If you’re choosy enough to hire a surveyor, it would be helpful to know what they’re looking for. I asked Edward R. Cozzi, president, CEO and professional master surveyor with Performance Marine Surveyors in Boca Raton, Fla. what he looks for. Cozzi specializes in performance boats, but the trouble spots are the same for most recreational craft. If you’re looking at something older or a later model with a lot of hours, a professional survey might be worthwhile.
“Hulls don’t get babied,” said Cozzi. “It may be pretty, it may have the greatest paint job on it, but if the bottom is showing evidence that it’s flexing too much and it’s cracked, then that’s a red flag. And I really have to look at it. I’m also looking for repairs — evidence of repairs in strategic areas where the bottom takes the most abuse.”
Cozzi checks the bottom and the transom for cracks and blisters and evidence of water intrusion using a specialized moisture meter. Any wood or coring in a hull acts like a wick that draws water in through the cracks. What he finds on the bottom tells him where to look once he’s inside. If he finds any problems during the hull inspection, Cozzi gives the buyer the option to proceed. Oftentimes, his findings can be used to renegotiate the price or have the dealer or owner make the necessary repairs. Or the buyer can just walk away to look at another boat.
“The great thing about fiberglass boats is that if the repair is done by the right person, it’s stronger than the original,” he said.
Surveyors cannot do any destructive tests, Cozzi points out. They can’t disassemble or cut or drill, but they are looking for anything that might signal trouble, such as evidence of water or oil leaks, excess corrosion in the engines or drives, excess wear in gimbals and steering systems. He also looks for loose or broken motor mounts.
The most expensive repairs are probably leaking fuel tanks, which are among the first pieces of hardware installed in a boat. That means they’re one of the most difficult to get to. Many times the repair involves cutting the cockpit sole out of the boat, then glassing it back into place.
“Every customer is different,” Cozzi said. “Some guys want turn-key. They only want little minor things to be wrong with it. They want something that someone has really taken care of and they’re willing to pay more money. Then there is the guy who’s looking for a project.”
Though it’s usually the buyer’s responsibility to pay for the survey, it’s money well spent. Cozzi charges $15 a foot for a survey. He also performs a sea trial for $150, which is critical because there are things that don’t show up at the dock or on the trailer that will be revealed on a sea trial. You might consider making any deal contingent upon a sea trial.
Another service Cozzi offers, which is important, is performing compression and leak-down tests on the engine. Simply put, a compression test shows the engine’s ability to generate cylinder pressure, and a leak-down test demonstrates its ability to hold that pressure. Unless it requires removing exhaust or other components, he charges $150 per engine.
Again, it might be money well spent for a boat you’re serious about.