Before you buy a boat of any size, it’s extremely important to have the boat surveyed by an experienced marine professional to verify that it has been accurately represented by the seller, that it is seaworthy, and that it does not need extensive repairs.
Boats hide their problems extremely well. Whether there are high levels of moisture in the stringers, deck, or hull, or cracked through-hull fittings hiding in inaccessible compartments, or a quick coat of spray paint camouflaging a rotted exhaust hose, there are lots of ways for major issues to be intentionally or unintentionally concealed.
For those reasons, and to protect your financial investment, it is extremely important to have a marine survey completed on any boat you are interested in purchasing before any commitment is made.
Different sources classify surveys a little differently. However, the American Boat and Yacht Council, or ABYC, lists four different types of marine survey. Here are the two most common inspections.
Pre-purchase Survey or Inspection
Pre-purchase surveys are the most common type of marine inspection. This is a comprehensive, detail-oriented, stem to stern survey that is meant to uncover and report on any problem that might be intentionally or unintentionally hidden.
A Pre-purchase Survey involves an in-depth inspection of the vessel’s structure, propulsion systems, plumbing, electrical, cosmetic components, and any other systems, accessories, or add-ons installed in the vessel.
Although primarily a visual inspection, a Pre-purchase Survey is performed by climbing through compartments, searching under hatches and covers, accessing and testing wiring, waste, and water components, and providing a detailed, written record of what needs to be repaired in order to make the boat seaworthy and safe.
Condition and Valuation Verification
It’s easy enough to use pictures taken when the boat looked it’s very best to advertise or represent a vessel that is currently at it’s very worst.
A condition and verification inspection includes a visit to the vessel as your representative to verify that the boat is in the same condition as advertised.
If you live in Chicago, IL, and you are interested in a boat in West Michigan, I will go give it a look to ensure the vessel is really in the condition as advertised before you travel to the vessel and potentially waste your valuable time.
Although not as detailed as a Pre-purchase Survey, this inspection will provide the potential buyer with current pictures, videos, and an unbiased opinion of the vessel’s condition and value.
The Condition and Valuation Inspection will include a visual inspection of the vessel’s overall condition, cosmetic issues, fluid checks, and general care and maintenance. The Condition and Valuation Inspection does not involve the in-depth investigation, sea trial, or reporting included in a Pre-Purchase Survey.
Survey and/or Inspection Results
The written report that results from a pre-purchase survey will include a list of serious problems that need to be addresses before the boat leaves the dock next. These issues are dangerous and need immediate action.
The report will also include problems that do not present an immediate hazard but will lead to expensive repairs or hazardous conditions if not corrected.
Also included are cosmetic issues that do not present an immediate threat to the safety of the boat or crew, but can affect the resale value of the vessel when not corrected.
Both the Pre-purchase Survey and Condition and Valuation Inspection results can be used to negotiate a better price or to abandon the purchase altogether. For that reason, surveys should be performed before serious negotiations begin.
Please remember – if you hire a marine surveyor such as me, you are hiring them to find problems with the vessel you are interested in. A surveyor that does not find any issues with a surveyed vessel did not actually survey the vessel.
Additional Survey Information
A professional will provide an unbiased report that is not influenced by either the buyer or seller. A professional surveyor will also know the unique issues common to certain makes, models, and model years and what impact those issues may have.
As a professional marine technician with more than 35 years experience working on every component on engines, transmissions, and drive packages, I am uniquely qualified to identify problems with propulsions systems of any kind.
Every propulsion system survey includes fluid checks, careful visual inspections for leaks, corrosion, damage, and shift/throttle operations, as well as a sea trial for performance and operation testing.
However, disassembly of any engine or drive components beyond those necessary to check fluids or visual conditions is not a standard part of any survey or inspection.
Should a concern arise with any diesel engine operations such as internal noises, poor performance, or evidence of component failure, it’s best to engage a professional diesel technician affiliated with the engine brand in question.
If a more in-depth analysis of the vessel’s diesel engine or generator is desired during the sea trial, please indicate that request on the Vessel Survey Scheduling Form below so that proper arrangements can be made.
Oil analysis is helpful in determining the condition of any engine or drive system, but is especially recommended for older gas or diesel engines with higher hours. Oil analysis can be performed by –
- Apex Oil Lab – https://apexoillab.com/
- Blackstone Labs – https://www.blackstone-labs.com/
- Titan Laboratories – http://www.titanlab.com/test-kits/
For most boats, a survey can be completed in one day, even if the boat needs to be hauled out of the water for a bottom inspection. If it cannot be completed in one day, such as inspections carried out during the off-season when the boat has been winterized and shrink-wrapped, all systems not requiring a sea trial can be completed, then the sea trial and any remaining inspections will be completed once conditions allow it.
After 35 years in the marine industry with extensive experience as a professional captain, marine technician, rigger, salesman, and more I have seen just about anything and everything in the marine industry you can think of.
Working for dealerships during much of my career, I was responsible for inspecting many of the trade-ins taken in for resale. It was my job to review boats before the dealerships agreed to make a deal, and then inspect the boats for necessary repairs or improvements once a boat was traded in.
I also worked as a professional marine mechanic for most of my marine career and hold a folder full of marine industry certifications including Mercruiser Master Technician.
My extensive marine education and experience cover structural, electrical, plumbing, drivetrain, electronics, and any other system or accessory onboard.
If you are interested in purchasing a boat that’s currently in or near West Michigan but you do not live in the area, I can be retained as your representative to inspect the boat and verify it’s been accurately advertised by the seller.
Once you are satisfied that the vessel is one you wish to purchase, I can also be retained to perform a complete marine Pre-purchase Survey if you wish.
Contact Me Today
For more information, please visit the Contact page and let’s discuss your potential purchase.
Let me put my passion for boating and lifetime of experience to work to help protect you from costly repairs or dangerous situations, and to ensure you truly enjoy the Great Lakes boating season!