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Surveys are a waste of money

Sep 29, 2016
62
Lord Nelson Lord Nelson 35 3 Full time cruiser
I am going to put this out there for anyone who is considering whether or not they should pay for a survey. If you have common sense, a basic tool set and a reasonable understanding of mechanics and electronics, I think they are completely and utterly a waste of money. I base this off of my recent experience finding and buying a boat. I looked at several if not dozens of boats for sale before I purchased my current and second sailboat. Many of them had been surveyed by certified SAMS and NAMS surveyors. Every single one of the surveys I read had discrepancies in either equipment type, condition or specifications. My insurance company required a survey before they would issue a policy, so I paid $875 to a SAMS surveyor to survey a Lord Nelson 35. I get the survey report back and it has the wrong hull ID, the wrong year, several items listed as "unkown" that could have easily been looked up, the wrong brand of spars listed, the incorrect location and material of tanks listed, wrong condition information etc.... So if you are not required to have a survey by your insurance company and are contemplating whether or not you should get one just go get yourself a copy of Don Casey's inspecting the aging sailboat and rest assured you did a better job than any "certified" surveyor and saved yourself a boat buck. If you're a surveyor and this post makes you angry then I bet if you sent me a copy of a recent survey you completed I could pretty much guarantee I could find something wrong with it or something you missed.
 

arf145

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Nov 4, 2010
433
Beneteau 331 Deale, MD
I can't really agree, but it does sound like you had a sloppy surveyor--or at least one who is sloppy with his/her reports. I think some base a new report off of an old one--not hard to see how a less-careful person can leave old info in there.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,826
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
My experience with surveyors is mixed. I met with one surveyor and learned more about boats and boat building in a few hours than I had in many years of owning a boat. On the other hand, a couple of surveyors were only helpful with getting funding and insurance.

With that said, it is good to have someone else take a look at the boat. Surveyors use a standard protocol that helps to limit omissions. When I bought Second Star, the surveyor noted the rudder had split, something I and the broker hadn't noticed. Yes, I did check the rudder and bearings by grabbing the leading and trailing edges of the rudder and shaking it. However, I grabbed the rudder about 2 inches above the crack and due to where the boat was sitting, the trailing edge of the rudder was not easily visible. Score 1 for the surveyor.

The same surveyor had to be coached by the mortgage broker on how to write the survey so the underwriters would approve. That took some effort and he was wrong on a couple of items.

Banks and insurance companies want surveys since they are bearing some risk and the surveyors are a disinterested party unlike the seller, buyer, or broker.
 
Apr 8, 2010
1,620
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 28400 Portland OR
Totally disagree -- not with your personal facts as stated, but with your conclusions and tarring of an entire profession.

If you find that you paid for a fraudulent survey, stop payment on the check or demand the $ back. Then tell your insurer about that surveyor citing only factual errors in the survey. Then find a real surveyor. Ask around; they do exist.
And, insurers do listen to these complaints and they do refuse to accept some "surveyors".

And, yes an owner can do a decent survey with education and study. There are good books to guide you. The trick is to find a surveyor that has a good reputation as well as the 'wall paper' from the certification sources. It does take some asking around.
The other problem with an owner relying on his/her work is emotional involvement. The dispassionate opinion of the surveyor is really important!

ps: I have known three surveyors over the years, and followed each of them thru a thorough survey. A vintage Taiwan (or similar) vessel that was built 30 or 40 years ago would take an 8 hour day to survey and a result in a lengthly writeup with 50 to 100 pix on a flash drive. It likely needs a lot of upgrades and usually some major restoration. They are Pretty boats with a core of enthusiastic fans, but at this age they require infusions of time and money... and time. And, finally, sandpaper & varnish! :)
 
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May 17, 2004
3,469
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
I can’t say I agree either. Clearly yours was not a very well documented survey, but that doesn’t mean they’re all useless. I’m sure there’s variation in surveyor quality, and by most accounts surveys in general find enough issues to be worthwhile. Maybe someone who has lots of years of boating experience can do a good job self-inspecting, but that’s probably not true for most purchasers.
If you're a surveyor and this post makes you angry then I bet if you sent me a copy of a recent survey you completed I could pretty much guarantee I could find something wrong with it or something you missed.
Just because something is wrong in a survey doesn’t mean a purchaser could do better. To make a tortured analogy, a doctor might only get a 95% on a biology test, but that doesn’t mean whoever grades the test should be doing heart surgery on themselves.
 
Jan 19, 2010
9,999
Hunter 26 Charleston
I think home inspections are also a mixed bag. I know of one realtor who "has a guy" who will write the most critical inspection possible with the sole purpose of trying to drive the selling price down. :poop: On the other hand, I had an inspector notice insect damage that I had missed when I looked at the house.
 
Mar 6, 2008
691
Catalina 1999 C36 MKII #1787 Coyote Point Marina, CA.
My surveyor had 22 incorrect points listed. Such obvious items as keel stepped was listed as deck stepped, size of the anchor was wrong. It has been 10 years since the report. I believe it was copy of someone else's survey he had put my name on. They work for the broker to make the sale. A waste of money. This goes for my rig surveyor. Parts in good working order was listed as cracked. After I pointed out to them, they agreed to edit their report.
 
Jan 4, 2006
3,901
Hunter 310 West Vancouver, B.C.
If you find a GOOD surveyor, they are well worth the money.

I was FORCED to get a survey on my boat when it reached the big " Two Oh". The surveyor I got was a walking encyclopedia. RELIABLE MARINE SURVEYORS in the Vancaouver area. The survey read like an encyclopedia as well. His only error was a remark about one of the two shaft the zincs. He thought it was used while I said it was new when replaced. BIG FFFFFFF DEAL ! Other than that, 100% accuracy. I pumped his brain for everything I could get. He was exhausted when we finished.

