If you are buying and planning to finance a used boat many lenders
will require a marine survey. Most marine insurance companies require
a marine survey before they will insure an older boat. So what’s
a marine survey and how much does it cost?
A good survey should more than pay for itself in negotiating a
fair price when buying a boat and in forecasting maintenance and
equipment upgrades when insuring one. A survey’s total cost includes
the surveyor’s fee, and the boat’s haul-out costs. You can expect
to pay between $8 and $14 per linear foot of boat length for the
surveyor’s fee. Some surveyors may charge by the hour and bill for
There are four types of surveys: damage, appraisal, insurance,
and pre-purchase. A damage survey, which assesses incident-specific
damage, is used to determine cause and to specify repairs and estimate
costs. An appraisal survey, usually commissioned for legal, financing,
or donation reasons, is slightly more extensive and determines only
the fair-market value of a boat. An insurance survey is more thorough
and focuses primarily on systems and structural integrity to determine
the insurability of a vessel.
The most comprehensive survey is the pre-purchase survey. Commissioned
by a prospective owner, the survey contains a thorough examination
and inspection of all of the systems, structures, machinery, and
electronics, as well as the boat’s cosmetic condition. Pre-purchase
surveys often include out-of-water inspections and sea-trials. The
surveyor works for the prospective buyer, and the survey report
becomes the property of the purchaser.
Your surveyor will spend several hours inspecting the hull, operating
machinery, and safety equipment where practical, confirming the
specifications presented in the seller’s listing sheet and making
extensive notes. Look over the surveyor’s shoulder and ask a lot
of questions. This may drive him/her crazy, but you’ll have a better
idea of what you’re getting into, how serious the problems are,
what the options are for fixes, and costs. You will receive a detailed
report outlining the survey findings along with recommendations
on how deficiencies can be corrected to make the boat safe, insurable,
and in compliance with acceptable standards. If you have done your
homework, the survey will confirm your choice with further technical
information concerning the boat’s condition. The sale should always
be contingent upon your satisfaction with the results of the survey.
It may become apparent that the boat isn’t worth buying before the
survey is complete. Most surveyors will allow you to stop the survey
at that point and will usually charge only 50% of the agreed upon
fee. You’ll get a brief summary of the boat’s deficiencies and a
recommendation not to complete the sale. This document is important
if you are to be released from your purchase and agreement and get
a full refund of your deposit.
Each surveyor has his own report format, but a complete and proper
report can be as many as 15 to 20 pages in length and will include
detailed comments and photographs of the following areas: bilge;
interior accommodations; electrical; fire protection equipment;
engines; and hull and deck structures.
There are a lot of surveyors out there. It is a wide-open unregulated
field and a lot of people run into problems with unqualified surveyors.
A qualified surveyor will bring a wealth of experience to the party;
a thorough understanding of boat design and performance characteristics,
materials science and construction, and most important, a familiarity
with the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) National Fire
Protection Association, and U.S. Coast Guard standards and practices.
Most professional surveyors are affiliated with an accredited organization
such as the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors SAMS or National
Association of Marine Surveyors NAMS. Insurance companies requesting
insurance surveys require a SAMS or NAMS surveyor.
In addition to a general survey, it is often a good idea to survey
the engines and electronics. A mechanic who regularly services that
type of engine should inspect this boat’s engine, even on new boats.
This is important because often engine installations are often inadequate
and engines can be poorly maintained. If you buy the boat, you will
have a list of all the repairs and improvements necessary for a
safe and dependable engine. You will save many dollars and much
grief if you correct these problems immediately. If your boat is
new, the warranty might pay for much of the initial engine work.
If the boat is used, the seller should provide additional discounts
that should cover all or at least many of the costs of repairs and
upgrading. If the boat has a great deal of electronic equipment,
it will be worthwhile to have it evaluated by a qualified electronic
technician. Again, a sizeable electronics inventory can represent
a large portion of the boat’s value, assuming it isn’t obsolete
or hasn’t been severely damaged by salt, moisture, or misuse.
A sailboat’s sails, standing and running rigging should also be
inspected. Many surveyors are not sufficiently trained to provide
a good assessment on these technical items or systems, be certain
the surveyor meets your particular needs. This equipment represents
a major part of your boat’s investment and has a high potential