Preparing for a Pre-Purchase Inspection:

Some preparation and arrangements are needed before a marine survey can be conducted.

First, a date must be set that accommodates you, the surveyor and the local boatyard.  For both boatyards and surveyors, the best time to lift a vessel out of the water for a “short haul” is usually just before lunchtime, around 11:15–11:30. This gives the yard time for lifting and power washing, and most bottom inspections can be finished by the time the lift crew is back from lunch. 

Next, confirm that the broker will have someone at the survey to move the vessel and operate it for seatrial.  The vessel should be free and clear of “clutter.” This means that if an item is not being sold with the vessel it should not be on the boat. Less clutter allows more timely access to all areas of the vessel for inspection. For example, a surveyor should not have to spend too much time removing non-vessel equipment from lockers just to gain access to the steering areas. 

Make sure that all equipment you wish to have inspected is onboard the vessel the day of the survey such as wind vanes, sails, dinghy, etc. 

Finally, allow plenty of time for the inspection to be performed correctly.  Inspections typically take anywhere from half a day to two days, depending on the size of the vessel. Times will vary since all boats are different and have many different systems onboard. 

Please remember that payment for the survey is due at time of the inspection. 

After the Inspection:

Steve will sit down with you at the end of the day and review the survey findings. Our reports are typically sent out by email 24 to 48 hours after the inspection, and a signed hard copy is mailed within a few days after the email. If you have any questions once you’ve received the report, don’t hesitate to call or email.

We always strongly suggest that a mechanical survey be performed along with a pre-purchase survey. However, we do perform exterior and running inspection of the motor during our surveys. Engine surveys are an additional fee.


A pre-purchase survey inspection is performed once you have made an offer on a vessel and are under contract subject to an inspection. This is the most intense of all surveys and can take 7-8 hours up to a few days. It is conducted by an unbiased surveyor who works solely for the buyer and completes the inspection based upon facts found throughout the vessel, in accordance with ABYC, USCG and NFPA guidelines. A pre-purchase survey report gives the buyer an objective means to evaluate a vessel and assure that it is suitable for his or her needs.

We encourage you to follow along with the survey and pay close attention; Steve is happy to answer questions and share his knowledge. This is the best way to learn about your new vessel. Just try not to slow down the process—or it could be a very long day!


In general, we will check that the systems installed in the vessel are operating normally, verify the safety of the vessel and its passengers, and see that the vessel meets today’s standards. Normally Steve starts the inspection in the engine space since this is the “heart” of the vessel. Next, the dockside systems are tested while the boat is plugged into the shore power. While waiting for the haulout, Steve will test miscellaneous systems and start working through areas of the vessel. Then the boat heads for the travelift.

While in the travelift the condition of the bottom is inspected; Steve looks for blisters, laminate moisture content and any possible structural deficiencies. He also inspects the condition of the antifouling paint, keel attachment, running gear (like rudders, propellers, prop shafts and cutlass bearings), thru-hull fittings, bow thruster, stabilizers, etc. Once the bottom inspection is complete and all yard fees are paid, the boat is re-launched and it’s time for a sea trial.

During the sea trial Steve will inspect the propulsion system using an infrared digital thermometer and digital tachometer. He checks temperatures throughout the motor and cooling systems, inspects for leaks and vibrations, and monitors the exhaust for any signs of smoke. The vessel’s gauges are verified and the motor is digitally tested to assure it is performing to the manufacturer’s specified RPM rating. If on a sailboat, the sails are raised and examined. The vessel is sailed briefly for inspection of all standing and running rigging and for proper operation of handling characteristics.

As the boat heads back to the dock Steve goes forward and starts through the vessel, inspecting his way back to the stern and testing all systems available along the way. A Pre-Purchase survey for a sailboat includes a Level 1 Rigging Inspection as well. A Level 2 Rigging Inspection (going aloft for close inspection of all fittings) is an additional service, but highly recommended if a mast has not been removed and inspected in 10 years or more or if any offshore sailing is expected. Finally, he sounds out the deck with a phenolic hammer, takes moisture meter readings and inspects all deck hardware.

Steven Uhthoff pre-purchase surveys