You’ve found the perfect boat, looked at it in person and are ready to make an offer on the boat.
STOP and read this!
Unless you can afford to throw away the money you are spending on the boat you are going to want to get it surveyed by an accredited surveyor. Many lending institutions will require a survey and your insurance company is going to require a survey for full coverage insurance.
Who are marine surveyors? A surveyor is someone who is accredited by one or more organizations and usually has spent a great deal of time in the marine industry. This isn’t like a home inspector who can get certified on a weekend and start inspecting homes. These surveyors have lengthy training, continuing education and time on various vessels. There are several governing bodies that monitor Marine Surveyors, (NAMS)-National Association of Marine Surveyors, the US Surveyors Association-Navy, Certified Marine Surveyors-(CMS), (ABYC)-American Boat and Yacht Council, (IIMS) – International Institute of Marine Surveyors, (SAMS) – Society of Accredited Marie Surveyors and the (YDSA) – Yacht Designers and Survey Association. In most cases it takes a minimum of 3 to 5 years to become an accredited surveyor.
What can I expect when I get a boat surveyed? I suggest you as the buyer be present during the survey. The surveyor will meet you and the seller or seller’s representative at the boat the day of your survey. While not necessary I always bring a note pad and pen with me to document the systems on the boat and issues the surveyor may find. It’s generally not good form to place the surveyor directly in price negotiations during the survey. The surveyor is there for you and only you. Schedule the survey for a time when all parties can be present since you will need to sea trial the boat, operate every system on the boat and haul the boat from the water to inspect the hull and running gear. The surveyor will require the owner or owners representative to open access panels and covers in areas that need to be inspected. Due to liabilities the surveyor may not open secured panels if the owner isn’t there. the surveyor will inspect the hull and decks for rot, structural members for rot or damage, look for obvious leaks, check mechanical fasteners, inspect the electrical system and mechanical systems on the boat. Basically the survey covers everything on the boat except the inside of the engines. (an engine survey is usually an add on performed by a marine mechanic) This is a great opportunity for the buyer to follow the surveyor around and ask questions. They will be able to tell you how the systems on the boat work and how to maintain them. Remember the notebook I told you to bring? Use it to write down this information. Once the surveyor has gone over the boat from stem to stern you are ready for the sea trial. During the sea trial the surveyor will monitor engine and cooling system temperatures and associated electronics. They will also perform a backdown test to confirm the engine mounts are in good shape. After the sea trial the boat will be hauled out or put on the trailer for the hull inspection and the running gear inspection.
The surveyor will take a rub of the Hull ID number and include it in his report. In a few days you will receive a report usually in digital form with photos from the surveyor. This report will highlight deficiencies and include an estimated value of the boat.
Every boat has issues but use this report to negotiate a buying price. For example the boat is for sale at $35,000 and the survey report indicates that the fuel lines need replaced and the aft bilge pump isn’t working ask the seller to repair these items or deduct the coat of repairing them from the asking price. Your report most likely will contain many items of varying importance that need repaired or replaced.
The main types of marine surveys are buyers survey and insurance survey. The insurance survey is not recommended for a vessel you are trying to buy. This is a quick survey intended for the insurance companies to grant or renew coverage. Get a buyers survey! You can also have a marine mechanic inspect the engines and transmissions during the survey. This is called an engine survey. Depending on the type of engine and hours on the engine this may be preferred by some buyers.
I’ve run across some sellers that were hesitant to allow their boats to be surveyed. I would run, not walk from those sellers. Remember there are way more boats than buyers out there. If the survey finds issues or the seller seems sketchy move on to the next one. Never fall in love with a boat until it’s yours.
Costs for a survey vary greatly around the country so I can’t include a good estimate here but expect to pay $18.00– $20.00 per foot for a Pre-Purchase Condition & Valuation (C&V) Marine Survey. Plus you may have to pay to have the boat hauled out or placed in the water for the sea trial. It’s money well spent! I usually don’t use the surveyor the seller or broker recommends. You want someone who is there for you not anyone else in this deal.
Here are several websites where you can find an accredited surveyor: