If you don't hire a marine surveyor you'll hate yourself later

Post by: Rob Paterson
12 October 2015

surveyorShed

Photo: Dakota Roos

Hiring a marine surveyor before you commit to a boat is one of the best decisions you can make. It doesn’t matter how skilled or experienced you are with boats, it’s a different game when it comes to buying your own. Emotions get caught up into the process and you can easily become attached to a boat before you’ve even bought it. That’s why you need an impartial perspective.

What is a marine surveyor?

Before you commit to making a large purchase like buying a boat, you want to make sure that what you’re buying is going to be a safe investment. That means you’ll want to know the condition of your boat and all of its systems. The problem is that without knowing a great deal about boats yourself, you likely won’t know what to look for when it comes to inspecting a boat. Or even if you do know a great deal, you can become easily distracted and let your emotions drive your decision. This is where a marine surveyor comes in.

Your surveyor will give your potential purchase an impartial and thorough check to provide you with a report on the condition of your boat. This is called the marine survey.  Your marine surveyor is only as good as the report that they can generate for you, so you will also want to be careful about who you are hiring.

The current system in place means that anyone can call themselves a Marine Surveyor and start a business. There’s no official governing body or any official requirements to be able to give yourself the title. This means that the person you pick could potentially have no qualifications at all. This makes picking the right person a key decision.

So what happens if you don't use a marine surveyor?

Your boat insurance won't come cheap for a start. Most insurance companies require a boat survey to be carried out before they will even give you insurance. Those that don't are likely to charge you a higher rate without a survey having been carried out. Without knowing what sort of condition the boat you're buying is in, the insurance companies will not want to be paying for unexpected expensive repairs. So while the fee to hire a surveyor may be expensive, the money you save elsewhere can be well worth it the initial expense.

Having a professional look over your boat before buying will also help you to avoid scams. It's not unheard of for some boats to be sold that have severe rust in the hull or other mechanical and electrical issues. These are normally covered up in a way that makes it hard for an untrained eye to detect. A good, qualified marine surveyor will be able to spot these issues and the common ways in which they are covered up.  

When it comes to buying a boat working within your budget is essential. It’s easy for costs to spiral. A marine surveyor will also help you avoid any boats that will come with a hefty repair and maintenance price tag. That bargain boat that you found is all well and good - until you have to pay twice as much as the sticker price just to get it running. There’s no reason initial repair and maintenance fees should catch you unaware.

Most important of all however is that you wouldn't want any emergency situation on your boat while you're out at sea. Not only would your own life be in danger, but also those of whoever else is on board. This could be crew, friends or even your loved ones. Your boat is all that separates you from a vast, unforgiving ocean. You want to be absolutely certain that the confidence and trust you're putting in your boat is well placed. Don’t become another statistic just because you wanted to save a few pounds instead of hiring a professional.

In Closing

What a surveyor is really providing you is peace of mind. There are a lot of different systems and aspects to a boat and you aren't expected to be an expert with them all. There's only so much you can do yourself. Any emotional investment you have in your potential purchase may also make you overlook certain aspects without considering the full impact they could have in the future. By hiring a professional to make these checks for you, what you're really buying is peace of mind. You can give yourself the gift of security in knowing that the purchase you make is a safe one.

Finally, a last word on marine surveyors. Anyone can give themselves the title of "marine surveyor" and start a business without any qualifications. The very same businesses that you may go to looking for professional advice. It's important to look into qualified, professional surveyors around your area. There are a number of certifications available and a good marine surveyor will have at least a few of these. You can also look for independent organisations with which surveyors can register and become certified by, such as:

  • The International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS)
  • The Yacht Designers and Surveyors Association (YDSA)
  • The Society of Consulting Marine Engineers and Ship Surveyors (SCMS)
  • The Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA)
  • The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST)

Hiring a marine surveyor can be expensive and finding a good one may take time, but for your own sake we highly recommend that you do hire one.

Author - Rob Paterson