Narrowboat Surveys Explained
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Mon Nov 23, 2015 at 4:00pm

Narrow Boat Surveys

There are three different types of surveys that a narrowboat can undergo. In this article we will look at each type of survey and why it is important and necessary to have the surveys done.

Why and When

The whole idea of a narrowboat survey is to find out the condition of the boat. We believe it is essential to have a survey when buying a second hand narrow boat. It gives the buyer a full picture of the boats condition, so that they know exactly what they are buying.

We always recommended that before you buy a second hand narrow boat, you employ a marine surveyor to carry out a hull survey to ascertain the true condition of the boat before you buy the boat. The surveyor is working on your behalf and not on behalf of the seller or of the broker.

When you purchase a narrow boat from a marina the broker will normally accept an offer subject to survey. Once the survey is completed the buyer then has the opportunity to perhaps renegotiate the price according to the findings in the survey. This will obviously depend on how near the asking price the buyers offer was before survey, and what Boat Safety and insurance work the survey brings up that is needed to make the boat safe and insurable before purchase.

Who carries out the survey?

Only a qualified marine surveyor can survey a narrow boat and supply it with the necessary certificates. When you are considering buying a second hand narrow boat please take the time and spend the money on getting the boat surveyed, it could save you a lot of hassle and expense in the future.

When buying a narrow boat the expression “never judge a book by its cover “comes to mind! Don’t fall in love with the look of the boat without knowing more about what issues could be hidden away from the unprofessional eye.

How to find a marine surveyor

If you do not already know of a marine surveyor and you haven’t been recommended one then use this link to find one in the area the boat is moored.

Things to consider when choosing a surveyor

Referrals from friends, family or other boating experts are always a good option if you don’t already know of a surveyor. If buying through a brokerage company they will have a list of local surveyors you could call.

Remember that the broker is not allowed to recommend a surveyor, but can supply you with a list of surveyors in their area. It’s a sensible idea to use someone local to where the narrowboat is moored; so that IF the boat fails the survey, the surveyor will need to make a return journey to sign off any work carried out prior to purchase, and may charge for travel expenses. This may increase the costs if you have to pay for someone to travel long distances.

Remember if you are having a full survey or a hull survey you will need to have the boat hauled out of the water, so you will need to arrange with the surveyor where this can happen.

Check out the surveyors websites for testimonials and make sure that they are actually qualified to do the work. Check the surveyor is a member of a professional association. You can identify each membership they belong too as it is usually displayed by the surveyors name on his documents or business cards.

The list below explains the abbreviations of each membership you will see;

YDSA - The Yacht Designers and Surveyors Association. Members have to pass an entry examination and submit reports for approval before accreditation by the Association.

IMarEST - The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology. Members have to hold a suitable marine based qualification or many years of experience within the marine sector.

IIMS - The International Institute of Marine Surveying. Members have to submit reports for approval before accreditation by the Institute.

Dip.MarSur - Diploma in Marine Surveying offered by the IIMS.

ABSE - Association of Boat Safety Examiners. Members have to be qualified Boat Safety Scheme examiners.

NABSE- The Nationwide Alliance of Boat Surveyors & Examiners is a Limited Liability Partnership that was formed to ensure that UK boat owners receive the very best of in-scope professional services.

IEng - Incorporated Engineer - Engineering Council

Let’s Talk Survey Costs

If a full survey or a hull survey is carried out the canal boat will need to come out of the water and will require the use of a dry slip. The cost for using our marinas slip way is £195 plus VAT, so you will need to factor this into the survey quotes you obtain (unless it has already been included).

All surveyors have their own price guides. When asking for quotes remember to ask about any hidden costs such as travel expenses that may be added to the quote.

Full Survey

A narrow boat that requires a full survey will need to be out of the water so that ultrasonic measurement of the hull can take place. This enables the surveyor to measure the thickness of the steel and check for damage and pitting.

Average Cost £500 - £600

Other checks that a full survey covers are:

  • Weedhatch assembly    
  • Cabin fabrication, condition and fixtures    
  • Stern gear/ propulsion and rudder assemblies    
  • Engine and gearbox condition and installation    
  • 12v system    
  • 240v system    
  • Gas system     
  • Plumbing; domestic water and heating systems    
  • Water tank/ toilet tanks Fit out, linings and vessel interior.    
  • Insulation    
  • External coatings    
  • Cratch and fore and aft covers.    
  • Windows and portholes
  • Decks and deck boards    
  • Firefighting and safety equipment    
  • Ventilation

Hull Survey

A Hull survey will only check the hull area and not any other areas of the boat. It will be looking at the quality and thickness of the steel.

