Simplified Boat Appraising

As professional marine surveyors we appraise boats daily. We follow professional standards and appraisal methodologies, but basically we look at comparable boats’ listing and reported selling prices and compare the subject boat to the comps. This appraisal method is formally referred to as market value analysis and the value is often called the fair market value or actual cash value. While it is important for us to follow the method and protocol, it is not necessary for you and the basic methodology is relatively simple and will provide your with a good idea of the value of your boat.

Boat values are required when a boat is sold, banks like to know values for loans, insurance companies use values when underwriting policies, and various others want to know how much your boat is worth, including your soon to be “ex”. If you would like to get a good idea of its value, here are some simple tips.

The most helpful information used to evaluate the boat is the basic specifications. Manufacturer, year, length, model, size and type of engines and major upgrades or accessories. The make, year and length will provide the basic search criteria, but different models and engines can result in a large range of values. You may be amazed at the range of values between a flybridge versus an express model or diesel versus gasoline engines.

Once you know the basic specifications search for comparable boats’ listing prices. The most common electronic multiple listing sites are Yachtworld and Boat Trader. These two sites handle a majority of the boats that are being advertised for sale and are your best bet for finding the most comparable boats for sale. Yachtworld is the brokers’ site and will generally have larger and more expensive boats. Boat Trader is populated by private parties and trailer boat brokers. (Have you noticed the Trader magazines have disappeared from the racks at the convenience stores and are strictly internet publications now.)

You can also do a Google search for your boat for sale and find numerous outlets and additional information. There are a multitude of lesser known web sites and many specialize in specific types of boats, performance boats, house boats, trawlers, and even mega-yachts ( There are also boat value sites such as BUC, ABOS, NADA that provide valuations, some for a fee.

A search tip: search for boats a year older and a year newer, after about five years condition becomes more important that age and searching a year older or newer will provide more comps. If you have a very high production boat, you can probably stick to your model year. If you are searching a limited production boat, you may have to use a multiple year range. If you have an extremely rare boat, you may have to include other similar brands of boats in your search.

Boats have model years just like cars, 2012 boats are already for sale. Since 1984 the last three digits of the hull identification number (HIN) indicate the year of production and model year. A new boat with HIN ending 112 was built in 2011 but is a 2012 model year. A HIN ending with 111 was built in 2011 and is a 2011 model year.

Another search tip: try using a broader length range. Some listings will have length data entered with actual length overall and some will have lengths that have unknown origins. The “340” model may in fact be 34 feet long, or it may be 38, including the bow plank and swim platform. Remember you are searching with a computer, a human entered the data, and another human is searching the data. The computer works precisely, it is not your spouse and does not know what you are trying to communicate. Sometimes one of the humans misspells the manufacturer or puts the length in the year field.

If you can gather a dozen or so comparable boats listing prices, you can establish a fairly accurate value. The better the comps, the better the evaluation. We use to average these asking prices and deduct ten percent for the built in “negotiating buffer”, however the listing prices have not recessed as much as the selling prices in the past three years, and a twenty to twenty five percent reduction from the asking price is not uncommon in today’s market.

A better data base includes reported sales prices, not just listing prices. These proprietary data bases are generally not available to the boating public, but are available to sales professionals and marine surveyors. While these data bases are not as accurate as the recorded sales prices for real estate, they do provide more useful sales data.

If you are planning on selling your boat, ask your broker for their opinion of value, they are very capable of this task and will do it as part of their service to you. If you need a professional appraisal, most institutions will request a marine survey and many will require an “accredited” marine surveyor, in an attempt to legitimize the appraisal. The surveyor will likely provide a market value analysis and should keep a copy of the research in their file or include the comparables in the report, to support their opinion.