Marine Survey costs vary, depending on what type of inspection you want. Marine Surveyors in Sydney generally charge $22 – $30 per foot (vessel length) for a pre-purchase inspection, with the higher-end pricing generally for timber vessels. On the other hand, an insurance survey may be done for $14 – 18 per foot.

Marine Surveyors are not mechanics, although there is a handful that are dual certified, so it’s always best to find someone who is, or use two separate parties. Mechanics typically charge $90 – $125 per hour for engine inspections.

Marine Survey

BoatBuy Pre-Purchase Marine Survey Sample

Types of Surveyors

Marine surveyors typically work for insurance companies but the boat owner will need to pay for their services. Insurance companies set the standard for the condition of the boat that they consider an acceptable risk and decide whether or not to insure the boat based on the surveyor’s report.

Surveyors can also provide pre-purchase reports for the client, which may be based on the insurance report but often include inspection of extra items.

Several institutions certify surveyors and set a standard. Examples are the Australian Institute of Marine Surveyors (AIMS) – in Australia, the most popular and the International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS).

AIMS logo


What entails a good Pre-Purchase Marine Survey?

A good report will focus on the condition of the boat, as it currently is. Don’t get fooled by a long report – it doesn’t necessarily mean it is useful. Is the Surveyor providing a list of the boats features or actually commenting on the condition of each of those features? It should be clear if the report will include a mechanical component, as some surveyors provide only a basic visual inspection.

As a minimum, all surveys should include:

  • Boat make & model
  • Length
  • HIN Number
  • Registration number
  • Engine serial number/s
  • Condition of bilge pumps and automatic float switches
  • Inspection of through-hull fittings and exhaust outlets
  • Underside inspection, checking for osmosis, delamination, design and production faults, previous damage electrolysis and corrosion
  • Tally of features and electronics fitted
  • Condition of the vessel
Mercruiser Inboard

Mercruiser V6 Sterndrive

Mechanical Report

As a minimum, a mechanical report should include:

  • Service history – has the engine been looked after in the past?
  • Compression testing on petrol engines – although these are quite difficult to perform, they are essential in accurately gauging the condition of the internals
  • Gearbox and steering system inspection – depending on the make and model this can be as simple as an oil sample and testing the operation
  • Water test run under load – the most important part, as this is the most likely time an engine will fault or problems will arise
  • Visual inspection – is the engine corroded? Salt-water is a damaging environment, and having a ball of rust in the engine bay will cause problems down the line
  • Engine fluids inspection – every make and model will have different fluids, such as coolant, power steering, engine oil, gearbox oil and even anti corrosion products such as salt away

Use your report to bargain

A pre-purchase report should be used to bargain on price. When a broker lists a boat, they base it on the vessel being in good operating condition, with everything working unless otherwise stated. A good broker will inform the owner before he sells the boat of any problems he comes across, as problems will affect the likelihood of a higher sale price. Often, boats are listed and the broker isn’t aware of problems until the survey, or out of water inspection. This is when you have the opportunity to ask the seller to fix problems, or bargain the price down.

What about Boat Brokers?

The seller pays a boat broker to get the highest price possible for their boat. Don’t be fooled into believing a broker works for you, although a good boat broker will be fair because the broker will want to keep the buyer as a potential customer when they need their next boat. A broker with a large list of previous clients can be a great asset, as they will have clients come to them to upgrade – so you may hear about off-market deals.


When spending a large amount of money on a boat, it’s important to ensure the person performing the inspection is credible. Although it’s common for brokers to recommend surveyors, the question must be asked whether the broker has a relationship with the surveyor, and if they will likely “go easy” to get the sale through. A broker may not recommend someone who is very diligent if the product they are selling is not great. However, there is no problem with selling a boat that has problems, provided the buyer is aware and factors it into the cost. Hiring a thorough inspector will work in your favor, knowing the current condition, and being able to accurately price the boat.