Selling a Boat in Florida: Law & Legal Checklist

George Margas

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Selling a Boat in Florida Law & Legal Checklist

Selling a boat in Florida isn’t just about finding a buyer and shaking hands on a deal. It’s a process that’s regulated by specific laws to ensure every transaction is above board. I’ve navigated these waters and I’m here to guide you through the legalities that’ll make your sale smooth sailing.

From drafting a bill of sale to transferring the title, there are steps you’ve got to follow to the letter. I’ve learned that overlooking even the smallest detail can lead to choppy waters later on. So let’s dive in and make sure you’re fully prepared to legally pass the helm to your boat’s new captain.

Understanding the Laws

Navigating the legal landscape when selling a boat in Florida is critical. I’m well-versed in the rules and regulations governing these transactions, and I’m here to share my insights with you. It’s imperative to understand that Florida law requires a title for all boats except for non-motorized vessels under 16 feet in length. As a seller, you’re responsible for providing the buyer with a proper title that must be transferred to their name.

Additionally, you must ensure that the bill of sale is thorough and accurate. This legally binding document should include:

  • Both parties’ full names and addresses
  • Detailed description of the boat
  • Purchase price and payment terms
  • Odometer reading (for boats with motors)
  • Date of sale

Remember, this bill of sale serves as proof of transfer of ownership and is essential for the buyer to register the boat under their name. It’s also a good practice to keep a copy for your records.

The Sales Tax on boats in Florida is also something that can’t be overlooked. As of my current knowledge, the state tax rate is 6%, with the possibility of additional county taxes. Buyers are generally responsible for paying the sales tax, but as the seller, you should be aware of the implications and the correct tax amount that applies.

Don’t forget that safety regulations are equally important. If the boat has any safety equipment included in the sale, such as life jackets or fire extinguishers, these items must meet U.S. Coast Guard standards. It’s one of the subtler details, but making sure everything is up to code avoids any complications for the buyer down the line.

When selling your boat, staying mindful of these requirements will help ensure that all legal aspects of the sale are covered. This not only protects you but also lays the groundwork for a fair and transparent transaction for the buyer. It’s all about due diligence and making sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed before handing over the keys.

Preparing the Documentation

When selling a boat in Florida, the preparation of the required documentation is crucial. I’ll walk you through the essentials to ensure your transaction is as smooth as possible. First and foremost, you’ll need the boat title, which acts as the primary proof of ownership. If there’s an outstanding loan on the boat, you must obtain a payoff statement from your lender.

Alongside the title, a bill of sale is imperative. This document should include:

  • The boat’s make, model, and year
  • The hull identification number (HIN)
  • The sale date and price
  • Names and addresses of both buyer and seller
  • A statement confirming the boat is free from any encumbrances, unless otherwise stated
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Do not underestimate the importance of the bill of sale, as it protects both parties if any disputes arise post-transaction. Additionally, you should ensure that the bill of sale is notarized if the boat is over a certain length — typically 16 feet — as this is a Florida requirement.

Another essential document is the Florida Title Transfer Form (HSMV 82050 form), which you’ll need to submit to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). This form will officially transfer ownership of the boat to the buyer. Be thorough when filling it out to prevent any processing hiccups.

Lastly, don’t forget to provide the buyer with service records and warranty documents if available. These records can boost the buyer’s confidence and potentially facilitate a faster sale.

Remember, mishandling or omitting any of these documents could delay or even jeopardize your sale. Attention to detail will make the transaction legitimate and binding, giving peace of mind to both parties involved. My advice is to organize the documentation early in the sale process, as this shows potential buyers that you’re a responsible and trustworthy seller.

Inspecting Your Boat

Before listing my boat for sale in Florida, I always ensure it undergoes a comprehensive inspection. This is not just about making the boat more appealing to potential buyers, but also about making sure that the sale process is transparent and that the boat is up to par with safety standards.

A thorough inspection includes checking the hull for any damage or signs of wear. I closely examine the engine and electrical systems, as mishaps here could lead to costly repairs down the line. It’s vital for all lights and navigation equipment to be in working order, which reassures buyers that they’re making a sound investment.

