Is a Professional Sailboat Survey Worth the Expense?

When buying a used sailboat, it can be tempting to skip a professional sailboat survey and save a few bucks. After all, there's bound to be some things you'll need to spend your hard-earned cash on before your new acquisition hits the water.

But is that a wise move? No, it's likely to be a big mistake - a survey by a professional yacht surveyor could save you a pile of cash.

OK, you'll have made your own inspection of the vessel to find any obvious and major defects before deciding whether to proceed further - assisted in no small way by Andrew Simpson's excellent ebook 'Secrets of Secondhand Boats' perhaps?

You may have even made an offer - always 'subject to survey', of course - but however diligent your own inspection was, it will have been be far less so than one carried out by a professional, suitably qualified marine surveyor.

And it was by no means independent; your own smitten but jaundiced eye having probably glossed over a few flaws - love, as we all know, is blind.

Four Good Reasons for a Professional Sailboat Survey

  • To ensure that you're not about to buy a thinly disguised wreck. Although your own inspection should have established this, it's a good idea to have your own opinion backed-up by that of an independent professional yacht surveyor.

  • To advise you of any aspects of the vessel's condition which could be a threat to safety. Here, the surveyor's experienced eye is likely to pick up small but crucial details you could have missed - a cracked stanchion base, a frayed guardwire, a corroded cotterpin...
  • To list any defects and advise on the likely costs of repair. As any sales agreement should include the vital phrase 'subject to survey', the surveyor's 'Sailboat Survey Report' then becomes a powerful instrument for re-negotiating an appropriate downward adjustment in price.
  • Finally, to provide the kind of independent assessment of condition and value which may well be required by insurance or finance companies.

Is The Surveyor Really Independent?

Yacht Brokers tend to have a few of their own favoured surveyors. OK, they may be paragons of virtue but there is a chance that the prospect of a continuing workload from the broker may take precedence over their obligation to provide you with a truly independent survey.

Similarly, if you're buying direct from the owner you shouldn't unquestionably accept his recommendation to use a particular surveyor.

Just to be on the safe side it's better to appoint your own, after having first satisfied yourself that his experience and qualifications are suitable for the job in hand.

Is Your Chosen Surveyor Suitably
Qualified and Experienced?

In the UK, most professional yacht and small boat surveyors will (or should) be members of the The Yacht Designers & Surveyors Association (YBDSA) an organisation that has been in existence for 100 years. More recently a number of other organisations have sprung up, including the International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS).

So before appointing a yacht surveyor, it makes sense to ask him about his qualifications and experience - more so if you want him to take a look at something other than the ubiquitous fibreglass monohull.

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Cruisers' Questions...

Why have a marine survey?

A marine survey is a thorough inspection of the boat's condition, safety, seaworthiness and value. A marine survey can help you identify any defects, damages or potential problems that may affect your decision to buy the boat or negotiate the price. A marine survey can also be required by your insurance company, lender or registry.

What type of survey do I need?

The most common type of survey for buying a used sailboat is a pre-purchase survey, which covers all aspects of the boat's structure, systems, equipment and cosmetics. A pre-purchase survey may also include a sea trial and a rigging inspection. Other types of surveys include insurance surveys, valuation surveys, damage surveys and tonnage surveys.

What isn't included in the survey?

The surveyor will not inspect areas that are inaccessible, such as inside the hull, tanks, engines or electrical wiring. The surveyor will also not test or operate any equipment that is not part of the normal operation of the boat, such as electronics, appliances or personal items. The surveyor will not comment on the boat's design, performance or suitability for your intended use.

How much does a yacht survey cost?

The cost of a yacht survey depends on several factors, such as the type and size of the boat, the location and availability of the surveyor, the scope and depth of the inspection, and the complexity and length of the report. The cost can vary from a few hundred to several thousand pounds. You should ask for a written quotation from the surveyor before engaging their services.

The above answers were drafted by using GPT-4 (OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model) as a research assistant to develop source material; to the best of our knowledge, we believe them to be accurate.

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