Disclaimer: This post is meant for educational purposes mainly for people who have little to no prior boating experience. These are questions Kelsey and I had before we started the survey/sea trial process. Also, these are questions we've been asked by friends with no boating experience who are thinking of pursuing this lifestyle. We hope this helps you in choosing an alternative, location-independent lifestyle!
First off, what's a Survey?
Well, if you're considering a survey, you are admittedly a novice boater or feel the need to have a professional look over your big purchase before you dump endless sums of money into some POS. Either way, smart move on your part. So, a survey is very similar to a home buying inspection. You hire a "Surveyor", preferably one who is SAMs certified, to inspect your boat prior to buying it. This is what is known as a "Pre-Purchase Survey".
Real life red flag during our boat hunt - a boat's owner says they had a survey done for you so there's no need for you to have one done yourself. Well, the previous owner had an "Insurance Survey" done, about 1 year prior to us seeing the boat and the boat was in the water during the time of survey. Huge difference between pre-purchase survey (extensive inspection 4-6 hours) and insurance survey (start the engine, check dates of flares, roughly 2 hours).
How about a Sea Trial?
Sounds like something that happens in an episode of Game of Thrones. No Hodor, a sea trial occurs at some point in the survey. Think of a sea trial as the boat buying version of test-driving a new car. Except in this case the guy or gal trying to sell you this vehicle (Broker or Owner) is probably behind the helm the whole time. Also, if a surveyor is present they'll be helping with hoisting the sails or line handling coming in and out of the slip. Just sit back, enjoy the ride and the soon-to-be short lived peace of mind of not having to worry about running aground or your engine dying in the middle of a power-boater laden channel.
Is a survey required before buying a boat?
If you pay cash, no. If you're getting a soul-sucking boat mortgage accruing more interest than average stock market returns, then it's probably required by the bank you're becoming an indentured servant to. Think you can't pay cash for a boat or save up tens of thousands required to make a big purchase? You totally can! If you're born in the U.S. you're born into the top 10% of wealth in the world, regardless of what class you fall under. Give your spending the check-up it deserves by reading this.
Should I get a survey?
Depends! What's the boat's value? If you're paying $4,000 for a boat you probably shouldn't be spending 15% of the purchase price on a $600 survey. If you're spending $25,000 on a boat, it probably makes a lot of sense to get a survey done to know exactly what you're getting into.