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Thursday, October 19, 2023

Yacht Brokers vs. Boat Dealers: What's the Difference?

Yacht Brokers vs. Boat Dealers: Your Guide to Smooth Sailing Explore the differences for a seamless boat buying or selling experience!

Buying or selling a used boat or exploring what is available in brand new boats inventory is an exciting time. You can almost smell the sea and open water as you browse online for a particular boat model or figure out what amenities will fit your needs best in the pre owned boat market.

The challenge is how to seal the deal. Do you work with a private seller with a used boat you’ve always wanted? Or do you navigate the services of yacht brokers or dedicated boat dealers to complete the sale for you?

Grasping the distinctions between these entities is crucial, as it can dramatically affect your experience in both buying and selling within the boat market. The primary difference is that a boat dealer works with specific models and may partner with a dealership, while a yacht broker is more like a real estate agent connecting buyers and sellers. 

What is a Boat Dealer?

Let’s start with the world of boat dealers. A professional boat dealer deals with new or used boat models. They will typically have a lot of inventory, similar to a boat dealership. Think of them like car salespeople who prefer to sell new boats because of the high commissions they can earn. 

Boat dealers will help you locate the particular boat models you want by acting as a liaison between you and any brand’s manufacturers. They can also suggest comparable models or find specific boat brands for you but will most likely redirect you to the brands and models they sell the most.

When working with a boat dealer, you want to shop for a new boat during the off season. This is when your favorite cabin cruiser drops a little in price because demand is down and the manufacturer is trying to offload stock. It also helps to visit boat shows to find the perfect boat before contacting a boat dealer for the pricing you can expect. 

You never want to underestimate last year’s models. A good boat dealer will help you see the cost savings and benefits of older boats, but it still helps to educate yourself before you schedule a visit. While you’re there, don’t think you’ll have a lot of negotiating power. Boat dealers often operate on razor-thin margins and don’t have much wiggle room for pricing. 

How is a Yacht Broker Different?

On the other hand, boat brokers operate on a more comprehensive model, offering various services for the boat market. From managing sea trials to negotiating with private sellers, boat brokers chart a course through the often-turbulent waters of the used boat and yacht sales markets.

A yacht broker represents both you (the buyer) and other parties (the sellers). Their role is to market, manage, secure financing, and close a deal. That is the only time they earn a commission.

With such a comprehensive range of services, yacht brokers will likely have more extensive networks of inventory on a national level. You can often find brokers specializing in specific models along your boat buying journey and can secure the right boat for your unique needs.

The other significant advantage is that they handle all the paperwork and valuations. A good yacht broker is like a horse salesperson. They can look at a boat and get the proper documentation, surveys, and valuation for financing and investment comparisons.

Working with a yacht broker will give you more personalized services. They operate on anywhere from a 5-10% commission, so you want to find one you trust. This is like having a reliable lawyer or stockbroker.

Be sure to ask about their network of financing, insurance, and more services, and never get talked out of a survey for your boat. You want that extra reassurance when purchasing a new boat. Finally, make sure your yacht broker has solid communication skills. Whether you’re buying a pontoon boat or a deck boat, you want someone who can speak the lingo.

There’s Always FSBO Boats

For the adventurous sailor looking for a quicker, potentially less expensive acquisition, For Sale By Owner (FSBO) boats also pose a viable route, albeit with their own set of challenges and waves to navigate in the form of verifications and paperwork.

Whenever you purchase used boats from a private seller, you want to test drive the vessel and look at every detail, from swivel chairs to diesel engines. You also will need to verify all documentation on your own, and that can be treacherous if you live in a state where a misspelled word or uncrossed “t” can lead to issues with insurance and ownership. 

That being said, you are likely to find a more cost-effective purchase. It is up to you if that is worth the added headache. 

What About Selling My Boat?

Selling a boat, be it through yacht brokers or a boat dealer, comes with its own tide of considerations, with each route offering different benefits depending on your circumstances, the type of boat, and the boat market conditions.

In most cases, you will sell a boat through a yacht broker because, again, they are more like real estate agents. While some boat dealers will accept your used boat as a trade-in or future sale, they will still push the brands they like the most.

A yacht broker will focus on offloading your boat. They will work hard to make the sale because that is where they earn the commissions. A yacht product will likely spend nights trying to market your vessel.


Whether engaging with boat dealers or yacht brokers, knowing the tides of each domain ensures that your buying or selling experience is nothing short of plain sailing. It all comes down to your comfort level and who you trust more. 

The best thing to do is meet with different brokers and dealers. Get to know them and read up on their reputations through review boards and social media. That will give you a much better idea of who has your best interests at heart. 


What percentage do yacht brokers charge? 

Yacht brokers work on commission regardless of boat size or marine survey. They typically take 10% of the purchase price on commission. 

Do I need a broker to buy a yacht? 

It depends on the seller. You can find some private sales, but a yacht broker will have a vast network of connections to help you locate the specific boat model you want. 

What are the different types of yacht brokers? 

The most common you find are charter brokers, listing brokers, and sales brokers. The difference is that a listing broker represents the seller, and the selling broker represents the buyer. As for charter brokers, they manage charter yachts and work with companies representing either the owner or the charterer. 

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