Selling a Boat on Your Own - SailNet Community
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Selling a Boat on Your Own

We would like to sell our sailboat on our own. What forms are legally necessary, and how can we find out about the need of using an escrow account?

Jon Shattuck responds:
Thanks for your query. First, keep in mind that both boat buyers and sellers will benefit from using a written purchase agreement stating the selling price, a description of the vessel being purchased, the equipment included and excluded, any terms or contingencies, and the date and location of the closing. Boat sales are generally conducted on an as-is where-is basis unless agreed upon and specified otherwise in writing.

Second, you will need to transfer legal ownership of the vessel from the seller to the buyer. If your boat is state titled, generally all you have to do is write the name and address of the buyer on the title, and sign it. The buyer will then be required to provide the old title signed off by the seller when applying for a new one.

If your boat is USCG documented, you will need to provide USCG Bills of Sale along with the original USCG Documentation, signed, dated, and notarized, in duplicate. You'll need to have all of these documents filled out perfectly, so I recommend using a documentation service.

Regarding an escrow account, while not mandatory, most boat transactions require an earnest deposit (traditionally 10 percent of the purchase price), which should be held by a third party. Some USCG documentation services and marine lenders provide this service, and this is one of many services yacht brokers provide.

You are certainly free to sell your boat yourself, but a broker can help you with all the aspects of listing, marketing, and selling your boat. There are more recommendations in the Buyer Tips section of, have a look:

Here's a good tip to get your boat selling activity started on the proper tack: use BoatSearch to easily create a complete equipment list for your boat (e-mailable and printable) while marketing your boat on the Internet 24-7.

While no longer free (BoatSearch offers three low pricing options), it is still one of the most time and cost-effective boat buying and selling services available. Good luck to you.
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