Free Boats 2023: How to Find Free or Cheap Boats for Sale (2024)

Are you looking for a boat? We get it, boating is a fun pastime, and there’s nothing like getting out onto the water for some watersports, fishing, or just a relaxing drift across the lake or river.

However, buying a boat is an expensive purchase. Like a car, there are plenty of models available, and you could end up spending anything from $10,000 to millions of dollars for a boat, depending on the model, brand, and length.

Why spend the money buying a new boat when you have options for pre-owned models. Buying pre-owned could save you up to 75% of the costs of buying a new model, sounds great, right?

Well, the only thing better than buying pre-owned is getting a boat for dirt cheap or getting a boat for free!

You read that right. As crazy as it might sound, there are plenty of boats out there in the market where the owner is looking to get rid of it at no cost. If you act quickly, you could score a boat for next to nothing.

We spent hours searching the market looking for free boats. We found that finding a cheap or free boat requires knowing where to look and how to spot a hidden gem. This post unpacks the secrets to finding free or cheap boats. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

Contents

Where Can I Find Cheap Boats for Sale?

Online Classifieds and Marketplaces like Craigslist

The first place to start your hunt for a cheap or free boat is in the classifieds and online marketplaces. There are several large online marketplaces for boats, and we’ve even seen free boats advertised on Facebook marketplace, eBay, and Craigslist.

However, you’ll need to find a recent listing because there are thousands of people out there looking for free boats, and many of them are pre-owned dealers looking to capitalize on a quick flip. So, you’ll have to compete with these buyers when scouring the marketplaces and classifieds for your boat.

We’ll cover some tactics later to keep you ahead of the pack when searching for a new boat. However, for now, let’s look at places where you can find cheap and free boats.

Free Boats 2023: How to Find Free or Cheap Boats for Sale (1)

Industry Magazines

While most publications won’t have any direct listings for free boats, they will have a classified section where people may list cheap boats for sale or free boats. Good Old Boat magazine offers you a listing ofproject boats” selling for under $5,000. These boats will require some maintenance and repairs to bring them up to code, but you’re going to make a massive saving even with these costs included.

Websites

We like browsing through free-boat.com for special boat projects and outstanding deals, and you might find some free boats available on the site as well. Check the free-boat.com Facebook page, and you’ll also find plenty of listings.

Boat Angel

This site has some outstanding deals on used boats. The site donates the proceeds of all sales to charity. So, you get a cheap boat and a chance to help a charity – it’s a win/win.

Boneyard Boats

This Facebook page is another excellent resource for finding cheap and free boats.

Wooden Boat Magazine

This publication features a “Free Boats” section in every issue.

Marine Auctions

Attending a marine auction is another great method of finding cheap boats. The boats going up for auction may come from repossessions, written-off or salvaged vessels, or seized vessels.

Many auctions sell the boat for outstanding debt owed to the bank or lender, and you could end up picking up a real steal.

You’ll find boat auctions accompanying car auctions, and some dedicated marine auctions specialize in boats and other watercraft around coastal cities.

Most auction houses post a pre-auction list of their inventory, and you have the option to view the boat before attending the auction, so you don’t waste your time.

Boatyards and Marinas

The best deals never make it to online marketplaces or classifieds in many cases. Sometimes, the best option is to scout local marinas and boatyards for deals. Call around the local marinas and speak to the harbormaster.

They’ll know if anyone is selling a boat in the marina, and they can often point you in the right direction or give you the sellers’ contact details.

In many cases, the harbormaster might be dealing with abandoned boats they need to get out of the marina or boatyard, and you could end up landing an amazing deal.

Free Boats 2023: How to Find Free or Cheap Boats for Sale (2)

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Boat?

Hurricane Season

If you live around Florida or the Gulf coast, check the listings in your area after extreme weather events like severe storms and hurricanes.

These weather events often damage boats, and the owners are just looking to get rid of them. You could spend a few thousand dollars in repairs and end up with a great deal.

Off-Season

At the end of the boating season, you’ll start to see more deals flood the classifieds and online marketplaces.

When the colder weather rolls around, many sellers look to get rid of their boats to avoid paying marina or dry storage fees during the winter. Search volumes for boats also nosedive at this time of the year, and you’ll find less competition in the market looking for a good deal.

Divorce Season

The peak season for filing for divorce is between March and August. Keep your eye on the market during this time, and you can find a boat at a great price.

If the owner’s partner wins the boat in the settlement, they might not know what it’s worth, and they’ll be keen to sell because they don’t want it, and they would rather have cash in hand than a boat.

Tips for Finding Free or Cheap Boats

Look Outside Sticky Price Points

It’s a good idea to search for deals outside certain price thresholds. For instance, some owners might sell their boat for $5,000, $10,000, etc. If you enter a price slightly above this “sticky” threshold, you’ll find you get a lot more inventory appearing in your search.

Don’t worry about going over budget. Research shows that many boat owners are negotiable with pricing, and the average closing price is around 20% to 30% less than the asking price in many cases.

