THE ADVOCATE BoatU.S. CONSUMER PROTECTION BY CHARLES FORT
DON’T FALL FOR A PRETTY FACE
Hiring a professional surveyor before you buy could be the most important
decision you’ll make in the boat-purchasing process
WHEN IT COMES TO BOATS, Peter Berman is no novice. The author of Outfitting the Offshore Cruising Sailboat, Berman has 45 years of cruising experience in nearly a dozen vessels of differ- ent types. Last fall, he was in the market for a boat when he found a midsize cruiser from a well- known manufacturer that was advertised as an “outstanding value, in very good condition.” The broker provided a detailed year-old “insurance survey” that found the boat in well-above-average
condition, without any deficiencies. The engine had low hours and the boat had been kept under cover. The boat looked
lightly used, appeared to have been well taken care of, and the price was terrific — Berman was eager to go ahead.
Never judge a book (or a boat!) by its cover.
You might think that someone with his vast boat-buying experience wouldn’t think twice about closing the deal right then, but
before going any further, he hired his own marine surveyor —
this one a member of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors
(SAMS) — and an engine surveyor.
When the boat was hauled, the surveyor found massive
electrolysis of the underwater running gear, severe blistering
over a third of the hull, no bonding system, and some 60 other
deficiencies. When the engine surveyor tried to run the engine,
it overheated, and the generator and thrusters didn’t work right.
Disappointed, yet grateful, Berman passed on the boat. “At day’s
end, the money spent by having both engine and hull surveys
was well-spent, even for an experienced old hand,” said Berman.
Boat brokers often say that a boat’s cosmetics — and buyers’ emotions — are what sell it. If Berman had bought that
boat based on his own reactions, he would have ended up with
huge headaches and a lot of repair costs. But he was experienced
enough to know how important an informed, professional opinion is when making a big-dollar decision when your heart is
already engaged. Here’s how to avoid ending up with just a pretty
boat — and a lot of regrets.
GET A SURVEY
It’s easy to fall in love with an appealing sheer line, shimmering
gelcoat, and gleaming teak, but this is not a time to let your heart
guide you; you need an objective marine survey to avoid buying
with rose-colored sunglasses on. A marine survey is an independent evaluation of a boat’s condition and value, performed
PHOTO: MICHAEL VATALARO
THE BOATU.S. CONSUMER PROTECTION TEAM IS READY TO HELP MEMBERS WHO HAVE PROBLEMS WITH
MANUFACTURERS OR SERVICES. (703) 461-2856, EMAIL CONSUMERPROTECTION@BOATUS.COM