Junk Boat

How to Dispose of a Boat Without Breaking The Bank Or Any Laws

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Many boaters know the saying, “there are two days that are the happiest of a boat owner’s life, the day you buy it, and the day you sell it.”  While that may not be true for everyone, chances are, if you are reading this, the secondary day has come for you.

The longer you’re Out on the Water, the more your boat will degrade. The marine environment is harsh, and without constant care, your teak will fade, your upholstery will get damaged, the fiberglass will get nasty, your bottom will become covered in barnacles, etc.

In time, everything fades. And your boat for the complex or simple piece of machinery it is, will need to either having things replaced or be replaced in its entirety one day.

This includes your once beautiful vinyl seats losing their quality or dangerous elements like toxic waste, boat oils, etc. on your boat.

This article is for those who are looking to junk their boat. What are your options? You probably don’t want to scuttle it in the ocean without telling anyone. Instead, read on to learn how to dispose of a boat without breaking the bank, or breaking any laws.

Find out how you can dispose of your boat so you can either sell it, scrap it, or find a way to continue to use it for a bit longer.


How to Dispose of a Boat

How to Dispose of a Boat

There are four main pathways to disposing of your boat. These are:

  1. Sell the boat if it has any residual value
  2. Donate the boat
  3. Recycle the boat
  4. Pay to have it taken a way

Generally we want to avoid the fourth solution! And in most cases you don’t need to pay for the boat to be removed.

In order to determine your path forward, you’ll need to start by evaluating your existing conditions.

Evaluate Your Existing Conditions and Options

Before you decide to dispose of your boat completely, take the time to look at the boat to get an accurate understanding of what needs to be done, and how bad the situation is.

Also consider how much time and effort you want to invest into getting rid of your boat. If you don’t think it’s going to be worth much, and you’re going to spend a ton of time listing it for sale, fielding questions, etc., it may be best to donate it and be done with it.

Is it Seaworthy?

The first question to ask is whether or not your boat is seaworthy? If it is, there’s a decent chance you’ll be able to sell it. But if not, it may cost more than what the boat is worth to fix. In that case, your best bet is to donate it.

And if there are savageable parts on the boat, you may be able to sell those off individually if you know what everything is and are willing to take the time to list it online.

Each person will land on a different point along the Sell/Donate continuum.

Contact Your Local Marina

Another good option is to contact your local marinas around you to decide on the best way to dispose of your boat. This is because disposal options change based on your location.

Some areas might have a salvages where they take your boat, dismantle it, and sell off the remaining parts. Additionally, they help with removing toxic and dangerous fluids and help with disposing of the equipment effectively.

Boat Disposal WarningJunk Boat 4

When you have to junk your watercraft, you have to make sure it’s done properly. Based on how boats are constructed, they can pose a threat to the environment if they aren’t disposed of properly.

Elements on the boat that can potentially danger the environment are:

  • Solvents
  • Oil
  • Batteries
  • Toxic Waste
  • Gas
  • Plastic
  • Other loose trash
  • Freon in refrigerators

Due to these environmental hazards, you don’t want to junk your boat in an improper way. Never junk your boat by abandoning it or sinking it. Not only is this dangerous to the environment, but it is illegal and will cost thousands of dollars in fines in addition to the costs of demolition and removal.

It is definitely illegal to scuttle a boat. Don’t do it unless you want to pay lots of fines, go to jail, and go through lots and lots of trouble.

Sometimes the best way to dispose of these materials is to contact a company that provided the material. They have the safest way of removing elements such as Toxic Waste, Plastic (Recycling), and Oil at an affordable rate or for free.

There are a number of local companies in most areas that are willing to travel and pick up boats and can even potentially offer a tax write off for the donation/contribution (see below).

You may also want to contact your boat’s insurance carrier regarding your options for sale and disposal.

1. Sell Your Boat

If the boat is seaworthy but is only lacking an engine to move it along, it’s probably saleable. Create an ad listing on the internet site like Boat Trader with a multitude of pictures.

Like yourself, the internet is filled with boating hobbyists who are looking for a remodeling project, and your boat might be the right fit. So look around to see what options for sales and trading are before you dispose of your boat.

2. Donate Your Boat

Junk Boat 2

In many locations throughout the United States and abroad, you can donate your boat to an organization who can either fix it up, recycle it, or junk it as they see fit. Charities like ItsDonated operate throughout much of the United States, and will take your boat away regardless of whether or not it is functional, if it has a trailer, etc.