Change Your Search Spelling

While you might know how to spell “Bayliner,” that doesn’t mean that the owner does, it’s a good idea to use incorrect spelling and formats when running your searches. For instance, you could search “Bay Liner” instead of “Bayliner.”

Use Tech to Get a Deal – Set Up Automatic Search Alerts

Fortunately, thanks to the power of the internet, finding a cheap or free boat is a lot easier than it was a few decades ago. Tech can help you find a great deal and move on it before anyone else even realizes the listing is available.

Set up search alerts for specific keywords involving your boat criteria. Whenever a new listing drops on the platform, you’ll receive an instant notification telling you about the listing.

Setup Browser Extensions

Your popup notification scanner runs through the entire Craigslist database every five seconds. The AI will bring any new listings meeting your criteria to your attention. Using “Craigslist Peek” allows you to preview a gallery of each listing to save you time opening all the individual deals.

Free Boats 2023: How to Find Free or Cheap Boats for Sale (3)

Use Tracking Apps for Your Searches

The Craigslist mobile app, “CPlus” is available for Android and iOS devices. Download it and set the app up to search for a listing meeting your boat criteria. The app has handy features, such as allowing you to search multiple cities at once.

How to Quality a Pre-Owned Boat Listing

Finding a cheap or free boat on classified listings and websites is just a numbers game. Eventually, if you persist with your hunt, it’s only a matter of time before you stumble across the deal you have in mind.

However, sellers can use tactics to trick you, and it’s challenging to call them out, especially if you’re buying a boat that’s hours away from where you live.

The last thing you want is to spend four hours in a car to view a boat, only to reach the seller and find it’s not what they were advertising. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your boat hunting.

Avoid Scammers

You can avoid scams by looking for red flags in the listings. Some warning signs to look for include stock images of boats and sellers that refuse viewing of the boat before the sale. If you don’t get a good feeling from the seller, it’s better just to walk away and continue searching.

Setup a Qualifying List

Write down your boat criteria before you start your hunt for a cheap or free boat. What do you want from a boat? Will you accept anything? Or do you have a specific model in mind or other qualifying criteria like teak, low-hour motors, and such?

Ask the Owner for More Photos

While many listings come with photos, these are often the best images selected by the seller. Ask the seller to send you more photos, including pictures of all sides of the boat, and the hull, if it’s in dry storage or on the trailer. If the boat is in good condition, the owner should have no issue sending you more pictures.

Drop By the Marina

If the boat you’re looking at purchasing is close by, swing by the marina for a look.

Don’t Waste the Sellers Time

Be upfront about your requirements with the seller, and don’t waste their time or yours. If you’re looking at getting a discount on the asking price, ask the owner if the price is negotiable before you go to view the vessel.

Move Fast on Free Boat Listings

If a free boat listing drops on Craigslist or a marketplace, the chances are that it won’t be there for very long. As mentioned, there are thousands of other people and dealers looking for boats.

While the tips so far will provide you with an edge in the market, that edge won’t last long. If you see a great deal, take action immediately, don’t beat around the bush. Some deals can go in minutes after listing, and you need prompt action to capitalize on the deal.

Free Boats 2023: How to Find Free or Cheap Boats for Sale (4)

Check the Repair Costs

If you’re buying a cheap boat or taking a free boat off the owner’s hands, make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into before finalizing the deal.

While many boats only require minor repairs, some models may have structural damage that’s expensive to repair. You could end up buying a lemon that costs you as much as a new boat in repairs. So, it’s a good idea to take a specialist inspector along with you to view the boat.

You might have to pay them for their services, but you’ll have a clear indication of what’s wrong with the boat and how much it will cost to repair. This strategy prevents you from making an expensive mistake.

Wrapping Up

One of the issues with finding great deals is that it might be too good to be true. There are tens of thousands of boats stolen every year, especially around the Florida area. The authorities never recover more than 60% of all stolen boats.

As a result, many of these stolen boats end up on the secondary market. If you’re purchasing a boat on the pre-owned market and the deal seems too good to be true, you might be looking at a stolen boat.

If the cops catch you with a stolen boat, they’ll arrest you on-site, and you’ll have to face the court system, even if you’re innocent. If the deal sounds too good to be true, ask the seller to send you a photo of the HIN plate.

Check with your local authorities to see if there is any outstanding theft docket open for the boat. However, some thieves may even swap out HIN plates, so make sure you get them to take photos of all the identifying serial numbers on the boat.

If the seller refuses, walk away from the deal, it’s not worth the hassle of winding up in trouble with the law.

Free Boats 2023: How to Find Free or Cheap Boats for Sale (2024)

FAQs

Is it hard to sell a boat? ›

Selling your boat is a big decision. If you've already got your next boat picked out, in many cases, you'll have to part with the old one. Unfortunately, selling a boat can sometimes be a long process—but there are some tricks to follow to sell your boat fast.

