply if you provide a very low bid compared to their asking price. 

So, you need to be a little bit tactful when going back and forth with counterbids. 

Haggle Until You Get to a Fair Price for Both Parties 

In most cases, private sellers have an emotional attachment to their vessels, making negotiating a little more challenging. 

If the current owner has had the boat for years, they are already used to it and probably have made many memories cruising on it. 

Having emotionally invested in their watercraft, owners tend to think that the boat is highly valuable, and they end up overpricing it. 

But this is not to put you off from buying a boat from private sellers. You should not be intimidated to haggle, as you could still get the boat at a fair cost eventually. 

The key thing is to make counter offers while still being tactful. At the end of the day, the seller will feel great when both of you can agree or meet up halfway on your offers. 

Things to Look for in a Used Boat

Things to Look for in a Used Boat

Examine the Motor and Other Essential Parts

Boat motors from different brands vary in many ways, and they usually affect the overall value of the boat. 

You can research a bit about the motor before the actual inspection to ensure that you can quickly tell when the boat has a top-notch or weak engine. 

The current owner should clarify whether the motor is the original one from the boat’s manufacturer or a replacement. 

You also need to check the oil, and the motor bolts, to ensure that nothing is faulty or could hinder motor running. 

If the oil looks milky, it could point towards a damaged engine allowing water in. The wiring and overall condition of the battery are crucial as well because they directly affect the boat’s performance.  

Other essential parts to inspect before closing the sale include the transom, hull, and interior.

Pay Attention to the Boat’s Usage and Storage History 

While you don’t expect a used boat to look brand new, it’s important to know how the seller has been using it and storing it. 

The seller should also give you more information on the damages and repairs done on the vessel. If you are dealing with a watercraft that has been in store for the better part of its life, then it will be in better condition. 

Such boats will have a higher value than those exposed to harsh weather when sailing every day. 

Boats of a certain age may have superficial cracks, but this is perfectly normal, especially for ones made decades ago and used most of the time. 

Ask the Seller to Provide the Boat’s Service History

This is a practical tip, and it may help you get a good price when buying a boat. See whether the seller has been servicing the boat regularly. 

If the seller doesn’t have a title for the vessel, the price should go down since the registration process might be complicated a bit, depending on where you live. 

Test the Boat on the Water 

Another thing you want to do before closing the deal is to take the vessel for a sea trial with the seller. 

The motor should start smoothly with no excess noise or smoke. When sailing, be sure to check the seats’ stability and the temperature gauge. 

If you are new to the world of boating and are not sure of what exactly to check, you can hire a qualified marine surveyor to inspect the vessel. 

Check the Boat’s Accessories 

The equipment or accessories featured on the boat are also essential, and you should ask the seller what they want to throw into the deal before you start negotiating. 

Things like fishing gear, batteries, PFDs

How Do I Negotiate Used Boat Prices as a Seller?

How Do I Negotiate Used Boat Prices as a Seller

It’s also important to ensure that you get the best price for your boat as the seller.

You don’t want to sell something you invested lots of money in at a throwaway price. Maybe you want to buy a new boat after selling the used one. 

Some of the most essential things to keep in mind when selling your used boat include:

  • Second-hand boats are selling quickly as there is a strong market for them
  • You are not rushing to sell your used boat
  • There are many buyers out there who might be interested in your used boat
  • There are similar vessels for sale that have a higher asking price

If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be in a good selling position, and you might end up making more money on a better deal. 

But that’s not all. There are several other factors to consider when negotiating a used boat as the seller. Here is how to go about it: 

Set Your Price Limits

Of course, you should not accept offers that are much less than what the current boat is worth. But how do you negotiate while still remaining within limits? 

The best way to negotiate selling a used boat is to decide on the lowest possible price you can sell the boat. 

This means the least amount you can be comfortable taking when dealing with a highly persuasive buyer. 

Once you know the lowest price tag, put the asking price higher than that to give room for negotiation. 

Remember, every buyer likes to think they got a haggle, especially when purchasing used things. 

If your boat’s condition is still great and you have good negotiation skills, you might sell it more than the amount you thought you would. 

Set the Asking Price

As mentioned above, your asking price should be higher than your rock-bottom price. But sometimes, it may be pretty hard to decide exactly how much to say. 

If you are in that situation, you should feel free to go around your local area and see the prices of several similar boats. 

Doing a random search online on used prices is good, but it may not help unless you want to put your vessel on sale on the internet. This is because boat costs vary, depending on your country or state.

Make Counter Offers

Don’t expect any buyer who’s interested in your boat to come and bid the asking price right away. 

Most buyers in the used market usually start with a low offer than the given price tag, but they know that the cost can only go up. 

Now, if a buyer comes to you and mentions a significantly lower price, there is no need to be rude. You should simply take them seriously and try to negotiate their way up. 

Making a counter bid is a perfect strategy to respond to such buyers. This way, you’ll get to far better dialogue, and you might end up agreeing on an amount that you are happy with.

Let the Buyer Know that Other Buyers Are Interested

Sometimes a buyer may think you urgently want to get rid of the boat. That’s why you need to play them off by letting them know that you have several offers. 

Just to clarify things, I don’t mean that you lie to the customers about other enticing offers you’ve already gotten. 

The crucial thing here is to make each buyer aware of multiple offers but you would gladly sell to them if they were willing to pay what the boat is worth. 

Other sale factors to keep in mind include whether the buyer wants you to store the boat until they are ready to take it and all about the equipment featured. 

If the buyer wants you to throw everything on the boat equipment lists into the deal, it could give you a chance to get a better sale. 



Q: Do Boat Dealers Negotiate Price on Used Boats?

A: Yes, boat dealers negotiate prices on second-hand boats. And if you come to the table armed with good negotiating skills, you might get the best deal. 

Q: Can You Haggle When Buying Boat?

A: Yes, of course, you can haggle when buying a boat to get it at a lower price than the initial offer. 

Whether you want to buy a boat from a dealer or private seller, it’s possible to bargain the cost and reach a better final price. 

Q: What is the Average Markup on Used Boats?

A: The typical markup for used boats ranges between 15% and 30%. At the same time, the pricing and value guides are not necessarily mandatory in the used market. 

For most people, used vessels are worth how much they are willing to pay or what they think the watercraft is worth. 

Q: What is the Best Month to Buy a Used Boat?

A: The best months to buy a used boat are October through December. During these months, you’ll have a wide range of options as many boaters want to sell their watercraft after enjoying the boating seasons. 

Dealers also tend to lower prices on their new and second-hand boats since they don’t want to carry old stock through the next boating season when the winter is over. 

Buying your boat in October, November, or December also gives you enough time to install any necessary equipment or accessories and prepare it for the spring launch. 



Whether you are new to the boating lifestyle or have owned several vessels before, buying a used boat doesn’t have to be a complicated undertaking. 

You can apply the negotiating tips explained above and be sure to get the best deal for your dream vessel. If you think that negotiating will be difficult for you, you may want to work with a broker. 

However, if you decide to work with a broker, you only have the best chance when they are entirely on your side and not against you. 

Sharing is caring!

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our NewsLetter!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x