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Got a boat for sale? Have we got a deal for you. We’ll help you sell it, and it won’t cost you anything. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Gratis.

Most of you are probably familiar with Boaters Bargains, the boat classified ads we publish on the last few pages of every edition. I want to let you know about a major change we’re making to WaterLine, effective as you read this.

Used to be that if you wanted to sell your boat (or car, or dining room table, or alarm clock collection), you had limited options. A lot of people turned to classified ads in local newspapers. It was the best way to reach a lot of people for little cost.

Then eBay came along and people started listing their more unique items with them. It worked well to connect sellers and niche buyers, but it was too expensive for most sellers and the hassle of shipping made it difficult.

Enter Craigslist, which was a lot like those newspaper classifieds — except it was free. Around the country, sellers abandoned classified listings in favor of free online ads.

Now classified ads compete with LetGo, Facebook Marketplace and some other smaller websites. But if you’re a Sun subscriber, you probably know that we still have a large classifieds section — one of the biggest in the country.

There are two reasons: Demographics (older people often think of classifieds first) and trustworthiness. Do you think you’re more likely to get scammed by a Craigslist advertiser, where all you need to post an ad is an email address, or by a classified advertiser, who has to give at least some identifying information to the newspaper?

So classified ads live on. But in the modern world, publishers have to recognize that you have other options. And over the years, the number of private boat sellers willing to pay for Boaters Bargains ads has diminished. A lot.

We want to change that. We want our readers to have a safe and secure place where they can buy and sell their own boats. That is why we have a new offer for you: If you’re a private seller (not a dealer), you can now list your boat for four weeks at no cost. All you need to do is call the Boaters Bargains line at 941-429-3110.

Why only four weeks? Well, we figured if your boat is priced right, it should probably draw interested buyers pretty quickly. If we offered an unlimited run for free, pretty soon Boaters Bargains would be clogged up with guys trying to sell 17-foot walleye boats for $20,000. But, if you really need more time, you can buy it cheap: $10 a week.

OK, so why are we discriminating against dealers? That’s an even easier question: Because dealers are in the boat business to make money, and they make money on just about every transaction. So if you want us to help you make money, we think it’s reasonable to expect a small portion of that sale.

Even if they lose money selling an individual boat (it happens, especially when they find major problems after they’ve already taken a trade), that’s already factored in someplace. You can bet they’ll make it up on a sale where they got a better trade for cheap. It’s either that or go out of business.

But for you — the average-Joe boat buyer — it’s a very different story. You’re likely to lose money when you sell your boat. Maybe a bunch of money. So for you, no charge.

Like I said, this starts now. It’s a permanent change, which really means it will be in effect for as long as my boss agrees with me that it’s a good idea. So get your boats listed, and tell your friends.

Now, for a one-question survey: When you’re buying a high-ticket item such as a boat or vehicle, how much do you trust sellers on Craigslist? To register your answer, go to


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