When you make an offer on a narrowboat, canal boat, widebeam or other boat for sale it is usual to get the boat surveyed. We can provide you with a list of local surveyors but we are not allowed to recommend one in particular.

The boat will need to be lifted out of the water for inspection of the hull. This means you will need to coordinate the availability of your chosen surveyor with the availability of your chosen boatyard. For convenience it is usual to choose the nearest boatyard or slipway service. The owner will usually move the boat to the boatyard for you. If they are unable to you may need to hire a professional to move the boat to the boatyard and back.

A surveyor’s role is to provide you with any detailed information you require on the current condition of the boat, before you buy, and they are working for you, not the vendor or the broker. You should chose a surveyor who will interpret the report for you, advising you on what is significant and what is not. We once had a client who thought she could not buy a boat because the surveyor's report said "The gas regulator and hose are obsolete so the gas appliances cannot be used." Total cost of replacement - about £20, which the seller was happy to pay. So, it is not always as bad as it sounds.

What does a surveyor do?

Which type of survey you choose may depend on your personal preference, your own experience and knowledge, the age of the boat, your budget and perhaps the price of the boat. What are the three main types you can choose from?

An internal survey could just check that the boat complies with current boat safety regulations. The surveyor may also check the stern gear and condition of the engine. An in-water survey could also include an examination of the structural condition and the hull paint above the waterline. The cost may be up to £300.

For a hull survey the boat will be removed from the water. The surveyor will use ultrasound to measure the thickness of the hull and base plate. He will also comment on any pitting or other damage evident on the hull. He will use a hammer to test the condition of the steel. This can cost around £300.

A full survey will include all of the above and be a more thorough and detailed examination, including comments on the appliances and fit out. The cost could be approximately £500 -£600.
A surveyor may also charge for his travel expenses.

A detailed survey report can be several pages long and at first can seem like an unnervingly long list of faults. However, the intention is simply to provide you with all the knowledge you need before you make a decision. Bear in mind that many of the recommendations may be simply suggestions. The important items to note are those that affect safety, and those concerning the soundness of the hull.

The surveyor may make recommendations which can range from minor repairs, to a complete replating of the hull. Even if the boat does require extensive repairs you may decide to go ahead with the purchase providing that the vendor drops the price accordingly. You may like to get a quote for any essential repairs or maintenance before negotiating on price.

However, do not assume that the seller should cover the cost of everything the surveyor has listed. Many may be "betterments" which will improve the value of the boat for you. Some will be things that you were aware of when you made the offer. You should only expect the seller to compromise on significant defects of which you were unaware when you made your offer. If you can see the boat needs repainting, then you make your offer taking this into account. You cannot then expect this to be discounted from the cost just because the surveyor puts it in the report.

Hiring a dry dock or crane for the day is likely to cost about £200. Our broker Phil is happy to answer any questions you may have before and during the survey process.

You can also post any thoughts or questions about surveys on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Bates Boatyard at Bulbourne, Tring, Herts.


You may also like:
Living on a Boat: The Boatshed Guide (free) / Boat Festivals: A Quick Guide / Top 6 Benefits of Owning a Boat / A slideshow of our boat of the moment./More articles.

New here? Follow our blog on Facebook or Twitter and share your waterways pictures and news.

Never miss an article: Sign up and get the latest blog articles sent directly to you.