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What to Do After You’ve Salvaged Your Boat?

There’s an old saying that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. For those boat owners who have had to salvage it off the bottom of a lake or ocean, the day they get rid of it can’t come soon enough. Unfortunately, that is often easier said than done.

The costs of repairing a vessel recently raised from the depths of Davy Jones Locker are often much more than the boat’s worth. While the temptation to leave it at the bottom and hope nobody will notice is against the law, if John Q. Marine Law finds your boat, it won’t be hard to trace it back to you.

We’re going to look at several options you have to get rid of your damaged boat.

How to Get Rid of Your Boat?

The most obvious answer to this question is to sell it. If there’s any value left, someone will eventually buy it, although you should properly set your expectations. If you’re lucky enough to find a buyer, you’ll probably get pennies on the dollar.

To that point, there are a few online websites, such as, that advertise on their website:

“Cash paid on some 1995 or newer complete boats!”

The keyword here is “complete.” If your boat is missing valuable salvage parts, such as a motor, the overall cash payout will rapidly decrease. In some cases, you might have to pay them to take the boat off your hands.

Salvage Yards

One of the biggest surprises to boat owners who want to get rid of that leaky hunk of fiberglass is that a salvage yard only offers a little money. This rationale is based on the fact that boats are made of fiberglass, which is tough to recycle.

The salvage yards need to make money on anything they take in. Since recycling fiberglass is difficult, they will be reluctant to accept your boat. In some rare situations, they might be kind enough to allow you to drop it off, and they won’t pay you, and you won’t pay them. The bottom line is that you should mentally prepare yourself to take a loss one way or the other.

If you’re lucky enough to find a salvage yard willing to take your boat, they’ll strip it of everything it thinks it can sell. After that, it will often find its way into a local landfill, where it will be buried and remain in its current non-biodegradable state for hundreds of years to come. This unromantic ending happens to many vessels regardless of whether they’ve sunk to the bottom.

Other Options

If a salvage yard won’t take your boat, there are a few other options:

  • Donating
  • Landfill
  • Free Boat

Donate It—There are a few 501(c)(3) non-profits that might take the vessel off your hands. Wheels for Wishes is one of many charitable organizations that might take an interest in your boat. The keyword here is “might.” They don’t have to take your boat, and many times, they won’t for various reasons, so be prepared to show some gratitude if they do you a favor.

Dump It—Some landfills might take your boat for free, or they could charge a few hundred dollars. The downside of a landfill is that it can negatively impact the environment for hundreds of years to come.

Give It Away—Nothing says, “Please take this rotting hunk of un-seaworthy fiberglass off my hands,” like an ad in the local classifieds or online newspaper. You can even sweeten the deal by offering them a few dollars to persuade them to take it sooner rather than later.

Boat Salvage Services

At American Underwater Services, we have over 25 years of experience helping boat owners retrieve their sunken vessels off the bottom of lakes, rivers, and the ocean.

Call (817) 377-8512 or fill out our form to learn more about our various commercial diving and marine salvage services.



Anthony Di Iulio the founder, president and co-owner of American Underwater Services, Inc., started his business in 1999 with only three employees. Today this commercial diving company employs nearly 30 people and handles over 500 projects annually. Anthony moved to Fort Worth from Louisiana with his family in 1976. He worked summers during high school welding underwater for a marina on Benbrook Lake. Eventually he took scuba lessons after almost drowning on the job. Those lessons led him to training at a deep sea diving school in Houston, which included training on offshore oil rigs. Anthony spent several years in Louisiana working on offshore rigs and on inland jobs at power plants and dams before starting American Underwater Services, Inc.


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