Due Diligence: Choosing a Marine Surveyor

Conducting thorough due diligence before finalizing the purchase is crucial when buying a used boat. One essential aspect of this process is performing a marine survey and test run. A surveyor assess compliance with regulations, equipment functionality, areas requiring attention or repair, overall condition, and suitability. Additionally, surveyors provide an estimated value of the vessel. The marine surveyor’s job is to evaluate the boat’s condition and value. Financial lenders and insurance underwriters typically require a recent survey to qualify for a loan or insurance coverage. 

The survey and test run is also your opportunity to experience the boat underway and learn about general maintenance and deficiencies. I highly recommend that buyers attend the marine survey and test run.  

Selecting a reliable and experienced surveyor is vital to ensuring an accurate evaluation. You can find a list of Maryland area surveyors on the resources page. It is important to note that the marine surveyor works for you. 

I recommended you interview multiple candidates and assess their qualifications. Choose a surveyor with whom you feel comfortable and confident in their ability to evaluate the boat you intend to purchase. These assessments are commonly known as “pre-purchase” marine surveys. 

Besides the hull survey, hiring a qualified marine mechanic to conduct an engine/mechanical survey and a rigger can be advisable on a case-by-case basis.

To find a suitable surveyor, consider the following approach:

  1. Consult reputable directories such as the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) and the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS). These organizations ensure surveyors meet established standards.

  2. Explore owner’s groups and forums relevant to the type of boat you are interested in. Look for recommendations and past experiences shared by community members.

  3. Seek recommendations from local boatyards. They may recommend surveyors who are frequently survey in that marina.

  4. Focus on surveyors with expertise in the specific type of construction utilized in the boat you are considering, whether it’s fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP), aluminum, steel, or other materials.

Questions to Ask Your Potential Surveyor

The resource page has a list of Maryland area surveyors, but it’s essential that you do your own research to avoid any conflicts of interest. Deciding which surveyor to hire is completely up to you. 

Here are some questions to ask marine surveyors in the interview process.

  1. Are you available on this date?
  2. Do you perform pre-purchase marine surveys?
  3. Are you a NAMS or SAMS fully certified marine surveyor or an apprentice surveyor? 
  4. How long have you been a certified marine surveyor? 
  5. How many surveys do you do in a typical season? 
  6. Do you have experience with this type of boat?
  7. How much do you charge, and what payment do you accept?
  8. What is your general schedule for a survey on a boat like this, and how long does it take?
  9. Will you answer my questions throughout the survey and test run and point out the findings to me?
  10. Will you summarize your findings at the end of the survey?
  11. Do you recommend a separate engine surveyor or rigger for this boat?
  12.  How long does it take you to provide a written survey report? 
  13. Can you provide a sample survey report?
  14. What common findings would you expect to see in a (boat model) of this age? 

Understanding Your Survey Report

A marine survey report is a crucial document that comprehensively assesses a boat’s condition and inventory. It serves as an essential tool for buyers, banks, and insurers in evaluating the seaworthiness and value of a vessel. This report is an inventory of the boat, documenting the functioning and non-functioning systems and areas of corrosion or disrepair.

The findings from the marine survey and test run are categorized into three distinct sections: essential, necessary, and desirable repairs or upgrades.

Essential repairs refer to critical issues that must be addressed immediately to ensure the vessel’s safety and operational functionality. These repairs are typically related to high-risk components, such as fuel systems, structural integrity, or navigation equipment. These are the type of findings that can lead to a post survey negotiation.  

Necessary repairs encompass items that require attention but may not pose immediate safety concerns. These repairs contribute to the overall functionality and longevity of the boat, covering areas like plumbing, electrical wiring, or minor hull repairs.

Desirable repairs or upgrades are optional enhancements that can improve the boat’s comfort, aesthetics, or performance. These can range from cosmetic improvements like repainting or replacing outdated fixtures to upgrading navigational electronics or installing additional amenities.

Interpreting a marine survey report is crucial for potential buyers to make informed decisions about a vessel’s condition and maintenance requirements. It provides a detailed breakdown of necessary repairs and upgrades, allowing for better financial planning and negotiation during boat transaction. The survey report should not be considered a tool for a complete renegotiation of a purchase agreement. The report serves as a roadmap for prioritizing repairs and ensuring the boat’s seaworthiness and longevity.