All About Pre-Purchase Surveys | Do I Need One?

What Is a Pre-Purchase Boat Survey?
Pre-purchase surveys are the general standard for determining the condition of a vessel, craft or boat. The survey and inspection process is conducted by a Marine Surveyor before the purchase of the vessel. A report is then prepared for the buyer detailing the condition of the vessel along with a list of defects or faults identified which may require further attention.

The Purpose of a Pre-purchase Marine Survey?
The purpose of a pre-purchase survey is to determine the condition of a vessel as outlined by the scope of works. The surveyor would then inspect and provide a comment as to the condition to each relevant area of the boat or vessel inspected. Any areas inspected that are found defective, faulty, appear in poor condition or present a risk to the vessel or people aboard should be highlighted.
The buyer can use this information to assist them as part of their due diligence process during the purchase decision.

“most importantly, assist in ensuring the vessel is in a seaworthy and safe state for you and your family to enjoy.” - Josh Deacon

Why Is a Pre-Purchase Marine Survey Important?
Anyone with experience in owning a boat or vessel, in particular a boat which is berthed permanently in the water, understand that ongoing maintenance and servicing is essential to reduce major faults, defects, or failures. Such issues can be very costly to rectify and not uncommon for repairs to cost into the thousands or tens of thousands. To prevent such nasty expenses incurring to a new buyer, a Pre-purchase survey is conducted.
Secondly, many Marine Hull Insurers require a vessel to be surveyed to insure the vessel. As such, a Pre-purchase survey is often accepted for this purpose.

Who Performs a Pre-purchase Survey?
The requirements can be different depending on your Country or State. However, these types of surveys are completed by a Marine Surveyor. It is highly recommended you engage a surveyor who is accredited by an industry peak body or regulator, for example, in Australia this would be Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) or Australian Institute of Marine Surveyors (AIMS). The reason this is important is that such surveyors are more likely to have done the following:
– Accredited surveyors should follow a set of guidelines when conducting a survey or inspection.
– They have been vetted by the association or regulator.
– Their experience and knowledge have been established.
– They have provided proof of insurance.
– Committed to ongoing professional development.

What Is Involved in A Pre-purchase Survey?2006 Riviera M360
A typical survey will include the following:

  • The client engages a Marine Surveyor of their preference.
  • The surveyor provides a quote, survey terms, and scope of works to the client.
  • Arrangements are made to have the vessel lifted from the water for inspection on an agreed date.
  • The Marine Surveyor inspects the vessel below the waterline. Typically, 30 minutes or so.
  • The vessel is placed back into the water, the surveyor continues to inspect the boat above the waterline, internally and mechanically. Typically takes 2-3 hours.
  • Once the surveyor has completed the boat inspection, they may contact the client to discuss the overall condition and findings.
  • The surveyor will prepare the survey report, once payment has been made the surveyor will forward a copy of the report to the client. This usually occurs 24-72 hours after the inspection.
  • The overall hours involved in a survey are generally between 6 – 12 hours or more depending on the size and location of the vessel.
“The fee is often relative to the size of the vessel and may also be dependent on the number of engines and deck levels. A common practice is to charge by vessel length such as a fee per foot or meter.” - Josh Deacon

How Much Does A Pre-Purchase Survey Cost?
It is recommended a quote or fee for the survey is agreed between the client and surveyor in writing before commencing, the fee should be agreed and accepted by the client.
The fee is often relative to the size of the vessel and may also be dependent on the number of engines and deck levels. A common practice is to charge by vessel length such as a fee per foot or meter. In Australia, such fees typically range from $25-$35 per foot for a Pre-purchase survey.
Further cost or variations may apply for timber and steel vessels, also travel time may be additional.
Remember, the cheapest is not always the best!

What Areas Are Inspected?
The areas of the vessel that are inspected should be provided to you in the surveyor’s scope of works, if this has not been provided to you then request a copy from your surveyor.
In my experience, there are always areas of a vessel that preclude inspection due to the location, height, or limitation of access.
Furthermore, the extent of mechanical inspection is generally limited.Insurance Risk Evaluation
A typical inspection may include the following:

  • Hull, driveline, and fittings below the waterline.
  • Hull topsides, deck, and superstructure.
  • Vessel interior, coverings, and soft furnishings.
  • Vessel structure, hull fittings, material, and finishes.
  • Steering, engines, Genset, and associated fittings.
  • Rig, mast, boom, wire rigging, and connections.
  • Electrical equipment and connections.
  • Navigation and safety equipment.

Final Thoughts
For most people, buying a boat is going to be the second or third largest purchase in their lifetime and likely to cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Such a big purchase can be daunting especially for a new buyer. Choosing to have a pre-purchase survey is one of the best things you can do as part of your due diligence and decision-making process during the buying stage and may prevent you from losing many thousands of dollars. But most importantly, assist in ensuring the vessel is in a seaworthy and safe state for you and your family to enjoy.

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