How Much Does A Marine Survey Cost?

Marine Survey costs vary, depending on what type of inspection you want. Marine Surveyors in Sydney generally charge $22 – $35 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 $100 – $180 per hour for engine inspections.

BoatBuy Pre-Purchase Marine Survey Sample

Types of Surveyors

Marine surveyors are typically hired by boat owners for pre-purchase and insurance surveys, companies and sole operators to meet government regulations for commercial operations, and insurance and shipping companies to assess damages.

The different types of Surveyors include, but are not limited to:

  1. Pre-Purchase Surveyors, usually have either a formal Surveying qualification, a boatbuilding background, or shipwright qualification
  2. Mechanical Surveyors, usually hold a Marine Mechanical qualification or experience of similar
  3. AMSA Surveyors, generally one of or a mix of both above with relevant experience and understanding of national law that has been approved by AMSA (Australian Marine Safety Authority) for certain classes of survey

Insurance companies set the standard for the condition of the boat that they consider an acceptable risk to insure, and decide whether or not to insure the boat based on the surveyor’s report.

If you’re unsure what will be covered in your survey, you can always ask your preferred surveyor for a sample report.

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).

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 are not qualified to inspect machinery.

As a minimum, all surveys should include:
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

Mechanical Report

As a minimum, a mechanical report should include:

  1. Compression testing on petrol engines – although these are quite difficult to perform, they are essential in accurately gauging the condition of the internals
  2. Gearbox and steering system inspection – depending on the make and model this can be as simple as an oil sample and testing the operation
  3. Water test run under load – the most important part, as this is the most likely time an engine will fault or problems will arise
  4. 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
  5. 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. On the other hand, a good broker will recommend a thorough surveyor so that he knows the boat has been checked properly and there is less chance of the customer coming back with a complaint. However, there is no problem with selling a boat that has problems, provided the buyer is aware and factors it into their consideration when purchasing. Hiring a thorough inspector will work in your favour, knowing the current condition, and being able to more accurately price the boat.

How much does a Marine Survey cost?

A Marine Survey usually ranges from $14 to $30 per foot depending on the purpose of the survey, construction and age of the vessel.

What types of Surveys are there?

There are 4 main types of surveys: Pre-Purchase, Insurance, Mechanical, and AMSA (Periodical). Pre-Purchase is for finding out the condition when buying a used boat; Insurance is for obtaining an insurance policy and is usually requested when the boat is over 10 years old; Mechanical is to check the condition of the engines; and AMSA is to pass government regulations to operate a boat commercially.

What does a Marine Survey include?

This will depend on the purpose of the survey, but generally includes condition of the hull and superstructure, electrics, machinery, serial numbers, HIN and safety gear. Please note that not all Surveyors are qualified to provide a Mechanical survey at the same time, and it’s best to get both the Hull and the Mechanics checked before a purchase.

How long does a Marine Survey take?

This will depend on the length of the boat, number of engines and generators to be inspected. On a typical 40ft Sports Cruiser Pre-Purchase and Mechanical Survey with two engines and one generator, you would expect the Surveyor to onboard for a full day depending on the age and condition.

How often should boats be Surveyed?

The length of time between surveys will be dictated by the insurance company, or government regulator if used commercially. Generally the insurance company will want regular out-of-water surveys once the vessel becomes over 10 years old, and the government regulator will want anything between yearly to once every 5 years depending on the risk category of operation.

Do you need a Boat Survey for insurance?

Each insurance company sets their own guidelines regarding how often or whether you need a survey before a policy can be obtained. It is always best to speak your preferred insurer before purchasing a boat. Generally, most vessels older than 10 years old will require a survey if permanently moored.

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