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How to value a boat

Whether buying or selling a used boat, it can be a daunting process to determine a value for a vessel without expert help and input from many sources. Used boat value is a an inexact process, and unless similar boats can be examined side by side, it is nearly impossible to gauge their relative worth.

There are several on-line sources that compute wholesale and retail values based on input of boat attributes, but the values calculated by these sources can vary widely. Factors that influence the price include, first and foremost, condition – then a multitude of other factors (age, features, ownership and use history, documentation, and location, to name a few).
Value estimates are guidelines
Various boat value estimates may be based on the prices of similar vessels recorded in marine insurance databases, on estimates tendered by experts with years of knowledge in watercraft markets, or value guides from other marine industry sources. Unless a boat is inspected and appraised by a qualified marine appraiser, boat values are not vessel-specific . Rather, they are averages all similar boats of the same year and model with standard equipment produced by a certain manufacturer. There are several on-line sources for this type of valuation. Some services are free and others require membership or website subscription.
• NADA Boat Value Guide: www.nadaguides.com/Boats
• BUC International Values: www.bucvalu.com/ 
• BoatUS Value Guide: www.boatus.com/buyer/valueform.asp
• Boat Trader Price Checker: www.boattrader.com/research/tools/price-checker
• iBoats Boat Price Guide: www.iboats.com/boatprices.html 
• BoatFax.com Value Guide: www.boatfax.com/
To get the best approximate value for a boat, average values from several of these sources (for example, NADA, BUC, and iBoats), then try to find prices for at least four similar vessels and again average these prices with the average value guide prices. This method should yield a target price that is useful in buying or selling a vessel.
Appraisals are recommended
Marine appraisals take every element of a specific vessel into account to determine not only market value, but also replacement value. This is important for insuring a boat for a sufficient amount to compensate the owner in the case of a loss. When a boat is inspected and appraised by a professional appraiser, it is closely examined for seaworthiness, safety, and legal compliance in addition to marketability and other considerations. Condition is always the most significant factor when placing value on a vessel. If a boat has significant value, appraisals are always recommended. Both a comprehensive marine survey and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary safety inspection should be included to accurately assess the value of any boat.
Marine Survey
A full condition and value (C&V) marine survey includes an estimate of current market value and the replacement cost, should the boat be replicated, in current dollars. A detailed analysis of the hull construction and condition, and evaluation of the serviceability of all major systems ( electrical, fuel, propulsion, auxiliary systems, rigging, etc.) is conducted to certify the seaworthiness of the boat.
A satisfactory marine survey is a clean bill of health for any boat, and generally any vessel with a current survey is worth more than one without certification.
Vessels are checked for compliance with current boating safety standards established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), and U.S. Coast Guard standards. Marine surveyors affiliated with the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) and the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) are acceptable to marine insurance underwriters. 
USCGAUX Safety Inspection
Safety inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCGAUX) are free. Vessels that pass these safety checks are awarded a USCGAUX Decal that is visible evidence that the boat is in full compliance with all Federal and State boating laws for the current year. These safety inspections are accepted by all maritime enforcement agencies:
  • U.S. Coast Guard 
  • Harbor Patrol
  • State Law Enforcement Officers
  • Local Law Enforcement Officers
  • Game Wardens and Park Rangers
The Auxiliary safety inspection shows a boat is safe and fully equipped to meet regulatory requirements, so it is another factor that can increase the value of any vessel. Marine insurance agencies generally offer discounts for vessels which undergo an annual safety check.
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