Web Resources - finding US boats for sale

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As discussed elsewhere Gablemarine cannot be directly involved in the purchase transaction.  What we can do however is help you find a boat and once you've done so, help you to make sure it is the boat you want to buy.

If the boat is being sold by a broker, please get in contact with us first so that we can help find a Buying Broker to act on your behalf.  Why, because it won't cost you anything and being once removed from the sale gives you more power and enables you to make offers you might otherwise be embarrassed to put on the table.  It also allows you to slip away without being pursued by the Broker.  Most importantly, it allows the buying broker to share the existing commission with the selling broker, meaning some of their services will effectively be prepaid.  Gablemarine does not receive any commission or get directly involved in the negotiation as to do so may compromise our position as independent CE inspectors.

So, here we go with our web sources.  Remember that we also talk to dealers directly so even the web won't get you access to those boats still 'coming' to market and as yet unlisted.  The lists here are not comprehensive, there are other sites but like us, you too, will lose the will to live, before getting though even this list!

Trade vs Private

Most US craft are sold through dealers/brokers and thus appear on one or more trade web sites.  Most prices are asking rather than expected, especially for power craft.  US dealers typically charge their clients a commission of 10% (which is shared with a buying broker if acting on your behalf).  Private adverts do appear on the web, but be aware it's much more likely these are old (ie sold some time ago) or a scam.  Of course even if genuine, the main issue with a private sale is that there is even less protection (make that no protection) for the buyer, so an inspection/trial is all the more important.  You also need t ensure what you've paid for exists and is collected as the payment is made.  We prefer trade for obvious reasons but in addition a selling agent is more likely to help the seller set realistic expectations over price.  So many private sellers will say things like 'I owe 30k so that's what I can take' which bears little relevence to a market value that may be significantly lower.  Bear in mind a lot of US boats are in a negative equity situation right now.

Be aware also that the term 'broker' has different meaning in each state.  In Florida a 'broker' is licenced and bonded (meaning your money is protected in the event they go bust, similar to travel agents in Europe) and has to undergo a two year training under the control of an existing licenced broker.  In most other states anyone can call themselves a Broker and offer no protection.  In these latter cases, reputation could be your only guarantee.

Once you find a boat, come back to us.  Even if a private seller we can still help ensure you get a great boat and not just an expensive picture.

Trade sources

Most traders use one or more of the large brokerage portals as their shop window.  The key advantage is that not only do they get worldwide exposure, they also don't have to run/maintain their own site.  Be aware however that typically they 'buy' a block of adverts (for 'n' boats) so if they don't have enough 'new' stock will often leave 'sold' boats live which can be infuriating if you've just spotted your dream craft.

Many traders also list boats on the more generic/social sites such as ebay.com, youtube.com or craigslist.com and in addition to the boat details will include their own.  Sometimes these smaller dealers can also be a good source.

Be aware also that it is (very) common practice for dealers to advertise boats which they don't represent directly.  This is particularly the case for boats in the US offered by European traders.  This is legal and in many ways just expands the shop window.  The issue however is that they won't have seen the boat or have any direct relationship with the seller.  When you enquire, they will contact the selling broker (who does have the relationship with the seller) and ask to co-broker the boat to you.  This is common practice in the US anyway but can be frustrating for you as buyer as you try to get more details and speak to someone who's actually been on the boat.   

My personal frustration with most of these sites is that they often list only a few details/pictures which provides a poor insight to buyers who may be thousands of miles away.  In fact they only star in the group is Boatshed (www.boatshed.com) who always both visit each boat they list and prepare a predefined inspection report with a large number of photos and a standard inventory list.  US brokers rarely prepare an inventory, relying on the surveyor to do this.

Last but not least please remember that the only way to access the condition of a craft is to have someone you trust personally inspect the craft.  Never buy a boat unseen.

Here's my list of Trade sites with comments.

yachtworld.com The largest brokerage portal, based, rather surprisingly in the UK.  Yachtworld also owns/operates boats.com.  Yachtworld is a dealer only portal, no private ads and is sold on the basis of a block of adverts.  Though traditionally just a shop window Yachtworld now also provides pricing intelligence to dealers.  Good search capabilities, easy to use.  Good picture capabilities (if used by vendor)
boats.com From the yachtworld stable, geared more to power craft and caters for both trade and private adverts.  Similar search capability but not so easy to use.
yachtcouncil.com US site, trade adverts, not as easy to use/search as yachtworld with significant duplication of yachtworld content.  Some additional craft though.  Caters for sail as well as power.
boattrader.com Concentrates on powered craft (though sail and pwc versions exist) with quite good search and listings capabilities.  Probably better for smaller craft. A good source as it allows searcging by state and is well used by US dealers.
iboats.com A general 'anything boats' site, best for category based searches.  Picks up adverts from all over the place.
usedboats.com This site picks adverts from other sites which isn't that special.  However, it does enable you to list these by manufacturer which is quite useful.  It also appears to cater for Private adverts too.
yachtbroker.com More up market perhaps, so larger craft.  Only brokerage boats as the name implies.
theyachtmarket.com Similar to usedboats.com.  Private and trade adverts.

