The key to marketing your boat as a private seller is to create an ad that generates interest but is not overly “selling”. People who prefer to buy boats from individuals do not want to see too much persuasive sales jargon in your ad, so this is a fine line to follow.
There is a scene in “Seinfeld” where Kramer helps Jerry write an ad to sell a van he got stuck with. “For sale: a big, juicy van. Interesting negotiations contemplated.” Kramer said his marketing strategy was “to tickle their buying sense.” Uh no. This is not to scare them away.
I like to start with something honest and straightforward: “This boat has belonged to me for eight years.” Of course, people who view classifieds do not have the time or patience to read long stories, so I keep the intro short and sweet. “During all this time I have taken exceptional care of this boat, fixing what needs to be repaired when it needs to be.
Next, I like to use a simple list to highlight the boat’s strengths when writing my ad. Examples like the following (if applicable) are good ways to get a buyer’s attention in a classified ad for your boat.
- Low number of hours on the engine; 35 hours per season.
- Synthetic fluids still in use.
- Use of fresh water only [or always rinsed religiously].
- Clean and well maintained.
- No chips or scratches on the gelcoat.
- Upholstery in excellent condition.
- Everything works.
- Comes with Magic Tilt cover and trailer.
- The trailer is serviced regularly [or has just been serviced].
These are the kinds of things a buyer wants to know, and it is a great idea to include the specifications of the boat, just like you would in an advertisement for a new boat. The typical buyer of a used boat wants the boat to be as clean and “new” as possible. He does not need you to tell him that “this is a great family boat” or that you “hate selling it”.
Your ad should focus on what the buyer can get out of it.
You should also be honest about any faults in the boat, if any. Phrases like “might need a good cleaning” or “shows the usual wear and tear of an XX-year-old boat” have several effects: First, they let the buyer know that you are trying to be honest about the boat. Second, they avoid big disappointments when the buyer shows up to review it. Buyers do not like an ad to misrepresent the boat.
Buyers can smell the lies for miles. You can too, so write your ad in a way that it appeals to you if you are a potential buyer yourself. It is up to you to decide if you accept “interesting exchanges”.
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