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Marine survey companies provide marine inspection services through visual inspection of the condition and operation of marine ocean craft and its systems. We specialize in surveys and appraisals of yachts and recreational marine vessels.

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Best New, Used Boat Buying Tips Guide

Our Master Marine Surveyor offers the best boat buying tips and guide for both a new or used boat. Between 2012 and 2012, the US spent almost $108 billion in recreational boating. There were also 11.8 million registered recreational boating vessels. Also, 9.45 million new recreational boating vessels were sold in the US between 2001 and 2013. Recreational boating is a large industry, and can represent a significant personal investment. The following are tips for buying a new or used boat.

Choosing A Recreational Boat Dealer or Yacht Broker

The following are tips for choosing a recreational boat dealer or yacht broker.

1) Integrity and Honesty

Integrity, or the quality of being honest, trustworthy and truthful, is of critical importance. Dealers or brokers should say what they mean, and mean what they say. There should be no “bait and switch.” They should guide you through the process and be focused on the outcome in which you get the vessel you want at a reasonable price, and they get a reasonable profit from the sale. One way to keep them honest is to do your homework. Know the value of a variety of vessels before you even talk to them.

Length of Time in Business

A long period of time in business demonstrates several benefits for the customer. First, you can safely assume that they will be there in a year or two when you might need to follow up on some things. Second, it offers more value to the sale through possible better deals, larger inventory, etc.

Dealership Specialties

Look for a dealer or broker that specializes in the types of custom items you are looking for (i.e. sails, motors, upholstery, equipment, etc).

Product Knowledge

Look for a dealer or broker that is knowledgeable about the type of boat and amenities you are looking for. They can better help you find what you are looking for and advise you on potential issues related to your purchase.


Can you find them online? How easy is it to find information about them? Are there a lot of negative reviews? Almost all established dealers or brokers have some form of online presence.

Affiliated Organizations and Accreditations

Are they affiliated or accredited with any professional organization? Although it is not necessary to ensure ethics and product knowledge, it does give you a place to start – especially if you do not know anyone in the industry.

Do They Listen and Respond

Does your broker or dealer listen to your needs and really understand what you want? Do they respond quickly to requests for information?

Do They Educate You

Does your broker or dealer explain thoroughly how the whole process works? Do they inform you of critical issues related to the purchase? A good broker will help you make wise decisions whether you are the buyer or the seller.

Have You Seen the Paperwork

Ask to see the purchase and sale agreements and forms before the deal is finalized. Have your broker or dealer walk you through all the documents. Have them explain what a “conditional acceptance” is. What happens after you accept the boat? How is the title transferred? Is there a mortgage on the boat or any title liens? It is your broker’s job to walk you through all this.

What is “As Is”

Many dealers and private sellers sell boats in “As Is” condition. You should approach such deals very cautiously. If a serious defect or flaw becomes apparent later, be aware that you have virtually no recourse against the seller. Many federal and state laws absolve sellers from liability in “As Is” sales. A Marine Survey is essential when considering the purchase of a boat without any guarantee. The surveyor can identify damages and needed repairs on used boats. If the seller agrees to make repairs before the boat is sold… MAKE SURE IT IS IN WRITING!!!!!

Sales Contracts

A written contract spells out the terms of the sale and is the best way to guard your interests. Read the entire contract and ask questions about any unclear terms. Don’t hesitate to cross out inappropriate terms and always add contingency clauses. Don’t enter into a contract that requires you to make the final payment, or begin loan payments before the boat is delivered.

Contingency Clauses

These contingency clauses can protect the buyer if the boat is found to be defective or the financing does not pan out. Make sure you get one or more of these clauses into the contract or walk away from the deal. A bargain too good to be true probably is. A good dealer will often volunteer to put some of these clauses into the contract for you.

1. Purchase is subject to a satisfactory sea trial and marine survey inspection of boat and engines.

2. Purchase is subject to acceptable loan terms, including interest rate, duration of loan, and affordable monthly payment.

3. Purchase is subject to ability to obtain adequate insurance.

4. Purchase is subject to a clear title, free of liens and encumbrances.

Use of these clauses can offer the purchaser a way out of the contract if a problem arises.


New boats often come with many warranties. One for the boat, one for the engine, one for each electronic device, one for the water heater, etc. Make sure all paper work is in order and all in writing.

