Boat Education / April 4, 2024

The Importance of Boat Surveys: A Beginner’s Guide

Boat surveyors play an integral role in the boating industry, offering services that are essential for both buyers and insurance companies. Understanding the importance of boat surveys can help ensure that you navigate the process of purchasing and insuring a boat with greater confidence. Why are they so important? Imagine, setting sail on a boat without knowing if it is safe or reliable. Scary, right? That’s where boat surveys come in. They provide assurance that your boat is in prime condition, ready to take on any adventure.Whether you’re buying a boat or insuring one, understand the important of a boat survey is key. It’s like having a compass to guide you through the sometimes-choppy waters of boat ownership.

Expertise and evaluation

Boat surveyors are experts in assessing the condition and value of a vessel. Their evaluations are comprehensive, covering everything from the boat’s structural integrity to its mechanical systems and safety equipment. This thorough inspection ensures that potential buyers are aware of the boat’s condition before making a purchase, potentially saving them from costly mistakes.

“At Safe Harbour Insurance, we advise securing a Condition and Valuation Survey, also known as a marine survey, prior to buying a pre-owned boat.This evaluation is performed by a certified marine surveyor who checks the boat’s condition and market value are shipshape.” Allicia Campbell, VP Central Canada

When selecting a marine surveyor, focusing on key qualifications, and avoiding certain red flags can ensure that you receive a thorough and impartial assessment of the boat.

Top three qualifications to look for in a Marine Surveyor:

1. Accreditation and Association Membership: Ensure the surveyor is either accredited or an active member in good standing with a recognized association, such as the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS), or International Institute of Marine Surveying Canada (IIMS). These organizations maintain directories to help locate qualified surveyors in your area, ensuring a standard of professionalism and expertise.

2. Technical Certifications: Preferably, the surveyor should have certifications from reputable bodies, such as training provided by the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC). This indicates they have the technical knowledge necessary to perform comprehensive surveys.

3. Insurance: The surveyor should carry full insurance coverage specifically survey errors & omissions insurance. This not only protects the surveyor but also provides you with assurance that you’re dealing with a professional who stands behind their work.

When selecting a marine surveyor, watch out for these red flags:

• Lack of accreditation: Avoid surveyors not accredited. Accreditation is crucial for ensuring professional standards.

• No proof of insurance or work samples: Don’t choose surveyors who can’t show insurance coverage or provide examples of their work.

• Unusually low rates: Be cautious of surveyors with rates well below average, as this might indicate compromised services, such as insufficient insurance or lack of proper association membership.

• Non-specialized services: Surveyors offering a broad array of unrelated services may not be fully committed to marine surveying, raising concerns about their expertise and potential conflicts of interest.

• Virtual surveys: Steer clear of surveyors who sign off on repairs without witnessing them or conduct solely “virtual” surveys. Accurate assessments require a direct, physical examination of the vessel.

We have made it easy to find a trusted-accredited surveyor. Look for your local surveyor here.

Importance of boat surveys for insurance requirements

For insurance companies, a survey conducted by a qualified boat surveyor is often a prerequisite for providing insurance coverage. The surveyor’s report provides insurers with the detailed information they need to assess the risk associated with insuring the boat. This can include identifying any existing damages or modifications that could affect the vessel’s safety or value. Without this detailed assessment, insurers might be hesitant to offer coverage or may charge higher premiums.

Top tip: Although not required, we recommend that you be present throughout the entire marine survey so that you fully understand what is being assessed and can either ask or answer important questions about the boat.

Safety and compliance

Boat surveyors also check for compliance with safety regulations and standards. This ensures that the boat meets the necessary requirements, minimizing risks to passengers and the environment. For insurance companies, a boat that complies with safety standards is a lower risk, which can be reflected in the insurance terms offered to the boat owner.


A detailed survey includes an appraisal of the boat’s fair market value. This is crucial for insurance purposes, as it helps determine the amount of coverage needed. It ensures that the boat is neither underinsured – leaving the owner potentially out of pocket in the event of a claim) – nor overinsured, leading to unnecessarily high premiums.

The role of boat surveyors in the buying and insuring process cannot be overstated. Their expertise and evaluations provide buyers, sellers, and insurance companies with the critical information needed to make informed decisions. This knowledge empowers Canadian boat owners to adequately protect their investment and enjoy their time on the water.

Resources for the importance of boat surveyors:

Safe Harbour Insurance: Why it is important to know the value of your boat.


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