Commonly referred to as "blue-books" because the early price guides in the automobile industry had blue covers, used boat price guides are used by boat dealers to figure trade-in allowances, by insurance agents to set values, and by marine surveyors for their evaluations. Even the IRS uses these price guide books to determine if you’re enjoying more money than you claim to be earning.
There are three generally accepted price guides in the U.S.: the BUC Used Price Guide, the NADA Marine Appraisal Guide, and the ABOS Marine Blue Book. Each uses a different method of calculating values, which means that the values in these books for the same boat can vary by a sizable amount.
While you probably won’t want to invest in one of these blue books before you trade in your boat, determine which price guide your dealer is using, and compare the value with the other guides. You can usually find copies at marine insurance agents or banks that handle boat financing.
BOAT/US, (800) 473-2869, also has a useful pricing service available to members called the Value Check program, which provides price guidelines for specific boat models by telephone or via the Internet. BOAT/US uses the blue books already mentioned, but it also relies heavily on a huge marine insurance database that helps them price boats geographically, by the time of year, and by usage.
When it comes to the blue books, take the values with a grain of salt, and don’t base your negotiations for either trade-in or direct sale solely on blue book prices. Always get a deal that makes you happy.