How To Get Your Boat Surveyed

How to Get Your Boat Surveyed

Whether you’re in the market to buy or sell, a boat survey is likely an important step. It offers peace of mind to the buyer and ensures transparency for the seller. Let’s dive into the process of arranging a boat survey, highlighting key steps like choosing the right surveyor, understanding survey types, preparing for the survey, and interpreting the results.

Understanding Boat Surveys

A boat survey acts as a comprehensive health check-up for your vessel, pinpointing potential issues that could impact its performance or safety. Various surveys cater to different needs, from pre-purchase evaluations to insurance, appraisal, and damage assessments. Your specific situation—whether buying, insuring, or repairing—will determine the right type of survey for you.

The 4 Steps to the Boat Survey Process

1. Selecting a Surveyor and Engaging Them

Start by identifying a surveyor who meets your needs. This involves interviewing candidates, reviewing their sample reports and qualifications, then confirming their availability. Opt for a surveyor specialised in engine, hull, or commercial aspects as needed, ensuring they have no conflicts of interest and come well-recommended with references.

2. Organising the Survey Date and Logistics

After choosing a surveyor, coordinate with them to schedule the survey. This can include arranging for the boat to be hauled out for hull inspection. Collaboration with the surveyor ensures they’re available and prepared for the inspection, and they can often help with boatyard contacts.

3. Communicating with the Seller or Broker

If you’re buying, make sure the seller or broker understands the survey’s scope and ensures the boat is ready and accessible for the inspection. If unsure, ask the surveyor beforehand for the normal procedure for the day so you can inform the seller on what to expect.

4. Reviewing the Survey Report

The surveyor will provide a detailed report post-inspection. Review this carefully, possibly with the surveyor, to understand the condition of the boat and any necessary repairs. This can significantly influence negotiations or decisions on the purchase. This may also include liaising with appropriate trades to obtain quotes for items found on the survey and discussing with the surveyor in detail.

sunseeker Manhattan hauled out for survey inspection
A 2007 Sunseeker 60 Manhattan being hauled out for survey inspection

What Is My Process Throughout the Day?

When I’m completing a survey and mechanical inspection, I like the start the day in the engine bay while it’s cold. Ideally I spend a few hours inspecting the engines and machinery, before motoring over to the slipway. From there I like to have the yard haul out the boat and pressure wash the hull, so I can get the out of water inspection completed. Next is the sea trial, before heading back to the berth for comprehensive inspection of the remainder of boat. Each individual surveyor will have their own preferred order of events.

Selecting the Right Surveyor

It’s crucial to choose a surveyor who is independent and free from conflicts of interest. For example, avoid surveyors who offer maintenance repairs post-inspection, as this could bias their findings. Accreditation, such as from the Australian Institute of Marine Surveyors (AIMS), assures professionalism and ethical standards.

Types of Boat Surveyors

  • Engine Surveyor: Specialises in the mechanical components of the boat.
  • Hull Surveyor: Focuses on the structural integrity of the boat.
  • Commercial Surveyor: Deals with vessels used for commercial purposes.

Select a surveyor with experience relevant to your type of vessel and consider obtaining references or sample reports for a comprehensive assessment.

Types of Boat Surveys

  • Pre-Purchase Survey: Comprehensive evaluation recommended for used boats.
  • Insurance Survey: Assesses the boat’s condition for insurance purposes.
  • Appraisal Survey: Determines the boat’s fair market value.
  • Damage Assessment: Evaluates damage extent and cause for repair or claims.

Tips for a Smooth Survey Process

  • Schedule Early: Avoid delays by booking your survey in advance.
  • Documentation: Have all necessary paperwork ready for the surveyor.
  • Follow Up: Consider a follow-up inspection after any significant repairs.


Securing a boat survey is a pivotal step in safeguarding your maritime investment. By carefully selecting a surveyor, preparing for the inspection, and understanding the implications of the survey report, you can navigate the process with ease. Remember, a detailed boat survey not only protects your investment but also ensures a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

About the Author

Aaron O’Donoghue is a qualified Marine Surveyor & Engineer with nearly two decades of experience in the industry. He is an experienced boater from Sydney who grew up on the waters of Sydney Harbour. He left school at 15 to complete an apprenticeship as a Marine Mechanic. In 2015, he founded BoatBuy, where he has inspected thousands of boats and is passionate about helping others enjoy their time on the water. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field. Do you have a boating related question? Feel free to reach out to me via email here.

How do I choose the right boat surveyor?

Choosing the right boat surveyor involves researching their qualifications, ensuring they’re independent with no conflicts of interest, and checking for accreditation with reputable organizations like the Australian Institute of Marine Surveyors (AIMS). Look for a surveyor with experience relevant to your specific type of vessel and ask for references or sample reports to assess their thoroughness and reliability.

What types of boat surveys are available?

There are several types of boat surveys, each serving different purposes. Pre-Purchase Surveys are comprehensive evaluations recommended for used boats. Insurance Surveys assess the boat’s condition for insurance purposes. Appraisal Surveys help determine the boat’s fair market value, while Damage Assessments evaluate the extent and cause of damage for repairs or insurance claims.

What should I do after receiving the survey report?

After receiving the survey report, review it thoroughly to understand the condition of the boat and any identified issues. It’s helpful to discuss the findings with the surveyor to clarify any concerns. Use the report to negotiate the purchase price, plan for repairs, or decide on the next steps. Consider engaging with tradespeople to obtain quotes for necessary repairs and possibly arrange for a follow-up inspection after significant issues are addressed.

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