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Need to Know: Finding a Surveyor

Getting a survey done is a critical part of the boat-buying process: It’s your chance to know what’s going on with the condition of the boat in which you’re about to invest your hard-earned money. How do you find a surveyor that’s right for you? Here are three steps to the process.

  1. Listen to advice from your broker. “You’re relying on him to find you a good boat, you should also rely on his advice on surveying as well,” says Malcolm Elliott of Florida Nautical Surveyors. “Because of liability, brokers can’t be seen to recommend one surveyor, but he should give you a list of surveyors to choose from.”
  2. The only way to sort that list is to do a little research. And by the way, we’re all pulling for the new guy to make it—who doesn’t love the rookie with a home run in his first at-bat. But now is not the time to take a flyer on some unproven commodity: Go with the experienced guy. “Anybody can be a surveyor, so you should look into their qualifications,” Elliott says. “And not just their associations but also their actual marine qualifications.” It’s not every day that you buy a boat. And that newbie will get his chance—just not this time. Not with your next boat.
  3. If your broker is worth his commission, that list will have some experienced surveyors on it. But not just any grizzled veteran will do. He needs to have experience in the type of boat you’re looking at. Won’t do any good if your IPS-powered boat is surveyed by someone who knows the name of every spar on schooner. He may know about pod drives too, but that’s the kind of experience you’re looking for. Instead it’s demonstrated knowledge of the boat in question. “Most bad surveys are the result of a surveyor who just didn’t have experience with that type of boat,” Elliott says. “I’ve got a $2 hammer, a $1,200 moisture meter, and a $30,000 thermal-imaging camera. And I rely on my $2 hammer to find all the faults in fiberglass boats. I confirm it with the moisture meter and record it with the thermal-imaging camera.”