There are established standards for sea trials leading to a vessel’s certification, but unless a buyer insists on a survey, a casual boat ride is usually all that is expected.
Serious buyers will insist on a sea trial before buying, especially if your boat is uncommon or complicated. A chance to get out and share the enjoyment of being on the water is a great way to sell the “dream,” which will help sell the boat.
Less serious buyers may just be looking for a joy ride at your expense. To avoid wasting your time, try to get a buyer to agree to a price before you leave the dock. For a larger boat, it would not be uncommon to retain a refundable deposit and signed contract with an “acceptance of vessel clause” with regard to a successful sea-trial.
Here are some tips to get the most out of a sea trial:
- If your boat is stored out of the water or has not been used recently, take your own test ride first to make sure everything is operating correctly.
- Keep the additional “riders” to a minimum.
- Choose a protected location, unless the buyer specifically requests open water.
- Give the buyer a chance to look things over before getting underway.
- Offer the buyer a chance to steer, assuming s/he has demonstrated boating experience.
- Show off the boat’s best features, but don’t highlight any known negative aspects.
- Answer all questions positively and honestly.
Unless other arrangements are made up front, the seller should expect to cover any expenses associated with a sea trial. And at all times, remember that you are in charge. If you do turn over command, remain close by in case of an emergency.