Using Ebay to market US Boats to European / International Buyers

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Let’s be honest, few if any international buyers are going to bid on a boat thousands of miles away. But, like it or not, Ebay is one of ‘the’ global shop windows and whilst buying may not occur online, listing boats on Ebay will stimulate interest and enquiries.

So lets consider the key components to a successful Ebay export campaign:

Check if export is an option

We hate to start with a show stopper but there really is little point promoting a craft for export if it's simply not economic.

In our experience, export to Europe is unlikely to be economic for boats selling at under USD 20,000, boats older than 1998 or with engines from before 2002.  Shipping is charged by volume, not age and engines prior to 2002 are unlikely to pass the entry emissions requirements and so would need costly replacement.  Similarly, for Europe, shipping is via a US East Coast Port (eg Jacksonville or Baltimore) so if your boat is in California it’s unlikely to be economic to transport it across the US as well.  If your boat fits in this group the best advice would be to tell the buyer to look elsewhere but if you want to double check then contact us, it's free.

OK, so lets hope the first hurdle is gone.

Market a solution

You may be selling a boat but the buyer wants a delivery.  Make viewers aware that you will sell internationally and that indirectly you will help by recommending agents who can assist with the delivery.

Critical mass creates buyer momentum

International buyers will always expect to buy at a discount, so whatever the offer price, this alone is unlikely to prevent an enquiry.  What will is the absence of sufficient information to excite the buyer.  Pictures and specification/inventory create excitement.

Culturally we are different.  We expect boats to be presented with an inventory listing everything that comes with the boat.  This is generally not the case in the US, where the inventory is taken when the boat is surveyed.  If you want to attract international buyers, provide an inventory with the advert.

Make the pictures many and large.  International buyers rely on photographs to get to the point of enquiry.  They want to see large pictures to study, not thumbnails.  Include all pictures as if you hide known issues you’ll just be wasting time further on.

Advertise internationally

Whilst Ebay.com is the largest ebay community, others exist, especially in Europe.  Of these, the British site ebay.co.uk is large and accessed from across Europe.  Advertising on ebay.co.uk is just as easy as on ebay.com (you use the same login) and has other advantages too.  For the UK site an advertiser can place a ‘classified advert’ for 28 days at a fixed fee (typically < 20 USD).  This advert is allowed to contain email, phone, web site and other contact information.  By advertising on the UK site you immediately make buyers aware that export is a possibility too.  Of course the other advantage of the UK site is that it’s in English.  Lastly, remember that most Scandinavians speak English and they too use the UK ebay.co.uk site.

Be accessible

Make it clear how the buyer can get in contact.  If possible, put a phone number or email address on the advert.  If you don’t like giving your phone number buy a prepaid mobile and use this number.  Remember that if you rely on the Ebay messages you must review these on a regular basis.  Remember also that international buyers are unlikely to be in the same time zone as you so will probably prefer email.  Europeans especially, prefer to email than talk direct, so be open to this.

Put yourself in the buyers shoes

The key here is to be honest about the boat.  Local buyers can easily inspect the boat and make up their mind without much expense.  For international buyers this is not the case so don’t waste their time and money by misrepresenting the boat.

The right approach

Be open to export, it’s not that difficult if done properly and we can help you by managing the process, taking responsibility for everything after the sale has completed.

Flood the buyers with information.  Photos, specification, a link to a dedicated site with yet more information and yes some pictures of your use, showing what a great experience you’ve had.

Be accessible – you have to work for a sale, it’s not just a case of putting an advert in a shop window and sitting back.  Make it easy for buyers to contact you and be proactive in your response.  Offer to help make arrangements, especially local ones as after all you do live there!

Be helpful and make sure those ‘professionals’ working for you make the effort you expect.

The Gablemarine advantage

Our services

If reading this on our site then all you need is already at your fingertips:

Import / Export Service

As the seller, we facilitate the sale by providing a service to the buyer, to collect and deliver the boat once the purchase has closed.  We can also act as an independent third part to ensure that all the documentation is correct (Title etc) and assist with timing and payments.  Our aim is to take the risk out of the purchase for all concerned and end your involvement at the point of closing.

For the buyer we provide peace of mind and a delivered price, inclusive of transport, shipping, tax, import duty and compliance with European legislation (Recreational Craft Directive). If required we can also help with conversion of AC electrics to enable the boats systems to be used with European 230v AC supplies.

CE Marking Service

Leaving the logistics to one side, the largest hurdle to a successful EU import is compliance with the Recreational Craft Directive (click link for a RCD document prepared by the British Marine Federation for builders).  In most cases, even with older craft the boat itself is rarely a show stopper.  However, the engines can be.  We can determine whether the engines will comply by checking them against our database, something we can do for the seller at the outset.  Armed with this crucial information the buyer can proceed in the knowledge that CE marking will succeed.

Gablemarine is authorized to inspect and assess all types and categories of recreational craft, both new and used.  We can also undertake noise testing if this is required. 

Who is Gablemarine

Gablemarine is the trading name of GableCom Ltd a UK company established in 1999 to provide consulting services to industry.   Gablemarine founder, Rowland Smith, a Naval Architect, has over 20 years experience in commercial and marine consultancy.

Though our offices are in the UK, we operate worldwide, particularly in the US and Scandinavia.

What Next

Take a tour of our site at www.gablemarine.com

Read some case studies and look at the project boats we’ve helped certify

Get in contact either via our contact form or you can call Rowland Smith directly on +1 863 659 4066.  Please remember that our times zone (UK) is GMT.

Include a reference to Gablemarine in your advert.  This can de a single URL link to our web site eg

We recommend Gablemarine (www.gablemarine.com) as our preferred export partner:

Use Gablemarine (www.gablemarine.com) for an inclusive, fixed price service

or you can download the picture advert to the right and add this as one of your ebay pictures. 

To download, click on the image.  This will load the image into your browser.

Then move the mouse over the image and press down the right side mouse button.

Select 'Save Image As' from the menu box and save the image to your hard drive.

Then when you create your ebay advert load this image as one of your photos.

Lastly, use the back button in your browser to bring you back to this page.

Written By: Rowland Smith

Rowland Smith is a Naval Architect and founder of Gablemarine.  His industry experience includes Lloyds Register, British Shipbuilders Hydrodynamics Ltd, Cammell Lairds, BP Shipping Ltd & Conoco.  He has a degree in Naval Architecture, a Diploma in Marketing (CIM) and an MBA (Cranfield School of Management).  He has also held Director level positions in a number of technology and engineering companies, including CEproof, which provides RCD compliance software to builders. 

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