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May 11th 2014. By Lenny Rudow.

Five negotiating tactics for yacht and boat buyers

When buying a boat or yacht, make sure your negotiating tactics are up to par – you might be surprised how much money it could save you.

Buyers and sellers all want to get the best price they can, but as a buyer, your tactics in the negotiation are key to getting the seller to reduce the asking price.

Sport Fisher for sale

Sport Fisher for sale: When buying or selling a yacht like this one, the price can vary quite a bit depending on your negotiation skills.



1: Do Your Homework

For both new and used purchases, you’ll be able to negotiate a better deal if you have evidence proving the value of both what you’re looking at, and of competitive boats. Get pricing on several similar boats off the internet, and print out the info so you can show it to the seller if their price is higher. Know ahead of time that yachts and boats tend to be emotional items, and most sellers of used boats think theirs is worth more than the average simply because they love it. A broker can be particularly helpful in this regard, since they don’t have an emotional investment and can help bring the seller down to reality.


2: Eliminate the value of the electronics

Let the seller know right from the off that you’ll replace them. You can explain that the electronics are dated (and they usually are when buying a used boat or yacht), they aren’t the brand you like, that the quality is too high or too low, or whatever. Then figure out the approximate worth of the electronics, and tell the seller you want that amount subtracted off the asking price—but you won’t buy the boat if they remove the electronics and leave open holes behind. You run a slim risk that they’ll pull the unit(s) off the boat, and patch the fibreglass. But in most cases, especially if the units are flush-mounted in the helm, it’ll cause them more grief than it’s worth. Most of the time the seller will be willing to reduce price by the value of the electronics (or some portion thereof) to make the sale, and will still leave them in place. If you want to upgrade them after the purchase, you can recoup some of the investment by selling the unit(s) on.


3: Make a list of repairs and necessary upgrades

As you look at the boat, carry a pen and paper and make a list of any and all superficially damaged or aging items that won’t be addressed in a survey. Then assign a reasonable cost to each, for having it fixed. Ratty canvas, gouges in the fibreglass, ripped cushions, and cracked/split wood are some key items to look for. If you like the boat overall, tell the seller you’ll buy it at their asking price—if they have these items fixed. Then give them the alternative to reduce the asking price by the amount the repairs will cost. They’ll have a hard time arguing that it’s unreasonable to pay for damage that’s already been done.


4: Make the sale contingent on the season’s storage

If a boat is already on the hard for the winter, ask if it can remain where it is, at no cost to you, until it’s ready for the spring launch. If it’s in the water, ask if it can remain in the same slip until it’s time for winter haul-out. Sellers have probably already paid for storage on a seasonal basis, so it may be no skin off their nose yet still save you a few quid. And brokers may have the room and the ability to help you out, if they lease or own the marina or hardstanding where the yacht is currently situated.


5: Tell the surveyor to be picky

You don’t want to nit-pick the seller to death, but at the same time, remember that issues brought up by the surveyor will need to be addressed either with pre-purchase repairs or price reductions. Some surveyors will be pickier than others and some may “go easy” on the boat if they have the impression you’re anxious to make the sale go through. So let them know ahead of time that you want him or her to point out everything they find.


For more information on working with surveyors and brokers, read Marine Surveyors Earn Their Fee, and Buying from a Yacht Broker: Commission, Surveys, Offers.

With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.