Can I buy a boat and sail anywhere? ›

Yes, you can legally sail around the world. However, some jurisdictions require legal documentation, such as proof of boat ownership and a visa when entering another country's port. You'll also want to make sure you're in the appropriate type of boat.

How much is a sea faring boat? ›

Ocean boats for sale on Boat Trader are available for a swath of prices, valued from $778 on the more affordable end all the way up to $15,513,124 for the most luxury model vessels.

Where is the best place to sell sailboats? ›

If you want to sell your boat quickly, safely, and for the best price, then you should sell your boat online. More specifically, you should list it for sale on boats.com, Boat Trader, or YachtWorld. Yes, full disclosure, our company owns these sites, but that isn't the only reason we're advocating for them.

Do any boats hold their value? ›

Established and reputable brands often hold their value better than lesser-known counterparts. Popular and well-regarded models are also more likely to attract buyers and retain their value over time. The condition and performance of a boat's engine and mechanical systems significantly impact its resale value.

Do boats keep their value? ›

When asking which boats hold their value, depreciation plays a major role. Expect at least 10% to 15% depreciation over the first year, if the boat was purchased new. After that, a boat will typically depreciate about 20% to 30% by the fifth year and a total of 30% to 40% by the tenth year.

Can you buy a boat and live on it? ›

Most marinas require an application for you to move aboard permanently. In some areas, liveaboards aren't permitted or there are long waiting lists. Liveaboard slip fees are usually higher and your insurance rates may increase if your boat becomes your primary residence.

Can you legally sail across the ocean? ›

Yes. It is legal to sail around the world and many individuals have done so. It is important to have all the boat's documentation and certificates ready for when you sail into different ports and countries. You will also need your passport and other pertinent travel details (as if you were arriving via airplane).

Is it illegal to sail around the world? ›

In order to sail around the world, many countries will require you to provide your sailing qualifications upon entry. Most marinas do, too. So you can't circumnavigate without obtaining a boat licence, unless you avoid stopping in all the countries that require it.

How much does a 30 ft boat cost? ›

Average boat price
Boat typeSizeNew boat price
Speedboat20 to 30 feet (6 – 9 m)$30,000 to $75,000
Cuddy cabin boat18 to 28 feet (5.5 – 8.5 m)$30,000 to $200,000
Trawler80 to 90 feet (24.5 – 27.5 m)$90,000 to $500,000+
12 more rows

How much is a sloop? ›

Sloop sailing vessels for sale on YachtWorld are offered at a swath of prices from $6,580 on the relatively lower-priced, classic models all the way up to $3,802,354 for the most extravagant models.

How much is a sea worthy boat? ›

On average, you can purchase a seaworthy mid-range 45-foot monohull that can sail around the world for $100,000 to $150,000 and a catamaran of the same size for around $250,000 to $500,000. Of course, there are boats at both ends of the spectrum and at every price point in between.

What states sell the most boats? ›

The top five states for boat registrations in 2020 were Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, California and Wisconsin, in that order. The Great Lakes region accounted for 33.6 percent of all state boat registrations in 2020.

What state has the most sailboats? ›

Florida is the state with the most registered boats used for recreation, having 8.133% of all recreational boat and yacht registrations in the United States. Florida boat sales also lead the fleet at $4.3 billion in 2020.

Where do sail boats dump their waste? ›

If your boat has a gravity holding tank, you simple open the tank outlet thru-hull and the waste will go from the head, straight thru the holding tank and overboard. Since you are allowed to pump directly overboard while three miles offshore, you are also allowed to empty your holding tank of all waste.

Why are boats so hard to sell? ›

The reason why boats are harder to sell is that boats need more than just simple inspections to check if it's seaworthy and boats are more often costlier than cars.

Do boats have good resale value? ›

Used boat values can vary radically due to location and condition, so there's no hard and fast rule as to just how much a boat will devalue over time. That said, most boats depreciate quite a bit when first sold, then devalue less year by year until, at some point, prices more or less stabilize.

How fast can you sell a boat? ›

Typically, the higher the price, the longer it takes. Figure 8-12 weeks as a baseline. Time of year can also be a factor. There are typically more consumers looking to buy boats in the spring, summer and fall months, but during those times, there is also typically an elevated number of boat listings on the market.

Are boat sales declining? ›

Innovation Takes Center Stage as U.S. Boat Sales Cool Following COVID-Era Demand Surge. NMMA reports new powerboat retail sales are estimated to be down slightly in 2023, approximately 1% to 3%, to 258,000 units.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Carey Rath

Last Updated:

Views: 6047

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Carey Rath

Birthday: 1997-03-06

Address: 14955 Ledner Trail, East Rodrickfort, NE 85127-8369

Phone: +18682428114917

Job: National Technology Representative

Hobby: Sand art, Drama, Web surfing, Cycling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Leather crafting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Pres. Carey Rath, I am a faithful, funny, vast, joyous, lively, brave, glamorous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.