Trade In vs. Private Sale

Tips to help you upgrade to a new boat


You’ve had another great summer with your boat. In the back of your mind, though, is one thought—you want to upgrade to a newer model. But that winter boat show where you got the great deal before is a long way off, and that’s when you get the best pricing.

Maybe not. Current model-year clearance sales are underway. You can also take advantage of incentives that offer value-added perks that might not be available next spring. In all, the fall is a good time—maybe even better than spring—to take advantage of special offers and pricing.

And here’s another timely thought—if you wait until next spring the old boat will be one model year older, according to the calendar.

Before you buy, there are two options to consider. One, you can trade in your current boat for a new model at the dealership. Or, you can sell it yourself and then buy new.

Which should you do? Here are some helpful tips to help you decide.


Setting the price

One of the hardest parts of selling a boat yourself is deciding on the price, and whether or not the process is worth your time. Comparing similar models online is a good place to start. You can do that through Google research to compare how your boat lines up with the going sale price of comparable models. A reputable online resource is Boat Trader, which offers boat dealers and private sellers a print and online solution for boat sales. Other online resources include and You can also peruse a brand’s Facebook page to gain more insight on current trends, and join active communities of buyers and sellers like you. Who knows? The buyer of your old boat might be lurking on those social media sites.


Got the price, now what?

Of course, you can park the boat in the driveway and hang a “For Sale” sign on it. These days, there are more effective ways that connect you directly with prospective buyers. Just like anything else, you can sell your boat online. Popular online marketplaces include boats.comBoat Trader and Before creating your listing, take plenty of pictures, and not just of the boat on its trailer or in a boat slip. Photos of your picture-perfect day on the water with family and friends can captivate the imagination of buyers, who might just see themselves in your boat.


Spiff it up

Before you list the boat, give it a thorough vacuuming and cleaning—not just a quick spray down at the car wash either. Wash and wax the hull to make it shine like new, and clean the upholstery. Emptying the storage compartments is a good idea, so the buyers can visualize how their gear fits inside. Make sure the wiring and electrical components are neatly rigged in place.

Helpful hint: If your boat needs more than a quick shine, check out this detailed guide to keeping your clean.


Repair or replace

You don’t want to put more money into the boat, but you should at least inspect the mechanical and electrical components. Replace or repair minor issues that curb any suspicions of neglect. You may want to even have a reputable dealer conduct an evaluation of the boat, a service which most offer.


Nah, I’ll just trade it in

Trading in your boat is a logical option if you want to sell it sooner than later. The upside is the dealership does all the work for you, from handling all the title exchanging and other paperwork, to setting the trade-in payment to you. Before you accept an offer, do the homework by using the same resources used by the dealer. Do the online research of comparable boats for sale, and then find the estimated trade-in and average retail value from the NADA, which stands for National Automobile Dealers Association. It’s basically a car and boat trade-in value guide, where you can find listings for a comparable model. That gives you some inside knowledge when it comes time to negotiate the price.


The bottom line

You stand to get the full value out of the boat by selling it yourself. It’s also worth the extra effort if you aren’t in a hurry to buy a new boat. If you are willing to deal with the negotiating that comes with private sale and the paperwork required for the transaction, then a private sale might be for you.

If you want someone else to do the work and streamline the entire process, then trading in your boat at a dealership is worth consideration. You can sell and upgrade all at the same location, which might be appealing if you are eager to get into the new boat of your dreams. You will also get to take advantage of the tax savings up front by trading the boat in, rather than having to apply and wait for it later.  


Trade in and buy, all in the same place

No matter which you decide, you can trade in your boat and buy new all at the same place—your nearest Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boating Center, where there are more than 130 locations.

Stop by any of the Boating Centers to learn more about their simple process for quickly providing you a good faith trade in value using pictures and information you provide about your boat. A whole team of outfitters with years of experience in the pre-owned market will use national and local resources to determine your boat’s value, making this key factor in your new boat purchase process stress free.

What makes a trade-in or purchase most appealing is having more boats from which to choose, all designed and built by White River Marine Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational boats.

From pontoons for partying and runabouts for watersports to fishing boats for freshwater and saltwater, there is a boat for virtually every need and budget. Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boating Center sells some of the most trusted and popular brands on the water—TRACKER®NITRO®MAKO®SUN TRACKER®REGENCY® and TAHOE®. You will not find a broader selection anywhere else.

What else you will find is a no-pressure way of buying a boat. Your sales consultant will introduce you to our NO HAGGLE NO HASSLE® pricing. That means nationally advertised prices are consistent across the country, from websites, to advertisements, to retail showrooms, so everyone can expect the best deal available every day, no matter where they shop.

You can even take advantage of in-house financing through White River Financial Services. You can also get competitive financing for new and pre-owned boats and even Premier Protection Plans®.


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