The inspection also extends to the boat’s interior. Upholstery should be clean and intact, and onboard systems like the bilge pump and sanitation facilities must be operational. To sweeten the deal, I also make all necessary repairs before showing the boat to prospective buyers. After all, a well-maintained boat commands a higher price and sells faster.

For those who aren’t seasoned boaters, hiring a professional marine surveyor could be a smart move. They’ll provide an impartial assessment of the boat’s condition and value. A detailed survey report can be a powerful selling tool, potentially easing buyer hesitations and expediting the sale.

Lastly, I prepare a written record of the boat’s inspection results. Detailed maintenance logs and service records are not only proof of the boat’s condition but also demonstrate my commitment as a seller to transparency and due diligence. It’s an approach that builds trust and signals a well-cared-for vessel.

With my boat’s inspection complete and all the necessary documentation prepared, I’m ready to move forward with the sale, confident that my due diligence will pay off in the form of a smooth and legal transaction.

Advertising and Finding Buyers

When I’m ready to put my boat on the market, I recognize the vast array of options available to advertise it. The internet is often my starting point due to its broad reach and efficiency. Online listings, such as boat-specific websites, marine classifieds, and auction platforms, can dramatically increase the visibility of my vessel to potential buyers nationwide. I make sure to include comprehensive and high-quality photos along with a detailed description highlighting key selling points such as recent upgrades, engine hours, and unique features.

Social media platforms also play a crucial role in my advertising strategy. By posting on boating groups and forums, I leverage the power of community to find interested buyers. Word of mouth is sometimes underestimated, but I’ve learned it’s quite effective within boating circles. I always alert my personal network that I’m selling my boat and ask them to spread the word.

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Placing ads in local marinas, boating clubs, or publications can attract buyers who are already invested in the boating lifestyle. They’re often seeking their next vessel and may very well be the perfect match for my boat.

To ensure I’m not missing any opportunities:

  • I use a mix of high-resolution images and videos to showcase the boat’s condition and features.
  • I craft detailed and honest descriptions to pre-empt any questions and build trust with potential buyers.
  • I stay updated on current market trends to price my boat competitively, which I’ve found to be a compelling factor in attracting serious inquiries.

Meeting buyers can be time-consuming, so I always screen inquiries thoroughly. This way, I ensure that I’m showing my boat to serious buyers and not to those who are just casually browsing with no intention to purchase.

Whether you’re selling your first boat or have been through this process before, presenting your boat favorably and reaching out to the right audience are key steps in finding a buyer who is not just willing but eager to take the helm.

Negotiating the Sale

When it comes to selling a boat in Florida, negotiating the sale is a crucial step that can make a significant difference in the final outcome. Knowing the market value of your boat is key. I always ensure that I’m well-informed by researching similar models, their condition, and pricing. This market insight is invaluable when it comes time to discuss prices with potential buyers.

I start by setting a fair asking price. It’s not just about what I hope to get for the boat; it’s about setting a realistic price that will attract serious buyers but also gives me some room to negotiate. I’m transparent with prospective buyers about why I’ve priced the boat as I have, detailing the upkeep, enhancements, and any unique features that might justify a higher price point.

The art of negotiation also involves being prepared to make concessions. I decide in advance what my bottom line is—the absolute minimum price I’m willing to accept. This doesn’t mean I share this figure with buyers right off the bat, but it’s essential for me to have this number in mind.

During the negotiation phase, communication is crucial. I maintain an open line with potential buyers, answer their questions promptly, and schedule viewings that are convenient for them. I know that flexibility can help to build rapport and trust, two factors that might just tip the balance in my favor.

When an offer is on the table, I review it carefully. I don’t hesitate to counter-offer if it’s below my expectations but always endeavor to keep negotiations cordial. It’s important to respond promptly to any offers I receive, as a delay could mean the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity.

Lastly, I make sure all negotiations are documented. Any agreements regarding price adjustments, repairs, or specific terms need to be included in the final bill of sale. This isn’t just good practice—it’s also a requirement under Florida law to ensure that all terms of the sale are clear and legally binding.

