Surveys are a waste of money

Apr 8, 2010
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 28400 Portland OR
One of the best (and much sought after) surveyors in the NW has a saying something like:
The seller is interested in getting the money and moving on, and revealing nothing that might stop a sale.
The buyer is, to some extent, infatuated and wants to get on with the new boat romance.
The broker is interested in getting the deal closed expediently and receiving a commission.
The surveyor... OTOH... it the only one that "Speaks for the Boat"....! :cool:

I just had a very complete survey done, prior to relaunch, after about 11 months in the shop for a complete re-fit and painting. (I had previously re-powered it in 2018.) Surveyor actually found a couple of little things that I had not thought about that needed updating to current ABYC standards. I fixed those for about a hundred $ total, plus my labor.

(new) Insurance co. doubled the agreed value without a whimper. :biggrin:

Finding a Good Surveyor is worth the search, IMHO.
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Feb 14, 2017
Catalina 310 211 Lake Guntersville, AL
I think it comes down to each person's risk acceptance level and personal financial situation. Never did a survey for my O'Day 25, but it was a $2,500 boat and I felt it was fine to learn on. We bought our 310, no survey either, but I found to boat history here on SBO since new from 1st owner to 2nd owner. 2nd owner was up front and used this link

In the end I knew what she needed and the excellent logs and love the 2 previous owners showed her made going no survey comfortable to me. My insurance didn't care, I paid for the boat entirely and did not finance it either.


Jul 18, 2011
Beneteau Oceanis 361 Vancouver
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.
yes I had same experience last month .got a survey for insurance company which was exact copy of previous survey only this time he copied the wrong hull number!!!
Sep 23, 2009
O'Day 34-At Last Rock Hall, Md
yes I had same experience last month .got a survey for insurance company which was exact copy of previous survey only this time he copied the wrong hull number!!!
Willing to bet he was SAMS "certified".
  • Ha
Likes: jssailem


Feb 11, 2017
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
There are good and bad in all industries. For my recent boat purchase I hired a surveyor after researching for reputable surveyors in the area. I am a mechanical engineer with experience in composites, I've taken diesel engine courses, over 40 years experience maintaining and working on boats of various ages. I still wanted a survey as a second set of eyes and it saved me more money than I paid for the survey. The surveyor I selected was excellent and had none of the problems you mention. The survey pointed out areas of concern (which I also identified and I was able to get a reduction in price greater than the cost of the survey. The professional opinion weighs more than that of laymen buyer.
On the other hand, many years ago I had to get a survey to satisfy my insurance company for my old boat after having owned the boat for over 10 years. I hired the cheapest surveyor I could find and I got what I paid for with errors and omissions in the report. I was able to renew my insurance however.
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Likes: LloydB
Apr 11, 2018
Hunter 340 Dowry Creek, NC
It's not just the surveyors. There are a lot of aging sailors hanging around boating trying to scrape a living out of it. They're draining sizable amounts of cash from newbies, casual boaters and other owners who for one reason or another can't DIY. Repair, maintenance, surveying, every aspect has them in it. In cases when your own choices are stripped away, e.g. when an insurer won't issue a policy you have to have unless you hire a certified surveyor, then you're at the mercy of a merciless system of bureaucracy and robbery, and all you can do is minimize the damages.

Like a good mechanic, a surveyor can be worth every dollar if you need him, or he may rip you off if you don't or if he's incompetent. There's no substitute for knowing who it is you're doing business with, and why you want to.


Jul 29, 2018
O'Day 35 Buzzards Bay
Out of the five surveyors I've hired, one was mediocre (and cheap), the other four were excellent. Get refrences before hiring one. A friend of mine likes to say: "the thing that scares me about doctors is that 50% of them graduated in the bottom half of their class".
  • Ha
Likes: Scott T-Bird
Jun 21, 2004
Beneteau 343 Slidell, LA
I have hired three surveyors over the years. All of them were competent and provided useful information. On the first boat purchase, I hired an "independent" surveyor; however, I found out later, that he knew the broker personally. My surveyor noted hull blistering & boat pox; however, he minimized the repair and long term ramifications. (likely because he didn't want to torpedo the sale for the broker). In a given locale, most brokers and surveyors likely know one another and likely have worked on many sales together. Working from that assumption, I would still hire a surveyor independently and not use a surveyor recommended by a broker, who is involved in the sales transaction.

On a small boat that is inexpensive, I would not use a surveyor; however, on larger boats over 28 feet with multiple on board systems, I would use a surveyor. Also, take in consideration, that on a boat over ten years old, you're going to need a survey to obtain insurance, so you may as well pay for a pre-purchase survey to help guide your decision. Finally, any significant deficiencies noted in the survey can be used to renegotiate the sale price of the boat. A prospective buyer should thoroughly survey the vessel personally to avoid unnecessary costs of a surveyor and haulout, before signing a pre purchase agreement, and before hiring a surveyor.


Jan 20, 2005
Nauticat 321 pilothouse 32 Erie PA
In my port of erie there are 2 surveyors: one worked in the well respected Tartan yachts factory while singlehandedly restoring his own perfect cape dory which is an immaculate showpiece of a grand old boat. He does fiberglas, electrical, and mechanical and is a licensed surveyor and electrician. The other one lost his job at a college and decided to become a marine surveyor who had a very nice website totally lacking any description whatsoever of relevant boat experience. . I unfortunately had the purchaser of my 1st boat surveyed by the latter who did not even understand why i had properly installed a 3rd dedicated refrig battery. My most recent survey experience was viewing a survey done a few years ago for a previous owner on cape cod of a boat i was moderately interested in. That 28 page fancy survey document started with a touting of the credentials of the licensed ‘uscg captain and surveyor ‘ out of coastal new england. That very expensive surveyor wrongly attributed a newer westerbeke diesel, freshwater cooled , to a boat ——which actually had an old oem rawwatercooled yanmar 1 gm 10. That surveyor also described nonexistent but ‘properly sized throughhulls and seacocks ‘ for a non existent ‘functioning ‘ marine aiir airconditioning system , which the boat also did not have,

Surveyors like mainesail and our port’s topnotch surveyor are worth every cent . Pm me for names .