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A Guide to Boat Surveys for Insurance

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  • A Guide to Boat Surveys for Insurance

Boat insurance isn’t as standardized as other types of insurance. Boats as vehicles simply present a lot of risks for carriers. Their values can range greatly, and the conditions they face on a regulation-less and unforgiving ocean can affect different vessels in different ways. 

Then, factor in upkeep and relatively high repair costs in case of damage, and you can see that there are a lot of factors to consider for an insurance company to cover a boat.

The myriad of conditions and variables are why some boat insurance companies may want you to get a marine survey before giving you a boat insurance policy.

Below, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about boat surveys for insurance, including boat survey costs, boat survey requirements, and a possible checklist you can expect a marine surveyor to run through.

What Is a Marine Survey for Insurance?

A marine or boat survey for insurance is a detailed inspection of the interior and exterior of your vessel. A good surveyor will look over the hull, deck, fuel system, electrical system, rigging and more to determine your boat’s safety, condition, and value.

This is useful for insurance companies for several reasons. It gauges your boat’s value, which is important for your policy limits. If the inspection uncovers underlying or preexisting issues, the insurer can avoid covering your boat. The surveyor can also recommend steps you, the boat owner, should take to remedy your vessel’s problems.

Whether an insurer will require you to get a surrey on your boat can depend on its age, length, or potential value. Basically, it depends on the question marks that surround your boat. For instance, discrepancies in your vessel’s market value, past incidents of damage, and past boat insurance claims could all be reasons why an insurer would want to take a closer look at your boat.

Mandates for boat surveys vary by company. Some providers will survey nearly all boats before giving out policies, while other companies may be more lenient. A carrier is likely more comfortable covering a newer boat without a survey than an older boat or a boat with many previous owners.

Do I Need a Survey for Boat Insurance?

The type of survey usually needed to fulfill insurance requirements is known as a Condition & Value (C&V) survey, or you’ll need one that is very similar to a C&V survey. A boat survey for insurance may include a sea trial but it isn’t always required. It depends on the insurer.

Typically, insurance companies require the marine survey to be done by a certified third-party professional. Self-surveys aren’t usually accepted, nor ones done by brokers or marinas. If you’re switching insurance companies, the new carrier may accept your survey done for your old insurer if it was within the last year or two. But, don’t be surprised if you need another one.

Your boat will likely need to be taken out of the water for the survey. Leaving it in the water could prevent some issues from being spotted. Also, before getting a survey done you may need to remove all nonessential equipment from your boat, like any clutter that could get in the way.

Boat Survey Checklist

The checklist for your boat survey will vary based on vessel type, but generally, a surveyor will inspect your boat’s:

  • Hull (integrity, fittings, crevice corrosion, identification number)
  • Mechanical systems (engine, motor, air conditioning, plumbing)
  • Electrical systems (power supply, circuits, mast lights, radio, wiring)
  • Rigging (sails, lines, chainplates)
  • Safety equipment (PFDs, fire extinguishers)

Your boat won’t receive a pass or fail grade after the survey. Instead, you’ll receive a report outlining your boat’s condition and market value. If your boat has issues, the surveyor can recommend what steps you need to take to fix them. But, they won’t repair anything for you.

Can You Get Boat Insurance Without a Survey?

You can get boat insurance without a survey, but it’s not always possible. As mentioned earlier, newer boats that are only a year or two old may not need a survey. A sales receipt could be used to determine their market price fairly accurately. Old boats, used boats, and very large boats may be more likely to need surveys.

You also likely won’t need a marine survey if you’re buying just liability insurance for your watercraft. Liability insurance doesn’t protect the value of your boat, so insurers don’t require a survey before buying it. 

You’re more likely to find that the bigger name companies are capable of binding policies without a survey than smaller, specialty insurers. And, you don’t need a survey to just get boat insurance quotes, either. 

How Much Does a Boat Survey Cost?

The cost of a boat survey for insurance is usually charged by the size of the boat, typically per foot. You can generally expect to pay around $20 per foot. In addition to vessel length, boat survey costs may be affected by the age of the boat and its construction type.

Very old boats may cost more to inspect, as well as boats with multiple hulls. It depends on your location, too. Some regions may have more affordable boat surveys than others.

Keep in mind that some surveyors will have a minimum charge that your boat must exceed for it to be worth their time. Or, for small boats, for instance, a surveyor may have a flat rate of a few hundred dollars.

Marine survey costs may vary on the requirements of the inspection, too. Extra procedures, like a compression test, may cost more.

Can You Survey Your Own Boat for Insurance?

You can’t survey your own boat to satisfy marine insurance survey requirements. When providers need a boat survey, they need one done by an accredited professional. Usually, this is a third-party specialist not affiliated with the insurance company, the policyholder, or the marina or yard where your boat may be. Self surveys aren’t typically accepted.

Boat surveys for insurance are important to determine that your boat isn’t a safety hazard. They’re also important to verify the initial condition of your vessel in case it does suffer damage and you file a claim. For that reason, boat surveys done for insurance may include pictures of your vessel. You can’t survey your own boat because you could skew any parts of the report to make it seem more favorable than it is.

To find a certified boat surveyor near you, a good place to look is the American Boat & Yacht Council or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors websites. They have databases nationwide, and you’ll be able to find one close by. Surveyors will often travel to survey a boat you’re trying to purchase, too. Be sure to know what your insurer wants in the survey before requesting one so you can mention it to the surveyor, and they can prepare accordingly.

Who Pays for a Boat Survey?

Usually, the prospective policyholder of the vessel pays for the survey. An insurance company won’t pay for a survey needed to satisfy their requirements. 

If you’re looking to buy a boat and want to survey it before you get it, you may be able to work something out with the current owner to have them cover some of the costs. But, generally, you should expect to foot the bill for any insurance surveys you need.

The cost of a haul-out isn’t generally included in a survey price, either, but you’ll likely need to pay for that, too, if it’s needed. This is another reason to know what your insurer expects before having the survey done. If you find out you’ll need to haul your boat for an inspection, you’ll need to organize it with the marina ahead of time.

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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.