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Things you need to know when buying a boat

Buying a Boat?  Get a Pre-Purchase Marine Survey

A marine survey will give you peace of mind and alert you to problems (see Pre-Purchase marine survey.)
A marine surveyor will provide a comprehensive report on the hull structure as well as the systems onboard. 

The report will help you decide whether to buy the boat and if you do it can then be used to obtain comprehensive insurance.


Be sure that you want to buy the boat  
Before arranging a marine survey make sure that you want to buy the boat (assuming  there are no faults that you are unaware of.)

Have a good look at the boat :-
    Is the cosmetic condition acceptable?
    Is it the type of boat you want?
    Are you happy with the age and price? 

If possible ask for a short sea trial to ensure that you are happy with the way the boat performs  ( some brokers may insist that you make an offer before allowing a sea trial.)

If you have any significant doubts it is pointless to pay a marine surveyor to tell you something that you could have worked out yourself.

If you need a loan make sure there are no problems

It is quite acceptable to buy a boat with faults provided you are fully aware of them and they are reflected in the price  - BUT -  if you are relying on a loan this may prove a problem. 
If you do need a loan it is best to make sure it is available before signing any agreements or approaching a marine surveyor because if lack of finance stops the sale you could end up paying a penalty to the broker and you cannot recoup the cost of the marine survey.

Buying from a private seller

If you are buying from a private seller then you can make whatever arrangements you like but other than paying lift out fees be very wary of paying any money to the seller before you have a written survey report and have made a considered decision to buy the boat.

Arranging a lift out
The broker or seller will usually arrange to get the boat lifted out of the water for a marine survey though the buyer will have to pay for it.

In busy marinas it is common practice to lift the boat out and hold it in slings for a couple of hours to allow the surveyor access to the underwater hull. 

This is far from ideal as there is limited time to examine the boat and the hull has no chance to dry out which can lead to high moisture readings and warnings about the possibility of osmosis developing.

This practice is common because it is by far the cheapest option and if the buyer wanted to keep the boat out of the water for a week before having the survey they would have to pay more. 

Asking the Surveyor to conduct a sea trial

A sea trial is not included as part of the standard marine survey but a short, in water test can be done for a relatively small extra cost. 

A sea trial will allow items such as toilets to be tested and seacocks can be examined for leaks but the main advantage is to see the engine running.  An experienced sailor may feel they can make these checks themselves and it is always advisable to try the boat at sea before making an offer,  if at all possible.

A sea trial gives a further chance to find faults but just because items function on a sea trial does not mean they can be guaranteed to function in the future.

Engine Tests

A Pre-Purchase survey will include a visual examination of the engine and will assess the standard of installation.  This can pick up a lot of problems but it does not give the marine surveyor a chance to see the engine running. 

If a sea trial is requested then the engine will be seen running, usually under full load and problems with starting, smoke and vibration can be picked up.  Many buyers will be able to identify such problems themselves if they take the boat to sea.

Marine surveyors are not usually practicing marine engineers with access to the latest diagnostic test equipment so they cannot provide specific information on engine performance such as cylinder pressures and temperatures.  If the engine(s) represents a significant part of the value of the boat as they generally do with power boats,  the buyer is advised to get them tested by a professional marine engineer.

Even if such tests are commissioned,  the buyer will not get a guarantee of the future performance of the engine but at least they will have had the equipment checked as far as is reasonably possible.  The buyer must accept that there is always a risk in buying second hand equipment

Cracks in Hull Hidden beneath Anti-fouling and Epoxy Coating


Negotiating with the Seller

Once the buyer has the survey report they may want to negotiate with the seller either to get a reduction in the price or to get the seller to rectify some of the problems.  This is much the same as any buying and selling process and the state of the market will determine whether the buyer can get a good deal or whether they will think it expedient to rectify the problems themselves. 

It is often best to get the seller to rectify any problems as things can turn out more expensive than initially thought and in this way the seller takes the risk.  The downside of this is that the buyer has limited control over the quality of the repairs but for anything major they can appoint the marine surveyor to oversee the work and make sure it is done properly.  If this is done the seller will need to pay the surveyor for such work.