Used boats may come with a short 30-90 day limited warranty. This coverage may be limited to break downs or major failure. Unless specific warranty terms are in writing, it is unlikely you will get much help. MAKE SURE IT IS IN WRITING!!!!

The Marine Surveyor

Your best line of defense when buying a used boat is a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified marine surveyor who can determine whether the boat meets manufacturing and safety standards, has latent defects, or may find items that just don’t work properly. A marine survey gives a snapshot of the boat’s visible components and accessible structures at the time of inspection. Although it is not a guarantee against future problems, it helps identify existing defects, and how they can be repaired. An in-depth survey evaluates the boat according to USCG requirements, as well as ABYC and NFPA standards. With your written survey report in hand, you can get repair estimates to correct the problems. You can use these estimates to renegotiate the sales price or back out of the deal altogether if the needed repairs are too expensive or complicated.

Buying a boat should be a happy time, and it can be, as long as you go into the deal armed with the knowledge necessary to make the transaction smooth and have a comprehensive marine survey inspection in hand.


  1. Shad Morris | | Reply

    A friend of mine is thinking about getting a nice boat, and wasn’t sure where to start. I really like that you say to make sure that they help you really understand what you want. Since he doesn’t know much about boats, he would need all the help he could get.

    • surveyors | | Reply

      Thank you for your response, I will say, a boat is a big investment of Entertainment, Pleasure and pure fun and it can quickly become a “nightmare” if the buyer doesn’t make the proper investment in Research, Surveyors and Mechanical Survey. We surveyors are not perfect and we don’t see everything that is hidden, but the buyer has a much better chance of knowing what they are getting into after investing in the professional needed to make the best informed decision. Also, if you are requesting a loan and or insurance that the survey is required. Thank you again and best wishes in your search. Also please note, when a broker of the seller or the seller recommends a surveyor, then “beware” that is a conflict. You must select your surveyor, that is best so there will be no conflict. Thank you again and best wishes.

  2. Luke Smith | | Reply

    I love your comment about not entering into a contract that requires final payment before the delivery of the boat. I can see how it would be important to receive your purchase before paying for it, especially with something as large as a boat. I would imagine the same principle could apply to a boat delivery service as well, as a good way to be sure that your boat is delivered on time and in good condition.

    • surveyors | | Reply

      Thank you for your response, I will admit I see many types of transaction but usually here in California, any broker or sales person that is facilitating the sale are usually in line with the Department of Boating and Waterways who govern the sales industry. When it comes to a private, “Buyer” beware and follow some guidelines to prevent loss. Again, thank you for reading and your response.

  3. Tyler Meredith | | Reply

    I like what this article recommends about considering the reputation of a boat dealer or maker. It makes sense that buying a quality boat from somebody that’s well known for good business could be good. It’s something I’ll have to remember because I want to get a custom boat so making sure the company has a good reputation is key.

    • surveyors | | Reply

      It is true, but there are some people that are young in the business that have hearts of gold and a great intent. So on that note it is important that they work for a good dealer. Thank you for your comment and I greatly appreciate your input.

  4. Ridley Fitzgerald | | Reply

    You have some great tips for buying a boat. My family wants to get one for summer trips to the lake, but we’ve never bought one before. I’ll be sure to find a dealer who is honest, and will walk us through our options, like you suggested.

    • surveyors | | Reply

      Thank you very much. I wish you and your family the best. No matter if it’s a dealer or a private sale, or through a broker, make sure you have a surveyor check it out. It protects you all around.

  5. Gloria Durst | | Reply

    It makes sense to consider the warranty when you are choosing a boat. It would be good to consider if they are under warranty when you buy it in case something goes wrong. My brother wants to buy a boat, so he’ll have to find one that has a warranty.

    • surveyors | | Reply

      The only way of obtaining a warranty is if you purchase the boat from a dealer that is brand new. I am not aware of any vessel under warranty if used.

  6. Gloria Durst | | Reply

    Finding out about a boat repair service’s reputation seems like a smart idea. It would make sense to find someone who is well liked to repair your boat. My boat needs a little work after the summer season, so I’ll have to find a reputable repair service to help me out.

    • surveyors | | Reply

      I know some good people if you need to be pointed in the right direction.

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