Boats can be great fun, an amazing pastime, provide hours of time outdoors with positive health benefits, and can bring friends and families together to enjoy quality time, explore new places, and engage in exciting water activities. However, there are also a lot of things to prepare for when purchasing a boat. Whether it’s your first boat or you’re a veteran boat owner, it’s important to know about marine surveys. 

If you’re new to the boating world, you may wonder what is a marine survey? And how do you know if you need one? A marine survey is basically a thorough boat inspection. It is completed by a licensed marine surveyor and is conducted to determine the seaworthiness of the vessel, as well as its safety, and market value. It’s also referred to as a boat survey. At the end of the marine survey, the surveyor completes a detailed report which includes sections on the boat’s condition and any repairs that it may need. 

Typically, all used boats need a marine survey. Not only will you learn more about the boat’s condition, if it’s seaworthy, and how much it’s worth, you will also learn about any potential problems. You may learn that something should be fixed immediately or that you should expect to have to do some repairs within the next year. A survey will give you some peace of mind before taking passengers out on the water in your new vessel. 

The survey will give you an estimated cost of repairs as well. Keep in mind that these numbers are based on industry averages. 

Some things you can expect during a marine survey include:

  • A thorough inspection, often the surveyor goes over the boat inch-by-inch
  • A hull inspection to look for possible water intrusion 
  • An inspection of all onboard systems and their functionality including plumbing systems, electrical systems, and HVAC systems 
  • An engine and mechanical inspection including oil tests 
  • An inspection may occur in the water, out of the water or the surveyor may want to inspect the boat both on a sea trial and out of the water

Types of Marine Surveys

There are various different types of marine surveys used for different purposes. The most common types of marine surveys include:

  • Condition and value survey: Also known as C & V surveys, these are performed when you’re buying a used boat. They’re the most common type of boat survey and are generally very comprehensive. In order to get a boat loan, a condition and value survey may be required or you may get one to better know the condition of the boat you’re buying. Additionally, this can be used as leverage in negotiating the price of the boat. For example, if a number of repairs need to be made, you may be able to get a certain percentage off the sales price. 
  • Insurance condition and value survey: As the name suggests, this type of marine survey is requested by the insurance company. It’s often a required prerequisite for getting marine insurance coverage. It will need to adhere to a specific checklist provided by the insurance company and will be comprehensive but generally not as thorough as a typical condition and value survey. 
  • Appraisal survey: This survey is performed with the sole purpose of finding out what the exact value of the boat is. A boat loan may require this or it may be performed if assets are being split in a divorce proceeding, someone inherits a boat, there is an estate sale, or you want to know your boat’s value before selling it. 
  • Damage survey: This kind of survey may be required by your boat insurance company after an accident or inclement weather. The surveyor will look over the boat to determine the extent of damage and the estimated cost of repairs. Even if your insurance company doesn’t require it, you may want to get this survey done so you know if your boat is still safe or not. To an untrained eye a boat may look fine, but it may not be seaworthy after it has been through a storm, flooding, or involved in an accident, etc. 
  • New yacht survey: This survey is reserved for large yachts and custom-built boats. It’s usually optional because most yachts have already gone through multiple inspections as they’re being built. However, if you want it for your added security, or if you’re buying a boat that isn’t NMMA certified, then you may want to coordinate this survey. Keep in mind, it will take multiple days to complete and can get quite expensive because larger boats contain more components that need inspecting. 
  • Rig survey: This is only for sailboats and should be performed by a rigger with experience with sailboat inspections. The entire rig including the mast will be inspected for damage, performance, and structural integrity. 

How to Choose a Marine Surveyor

If you don’t know a marine surveyor yourself, you can get a recommendation from the boat broker that is selling you the boat, or Trident Funding can recommend a surveyor and coordinate the entire marine survey process for you which saves you time and ensures you will have guidance every step of the way. 

Trident Funding, known for being a reputable financing company that specializes in boat loans, offers online tools like a boat loan calculator and a rate estimator, and has an easy to navigate application process, also offers full white glove services throughout the entire loan process. So, we will set up the marine survey for you, explain how the inspection works, what to prepare for, and even help you with any necessary Coast Guard documentation that may be required. 

The Wrap Up: What is a Marine Survey?

Now you know how important marine surveys are, that they offer detailed insights into the condition and value of your boat, and that many boat loans and boat insurance carriers require them. It’s recommended to get a marine survey for any used boat regardless of whether it is required or not. It’s better to spend the money now and know if your boat is seaworthy and to know the boat’s true value. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What is a Marine Survey?

How Long Does a Marine Survey Take?

The length of time a marine survey takes depends on the type of survey, how thorough and detailed it is, and the size of the boat. Smaller boats may only take an hour or two and mid-sized boats may take a few hours to complete. Expect larger boats to take all day, and if you have something like a mega yacht, it may take several days to complete. 

How Much Does a Marine Survey Cost?

The cost of a marine survey varies based on a number of factors including:

  • The location and the going rate that surveyors charge
  • The location of the boat and how easy it is to access it
  • The type of survey conducted. More in-depth surveys or ones with specific requirements may cost more. 
  • The length of the boat! This is the biggest deciding factor when it comes to the cost of a marine survey. A surveyor may charge a minimum price so it’s worth their time to come out, especially if you have a smaller boat. However, other surveyors will charge a per foot fee, and may charge additional fees if specific inspection components are added on. Expect the fees per foot to be about $20 to $25. So, if you have a 50 foot boat, expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $1,250 for a marine survey. 

How Long is a Marine Survey Good For?

A marine survey doesn’t expire and it isn’t necessarily good for a certain amount of time. It really depends on the type of survey you have, its purpose, and who is requesting the survey. The type of boat will also dictate when you need a new survey. Wooden boats tend to need to be surveyed more often than boats made out of other materials. 

If you’re getting new boat insurance, a new boat loan, or refinancing a boat loan, the lender or insurance company may want a newer marine survey: one that has been completed within the last two years. If you made any changes to your boat, got new engines, completed repairs, or its condition changed, it’s also time for a new survey.  

The condition of boats is always changing. The hull may have gotten damaged without you knowing, a minor storm may have rocked your boat, you may have forgotten to get it serviced or cleaned, or it wasn’t properly stored. All of these things can affect the condition of the boat within a short time frame, so marine surveys are really ever-changing. 

Should You Be Present at a Marine Survey?

It’s not typically required that you, as the potential or current owner of the boat, be present for a marine survey, but it’s recommended. It’s a great way to learn more about your boat, where things are located, how things work, and the overall condition of the boat. You can also find out during the inspection what repairs need to be made first hand instead of waiting to read about it in the report and then having no idea what it means or the terminology used. It’s especially advisable to be present if this is your first boat. 

Who Pays for a Marine Survey?

Typically, the buyer is responsible for the cost of the marine survey. Even if it’s required by the boat lender or your insurance company, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to pay for it. Trident Funding can order the marine survey for you and help you coordinate the process. 

Be wary if the seller of a used boat wants to choose the marine surveyor. You want a neutral third party to inspect the boat and not someone who may be associated with the seller.