Another portal, can search by state etc which can be useful to exclude searching in areas where transport would be prohibitive

mondialbroker.com A European site, not the easiest to navigate but a good source to check current European prices (asking).
boatcan.com As the name implies, a source of boats in Canada.
scanboat.com Based in Denmark but in English, this site covers boats available in (or to) Scandinavia.
boatjunction.com Yet another trawling (as in picking up adverts from other sites) site.

We then have what I would call the second tier, or the rest, though there are many more so please don't email in to say you've found 20 more.  Most of these repeat adverts from other sites but it's not impossible that some nuggets will be found though these are more likely to be private.

usedboatyard.com You can perhaps tell that this was not their first name choice.  This is typical of the 'trawling' sites which grab adverts from the web, mash them together and present them as something special which typically they are not.  It's there though.
sellyourusedboats.com ditto
usedboatsahoy.com ditto
sailboatraderonline.com Dedicated to sailing craft but again repeating many adverts already viewed on other sites.
canadaboatshopper.com Another Canada specific site
oceanlist.com ditto (from above)
boatboss.com ditto
planetyacht.com ditto (though one can't help thinking they struggled with a domain name...)
the saltydog.com ditto, ditto
shopcabincruisers.com ditto, ditto, I guess targeted at cruisers but as you'll see little more than a shop window to ebay.com.  As with many of such sites this doesn't add much (Ok, anything)
boat-quest.com "
boat-world.com "
boatdealers.com "
everyboat.com as you can probably tell we're near the bottom of the barrel and frankly I'm losing interest in these sites which offer hope (at a price) to the seller but little to the buyer.  I've included them to demonstrate their are many, but also to show the content is the same, so don't bother.

Liquidation Sites

We then have the sites dedicated to liquidations and repossessions.  Remember though that repo boats can appear anywhere and increasingly banks use many rather than one route for offloading repo boats (eg ebay.com).

The two main liquidation sites are:

yachtauctions.com This is National Liquidators.  An early entrant to the liquidation game they now have over 20 locations US wide.  The biggest ones are Florida and California.  FL is good, CA is too far away for EU importers (the opposite if importing to Australia/NZ).  The key here is to have someone local that can (re)view the craft.  Our guy has bought 10 boats in the past month so has better insight and support than you are likely to achieve alone. A guide price is presented and a weekly rolling auction closes every Monday afternoon.  Be aware that the guide price may bear little relation to what the bank will actually accept and don't expect NL staff to be able to predict what the bank will take either. NL is now well known and as a result you are less likely to find a true bargain as opposed to a below market boat.   For these reasons this can be a frustrating experience unless 'in the know'.
certifiedsales.com They sell trucks as well as boats, in fact virtually anything.  A much smaller inventory than National Liquidators but some interesting craft, sometimes.  They cover insurance write-offs as well as repo boats, both sail and power.
ebay.com I know I said two but the fact is an awful lot of repo boats end up on ebay.com, though often at retail prices so beware.

Private adverts

It's worth reiterating that private sales are conducted on a Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) basis so the onus is on you to ensure any craft is what it seems and not hold the seller responsible for telling porkies or overselling the condition, capability or even age of the craft.  Be especially careful regarding title (proof of ownership) as many will have been purchased on finance, in which case the lender (eg Bank) will hold the title.  Don' accept any ' we lost it' stories as without title you don't own, period.

Don't pay until you are sure the boat actually exists.  There are many scam adverts (details taken from a genuine advert on another site and reposted).  Look for (or demand) a phone number, talk to the vendor, get someone to visit if serious.  Don't hand any money over prior to pickup if you can help it.  Remember, a picture may paint a thousand words but you can't sail a picture.  BE CAREFUL, CHECK DETAILS and DON"T ASSUME.

Here's a few private advert sites, at least one of which won't be a huge surprise.

ebay.com Where would we be without ebay?  In my case with over 350 buys a whole lot richer!  Ebay is an excellent source for private boats though as with any ebay purchase please do remember it is an open auction site so not fool or fraud proof.  There is also a technique to winning which basically means don't bid early.  Most vendors want their money ASAP after an auction so prepare, have a plan for getting the boat home and know in advance how much it's all going to cost.  Too many people buy a bargain on ebay which ends up costing way more than they expected when finally home.
craigslist.com Started as a bulletin board for expat Americans flogging their stuff as they moved around the globe, Craigs List has now taken on a life of it's own.  The interface is horrible and you have to search area by area but it is still a good source for private adverts as it's free to list.  Be watchful of scam adverts though of which there are many.  If you see a boat which appears a steal then it probably is.
oudle.com Sell anything, US site, including boats.  Limited searching but bargains are possible if you have luck and patience.  As with others, watch out for scammers.
powerboatlistings.com This is potentially good source except for two things.  Firstly the number of pictures is very small (maybe even one) and secondly old adverts don't seem to get removed meaning that when you spot you dream craft it was probably sold last year.  Worth a look though.

 So that's it, all my secrets are out in the open.   Well almost.  Clearly all the above relates to boats which are being advertised by those who have decided to sell.  There are of couse another group who are currently just talking about selling and for these, our access to the brokers can provide an opportunity to snap up a deal before they reach the small screen. 

Last thoughts, boats are rarely better than you hope based on pictures.  Remember, it is the seller who decides what pictures are used in adverts and these will generally only reinforce the best features....


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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