Recreational Vessel Surveys Factsheet
Pre-purchase versus Insurance Surveys

Pre-purchase and insurance surveys are required when a potential buyer of a vessel or an insurer requests a survey to ascertain the actual condition of a vessel, assess the possible risks associated with insuring the vessel or to establish its true value. Pre-purchase and insurance surveys are not one and the same and this is usually reflected in the additional time and cost associated with a pre-purchase survey.  Each survey forms an important purpose, but it is important for a consumer to understand the difference between the two and their requirements prior to proceeding with engaging a surveyor.



Pre-purchase surveys are generally full condition surveys of the vessel.

Will generally include a comprehensive out of water hull inspection as well as a sea trial.

Involves inspection of as many aspects of the vessel as possible without taking it apart including structural integrity, safety of systems and equipment and cosmetic details.

Usually includes testing of all major machinery and operational systems.

Includes a comprehensive written report with supporting photos.

 Insurance surveys are purposed to assess the insurers risk in insuring the


 Requirement and reporting formats will vary enormously between different


 Generally cover vessel features, condition, safety equipment and valuation

 but tends to be quite cursory in comparison to a pre-purchase condition  


 Smaller vessel insurance surveys may be via a checklist style report with

 only a summary and few photos.

 Less expensive survey than a comprehensive pre-purchase survey.

There is no industry standard as to what exactly will be included in each survey type, it will depend on several factors:

  • The price the client is willing to pay for the survey.
    Some systems or equipment on the vessel may be inaccessible or unable to be accessed within the agreed time or cost of the survey.  This should be clarified before the survey commences so the client knows exactly what to expect.
  • The requirements of the insurance company.
    The insurance company may have standard reporting formats or special requests that surveyors must take into account as part of an insurance survey.
  • Does specialist equipment need to be inspected?
    You may request specialist equipment on board such as mechanical or rigging and sails to be included as part of the survey.  Due to the specialist nature of these components, there may be additional costs, or you may need to engage a specialist separately to your marine surveyor to assist. 
  • Is the survey being performed in or out of the water?
    To allow a full inspection of the hull, the survey will need to be conducted out of the water, but in water testing may be required of some operational machinery.  For a comprehensive pre-purchase survey a sea trial is recommended to allow equipment and major systems to be tested.

Having a written agreement in place before the survey commences is critical for both parties to understand the purpose and type of the survey, the type of report to be expected and what is and isn’t included as part of the survey cost.

It is vital the client understands the surveyor’s scope for the type of survey being performed so they can request and negotiate a price for additional inclusions if required.

As a rule of thumb, a pre-purchase survey will generally be more than sufficient to cover the requirements of an insurance survey, but an insurance survey will not be sufficient to cover the requirements of a pre-purchase survey.

If you require a Terms of Engagement agreement document prior to undertaking a survey or engaging a surveyor, the Australasian Institute of Marine Surveyors have a standard document which can be used by consumers or surveyors and customised to suit any survey requirement.  Visit us at or call 02 6232 6555.

The Australasian Institute of Marine Surveyors are the peak industry body for marine surveyors in our region.  We strive to improve and promote the specialised discipline of marine surveying through the delivery of processes and resources to our members, while providing consumers with sufficient information to make informed decisions when engaging a surveyor. The Australasian Institute of Marine Surveyors does not accept legal responsibility for any errors, omission or consequences of any action taken in relation to information contained in this fact sheet.

About AIMS
The largest industry body in the Australasian region for professional marine surveyors. Established 1986.
Quick Links
View the Current Executive Privacy Policy
Office Hours

Monday: 9:00am - 5:00pm AEST
Tuesday: 9:00am - 5:00pm AEST Wednesday: 9:00am - 5:00pm AEST Thursday: 9:00am - 5:00pm AEST Friday: 9:00am - 5:00pm AEST


+61 2 6232 6555

Postal Address
PO Box 2371

Wellington Point QLD 4160

Contact Email



Proud sponsors of



© 2020 Australasian Institute of Marine Surveyors


RSS Feed

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software