How To Buy A Power Boat

Recently I have been under conviction to share my perspective on power boat purchases, the do’s and don’ts.

Here’s the scenario. An individual gets interested in a power boat. He gets the vessel surveyed and does not elect to have a mechanical survey performed on the propelling machinery. There is a previous dated mechanical survey available, so to economize, he depends on a dated report, or does not take his surveyor’s advice and skips this necessity. A week after purchase he has a mechanical failure that will cost $32,000 U.S. dollars to repair. Much to his dismay, his insurance policy does not cover this casualty. Big Ouch!

It never fails to amaze me that some of my clients are willing to pay me for advice and then refuse to take it. Falls under the category of “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”

Let me make it perfectly clear in bold print, not whispered but shouted! The proper survey of a vessel may seem a bit pricy, but it’s the cheapest part of boat ownership. Here’s my advise to the prospective power boat buyer. Before you hire the surveyor, contract the services of a disinterested trained mechanic to perform a stringent mechanical survey of the propelling machinery including generator sets if applicable. The survey should include not only the engines, but the mounts, beds, exhaust system, fuel delivery systems, salt and fresh water delivery systems, harnesses, and gauges. It should include compression readings if specified, oil pressures, temperatures, RPM’s, loaded and unloaded, and any other information pertinent to this particular engine. Oil samples should be taken on lube and gear oil to check on wear metals or coolant contamination. Your mechanical survey should inform you not only of the present condition of the machinery, but any necessary replacements of hoses, fittings or peripheral equipment. There are some cases where a mechanical survey may not be necessary like proven low hours or relatively new machinery where warranties are transferable, but these cases are rare.

I can’t count the times on my fingers or toes where I showed up for survey, the mechanic showed up. We both do our prospective surveys. The vessel is hauled. Everything is OK until #4 cylinder on the starboard engine had compression in the mud that necessitated a costly rebuild that caused the prospective buyer to walk. He could have saved my fee and the haul out charges if he had listened to my advice.

Some folks when they get ready to buy, cast caution to the wind and just want to buy. Everyone knows more than the surveyor, that’s a given. But when something goes wrong the finger always gets pointed somewhere. The owner doesn’t want this boat. He or she wants out for whatever reason. The broker doesn’t want the boat, he or she wants to sell it. The surveyor definitely doesn’t want the boat, because he or she knows better. So what’s a buyer to do. Do it right, don’t put the cart before the horse but put the horse first, after all, that beast does the pulling. Motors are somewhat important to the powerboat and you don’t want to buy a lame horse.

One final word about surveying power boats. It’s easier for me to survey a power boat than a sail boat because one does not have to risk life and limb going up a mast.

“Out of the mouths of many witnesses, a man’s plans are established.” Proverbs And remember, The Lord loves sailors.

Myth Buster: There is no such thing as a seller’s surveyor, or a buyer’s surveyor. There is a surveyor who thoroughly and meticulously reports what he or she sees. Then there are those who for whatever reasons don’t.

©Neil K. Haynes August 1999

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