Marine Survey Costs Explained
For both new and used boat buyers a complete survey is a good idea. The cost of a survey varies by a number of factor that we will discuss below but on average expect to pay between $500 and $1000 for a survey of most recreational boats. While a marine survey's costs may seem steep, especially if you are considering multiple boats for purchase and want to survey each, they are likely a very small percentage of the total purchase price.
Why hire a marine surveyor?
Much like a home inspection when purchasing a house, a marine surveyor's job is to act as an expert on your behalf. Their knowledge of vessel design and onboard systems will inform you of any immediate issues with the boat or potential issues that are likely to arise in the future.
Each boat is different and when buying a used boat, or even a new boat, there are likely to be some issues that will need to be corrected to bring it up to the standards you want as an owner. A complete marine survey is information for you, the buyer, about the boat you're considering purchasing and can help you determine a fair price to offer for it relative to what the seller is asking.
What factors determine the cost of a marine survey?
Like with most things related to boating, boat length will play a major role in determining the costs associated with a marine survey. Simply put, a bigger boat takes more time to assess and consequently a surveyor will charge more.
Larger vessels also usually have more systems onboard. A good surveyor will assess the functionality of all onboard systems and address any issues they find with them. For an example of some of the systems found on a recreational sailing vessel that are addressed in a survey see the photo above.
One additional factor that many boaters, both buyers and sellers, miss when budgeting for a survey is a haul out. For boats kept in the water a haul out at a local boatyard can be necessary to accurately assess the condition of the boat's hull and running gear. There's no easy way to put it, haul outs are expensive. Boatyards usually charge by the foot and fees in the $10-$15 per foot range are not uncommon.
Should you also hire a marine mechanic to survey the engines on the boat you're considering buying?
This is a common question and a good one. For many vessels, powerboats especially, the value of the engines is likely equal to the rest of the boat. A boat with two or more outboards has a significant percentage of its value hanging off its stern, and inboard diesels can be even more expensive.
A good surveyor will likely conduct a basic assessment of the engines and offer an opinion on their functionality. A surveyor is after all an expert on boats and they likely know quite a bit about marine engines. However, a mobile marine mechanic specializing in the brand of engine the boat your considering may be worth hiring.
A mechanic who is an expert on the engine brand aboard the vessel you're considering likely has the ability to connect those engines to a computer and determine far more information about them than the average surveyor would be able to. Hiring a mechanic for a survey is also a great way to build a relationship with the mechanic who will be working on your boat. Again it is an added expense but a few hundred dollars for an hour or two of the mechanic's time might save you thousands in expenses down the road.
Should you hire a marine surveyor as a seller?
For serious sellers, hiring a marine surveyor before listing their vessel can be a good idea. A complete survey on their boat can give boat owners a checklist of maintenance items to complete before listing the boat on the market. Marine surveyors have a discerning eye when it comes to maintenance issues aboard boats and the costs of hiring one are likely relatively minor compared to the value of the boat for sale. They can pick up on things that you, the owner, likely missed and lead to increased value for your boat when you do sell.
Surveying a new boat, necessary?
So you're buying a new boat directly from a dealer or manufacturer - should you get it surveyed? A good question and it comes down to basically how much will the survey cost, and how much do you trust the business you're buying it from.
In their capacity as experts a surveyor might be a good investment for a new boat purchase simply because they can point out potential maintenance issues and help you develop a checklist for properly maintaining your boat. This alone is likely worth the price of a survey.
Additionally, even new boats have things amiss. Wiring that didn't get done quite right, engines mounted a hole too high or low, devices that should be networked together that aren't. You get the idea, a boat is a complex piece of technology with numerous onboard systems. As a new boat buyer you want them all working.
See photos above for an example survey