Steps for Hiring a Boat Surveyor

Updated 5:20 PM ET, Mon June 15, 2015

Article highlights

  • Surveyors charge by the length of the boat, typically $17 - $22 per foot, depending on location.
  • Your surveyor will spend 2 - 3 hours at the boat, while the written report will take another 2 - 3 days.
  • POP Yachts maintains a central database of accredited marine surveyors.
Found that perfect boat? At least you hope so? Well before you sign on the dotted line assuming ownership, here are a few things to consider to be sure it is the perfect boat for you. Regardless of your boating experience and knowledge, hiring a qualified Marine Surveyor is paramount to ensuring you have found the prefect boat for your boating needs. So, how do you select the right Marine Surveyor to inspect your next boat?

Steps for Hiring a Boat Surveyor

While there are many people who call themselves "Surveyors", like other things in life it is a "Buyer Beware" approach to selecting a qualified Marine Surveyor. When first looking for a Marine Surveyor make sure to talk to your boating friends, dock mates, or your marina service staff for recommendations. If you are new to boating without the resources mentioned above here are two of the most recognized and accepted Marine Surveyor organizations in the United States and abroad, the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) and the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS).

Marine Surveyors from both organizations are required to have certain marine industry technical skills and experience in order to become a member of SAMS or NAMS. These technical skills and experience are achieved through time in the marine industry and various Marine Surveying Schools. Both organizations require successful completion of an exam to hold the designated Accredited Marine Surveyor, SAMS - AMS, or the Certified Marine Surveyor, NAMS - CMS. These Surveyor members are also required to attend continuing education classes in order to maintain their designation within each organization. A Marine Surveyor with either of these designations is required to meet strict professional, technical and ethical standards.

Not all surveyors provide the same level of service! Here are some questions to ask when interviewing your Marine Surveyor:

- How much will it cost?

- What is included in your survey?

- What type of written report will I receive?

- What standards do you reference when inspecting the boat?

- How long will the on-board inspection take?

Asking About Surveyors Background

When interviewing your prospective Marine Surveyor, ask about their experience with the type of boat you are buying. If the Marine Surveyor's experience is strictly with power boats and you are purchasing a sailboat you might want to keep looking, as that Surveyor may not have the experience to fully inspect the standing and running rigging found on a sailboat that power boats do not have. Conversely there are many Marine Surveyors that only have Sailboat knowledge so asking about the Surveyors background is important. Ask the Surveyor for a sample report to review before making your decision, this way you will see how thorough, or not, that particular surveyor is when doing his or her inspection.

What Does The Survey Inspection Include?

The Marine Survey should include a thorough inspection of the boat's hull, deck, superstructure (depending on your boat selection) and all systems on the boat such as electrical, mechanical and electronic equipment. As the Marine Surveyor goes through the inspection of the items mentioned above he or she will be checking to see if the boat, the systems and equipment are in compliance with current standards as defined by ABYC, the American Boat and Yacht Council, USCG, the United States Coast Guard, and NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association.

What Is Included In The Survey Report?

The well qualified Marine Surveyor will present a thorough and detailed written report often referred to as a Pre-Purchase or Condition and Value Marine Survey Report. This report will describe each part of the boat, along with detailed information on the condition of the hull, systems and equipment on the boat. Depending on what kind of boat you are purchasing and the size of the boat the report will typically be 30 - 40 pages in length. It will include photographs of the boat, systems and equipment along with recommendations and findings regarding the condition of the boat and the equipment that is on her.

How Long Will The Survey Take?

The size and type of boat you purchase will determine how long the boat inspection will take. Boats like Center Consoles, Runabouts, Ski and Wake boats 25 feet and smaller in length should take no more than 2 - 3 hours including the lake test or sea trial. For larger boats such as Motor Yachts, Express Cruisers, Sport Fish and Sailboats you can expect the boat inspection to last at least 4-6 hours or more depending on the complexity of the systems and equipment on the boat. Boats larger than 50 feet can take one or two days depending on the size and equipment on the boat. Most Marine Surveyors are considered to be Hull and System Surveyors with general knowledge regarding the engine(s) on the boat. Having a qualified engine technician inspect the propulsion system, that is the engine(s) on your boat, is highly recommended as well.

How Much Will The Survey Cost?

How much does the Marine Survey cost? Typically Marine Surveyors charge by the foot, so the longer/bigger your boat the more expensive the survey cost. Marine Surveyor fees vary depending on the area of the country where the boat and surveyor are located. Survey fees are generally higher along the West and Southeast Coasts of the United States versus the Northeast and Inland areas. Additional cost considerations for the boat inspection may include the fees to the service yard to haul the boat out of the water. Which allows the Marine Surveyor to inspect the Hull below the water line including the running gear, meaning the propeller(s), propeller shaft(s), Strut(s), Cutless Bearing(s), Rudder(s) and Trim Tabs if the boat is of a size that it has inboard engines or inboard/outboard engines.

Other Reasons You Need A Survey Report

If the value of your boat is such that you are financing the purchase and if you will be insuring the boat, in almost all cases the finance and insurance companies will require you to have a survey conducted by a SAMS or NAMS Surveyor. Their decision to finance or insure your "Risk" will be based at least in part on the Survey report. Even if you are not financing the purchase of your boat, an inspection by a qualified Marine Surveyor will tell you if there are deficiencies with the boat that would merit a renegotiation of your original agreed upon price with the Seller. The Survey report should always include a suggested Fair Market Value for the boat, in other words what the Marine Surveyor thinks your boat is worth in the condition it is in with the equipment that is on her. This Fair Market Value is based on industry accepted marine pricing sources that compare your boat to other like model boats that have recently sold.

Can I Attend The Survey?

The Marine Surveyor should always invite you to attend the survey process so you can observe the inspection. The well qualified Marine Surveyor will share his findings during the course of the inspection in order for you to determine if this is still the right boat for you and your intended use. If you are a first time boat buyer the Marine Surveyor should take you through an orientation of the systems and equipment on the boat so you have a better understanding of what you are purchasing.

Nearly all boat dealers and brokers can provide you with a list of SAMS or NAMS Marine Surveyors in the area where your boat is located. Both SAMS and NAMS have directories on their websites of their Surveyor members by location so you can find select your own Surveyor independent of the boat dealer or broker.

When Will I Get The Survey Report Back?

The Marine Surveyor is there to work for you and your interests only, no other, that is but one of the ethics an Accredited or Certified Marine Surveyor must hold his or herself to. Once you have paid the Marine Surveyor for his or her services, typically the same day of the survey, you should receive the written report no later than 2-3 days after the physical survey was performed. The Marine Surveyor should be available to review this report with you and answer any questions you may have regarding the Findings and any Deficiencies noted in the report.

Why A Survey Is So Important!

No matter the size of boat you are considering, hiring a Marine Surveyor will be money well spent as it can save you thousands of dollars in post purchase repairs to the boat that typically would not be noticed by the average boat buyer. In some cases structural damage to the boat found by the Marine Surveyor yet not visible to you, affords you the opportunity to walk away from purchasing the boat. This could save you even more money, but more importantly saving you the heartache of buying a boat you will never be happy with. Finding the right surveyor will be like finding your next best boating buddy, affording you many years of happiness on the water instead of discontent at the dock or in the boatyard.

Please Sign Up or Log In first.

Be the first to comment on this article!

By Type

Be the first
To Know

We will notify you by email every time a new article has been published to the blog.

Please Log In or Sign Up to get emails. It's free, easy and very quick.