Outdoors - 11 min read

How To Dispose Of A Fiberglass Boat (The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide!)

Alex Frick

Alex Frick, Updated October 22, 2022

There is an expression that rings true about boat ownership – “The two best days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy a boat and the day that they sell it.” Every boat owner will enjoy the highs and lows in their time of ownership, but little is known about what to do with your vessel when it is time to move on.

When disposing of a fiberglass boat, it is important to do so lawfully. The most effective way to dispose of your vessel is to sell it to a buyer, donate it to a charity, or recycle the raw materials. Each of these options offers a safe and lawful transfer of ownership of your fiberglass boat.

Depending on the composition of your boat, it is important to know the specifics of discarding the vessel. In this guide, we will explore the safe (and legal) options for disposing of a fiberglass boat.

How Do You Get Rid Of A Fiberglass Boat?

The thought of disposing of a fiberglass boat can seem daunting, but there are plenty of excellent options to help move on from your rig without the headache.

A great way to dispose of the fiberglass boat is to either give it to a family member or a friend, donate it to a charity, or sell it. If these options are not available, you can dispose of your boat by taking it to a landfill or recycling the materials yourself.

Give It To A Family Member Or Friend

While gifting your fiberglass boat to a family member, the process is not as easy as just tossing them the keys. The process of transferring ownership is relatively simple. The most important document required to transfer your boat is the title.

You should have received the title when purchasing the boat. The title will have a section requiring a signature from the original purchaser and a signature from the new owner.

Title transfers for boat ownership fall under the voluntary transfer category. What this means is that, unlike a car, there is no required bill of sale. A transfer between a family member or a friend is complete when the ink has dried on both signatures.

In some cases, there is no requirement for a title transfer. The fiberglass boat that falls under this category is likely to be dependent on the length of the vessel. Be sure to check with your state’s natural resource department for state-specific instructions.

The easiest way to move on from your boat is to donate it to a worthy charity. Here is a list of a few charities that will be happy to take the vessel off your hands.

Wheels for Wishes – Call 1-855-278-9474 or fill out the donation form online and you will receive a call within 24 hours to schedule the pickup. Once the boat is picked up, you will receive a receipt that you can use as a tax write-off.

Boat Angel Outreach – Go to www.boatangel.org/donation and fill out the donor form. They will send you a disposable camera through the mail to photograph the boat. Most boats will be picked up within 14 days.

Goodwill – Head over to Goodwill Car Donation’s FAQs page and fill out the donation form. Within 24 hours, Goodwill will reach out and schedule a pickup. Once the boat is picked up, you will receive a receipt that you can use as a tax write-off.

Sell It

Selling your fiberglass boat is the best way to get a return on your investment and it is not as intimidating as one would think. First, decide whether to sell privately or through a broker. You will find the most success through a broker through companies such as BoatTrader or boats.com. These brokers charge a listing fee but will get the most eyes on your boat.

Once the sale is complete, there is documentation to make the transaction legal. As the previous owner, you must give the buyer the signed title for the new buyer to transfer ownership of the title and the registration.

Once the title is transferred, you must return your certificate of registration to the game and fishing commission within 15 days of the sale. Once this is completed, the new owner will be issued new registration stickers and you will no longer have legal ownership of the fiberglass boat.

Recycle Your Fiberglass Boat

If you may not be garnering the interest to transfer ownership, you may still be able to recoup your costs with a little creativity. While taking some technical savvy, you can recycle your fiberglass boat at a local scrapyard and make a few bucks on the materials.

The fiberglass on your boat may not be worth much, but the metals can be worth plenty. There are important steps to take when recycling a fiberglass boat that is important for the ecosystem, but more importantly, your own safety.

There are several challenges and safety hazards that come with recycling these materials. If you are not experienced in using a pinched cutting blade, it might be best to enlist the expertise of a professional.  

When fiberglass is cut, not only is it extremely sharp, but the raw materials are also quite hazardous. When split, the fiberglass releases plastic specks of dust that are sharp. If the dust particles get into your eyes, nose, or mouth, it can become especially hazardous.

Take It To A Landfill

If you are out of options and being rid of your fiberglass boat is the goal, taking it to a landfill is your best bet. However, the process is not as simple as dropping it at the junkyard.

Before taking the boat to the landfill, it is required to dispose of all the mechanical fluids. There are several toxic fluids that will need to be disposed of – fuel, motor oils, transmission fluids, and antifreeze.

Once drained, you can take the fiberglass boat to the landfill. While you do not have to file any transfer of ownership paperwork, you will likely have to pay a fee for the boat to be disposed of.  

Can You Recycle A Boat?