Donating a non-functional boat that isn’t worth your time to fix is a fantastic solution, and you will certainly get a tax deduction for the donation.

This is by far the best choice for boaters who have a boat that is non-functional that they simply want to get rid of. Typically you can get a tax voucher for $500, and if your boat is more valuable than that, you will get additional tax vouchers as well.

3. Recycle Your Boat

Junk Boat 1

While the first models of fiberglass boats were created in the 1940s, they did not make mainstream popularity until the 1960s. These new boats made it easier for middle-class citizens to afford their own personal boating vehicles. As a result, there was an increase in sales from the 1960s to the 1970s and on.

On average, there are about 30-40 million U.S. boats that are starting to reach their deterioration stage. Sadly most of these boats are unable to be disposed of properly or simply won’t be.

Like cars, boats are made with a lot of valuable materials. However, cars have been designed to operate well during their end-of-life stages.

Almost every part of a car can be taken out and recycled. For boats, it’s not the same story.

Most boats that were manufactured within the past 50 years was made out of fiberglass. While fiberglass is very durable, it’s hard to recycle. Only until recently has recycle-friendly fiberglass been made available.

That said, due to technological and scientific advancements in fiberglass recycling, it’s possible to recycle boats. However, it’s not an easy task.

Still, it’s possible that your boat can be recycled.

Some U.S. boating areas have boat disposal and recycling programs. For instance, California is the best state for this as they have a Vessel Turn-In Program, which allows boat owners to turn their boats to the nearest local agency. After that, they will dispose of your boat properly. While these are more expensive, they help reduce the number of abandoned boats found in marinas.

Unfortunately, most boating disposal programs are limited to just salvage yards and landfills. That is expected to change within the upcoming years.

4. Junk Your Boat

Junk Boat 3

If all else fails, the best way dispose of your boat is to send it to a landfill. Before the boat is sent to a landfill, it needs to have its dangerous components (i.e., oil) removed. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, seek out local boat shops to see if they’ll provide this service. You can also talk to the landfill directly and ask what requirements they have.

Next, find out if you’re able to sell any boat parts. While the boat might no longer be seaworthy, the engine can still be valuable, as well as other pieces of ship equipment. You can either sell the parts online or through local shops.

Most landfills tend to charge a small fee based on your ship’s weight, so make sure you call ahead to see what they do for boats and determine what you want to do with your ship beforehand.

Once you’ve transported the boat to the landfill, it will become dismantled and buried. Taking your boat to a landfill is the worst option, since you’ll have to pay for disposal.

Wooden Boat Disposal

If your wooden boat is in really rough shape, you still might be able to sell it for salvage.

Many furniture makers love recycling boat wood for furniture. You can always try listing it on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace as “Free, take it away!”

What is the Future of Boat Recycling?

In the future, some boating manufacturers have followed techniques from the auto-industry and started to create boats with recycling features in mind.

While these small advances don’t completely solve the problem, they are quick solutions that should be praised. As the boating industry continues to search for more solutions, we’ll see more innovations appear across the U.S. in the form of incentivized programs, nonprofits, and manufacturers working together to avoid a crisis of boat’s piling up.

Removing Boat Lettering

It can be helpful to remove decorative markings, your boat’s name, and other features you’ve added before donating or junking your boat. To remove lettering, follow this guide.

Start by attempting to remove it with a generous application of heat at first. Use a heat gun or a hairdryer (stay safe when using a heat gun because they have enough heating power to blister gelcoat). Heat the sticker’s surface then peel back the sticker slowly by using your hands or a razor.

Even if you are able to remove all of the letterings off the boat, there will still be some sticky residue left. Use a solution like mineral spirits, cleaning alcohol, or lacquer thinner on a rag that can make it easier to rub off.

Then, spray off the remaining residue with WD-400 or Goo Gone. Both substances can remove virtually anything with some adhesive backing.


To conclude, disposing of a boat can be easy, but most of the time, it isn’t. Make sure that you find the required parts that need to be removed and plan to take it out of your boat. Hazardous liquids or material should be removed before even taking it to a landfill. Doing so will prevent you from getting fines and help you dispose of your boat properly.

If you can sell your boat for anything, list it on Boat Trader or simlar auction site. If not, try a donation site like ItsDonated to see if they can take it away and give you a tax deduction. If that doesn’t work, you can try selling off any valuable parts and disposing of it in a landfill, or recycling it if you are in an area that offers any recycling options.

To conclude, while it requires a bit of patience, follow the right procedures to ensure that your boat disposal process is a safe one for you and for the environment.