Q: What is a marine survey and why do I need one? 

Briefly, a marine survey is a physical inspection of the structure and systems of a boat. A surveyor also inspects and inventories all of the contents of the boat such as safety equipment, electronic equipment, sails and other miscellaneous items. 

Marine survey inspections of pleasure vessels generally fall into three major categories, namely:  pre-purchase, insurance and appraisal surveys. 

Q: Who pays for a pre-purchase survey? 

A: In the case of a pre-purchase survey, the cost of the inspection is most commonly  born by the buyer. 

t is always a good idea to engage the services of a marine surveyor when considering the purchase of a used vessel, be it power or sail. As a potential buyer,  you need to know what shape the vessel is in before you put down your hard earned money. This survey is very thorough and, besides the actual physical inspection and inventory of the vessel’s equipment, usually includes moisture meter testing of the hull underbody and deck surfaces, verification of the operating condition of the engine(s) and electronic equipment and the condition of all of the vessel’s various system such as electrical and plumbing. A sea trial is also part of the inspection  if the customer requests it and conditions permit.  The surveyor will also research and attach a current market retail value for the vessel. Any defects found by the survey inspection may influence the eventual purchase  price of the vessel. The price of a survey inspection is very minor compared to the overall cost of a used boat. In spite of this I am always amazed that some potential buyers will consider making a purchase amounting to tens of thousands of dollars and yet balk at the cost of a pre-purchase survey. 

 Q: Who pays for an insurance survey?

The cost of an insurance survey is born by the boat owner or policy holder. The surveyor is hired by the owner, not the insurance company. 

Perhaps the most common type of survey is the insurance survey. Insurance companies periodically require a survey inspection of their policy holders’ boats in order to ascertain the condition of the vessel and its current market value in order to assess risk. Just how often an insurance company will require a survey varies but most insurance companies are now requiring a current survey on their policy holders’  boats every three to five years. In my opinion,  the insurance survey should provide the same in depth inspection as a pre-purchase survey and most surveyors today really do not differentiate between the two.

 Q: Who pays for an appraisal survey?

Again, the borrower would undertake to pay the cost of the survey inspection. 

The next most frequently required type of survey inspection is the appraisal survey. This type of survey is often required by banks or other lending institutions before money is advanced to one of their customers who is considering buying a used boat. Most often the bank wants to know what shape the vessel is in and what its current market value is. In my experience this type of survey is much more prevalent in the U.S. as compared to Canada. 

 Q: What information will I receive with a survey?

In every case the surveyor will provide the client with a detailed written report complete with photographs of the vessel and photographs detailing any points which warrant special attention.  

The above comments should provide a broad overview of the most common types of marine surveys. Please contact me with any other questions you may have.