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How to Become a Boat Dealer

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Boat dealers provide a trading platform for selling new and used boats. These traders must be familiar with the various types of boats on the market, and also possess a thorough understanding of boating business concepts and the laws governing boat use and ownership. A career as a boat dealer is suitable for people with solid business acumen and a passion for boating.

Get Trained

One of the first steps to become a boat dealer is to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the stylistic and mechanical properties of houseboats, cabin cruisers, motorboats, and many other types of commercial and recreational boats. The best way to acquire this knowledge is to pursue an associate degree in marine technology, such as the one offered at the New England Institute of Technology in Rhode Island. The program should also equip you with knowledge of marine business concepts and procedures.

Master the Skills

To become a boat dealer and achieve success, you need the ability to pay close attention to details coupled with strong skills in cost estimation. For example, when a boat owner wants to sell you his vessel -- which you will resell -- you must inspect it, taking note of structural modifications and other features that can affect its cost, and determine its present market value. Strong customer-service and negotiation skills are also useful, as you should attend to clients with tact, and negotiate fair commissions and best boat prices. You also need basic market research skills to, for instance, study the changing vessel preferences of boat owners and determine the kind of boats that are in demand.

Enter the Industry

Early in your career you will start out as boat salesperson, working for an established boat dealership, boat retailer or manufacturer. In states such as Florida and , you will need to obtain a salesperson license to sell yachts and other large boats. You can also secure membership in the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and attend boating conferences and expos, where you can interact with boat owners and grow your client base.

Establish Your Own Dealership

After gaining vast work experience, raising sufficient capital and nurturing your business skills, you can establish your own dealership business. To get started, obtain a state-specific boat dealer license and meet other local requirements for establishing a business. Although the conditions for obtaining a boat dealer license vary by state, you generally need to pay a fixed surety bond and submit information about the physical location of your business. The MRAA offers a Marine Industry Certified Dealership certification, which you can obtain to improve your business' credibility and enhance your chances of attracting more clients.

It may be possible to find a boat dealership for sale. Look for advertisements in industry publications. Word-of-mouth often proves to be an excellent means of getting information. Your contacts in the industry, whether they are other dealers or boaters, may be able to point you in the direction of an independent boat dealership for sale.

Explore Franchise Opportunities

Mercury Marine is a well-known manufacturer of outboard motors and boating accessories with more than 4,000 dealers nationwide. There is an online application process to complete for consideration by the company if you want to establish a Mercury Marine dealership. Eligibility requires that you already have an established boat line and a physical showroom and service facility. If approved for a Mercury Marine dealership, you must commit to using Mercury signage in your business and make minimum annual purchases from the company.


Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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