Choosing a Boat Broker


Choosing a Boat Broker

Melanie Neale

In the upcoming December issue of Practical Sailor, we look at how a do-it-yourself boat sale can save thousands of dollars that would ordinarily go to a broker. However, for those who are looking to get the best price for their boat with minimal effort, a broker is usually a more sensible choice.

Before you choose a broker, here are some things to consider.

A brokers fee is always 10 percent upon the sale of the boat, but some offer more services than others for the same price. Brokers asking you for funds up front should be immediately discounted.

Responsiveness. How quickly a broker responds to your inquiry is indicative of how they will respond to potential buyers. Give them 24 hours, and move on if they don’t respond or if they make excuses as to why they didnt respond promptly. Most, if they miss the initial phone call, will call or email you back within minutes.

Marketing. All brokers have access to YachtWorld. Ask where else the broker will advertise your boat and expect to receive a written list of websites and print publications and social media. Good brokers also use SailboatListings, BoatTrader,, and other sites. Ask whether they offer Enhanced Listings on YachtWorld.

Look at other listings. Ask a potential broker for links to some of their listings. If you don’t like the write-up, think the photos are shoddy, or if there isn’t enough information, move on.

Comps. The average buyer and seller, despite what they might find perusing ads and looking at resources like BUC, do not have access to actual comps. Your broker does. In addition to knowing what is currently on the market, your broker should offer you information on how many similar boats have sold in your region recently, what they were listed at, how long they took to sell, and exactly what they sold for.

Track record. Ask your broker what he/she has sold recently. A good broker will be ready with the answer.

Paperwork, escrow, and protection during the closing process. A broker will have an escrow account and will ask that all deposits be submitted to the account. The broker will have all the forms you need, and some even use programs like YachtCloser which simplify the process through e-signing. The broker works with a title/documentation company, and the buyer pays for all expenses associated with closing.

Import duty. If you have purchased a foreign-built boat and plan to sell it in the US to a US citizen (regardless of your citizenship), import duty must be paid. Your yacht broker will help you find a customs broker. Be wary of brokers who suggest ways to get around paying the import duty, such as closing offshore. If you are selling the boat yourself and fail to comply, both you and the buyer are liable for huge fines down the road.

Social Media. If this is something that the broker claims to do, ask where they post, what kinds of accounts they have, and how many followers they have. Posting on a personal Facebook page to 200 of the brokers closest friends is not enough. The post needs to be publicly shared on various forums.

Personality. You and your broker are forming a relationship, and chances are that you are already somewhat emotional about the sale of your boat. Your broker needs to understand this and be open and honest with you. Why work with someone you don’t like?

Melanie Neale is a lifelong cruising sailor, author, and mother. She works for Edwards Yacht Sales.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. Darrell is booking speaking engagements in Colorado, Idaho, California, the Pacific Northwest, and British Colombia this summer. You can reach him by email at


  1. I agree that responsiveness is a good trait that boat dealer should have. I’m planning to by a new boat soon in order to be able to go fishing in the future without having to rent a boat. Maybe I should also start looking for used boat parts so that I have a stock of replacement parts.