Marine Surveys for Insurance


Boat insurance is not a standardized practice.  Because boats are subject to a wide range of variables, carriers typically want to determine the boat's value and identify any issues regarding its condition and seaworthiness.  Therefore, many boat insurance companies require that you get a marine survey before insuring or even quoting a boat.  

Here's a look at marine surveys for insurance. 

What Is a Marine Survey?

A marine or boat survey provides a detailed inspection of the interior and exterior of a boat.  The surveyor will inspect the hull, deck, fuel system, electrical system, rigging, etc., to determine your vessel's safety, condition, and value.  The surveyor will make recommendations for the repair or maintenance of the boat.  Most surveyors are not engine experts and will recommend a survey by a qualified engine surveyor.

The information in the survey is helpful for several reasons.  It will examine safety factors and establish the boat's value.  Both are essential for the insurance company in determining insurability and valuation.

Do I Need a Survey for Boat Insurance?

Requirements for marine surveys vary by carrier.  Some providers will survey nearly all boats before issuing a policy.  Others may only require a marine survey if the vessel is over a certain age or length.  Additionally, inconsistencies between the requested value and the vessel's market value or reports of previous damage/claims may trigger a requirement for a thorough survey.  Most importantly, an owner's willingness to have their boat surveyed will demonstrate the owners' interest and pride in maintaining the condition and safety of their boat. 

The type of survey typically required is a Pre-Purchase Condition & Value (C&V) survey.  A certified third-party professional, like NAMs and SAMs Accredited Marine Surveyors, should conduct the survey.  Below are the two predominant organizations that certify a professional marine surveyor.  Self-surveys or ones done by marinas or brokers are usually unacceptable. 

» MORE: NAMS and SAMS Marine Surveyors 

Boat Survey Checklist 

Surveys vary based on the vessel type, but surveyors will generally inspect the vessels: 

  • Hull (integrity, fittings, identification number, etc.)
  • Machinery (engine, motor, hoses, plumbing, air conditioning, etc.)
  • Electrical systems (power supply, circuits, radio, wiring, etc.)
  • Rigging (sails, lines, chainplates)
  • Safety equipment (PFDs, fire extinguishers, navigation lights, etc.)
  • Fixtures, furnishings, appliances, hatches, doors, etc.

At the end of the survey, you will receive an extensive report detailing the boat's condition and market value.  If issues are found, the surveyor will outline the proper repairs to fix them. 

How Much Does a Marine Survey Cost?

Marine survey fees are usually based on the length of the boat.  Expect to pay around $20 per foot.  The boat's age and construction type may also affect the cost.  Older boats or boats with multiple hulls may cost more to inspect.  

The price may also increase if the inspection requires additional procedures, like a compression test.  In summary, pricing varies based on many factors (e.g., length, age, construction type, survey requirements, etc.). 

Common Types of Marine Surveys 

  • Condition and Valuation Survey: This is also known as a pre-purchase survey.  It is the most comprehensive type and, despite the words in the description, is not limited to conducting before purchasing a watercraft.  The surveyor tests the systems and equipment while afloat, out of the water (hauled), and during a sea trial.
  • Limited Condition and Valuation Survey: This survey typically includes all the tests and evaluations of the complete condition and valuation survey, but it can be done with the vessel either afloat or ashore.  
  • Damage Inspection: This inspection is used when the vessel sustains significant damage due to fire, collision, grounding, or severe weather.  It will provide an independent and expert opinion on the cause, nature, extent of damage, and the estimated cost to repair. 
  • Appraisal: An appraisal determines the vessel's current market value.  
  • Sea Trial: This assessment will evaluate the performance, handling, seakeeping, and reliability of the vessel while underway.  The surveyor will observe the machinery and other systems while taking the watercraft through its paces.

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