BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau


Don't Fall For A Pretty Face

By Charles Fort
Published: August/September 2013

Hiring a professional surveyor before you buy could be the most important decision you'll make.

Get The Right Surveyor

You wouldn't hire a plumber to rewire your house; the same goes for surveyors. Finding a qualified marine surveyor or a specialist is a matter of knowing where to look.

  • Marine surveyors are not regulated or licensed, so virtually anyone can call himself a surveyor, and many unqualified people do. A good indicator of competence is a surveyor who has professional affiliations with the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), plus either the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS). BoatUS provides a listing of reputable surveyors for our members at
  • Photo of two men inspecting a boat
    Attending the survey means you'll learn a lot about your potential new boat.
  • Choose a surveyor who is familiar with the type of boat you're interested in. Some specialize in power, some in sail, others in wooden or metal boats. Never hire a marine surveyor referred to you by the seller or broker! BoatUS Consumer Protection has a long list of complaints that start with, "I hired a surveyor recommended by the seller ... ." A surveyor should have absolutely no affiliations with boat brokers, dealers, boat repair shops, or others whose living depends on the sale or repair of boats — especially the one you're about to buy.
  • Don't rely upon a survey prepared for a previous owner, even if it was done recently. A survey is a snapshot in time and a boat could have run aground or suffered other unnoticed damage since the last survey.
  • Engine surveys are typically performed by someone with vast experience in repairing gas and diesel engines. The best bet is to hire a certified technician who works for an authorized dealer. That way, they'll be able to research the boat's warranty and dealer service work, too. Hire an engine surveyor with experience on the make and model of the engine you need inspected.
  • Rigging surveyors tend to be a little harder to find, but most marine surveyors can recommend one. They typically make their living building and repairing masts, booms, and associated rigging.

Attend The Survey Inspection

Surveyors welcome prospective buyers to be present at the survey. There's no better way to learn about your new boat than watching a professional methodically dig through it. The surveyor's notes will be more meaningful if they're able to discuss with you what they're examining. They'll also answer questions that might not be significant enough to be included in the written report, and can tell you about problems they've seen on similar boat that you can be on the lookout for. Pay attention. You may learn that the face is not as handsome as you thought.End of story marker

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BoatUS Consumer Protection may be able to help you find a workable solution. If you need help, email us at or call (703) 461-2856.


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