If the buyer has signed a standard Sale and Purchase Agreement they are unlikely to be able to withdraw from the deal without paying a penalty unless the survey has found significant “material” problems e.g. something that will be expensive to rectify. 

With a private sale it is best to make sure you can decline the boat at any time without paying any penalty to the seller.  

Using the survey report to get insurance

In most cases the buyer and seller will come to an agreement and the sale will go ahead.  The buyer will then send the survey report to an insurance company so that comprehensive insurance can be arranged for the vessel. 

In general the insurance company will insure the boat on the understanding that the buyer carries out the Recommendations in the report.  They are unlikely to ask for proof that this has been done but if the buyer makes a claim on the insurance and the company finds out that a Recommendation has not been complied with then the insurance is likely to be invalid even if the work would have had no bearing on the claim.

Marine Surveys in Cardiff

Yacht and Boat surveys covering all areas in and around Cardiff Bay including :-

·         Cardiff Bay Yacht Club
·         Cardiff Yacht Club
·         Penarth Marina
·         Cardiff Marina

To request a quote for a marine survey in Cardiff (or elsewhere) click the link or telephone 07709 376 588.


Are you happy with kitchen units from a DIY store?


Buying through a broker

If you are buying through a broker you will generally be asked to sign a Sale and Purchase Agreement and pay a 10% deposit at the start of the process.  This usually ensures the boat is reserved for you but means you cannot withdraw from the sale without paying the broker money unless you find substantial defects with the vessel that you were not previously aware of.  Make sure you read the agreement carefully (see the Assocation of Brokers and Yacht Agents ABYA website for further details). 

It is at this stage that the survey is arranged. The marine surveyor works solely for the buyer and it is up to the buyer to appoint their choice of surveyor.  Brokers generally have lists of approved marine surveyors but the buyer can appoint whoever they wish. The boat will need to be surveyed out of the water and the buyer will usually have to pay the marina to lift the boat out and pressure wash the bottom.

Typical Lunchtime Lift at a Marina


Marine Surveys in South Wales

Boat surveys in Barry and Newport covering :- 

·         Barry Yacht Club
·         Newport Uskmouth Sailing Club 

To request a quote for a marine survey in Barry (or elsewhere) click the link or telephone 07709 376 588.

Monitoring Engines During a Sea Trial


What if the survey finds problems

Even on a relatively new and well maintained boat a marine survey is likely to find some problems. 

The survey findings will be categorised under two headings; Recommendations and Suggestions.  Any Recommendations listed in the report must be complied with before the boat can be used and insured whilst Suggestions are advice that the surveyor thinks would improve the boat but are not critical to the safety of the vessel.   

Recommendations are not necessarily high cost items and may, for instance just require a new bulb in a navigation light.  Conversely a Suggestion could be an expensive item but because the safety of the boat is not compromised there is no requirement for the work to be done at present.  Osmosis could come under this heading – see the Problems found in Boat Surveys Section. 

A summary of Recommendations and Suggestions will be given at the beginning of the survey report; make sure that you study them carefully and if necessary get quotations for repair work.

Marine Surveys around Swansea

Yacht surveys in the Swansea area including :-

Swansea Marina
·         Monkstone Sailing Club
·         Swansea Yacht and Sub Aqua Club

To request a quote for a marine survey in Swansea (or elsewhere) click the link or telephone 07709 376 588.


A valuation fixes the market price for the vessel based on her condition and the state of the market at the time of the valuation.

There are no secret tricks to a valuation and a buyer who has spent some time looking for a boat will have a good idea of what is a reasonable price.  In general, the price they are prepared to pay fixes the market value of the boat and unless there are unusual circumstances the insurance company will be prepared to insure the boat at this price.

For this reason there is usually no requirement to ask the marine surveyor for a valuation unless the boat is being purchased with a loan in which case the finance company will usually want to see an independent assessment of the boat’s value.

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