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Pre Purchase Surveys

Pre Purchase Surveys 4

What is a Pre Purchase Survey?

When obtaining a pre purchase survey on a boat, you are employing a professional to help determine as much information about the condition of the vessel prior to purchase.  You are hiring a trained eye with years of experience to observe and test.  Education and experience are the primary factors that lead to a higher caliber of work. 

The Three Steps of the Survey

Surveys consist of three important steps:

1) the static, in water inspection,

2) the haul out to inspect the underbody, and

3) the sea trial.

It is recommended that all three steps are performed to ensure a thorough survey report can be provided.  The haul out phase of the survey is primarily focused on hull integrity as it allows the surveyor to inspect below the water line.  You will need to arrange a haul out with your marina or shipyard during the time of inspection.  During the sea trial, key systems are put to the test under load by performing maneuvers in open water.  Here, you can really determine how well the engines and vessel perform.

In short, a pre purchase survey includes inspecting every facet of the boat possible without a tear down.  This includes all major systems from electronics to propulsion.

Static In Water Inspection

A typical survey process begins with the static in water inspection at your slip.  Here the surveyor is responsible for identifying and reporting all major systems and equipment that can affect safety and reliability.  Items like steel or brass fittings coupled to an aluminum fuel tank can promote galvanic corrosion, ultimately leading to a potential damage of the assembly or worse a fuel leak.  

Major systems, electronics, safety equipment, heads and galleys, are all inspected during this phase of the survey.

Guidelines published by industry organizations are used by surveyors that help the surveyor make judgement calls versus merely acting on opinions.  


  • The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
  • American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC®) standards and recommended practices
  • Value determinations by BUC® Value, NADA©,, ABOS, and Power Boat Guide
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA©)

Haul Out

Once everything above the water line is inspected, the marina will haul out the boat for a full inspection.  This is where the hull and other areas of the vessel are inspected that normally sit below the water line.  The hull condition will be inspected at rest and while running with the intention of looking for leaking, breakage, or fouling.  Propeller and shaft are also observed for damage including barnacles, cracks, or bends.

The Sea Trial

During the sea trial, the vessel is brought to open water to have its overall performance evaluated under load.  We examine the steering controls, shafting, engine mounts, exhaust system, and the hull.  A vessel under load can be an entirely different animal versus a beautifully cosmetic specimen presented in the marina.

Sail boats have their sailing systems tested and evaluated for condition and proper tuning.  Open water Sea trials should last at least one hour for standard size vessels while larger yachts will almost always require more time.  There is a lot to observe and record during this critical phase of the survey, so it is important to allocate sufficient time for the surveyor to provide you with a comprehensive report.  

An open sea trial is almost always recommended however poor weather can result in the buyer wanting to avoid liability in heavier seas.    

Engine Analysis

Engines are a large percentage of the value of most powerboats which is why its so important that engine health is determined prior to purchase.  An engine analysis is an in-depth mechanical inspection that can save the prospective buyer or owner thousands of dollars on potential headaches.

Compression Testing

Compression testing is an option for those looking for a deeper diagnostic dive.  For an additional charge, compression testing can be performed with the understanding that we must have the ability to access the engines and remove the spark plugs.  Outboard motors with easy access are usually not a problem.  In general, engines 4 years or older are prime candidates for compression testing so please ask about this valuable diagnostic tool if the vessel’s engine meets this criteria.    

Oil Analysis

An oil analysis is considered an important diagnostic tool to help determine what metal wear has taken place and more importantly analyze if salt, water, or antifreeze is present in the oil.  An oil sample is taken and sent to a lab for a full analysis with results usually being obtained within 3 days.  Results will be included in the final report.  

The Report

After the survey is completed, the surveyor will take time to formulate his observations, findings, opinions, and recommendations in the form of a written survey report.  You can expect to receive this report in as little as few days from the date of the survey.  This written record will include a list of onboard equipment but is not a complete vessel inventory.  Your financial institution or insurance underwriter will request a copy of the survey report as a condition of the loan or policy.  You should treat this report as an evaluation and not a recommendation on whether or not the vessel should be purchased.  A surveyors job is to observe and report.  

Whats Included in a Pre Purchase Survey

Static in Water Inspection

All accessible areas of the vessel are inspected

Haul Out

The vessel is hauled out for inspection below the water line

Sea Trial

Onboard systems are tested under load in open water

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Location :

6725 Fairmont Pkwy #1123, Pasadena, TX 77505

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Bay Marine Surveyors are the trusted marine surveyors of choice for all of South Texas. We work on your behalf to ensure you have the information you need to make an informed decision. Our straightforward no nonsense approach has made us an industry leader.