Question: What is a pre-purchase marine survey?

Answer: In the recreational boating world, when you hear people talk about a marine survey, they are typically referring to a pre-purchase survey.  The simplest explanation of a pre-purchase survey is exactly what the name implies. It’s a compressive inspection and evaluation of a boat’s condition, performance and value before it’s purchased.


Question: Who needs a pre-purchase marine survey?

Answer: Any potential boat-buyer who doesn’t want to overpay and/or be stuck with a boat that doesn’t perform like it should.


Question: I’m on the fence about hiring a surveyor. What are the specific benefits I get from a survey?


Verifying Boat Condition

This is the foundation of the survey process. Most boats look great sitting still at the dock, and they all look flawless in their online listings. But what’s really going on inside? Is it the boat structurally sound? Do the systems operate like they should?  Are they correctly installed?  Are they safe?  Is the deck rotting? Is the keel securely attached? How does the engine perform?

These are all questions you should ask whether you hire a surveyor or not. But if you have any doubt about your ability to find the answers, it’s probably time to consult the experts. A good surveyor will inspect and test every accessible inch of the boat.  He/she will know the issues to watch out for, where to look for them, and how to fix them.  A good surveyor will also be able to tell you what’s right with the boat, thus providing the clearest and most complete picture of the boat’s condition possible.

Verifying Boat Performance

The sole purpose of a boat is to be operated on the water, but I am constantly amazed by the number of people who buy a boat without even taking it for a sea trial!

Even if everything looks good at the dock or in the boatyard, the true test of a boat’s functionality is by putting it through a robust sea trial. The idea of the sea trial is simple: ask the boat to do everything a boat should do.  This means operating the boat at all RPMs, performing various operating maneuvers at different speeds, taking the boat through as many different sea-state simulations as possible, all while monitoring the performance of the on-board systems – most notably the propulsion and steering systems.

Sometimes a boat will sit still for a long time while it’s on the market. So an exhaustive sea trial is crucial for clearing out any cobwebs the boat may have accumulated over the months, or even years since being listed.

Bottom line: If something is going to go wrong with the boat, it’s better to have it happen during the sea trial before you own the thing and you’re financially responsible for fixing it.

Verifying Boat Value

Since used-boat values can be such a dark market, we prepare a fair market valuation at the end of every survey report.  There are so many different types of boats in varying levels of condition that it’s impossible to have a “market value consensus” for used boats.  Even boats that look identical on paper might have vastly different onboard systems, equipment and be in very different condition.

So how do we value used boats?

We cross-reference data from several subscription valuation services and then we adjust that data based on the surveyed-boat’s overall condition.  Among these subscription resources are Buc Valu Pro  and We typically weigh the sold-boat data the heaviest since it tells us exactly what people are paying for identical models similar condition to the surveyed vessel.

What about NADA?

NADA is useful for ballpark values, but we have found their value ranges to be too inconsistent and too varied to be considered an official valuation resource.  Feel free to use them, just take the numbers with a grain of salt.


Question: I live too far from the boat to travel there myself. How do you deal with out-of-towners?

Answer:  For the past 5 years (2012-2017), we have performed more surveys for out-of-town buyers than for in-town buyers. This isn’t too surprising because for most people, their dream boat isn’t for sale just down the road. So we are very familiar and comfortable working with buyers from different parts of the country and different parts of the world.

For sight-unseen buyers, the survey process remains the same, but the level of communication is dramatically ramped up. People trust us to be their eyes and ears and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. We take hundreds of photographs, write comprehensive status reports and take care of all the survey logistics here in the Charleston area.

We understand how unnerving buying a boat across borders can be, so we try to alleviate that anxiety by providing constant and clear communication from start to finish.


Beyond the Survey

The last benefit I want to mention is an intangible one. When you hire me for a survey, I’m at your disposal from there on out.

A lot of boat-buyers are relatively new to the boating world, and it can be an intimidating world to step into at first.  Nothing gives me more joy in this business than guiding a newcomer through the initial minefield of traps and BS the boating world can throw at you. There’s too much enjoyment to be had on the water to worry about those things.

Furthermore, I like to think I rub shoulders with some of the most knowledgeable, capable and trustworthy marine professionals in the country. The inner circle of the marine industry is a small one, so even if I can’t find the answer, chances are I’m one-degree separated from someone who can.

I encourage all of my clients to stay in touch and to give me a call whenever they have questions or issues down the road – weeks, months or years after a survey.


Getting in Touch

If you’re interested in getting a survey, or just have questions about the process, please feel free to call, email or text me any time.

Cell: (843) 226-0401



Capt. Jeff Kibler,  AMS®

Owner & Principal Surveyor
– Accredited Marine Surveyor #1245
– Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors®
– University of South Carolina Alumnus
– Chapman School of Seamanship
– U.S.C.G. Masters License Holder


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