Boat Buyer's Guide:
Surveys & Sea Trials
The buyer's best friend, when it comes to inspecting and evaluating the condition and seaworthiness of a boat, is a competent marine surveyor well versed in boat construction, as well as safety and manufacturing laws, requirements and practices.
Hire your own surveyor to be sure the inspection is done with your interests in mind. BoatU.S. Members can call (800)283-2883 or visit the BoatUS Directory of Marine Surveyors for a referral. Don't use a surveyor recommended by the seller or rely upon a survey report provided by the owner. It could pre-date existing conditions that need repair or gloss over problems that are expensive to fix, even downright dangerous.
Boats should be surveyed both in and out of the water. Haul-out and other fees are at the buyer's expense. Engines should also be inspected by an independent marine mechanic.
Follow up the survey inspection with a sea trial to see how the boat handles underway. Are there performance problems that make the boat unstable? Does all the gear work properly? All electronic equipment should be tested for accuracy.
Surveys and sea trials that turn up flaws or problems can either allow you to back out of the contract without penalty (see Buyer's Guide Sales Contracts) or can be used to renegotiate the purchase price of the boat. A survey costs an average of $15-$20 per foot, depending upon the size of the boat, but is not a guarantee against latent or undetected defects.