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Sellers Vessel Disclosure: An Essential Tool For the Boat Buyer

There is a saying, “Nothing’s hidden that won’t be found,” and this is true. In the case of boat buying, you want to discover before you buy and not after the contract is signed.

In an average year, about one-half of our survey business involves inspecting vessels for

prospective buyers. The standard survey is an intense fact-finding mission that lasts from one to two days, depending on the size and complexity of the vessel. The mission in itself is targeted to assist the buyer with gathering as much information on the present state of the vessel to help the buyer make a decision to accept or reject. These little sorties are intense and demanding on all parties involved.

My old Papa told me, “Buy boats with your head, not your heart,” and that was good advice. If you intend to get serious enough to have a vessel surveyed, history is an area that bears some scrutiny. The surveyor will be busy enough trying to discover if hundreds of systems are safe and operational and has no time to discuss in-depth past events.

Once, I had to buy a car because “Old Peely,” our fishing car just “woe out.” My wife was becoming too embarrassed to be seen in what she called “the wreck of the century.” At the car dealership, I was handed a Seller's Disclosure Form (aka, what is now known as the CARFAX) to fill out that gave me the instrument of truth to disclose to the best of my ability the truth about “Old Peely.” I could have saved a few minutes and simply written "wreck" across the form, but it did spark an idea. I know you have heard the old saying, “Buyer Beware.” Well, this disclosure allows the seller to disclose the truth about the vehicle and also inform the buyer as to the actual condition of the car. This instrument doesn’t in itself guarantee a 100% accurate disclosure, but at least gives the opportunity for the truth to be told. When assembling a puzzle, you must fit all the pieces together to get the whole picture.

Boats usually cost much more than used cars, and why haven’t I seen one of these forms for a boat? I moved things around a bit and came up with the following Seller’s Vessel Disclosure Form for those of you who really want to know what you are buying. You would be surprised how many simply want to buy and then look around for someone to blame when the reality of their purchase sinks in. Instant gratification with boats can really get your attention for a while if you end up purchasing the wrong boat.

One of my goals is to make Charleston, SC, the most attractive place for a person

looking to buy a boat, get the best service, and have the best experience available.

Happy boat buying! It is important to remember that history provides us with valuable lessons.

© Neil K. Haynes (Originally published February 11, 1998)


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