An expert, comprehensive marine survey by an experienced surveyor will not be cheap. Nor should you expect it to be. If you want cheap, buy a canoe. Not only is your sailboat a major financial investment — You will be trusting your life to the boat's structural integrity and overall condition. Some experienced boat buyers view the pre-purchase survey as essentially free — often the lower price that can be negotiated based on the survey report will save the buyer more money the cost of the survey itself!
The cost of the marine survey for any particular boat will depend on the size of the boat (usually based on LOA), the number and complexity of the boat's systems, the geographic location, the surveyor's expertise and experience, and possibly the time of year. The most experienced and knowledgeable surveyors may be booked several weeks in advance, and can charge a premium fee over less experienced surveyors, who may be more likely to miss subtle signs of a looming problem.
Prices and fees are most often calculated based on the boat's length: The surveyor may charge a fee of so many dollars per foot, and often the price-per-foot goes up as the boat's length increases. A 60-foot sailing yacht will be much more than twice as complex as a 30-foot sailboat. Surveyors often charge a minimum fee regardless of boat size — the minimum fee might typically be in the $250-$400 range. Many surveyors also charge for travel time, sometimes only for boats outside their usual service areas, others for all travel time, regardless of the boat's location.
Here are some approximate marine survey fees that you might expect to pay for a professional sailboat survey:
Based on these rough estimates, the base cost of a marine survey for a 28-foot sailing yacht might be about $300 to $500, while a 42-foot yacht survey might cost around $600 to $800. Additional fees for travel time or special services may be involved. Be sure to check with your marine surveyor for any additional fees.
Surveys for obtaining boat insurance or financing are frequently offered at a lower fee. Such surveys are less comprehensive than a full pre-purchase marine survey. Many surveyors also charge extra fees for additional services, such as going aloft to inspect the tops of masts and rigging, subcontracting specialty inspections for in-depth mechanical and electrical systems, or other special services.