If you are thinking about buying or selling a Used boat, you need to get a sense of the fair market value.  Fortunately, there are a couple of free and easy ways to do this.

  1. NADA Guides (JD Power)

This popular resource for automobile and boat values was acquired by JD Power in 2015.  Estimated market prices are derived from sales numbers from a variety of sources including private sales, dealer sales, and auction sales.

Simply enter the make and model year to see a list of models available.  A nice feature of this tool is that you are able to customize various aspects of the boat such as the engine size, optional features and trailer details for a more accurate estimate.

If you want a “second opinion”, BUCValu will allow you three free searches over a 4-month period.  However, this free version doesn’t allow you to customize the boat and the reported values do not include a trailer.

  1. Online Classified Sites

A second approach to get a feel for the fair market value is to find other listings of the boat you are considering purchasing or wanting to sell.  Start with the most popular sites such as BoatTrader and Boats.com.  Also, if you are dealing with a larger boat, check out YACHTWORLD or POP Yachts.

There are also a number of specialty boat sites such as OnlyInboards or PWCTrader that might be helpful as well – depending on the type of boat of interest.  For a comprehensive list of the more popular sites, check out my article on the “Best Places to Buy a Boat Online”.

Please note that if a particular site allows you to search by distance, you will want to set this to “Any Distance”.  That is because when you get down to a specific model, the volume of boats for sale is likely to be very small so expanding the geography increases your chances of finding a match.

Also, bear in mind that these sites list the asking price and so the actual purchase price is likely to be a little less.

The above two approaches should give you a general feel for the fair market value of a boat.  However, the specific value of a individual craft will depend on many other factors such as geographic location, where the boat was used (freshwater vs. saltwater), the condition, engine hours, installed equipment/accessories, the time of year and market demand among other things.  The point is, you should use these values as a starting point but recognize that the actual worth of a boat might be somewhat higher or lower.

Finally, if you are wanting to assess the value of a very large/expensive or a highly customized boat, these “free” approaches will not be of much help because you are unlikely to find a match.  In this case, you might need to hire a marine surveyor.  To find one in your area, go to the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) or the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS). The average cost is between $18-$25 a foot and typically includes an out of water inspection, sea trial, test of all systems, and a full survey report.  While not cheap, it could easily pay for itself by helping prospective buyers identify potentially costly issues up front and might enable you to negotiate a better price – similar to a home inspection.

Jerry Mona - BoaterInput

About the author

Jerry Mona is an avid boater and angler and long-time boating industry insider. With over three decades of experience, he is often considered to be the leading research expert with boaters and has helped numerous manufacturers and trade associations to understand the needs, wants, attitudes and behaviors of boaters. He now shares many of his insights about boats and boaters for free on his BoaterInput.com website.

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