Finding a

Marine Surveyor

The Pre-Purchase Boat Survey

One of the options to consider when purchasing a used boat is retaining the services of a professional marine surveyor for a Pre-Puchase Survey. Not unlike a home inspection before the purchase of a house, the goal of a survey is to bring to your attention any faults which may effect the safety and/or value of the vessel being considered.

For the pre-purchase survey of a used boat, you can expect to pay $18-$22/foot in most areas, though some surveyors do charge by the hour. By way of an example, having a 25-foot boat surveyed will likely cost you $500-$700. This fee includes the estimated cost of a "short haul" or having the boat lifted out of the water for a bottom and drive inspection. Additional services, such as getting the boat bottom power-washed, or having the engine compression tested may increase your total costs. These optional extras are traditionally done at the buyer's expense.

Although the cost of performing a pre-purchase survey is not insignificant, saving a few dollars now can end up costing you many more in the long run. By opting for a pre-purchase survey, you get a systematic inspection of the boat by a bona fide expert. When it's over, you'll receive a report which will include not only an inventory of the boat's equipment but a list of the items requiring attention, repair, or replacement. The report will also suggest a current market value.

The decision of whether or not to order a survey is dependant on several factors. To help, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  • How extensive is my own boating and mechanical experience?
  • How well do I know the seller?
  • How old is the boat?
  • Does my lender or insurer require a survey?

It's telling that many professional marine surveyors have boats surveyed by other surveyors before they buy them. The truth is, we all get a little blinded when we fall in love with a particular boat. Before rushing into anything, it's best to get the opinion of an impartial professional.

Find a Marine Surveyor

Your local phone book or boating newspapers will likely have a number of ads for some of the more active marine surveyors in your area. Recommendations by friends and other experienced boaters are also worthwhile. Talk with a few surveyors before choosing the one that's right for you.

Some marine surveyors operate independently and as such do not belong to a professional association (e.g. SAMS and NAMS). If using an independent surveyor, be sure to question him not only about his personal qualifications, but whether or not he can guarantee that his work product, the survey report, will be acceptable to the finance and/or insurance company you've chosen. You may even want to ask your lender and/or insurer in advance whether or not they will accept such a report. Some institutions may require that you choose a member of a well known organization or they may ask to see a sample report beforehand.

Attending the survey is strongly encouraged as you can learn an awful lot about your potential new boat simply by observation. Although some surveyors prefer to work undisturbed, it's usually OK to ask a few questions.

Insurance C&V: Condition and Value Survey

Here's an all-too-common scenario: you elect to skip the pre-purchase survey because of the cost. You buy the boat and then you decide to shop for insurance. The insurance agent now advises you that a survey is required before they'll write the policy. Enter the "Insurance C&V" or "Underwriters' Condition and Value Survey".

Typically priced less than a pre-purchase survey, and not always requiring a short haul, a C&V is usually undertaken for the principal benefit of the insurer. As the boat's new owner, you still get the benefit of the surveyor's report, but the difference is you're now on the hook to address any problems that are uncovered; walking away and finding another boat is no longer an option. Although opting for the less expensive C&V may seem like an appealing alternative, it's a corner you don't want to cut. If you will be needing any survey at all, opt for a complete pre-purchase survey which will hopefully include a haul-out and sea trial. The reason is simple: you want to discover potentially expensive issues and needed repairs before you buy, not after.