Pre-Purchase Survey

A pre-purchase survey is the most comprehensive type of inspection, and is strongly advised to buyers when purchasing a new or used vessel. Condition and operation of the vessel is examined in detail. Points covered during the pre-purchase survey, amongst many others, are structural integrity, electrical systems, the propulsion system, the fuel system, other machinery, navigation equipment, miscellaneous on-board systems, cosmetic appearance, electronics, and overall maintenance. Inspection at drydock and an extensive sea trial with data gathering is part of the pre-purchase survey. Next to nearly endless lists of large and small issues all through the vessel, the surveyor will carry out a sea trial, monitoring the performance of the yacht, and eventually he will listen to his general feeling about the vessel before advising the potential buyer.

pre-purchase survey

Inspecting, for example, an 80-foot (25-metre) motorboat for one and a half to two days is an ordinary practice in the course of such a survey. This duration will change according to the size, age and type of the yacht, and other considerations.

The surveyor examines the boat attentively and meticulously from top to bottom, from stem head to transom, and from masthead to the keel. The surveyor may examine the hull inch by inch and, if justified, may have some dismantling carried out and will take ample notes regarding the observations and the points that attract her/his attention. Copies of the boat documents, maintenance records, and log books will be made for future examination.

The surveyor measures moisture on fibreglass hulls and plate thickness on steel boats. She/he will test wooden boats for softening and rot and will check the fastenings and the caulking.

The surveyor’s knowledge cannot be gained from books or from “expert conversations”. This knowledge must be based on a good number of sea events, in-depth experience and a sequence of decision processes that can only be gained at sea. Furthermore, the experienced surveyor performs the examination with a general knowledge of the characteristics and problems of thousands of boats and situations in mind.

Thus, an experienced surveyor may concentrate on telltale signs others would likely or would prefer to overlook. These signs may at times be very small and they may even appear as negligible. Indeed, at times the surveyor will dismiss such telltale signs after the initial examination. However, sometimes the initial sign may lead to another one and that, yet to a further one. At this stage the surveyor starts to reveal the true condition of the vessel.

In other words, the surveyor commissioned by the buyer, and as a “disinterested” party, cannot and will not look at a vessel from the perspective of the owner. The surveyor inspects a vessel from a perspective distilled from years of sea experience, uses a very critical eye and records all relevant findings. Neatly separated from all of that, the surveyor offers personal conclusions and recommendations to the prospective buyer.

One of the main objectives of the surveyor is to determine whether or not the vessel has experienced an accident in her past. Should the surveyor come across any signs of an accident, she/he will try to assess the permanent effects of this accident and inform the client about them in an objective and balanced manner.

The surveyor examines the boat both on land and at sea. During the sea trial, all the systems on board are powered up and each one is inspected for its proper performance. The surveyor will record the performance of the vessel during the sea trial. Later, the surveyor will rate the vessel’s performance and may even compare her performance with that of similar vessels. This performance record will constitute a calibration point in time and can be used to assess the present condition of the vessel, or can be used as a baseline for future assessments.

Some of the inspection points included in a pre-purchase survey are:

  • Hull is inspected in detail and moisture/ plate thickness is measured.
  • Sacrificial anodes are checked and electrolysis, corrosion indications are determined.
  • Functioning of the cathodic protection of the boat is inspected.
  • Evaluation of the engine(s) and gearbox(es). Measuring compression if justified. Oil analyses.
  • Inspection of the propulsion train, stuffing boxes, mounts, brackets, propellers.
  • Inspection of the electronic devices.
  • On sailboats, every detail of the rigging and the keel connectors are checked.
  • Inspection of safety devices and equipment for completeness, suitability and functionality.
  • Understanding the past of the boat and verification of its record.
  • Determination of signs of accidents/collisions.
  • Inspection of service documents, interviews with service companies in order to determine the boat’s history of maintenance.
  • List of imminent/near future maintenance/ repairs/ refits that will be needed.
  • All of the serial numbers are determined. These are primary and hard to refute evidence, which may be useful in the case of a theft or other criminal incidents.


A pre-purchase survey report, created by an experienced and qualified surveyor, will be a most valuable document (a snapshot in time) to go with the vessel throughout its life. However, what distinguishes the surveyor beyond his/her competence and crystal clear reporting is sticking strictly to only what can be backed safely by facts and data. Above all goes, the surveyor has uncompromising loyalty to the instructor.

Yusuf Civelekoglu

Cert. Marine Investigator

Sample Pre-Purchase Report (Motor Yacht)

Sample Pre-Purchase Report (Sailing Yacht)