Completing the Transaction

Once negotiations have concluded and you’ve agreed on a sale price, completing the transaction becomes your next priority. It’s critical to ensure that all paperwork is in order. In Florida, the title transfer is a key part of the process. Don’t just sign over the title; witness the buyer’s signature to validate the transaction. It’s also essential to fill in the buyer’s information accurately to avoid any future legal complications.

Remember to remove your registration decal and license plate from the boat before the new owner takes possession. You’ll want to provide the buyer with a temporary permit if they need to transport the boat immediately after the purchase.

Documentation is vital throughout the entire transaction. Make sure to keep copies of every record and document, especially the bill of sale, which should include:

  • The date of the sale
  • The agreed-upon sale price
  • Names and addresses of both buyer and seller
  • Boat’s make, year, and hull identification number (HIN)
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Understanding sales tax implications is another important facet of the sale. In Florida, unless exempt, sales tax is applicable to boat transactions. You’re responsible for collecting the tax from the buyer at the time of the sale. The current Florida state sales tax rate can be found on the Department of Revenue’s website. Here’s a quick glance at the tax rates:

TypeTax Rate
State Sales Tax6%
Discretionary TaxUp to 1.5%

Moreover, when it comes to safety equipment, use the U.S. Coast Guard guidelines as your checklist to ensure everything is accounted for and in working condition. Review the list with the buyer and make sure they understand what is included in the sale.

Lastly, don’t forget to notify the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) and your insurance company of the sale. Keeping these entities informed helps protect you post-sale and ensures the boat is legally registered and insured under the new owner without delay.


Selling a boat in Florida requires attention to detail and a solid understanding of state-specific legalities. I’ve walked you through the essentials, from the importance of a clean title transfer to the intricacies of sales tax. Remember, documentation is key, and a comprehensive bill of sale is non-negotiable. As you finalize the sale, don’t forget to witness the buyer’s signature, remove any registration identifiers, and hand over a temporary permit if necessary. Stay diligent and informed, and you’ll navigate this process with confidence, ensuring a smooth and legally compliant transaction. Good luck with your sale, and may your next nautical adventure be just as rewarding!

Frequently Asked Questions

To legally sell a boat in Florida, you must transfer the title and provide a bill of sale. Ensure all information is accurate and complete. Additionally, safety equipment included must meet U.S. Coast Guard standards.

Is a bill of sale necessary when selling a boat in Florida?

Yes, a bill of sale is essential when selling a boat in Florida. It documents the transaction and should list comprehensive details of the sale, including any included safety equipment.

Do I have to collect sales tax when selling my boat in Florida?

Yes, sales tax is applicable on boat sales in Florida. The seller is responsible for collecting the appropriate sales tax based on the rate in the jurisdiction where the boat is sold.

What should I do with the boat’s registration decals and license plates after the sale?

After the sale, remove the boat’s registration decals and license plates. These should not be transferred to the new owner as they are tied to the seller’s registration.

Is witnessing the buyer’s signature on the title transfer important?

Yes, it’s important to witness the buyer’s signature on the title transfer to ensure the legality of the document. This process confirms that the buyer acknowledges the transfer of ownership.

Can I provide the buyer with a temporary permit for the boat in Florida?

Yes, if required, you can provide the buyer with a temporary permit, which allows them to operate the boat while the permanent registration is being processed.

What actions should I take with the relevant authorities after selling my boat?

After selling your boat, notify the relevant Florida maritime authorities and your insurance company about the change in ownership to update the records accordingly.

What information should be included in the bill of sale?

The bill of sale should include the boat’s make, model, year, hull identification number (HIN), registration number, sale price, date of sale, names and signatures of the buyer and seller, and any other pertinent details or agreements related to the sale.

Author Profile

George Margas
George Margas
Hello, I’m George Margas, the founder of this platform dedicated to exploring the fascinating world of laws and the justice system. While I’m not a lawyer by profession, my passion for the intricacies of legal systems has driven me to create this space as a comprehensive resource for legal enthusiasts, students, and anyone intrigued by the complexities of the law.