A boat bill of sale is a document that legally transfers the ownership of a boat or other watercraft from a seller to a buyer.
You need a bill of sale form when buying or selling a boat because it outlines the terms of the sale, prevents disputes, and serves as proof of ownership for the buyer so they can register their new boat.
If the boat has an accompanying trailer, you can either record the sale of multiple items on a single bill of sale (for example, a boat, motor, and trailer) or an accompanying trailer bill of sale form.
Boat Bill of Sale Forms
The boat bill of sale form you need depends on what’s included in the sale, and how your boat is registered or documented.
Boat Bill of Sale Requirements
A valid bill of sale for a boat, jet ski, or other watercraft vessel must include:
- Buyer and seller information
- Watercraft description (make, model, hull identification number, condition, etc.)
- Title and registration numbers
- Price and payment method
- Date and location of the sale
- Signatures of the buyer and seller
In some states, a boat bill of sale needs to be notarized for the document to be legally binding.
If the sale includes a warranty, document it on the boat bill of sale. Private sales of boats typically don’t offer warranties, and are sold “as-is” — meaning the buyer agrees to purchase the vessel in its current condition.
How to Write a Boat Bill of Sale (and Sell Your Vessel)
Take these steps to sell your watercraft using a boat bill of sale:
Step 1: Download a blank boat bill of sale
First, you’ll need a printable boat bill of sale template. Download the bill of sale ahead of time and examine it so you know which details are needed to complete the sale.
Step 2: Make sure your boat is ready for sale
Get paperwork in order:
When you’re ready to sell your boat, make sure you have the title and registration for each component (boat, motor, and trailer). Most states require this information for the sale, plus it assures the buyer that you’re the owner and there are no liens (outstanding debts) on the vessel.
If your boat doesn’t have a title, make sure you have the previous bill of sale or purchase agreement to prove that you’re the owner. A potential buyer may also ask to see records of any maintenance work done on the boat to verify its condition.
Clean and photograph your boat:
It’s a good idea to clean the inside and outside your boat and make any necessary repairs or touch-ups. This will help you attract more potential buyers and list your boat at the best price.
A prospective buyer will want to see pictures of your boat, and listings with multiple photos from different angles get more attention in online marketplaces. Take several photos showcasing the features of your boat in good lighting before attempting to sell your watercraft.
Step 3: Find a buyer
Decide whether to sell privately or commercially:
You may wish to hire a broker or dealer to help sell your boat, especially if it’s a higher-cost watercraft.
Selling your boat privately lets you manage the process yourself while eliminating fees and commission costs, but it can be more time-consuming.
Determine market value:
To get an idea of the market value of your boat, you can use a price-checker tool, or simply search for local listings of a similar make and model. Keep in mind that factors such as condition, age, and demand can have a big impact on market value.
Decide on an asking price and the lowest offer you’ll consider before you list.
List your boat online:
There are several websites that help private boat sellers reach buyers. Consider creating multiple listings across sites like Boat Trader, The Hull Truth, and Craigslist to reach a wider audience. For high-end and specialty boats like yachts and sailboats, also try YachtWorld.
In addition to several clear photos of your boat, you should provide a detailed description of the condition and features of the vessel and any accompanying motor, trailer, or accessories.
Make sure you include the following information in your post:
- Make, model, and year
- Repairs or improvements
- Terms of the sale (cash-only, delivery available, etc.)
If you’re willing to offer a warranty on the boat, you should mention it here. Otherwise, you should include terms like “as-is” or “sale final” in the listing description.
Step 4: Fill in boat, motor, and trailer details
Fill out the boat details on the bill of sale, including year, make, model, HIN (hull identification number), dimensions, etc. Your boat’s HIN can usually be found on the right side of the transom (rear of the boat).
Include outboard motor information like serial number, model, and horsepower, which can be found on a plate attached to the motor.
Trailer details like the VIN and weight can be found on a sticker or plaque, usually attached to the frame.
You can use the notes section of your boat bill of sale form to mention additional details about the condition of these components.
Step 5: Fill in the selling price and payment method
Before meeting to complete the sale, the buyer and seller should agree on a price and payment method. The buyer will need to pay sales tax when registering their new boat, but you might choose to split or cover the cost of sales tax by deducting the applicable taxes from the selling price.
If the boat is a gift, simply fill out your relationship to the recipient and the total value of the boat and other items included in the transfer.
Step 6: Fill in buyer and seller information
Once the buyer and seller have agreed on all the details of the transaction, arrange to meet in person to complete the sale. It’s a good idea to have both parties show ID to verify personal details are correct on the form and prevent fraud.
Step 7: Sign and notarize the document
After you’ve completed the boat bill of sale form and received payment in full, you and the buyer can sign the document according to your state’s requirements.
Some states require the buyer and seller to sign in the presence of a notary public for the form to be valid. If your state doesn’t require boat bills of sale to be notarized, it’s still a good idea to have another adult witness the sale in case a dispute arises.
After the sale is complete, make a copy of the bill of sale for your records. The buyer should keep the original copy for registration purposes.