• April 20, 2023
  • John Cardona
  • 7 min read


Due to the Covid Boat Sales Boom in the past few year many boats have changed hands. We have seen  more unskilled boaters owning new and used boats. Many of them do not understand the maintenance and care that is necessary to maintain a vessel. There are many boats that Will Not Pass a Survey Inspection that the yacht brokers are listing as Great Condition. It is truly, “Buyer Beware”. (Don’t Get Stuck With Someone Else’s Headache!!)

Purchasing a Used boat has a few unique challenges. Due to the lack of maintenance, salt air, salt water, fresh water challenges, corrosion and hull structural issues need to be carefully viewed.

Before you purchase any used boat we highly recommend that you try to find the common issues with that make, model and year boat and have a knowledgeable marine surveyor/repair professional check over the boat. People who repair boats every day are the best people to spot HIDDEN or STORM damage that someone else may miss. Boats are subject to the elements and harsh winter storms that can cause issues that may not be visible unless you repair these boats. In addition, galvanic corrosion and gelcoat blisters, structural cracks and water intrusion are becoming more common and more difficult to spot. Taking boats in and out of the water, improper blocking and lack of care during the haul out or in also puts unique stress on the hull and hull to deck joints.

However, due to all these issues, USED Boats can be purchased at a great discount and you can end up with a fantastic boat and a great price!!!!! Knowing what to look for is the KEY!!!!!

Types of Professional Boat Inspections

EYES ON SURVEY Inspections-

Less expensive than a full Pre-Purchase inspection survey, but if performed by a Marine Surveyor/Repair Professional, this will provide an overall review of the vessel to see if it is worth moving forward.


Typically 1-2 times the price of an Eyes On Inspection. Provides comprehensive review of the vessel, systems, electrical, electronics, mechanical. This type of inspection provides a detailed report with the Condition and Value of the vessel with a list of recommendations for items to be repaired or replaced.


Less cost than a full Pre-Purchase inspection, does not go through all the systems and mechanicals in detail, but does provide an overall Condition and Value of the vessel.


Impact damage
Previous repairs
Excessive corrosion
Stress cracks by cleats or in transom, platform corners
Stress cracks on stringers and frames
Frame separation from hull side or hull bottom
Delamination of stringers or frames
Waves down hull sides

Paint or gelcoat chips
Dull spots in the finish
Worn paint or gelcoat by cleats
Stress cracks in finish
Touchups or repairs in finish

Worn belts, belt dust around engine
Smoke at start up
Lower end or top end rattle or knock at RPM ranges
Rust by exhaust manifold/riser attachment points
Rust stains under motor in bilge
Condition of fasteners on engine
Condition of oil pan and pan hardware
Alignment of engine and condition of motor mounts and rubber

Dirty or discolored wires
Loose wires and connections
Sloppy wire grouping
Chaffing of wires going through bulkheads, frames, panels
Non-working lights switches. Why? Short circuit?
Wire discoloration by connections
Load not consistent when tested

TIPS for YOU to look over the boat

Basic Checklist

1) Check floor, walk on it and bounce, does it flex? Spongy or Soft spots are not good.
2) Check hatches, doors, vents for water stains and drips.
3) Check transom for cracks/look for movement.
4) Look in bilge area for cracks in stringers/frames of entire boat.
5) Check around and under fuel tank if possible for movement, staining leaks,
6) Check condition of metal or plastic top, sides, bottom, ends, connections of fuel tank,
7) Check hull to deck joints for gaps, damage.
8) Check around rub rail for loose screws.
9) Check and review service records for engine, generator, ac/heat and water systems.
10) Check lower unit of drive or transmission for water or metal in it.
11) Pull engine and generator dip sticks, check for water or metal in it.
12) Check steering for full rotation and leaks, condition of system.
13) Check shift/throttles for full movement and condition of systems.
14) Check over all wiring, switches, fixtures for damage, stains, function.
15) Ask owner for previous survey.
16) Verify all paperwork, title, registration, liens, lien releases, check HIN
17) Go for sea trial, do load tests during sea trial.

A boat with an issue with any of the above should have a full Pre-Purchase inspection, or is you think the boat has been damaged or has had any type of repairs.

Below are some additional tips for the Used Boat Buyer—

— Identify the boat you want, with as much detail as possible—Type, Length, Power and Brand
— Decide how much you can afford as a down payment and annual operating budget and monthly costs of financing for the exact boat you want.
— Determine the price range you can afford, and look on line to help determine what that model boat is selling for.
— Determine the condition of the boats that fall into your Boat Category- obviously, you should be looking for the newest boat in the best condition with the lowest price.
— Are there any Transferable Warranties left? Get the details
— Why is the boat being sold? What is the boats history? Number of Owners? Length of time Current owner has had boat.
— Check the HIN and make sure it has not been tampered with
— Get copies of all documents and current owners identification (is it their boat they are selling?)
–How is the boat equipped, and WHAT comes with the boat upon sale?
— Make a detailed and Careful inspection. (Hire a Marine Surveyor/Repair Expert to fully inspect vess

How to Choose a Marine Surveyor.
Once you have found the boat you want to buy, and have done your own inspection, negotiated a fair price, then you need to have the boat inspected by and expert. Hiring a marine surveyor is worth the money. There are many types and certifications. A Certified Marine Surveyor/Repair professional is your best bet, they work on boats every day and are up to date on the numerous changes that manufactures continually make. –They Know what to look for!!

NOTE: You may want to stay away from Marina or Broker provided surveyors. There is usually a reason why they give u a specific list of 10 or more surveyors they know. This is a true Conflict of Interest. Remember, they want to Sell the boat…….DO YOU OWN SEARCH for Marine Surveyors who Work on boats Everyday.—-NOT Used to work on boats, or a Technician that USED to work on boats—-Make sure they Repair Full Boats and Systems and are ALSO a Marine Surveyor. …Even a recommendation from a friend could lead you to buy someone else’s headache!!! …..Do a search online for Certified Marine Surveyors who Work on Boats…….Its Time Well Spent!!!