Ask around your neighbours and check their experience before your next survey in about 20 years.
 
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Sep 29, 2016
62
Lord Nelson Lord Nelson 35 3 Full time cruiser
My surveyor had 22 incorrect points listed. Such obvious items as keel stepped was listed as deck stepped, size of the anchor was wrong. It has been 10 years since the report. I believe it was copy of someone else's survey he had put my name on. They work for the broker to make the sale. A waste of money. This goes for my rig surveyor. Parts in good working order was listed as cracked. After I pointed out to them, they agreed to edit their report.
This is exactly what I was talking about. I looked at several boats for sale whose owners shared surveys and 100% of them had discrepancies.
 
Feb 10, 2004
3,508
Hunter 40.5 Warwick, RI
I have had 3 surveys on 2 different sailboats. One was a pre-purchase, and the other two were C&V for insurance. Each one was excellent, catching faults that I did not see. Considering that you are laying down big bucks, I think that a survey is a wise expenditure. One each survey the surveyor provided me a 15-20 page detailed assessment and organized the findings as very important- correct right away, moderate- do as soon as you can, and minor- not required, but a good idea to correct.
 
Feb 21, 2013
3,776
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
My experience with marine surveyors has been positive and helpful. Most are very cautious and report findings that I easily mitigated after post survey. I have gotten a marine survey on every boat, except for my Hunter 386 since the owner provided me one less than a year old, I did my own inspection and my insurance company accepted it without a new survey. I also sold a Hunter 31 with my year old survey without the buyer having it surveyed.
 
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Sep 25, 2008
6,314
Alden 50 Sarasota, Florida
. I get the survey report back and it has the wrong hull ID, the wrong year, several items listed as "unkown" that could have easily been looked up, the wrong brand of spars listed, the incorrect location and material of tanks listed, wrong condition information etc.... .
I think your problem isn’t the wisdom of a survey but rather who your hired to do it.
 
Oct 22, 2014
16,088
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I think some base a new report off of an old one--not hard to see how a less-careful person can leave old info in there.
If your survey comes out with data from a different boat because the surveyor is saving time, then you have a someone writing a report taking short cuts. This would make me wonder where else were shortcuts taken. I would not pay for sloppy work.
 
Feb 21, 2013
3,776
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
.........I get the survey report back and it has the wrong hull ID, the wrong year, several items listed as "unkown" that could have easily been looked up, the wrong brand of spars listed, the incorrect location and material of tanks listed, wrong condition information etc.....
Curious why you decided to use this surveyor (internet search, recommendation, broker referral, other) AND did you go back to the surveyor to request report discrepancies be corrected, and if so did he/she do it?
 
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Jan 11, 2014
7,826
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
A couple of points.

On a boat that is less than $10K I would probably not hire a surveyor unless the bank or insurance required it. The cost of the survey relative to the cost of the boat is too much.

Second, the broker or seller should never recommend or hire the surveyor. The surveyor works for the buyer.
 
Oct 1, 2007
1,734
Boston Whaler Super Sport Pt. Judith
I will add a small point to this discussion. When you engage a surveyor, look at their web page, or business card. Likely you will see a number of societies and organizations to which the surveyor claims to be a member. Look at their academic credentials. Then examine the web pages for the societies quoted. Check how many actually require an applicant to sit for an examination, and or field demonstration before gaining entrance. You may find that some of these so called "credentials" are simply societies that require a $35 payment and the applicant receives a card, showing membership. Also, check the surveyor's experience. Do they do both power and sail? What size range? Talk to them if you can. Ask questions pertinent to your survey and see how your questions are answered.
Personally, I have seen the full range on this. I have seen very competent surveyors, experienced with sailboats, do an excellent job and provide a very detailed report. I have also seen incredibly incompetent, inexperienced, and inarticulate people basically trying to pass themselves off as surveyors.
I believe a knowledgeable yachtsman should be able to interview a would be surveyor and determine whether they are up to the job, but it takes time.
A tertiary problem is actually finding a competent surveyor. Nobody gets rich being a surveyor, so you are really looking for someone who is a part time surveyor, and part time 3 other jobs. Good ones are really hard to find.
 
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BarryL

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May 21, 2004
833
Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409 Mt. Sinai, NY
Hi,

it is a great idea to read the books, do your homework, and inspect your potential new boat. The more you do yourself the better off you will be. However, if you’re not an expert how can you tell if the hull is wet, or has a void, or has some other problem? Are you able to tell if the electrical meets ABYC standards, if the plumbing has been done correctly, the motor mounts solid, etc? If yes, the you don’t need a surveyor.

When I purchased my c&c in 2013 I didn’t really need a survey but i wanted the boat hauled and inspected anyway so the additional cost of the surveyor was minimal. He did go up the rig and inspected the standing and running rigging. He did a fine job. When i had my current boat surveyed (in May) I really wanted an expert because this boar had heat and air conditioning, windlass, powered winches, bow thruster, and all sorts of gear. The surveyor did a great job of explaining how all that worked, where the through hulls were located, all that stuff.

If you find a good surveyor you will learn a lot.

Barry
 
Mar 26, 2011
2,935
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
As a general rule, I am very qualified to survey a boat of a type I have owned... but not before I buy it and live with it!. This is particularly true when moving up.

Yes, I think I know a thing or two now. but that took years.

Finally, there is the negotiation aspect. It won't matter much on a $25K boat, but on a >$100K boat, anything undisclosed and not obvious represents a negotiation opportunity. Your position is a lot stronger when it is on a piece of paper.