Yes! One of the best ways to recycle your fiberglass is to recycle the materials. The materials on board hold real value, and while you may be unable to sell your boat, you may be able to recoup some of your investment by recycling the raw materials and parts.

When recycling your boat, you will need to know how and where to recycle the fluids, remove the equipment, cut up the vessel, and dispose of the fiberglass.

Drain The Fluids

Before you can recycle your fiberglass boat, you will have to drain all the fluids from the vessel. Typically, the fluids that will need to be drained are fuel, motor oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, and any sewage.

It is important to know the proper way to dispose of these fluids because if they were to become mixed, not only could they be hazardous to you, but the environment as well.

The process of draining fuel, motor oil, transmission fluid, and antifreeze is the same. You will want to find individually sealable containers to collect each fluid. Once the fluids are drained and collected, you will want to take them to a disposal site. You can usually take them to a local business that sells or changes motor oil free of charge.

The process of removing sewage takes a few simple steps. Most boats come with an onboard treatment device that will sanitize the tank. However, if your boat only has a holding tank, you will need to find a pump-out station to remove the sewage.

Remove The Equipment

Once the fluids have been completely drained and disposed of, your next step is to remove everything from the boat. Start with the accessible items. You cannot recycle electronics, so you will need to remove the center console, computer, radio, or any other electronic accessories that may be on board.

Next, remove all cushions, seats, and chairs – anything bolted down will need to be removed from the vessel. Remove the anchor and chain, but do not throw this away. While these do not have much material value, used anchors do have value in the second-hand market.

Once you have removed the horn, the navigation lights, and any other auxiliary items from the boat, you will need to start working on the power supply. Disconnect the battery, follow the wires leading from the terminals, and remove these wires. Disconnect all the wires from all access points in the vessel – but do not forget to remove the battery first!

Cut Your Boat Up

To recycle a fiberglass boat, it will need to be cut down into small, manageable pieces. This step requires safety equipment as well as specialty tools. If you are not familiarized with these tools, it may be best to outsource this job to a professional.

If you decide to complete the job yourself, you will need the right tools. Using a hacksaw or a jigsaw can be effective in cutting up fiberglass, but the most efficient way is to use a carbide-grit blade.

These blades are extremely sharp – commonly used by contractors to carefully cut ceramic tiles and cement boards. These are heavy-duty blades that are tremendously sharp – operate with caution.

While breaking down the boat, it is important to be wearing safety glasses and an N95-grade facemask. When a piece of fiberglass is cut, it splinters into hundreds of microscopic shards and can be inhaled in hazardous amounts.    

Dispose Of The Fiberglass

Before cutting up your fiberglass boat, stage a flexible garbage can with a durable plastic liner. Break down the larger pieces into strips small enough to fit into the plastic liner. Continue this process until you have collected the broken-down pieces and secured them into bags. Sweep up any remaining shards of fiberglass and deposit them into a separate plastic bag.

These steps are crucial to the process of fiberglass disposal. If not carefully prepared, few recycling centers or landfills will accept it. Check your local listings to see if your city offers fiberglass recycling. If so, there should be designated dumpsters for the fiberglass. If the city does not offer recycling, try reaching out to an industrial recycler that accepts scrap fiberglass.

If you have exhausted all these options and are still having trouble finding a place to dispose of fiberglass, contact the town dump. Inquire about where they dispose of fiberglass, and they can point you in the right direction.

Should You Sink Your Fiberglass Boat?

No, you should not sink your boat. There can be serious consequences to sinking a boat – both legally and ecologically. By sinking your fiberglass boat, you are now legally liable for any damage it may cause.

Sinking your boat is an ecological nightmare. If successful, the boat would rest on the floor of the body of water and create a natural reef. These reefs attract leagues of sea life looking for a safe haven from the predators of the open seas. However, the boat will leak gallons of toxic fluids into the sea, turning this safe haven into a catastrophic trap.

In most cases, fiberglass boats are near impossible to sink. Modern fiberglass boats are required to have thick floatation foam for safety. Even if the owner is able to get the boat to submerge, after time, the epoxy will weaken, and the boat will return to the surface. Your registered boat is now a disguised bouy.

If another boat were to strike the fiberglass boat, you may be found liable for any damage caused to the vessel. If there are injuries, you could be held criminally liable.

Should You Set Your Fiberglass Boat On Fire?

No. You should never set a fiberglass boat on fire. A fiberglass boat is one of the ferociously flammable structures there are. With the combination of fuels, oils, and the fiberglass itself, an entire boat will become fully engulfed in flames in minutes. With the combination of unpredictable accelerants, this is can be extremely dangerous.

Another reason to consider is the effect on the environment. The burning of these materials releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. It is also illegal. Setting fire to the boat is considered an uncontrolled burn, meeting the qualifications for an arson charge.

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