What's included in a used yacht survey?

To some extent this is a similar question to ‘how long is a piece of string’. However, most marine surveys of sailing yachts will cover a fundamental programme of checks in order to establish the seaworthiness of a vessel and its potential to empty your wallet!

Of course, a good survey requires a good surveyor and his or her time doesn’t come cheap. This said, on balance, skimping on the survey is almost always a foolish decision that is likely to come back and bite you later.

As with houses, there are surveys - and then there are surveys. It makes sense to employ a surveyor with experience inspecting the type of boat you are buying. A specialist in traditional build is not going to be your best choice to survey a Bavaria 36 - and vice versa. 

Make sure to get a few quotes from credible people. If you are unsure, ask around. When asking for a quote make sure that you have the ability to compare like with like. As we said, there are surveys and then there are surveys.  In our opinion a worthwhile survey should include;

  • A full inspection of the hull, gelcoat, deck, mast step, rudder and keel
  • Moisture checks of the structure and a check for evidence of osmosis or rot
  • A complete rig check at deck level and aloft
  • A check of the sail wardrobe and inventory
  • A check (and testing) of all mechanical and electrical circuitry, machinery, conduits and systems including a sea trial
  • A check of anodes and the propellor
  • A check of all SOLAS gear included in the sale
  • A check of the anchor, chain and warp


In addition to a physical inspection, a good surveyor will know what to look for in specific boats based on their age, location, construction type and model. Some vessels suffer from specific issues and a well-informed yacht surveyor will be able to check specifically for evidence - perhaps even warning you before he leaves his office. This alone might save you thousands.

As important as whom to employ is ‘when’ to employ them. Make sure you have a deal agreed with a vendor and specify that your offer is subject to survey. If the boat needs to be lifted the costs are not insignificant. Perhaps ask the owner to chip in and get a contribution before the surveyor inspects!

Almost without exception all surveys make grim reading. They are supposed to. You want your surveyor to be identifying work, even if most of it is either insignificant or to be expected. And if the survey unearths a big problem thank your lucky stars - you have just saved a fortune. If you still love the boat and want to buy it, use the survey report to reduce the price accordingly.

Happy shopping!

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