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Old 09-18-2008
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Inspecting a boat

I know that the most common advice when purchasing a boat is to have it surveyed. But my first boat will be in the $3500-$5000 range, so I doubt a survey would be worth the money. That said, I'll try to do as thorough an inspection as possible - but not having owned a boat before, I'm not sure what all to look for!

Is there a good website that details what to look for, and/or how to tell if the inspected area is bad? If not, can you guys give me a good list?

For example, a couple of the questions I've been told to ask are:
  • Are there any soft spots in the deck?
  • Are the interior plywood supports sound?
I've gotten answers back from the seller, but would like to check myself, which leads to these questions:

1) Can a person get in the boat when it's on a trailer (without hurting it?)
2) What does a "soft spot" feel like?
3) Would unsound plywood support be obvious? (Sagging/look damaged?)

Basically, if you can provide a link or a list of methods for general inspection of a boat, I'd greatly appreciate it!

Thanks for your help,
~Dean
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Old 09-18-2008
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If you're serious about buying a larger boat without a survey, I would highly recommend you get Don Casey's book, Inspecting the Aging Sailboat.

AFAIK, most boat you can get into while they're on the trailer, provided the trailer is properly designed for supporting the boat.

A soft spot is where the deck is spongy or soft... if you run across one, it is usually pretty obvious. If you're asking this question, I seriously doubt you have the experience or the knowledge to properly inspect a boat without assistance of some sort. Not inspecting/surveying the boat can be a very, very expensive mistake.

A lot of the interior plywood supports are encased in fiberglass, and damage to them is not always readily apparent. Again, asking this question makes me think you're probably not capable of doing a decent or thorough inspection of a boat without assistance.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0verdrive View Post
I know that the most common advice when purchasing a boat is to have it surveyed. But my first boat will be in the $3500-$5000 range, so I doubt a survey would be worth the money. .....
Thanks for your help,
~Dean
Generally speaking, the less expensive the boat is, the more valuable the survey will be, as there exists good opportunity for a survey to explain why the seller doesn't thinkt he boat is worth much.

Pay little attention to anything that a seller tells you.

The less you know about boasts, the more desperately you need a surveyor...while even someone who has owned boats over 35 years would be a fool to buy a boat without a survey.
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go to Alan Vaites web sight and go to the survey section and if you are anything mechanically inclined or intrigued by what he has to say then all you really have to do is understand what he is saying and showing you as above Don Casey's book is invaluable. Mr. Vaites can be a little extreme but being a surveyor with vast experience and nothing to gain from his web sight other than maybe you buying a book he gives a thorough run down on the subject.
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Old 09-18-2008
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IMHO- you are being pennywise and pound foolish buying a boat and not getting a survey. There are so many things that can be wrong with a boat that without the experience you could look right at them and not know there is anything wrong. Think of the survey as a learning experience, and the cost as tuition. Reading books is great, but you want this to turn out positively, not a disaster that you wish you had never got into.

John
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Thanks for the replies!

I understand that I'm unqualified to inspect the boat on my own, which is why I was asking for help. I've also ordered the book mentioned above, and will visit the website as well. I am mechanically inclined, so I'm sure I can pick a lot of it up quickly.

Part of my dilemma is due to the fact that I'm walking a fine line with the missus as to how much money I spend on a boat. On the one hand, she isn't too thrilled about me buying a boat at all, so the less I spend, the better. On the other hand, if I buy a dud, she'll really be unhappy, and I'll be up the proverbial creek.

(I'm sure my wife will enjoy the boat once we have it - she just gets a tad nervous when I start a project like this one...)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrd22 View Post
IMHO- you are being pennywise and pound foolish buying a boat and not getting a survey. There are so many things that can be wrong with a boat that without the experience you could look right at them and not know there is anything wrong. Think of the survey as a learning experience, and the cost as tuition. Reading books is great, but you want this to turn out positively, not a disaster that you wish you had never got into.

John
Yeah, that's kind of the impression I'm getting. Sigh - not what I wanted to hear, but sometimes that's the kind of advice I need.

I guess my first thought (that a survey would cost more than it would be worth, given the low price point of the boat) maybe is suspect. It just seems odd to spend more than 10% of the purchase price on a survey. But if it helps avoid a dud, I guess it'd be worth it...
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Given the low price of the boat, a survey may be more valuable because it can find the serious problems with the boat before they become your problems. Buying a newer, more expensive, better maintained boat would need a survey to a lesser degree than buying a low-end boat that is obviously in need of some TLC. Some problems are more expensive to repair than the boat would be worth.
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Old 09-18-2008
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Small boat = cheaper survey

Don't forget that most surveryors charge by the foot ( I think I paid $17 a foot for my last survey) so a small boat is actually inexpensive to survey.


Heed sailingdog's warning, a major problem could very easily cost more to repair than the boat is worth. You also may have trouble getting insurance without a survey, although I'm not sure how it works with inexpensive trailer sailers.
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Old 09-18-2008
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I would say you should read the book, and use what you learn to eliminate 95% of the boats you look at. Once you have found a boat that interests you, and that YOU have found nothing you can't live with wrong with it, then pay the surveyor to confirm that the boat is indeed a good one. Then you can proceed with confidence, and you won't end up in the dog house.

I am in the same boat as you are. Looking at older boats. I would rather spend the money on a surveyor than have $5,000 worth of worthless fiberglass on the hard, or worse, at the bottom of the lake. (and if it ends up at the bottom of the lake, you and your crew (read family) have got even bigger problems.

BTW SD, thanks for the book recomendation. I am going to buy it. I am currently reading The Complete Sailor per your recomendation.

Eric
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