Average Cost £300 - £400

Check points;    

  • Hull for cruising damage and build quality.    
  • Hull plate condition and weld patterns to the base plate, counter floor and hull sides.    
  • Hull outlets, freeboard and hull penetrations    
  • Hull plate thickness particularly at vulnerable areas    
  • Pitting depth and quantity    
  • Weedhatch assembly    
  • Cabin fabrication, condition and fixtures    
  • Hull internal    
  • Stern gear/ propulsion and rudder assemblies

 Internal Survey

Internal surveys only check the boat for boat safety items, but surveyors can be asked to comment on the engine and stern gear if required.

The cost for a Boat Safety Certificate is usually around £150.00.  

Check points;    

  • Fuel systems    
  • Electrical systems    
  • Propulsion    
  • Firefighting equipment    
  • LPG system    
  • Appliances and flues    
  • Ventilation    
  • Pollution prevention

What happens if the boat fails the examination?

There is no need to panic at this point! Depending on what issues are found during the survey, this will determine the costs and severity of the situation. In most cases a boat can have the relevant work carried out to make it meet the requirements needed to pass the examination.

There are various ways to deal with this situation. If the boat doesn’t pass the examination then you can either; renegotiate with the sellers over the price - asking them to lower the sale price and then pay for the problems to be fixed yourself. Or request that the seller pays for the problems to be fixed and you will still pay the original pre-sale price agreed before the survey.

Finally if you don’t wish to continue with the sale after the survey because the boat is un-insurable or has too many problems, you can withdraw your offer.

If you would like more information about narrow boat surveys please give us a call or come along to the marina where our staff are on hand to help!


steve | Sat Feb 6, 2016 at 1:35am
hello, I was just wondering if I pay for a survey and the then I am not happy about the outcome after renegotiations it means I have payed upto £600 to no avail , if I do this a number of times it could be costly even before I actualy purchase a boat , do I get the surveyors report ? Thanks Steve
Whilton Marina | Wed Feb 17, 2016 at 12:50pm
Hello Steve After a survey, dependent on the initial offer made, we will look at any Boat Safety and Insurance items brought up in the survey, and re-nogtiate the price with the owner on your behalf. This is usually achievable, however there are rare occasions where you may not want to go ahead. We always recommend purchasers of used narrowboats have at least the hull surveyed before buying, so that you know the condition of the hull.
cornelius | Mon Jun 20, 2016 at 9:03pm
The question ''who actually gets the survey report remains unanswered'' can you clarify?
Whilton Marina | Wed Jun 22, 2016 at 11:34am
Hello Cornelius,The survey report belongs to the person who commissioned the boat surveyor to undertake the hull survey, usually the person buying the narrow boat. However a narrowboat survey can be bought by another person with the agreement of both the owner of the survey and the surveyor, (usually at a reduced fee) and the surveyor would change the name on the documents to the second persons. This is useful sometimes if the survey is recent and required for insurance reasons.
Victoria | Sat Sep 24, 2016 at 3:45pm
Is a survey required for third party insurance?
Whilton Marina | Mon Sep 26, 2016 at 4:31pm
Hello VictoriaYou should not need a recent hull survey when insuring a boat for third party only, as your boat would not be covered on the policy. However you would need to make sure that a third party policy covers your needs, should anything serious happen to the boat.
Philippa Merritt | Thu Apr 20, 2017 at 1:34pm
Hi...i often see boats for sale labelled "recent survey" it necessary to have a boat re surveyed if im happy that the surveyor was reputable etc?
Whilton Marina | Mon Apr 24, 2017 at 10:34am
Hi Phillippa, If the survey was recent and any work required that came to light was completed to an insurable standard (or the work will be done within the price) and signed off by a qualified surveyor then you don't necessarily need to commission another survey. However this is entirely up to you. You may be able to buy a copy of the survey from the surveyor and have it transferred into your name.
Zoe Stevenson | Thu Aug 2, 2018 at 6:24pm
How recent is a recent survey? How often should you have one done?Thank you
Whilton Marina | Mon Sep 10, 2018 at 4:14pm
Hello Zoe, A recent hull survey is within the last year, ideally as recent as possible. This will enable you to get an up to date picture of the boats hull condition, and if it's a full survey it will give you a really good idea how serviceable the boat is as to regards the engine and appliances and boat safety aspects too, giving you peace of mind and possibly saving you money in the long term.
Frank | Tue Sep 24, 2019 at 7:58am
Hi, If I buy a secondhand boat privately but failed to have a survey and shortly after buying it develops a costly repair fault. Can I get some money back from the seller?
Whilton Marina | Tue Oct 1, 2019 at 2:45pm
Hello Frank, Second hand boats do not come with a warranty. This is why we always recommend the buyer has a survey prior to purchase.
Dave. | Sat May 30, 2020 at 12:10pm
Does getting the boat out of the water come under the price of the survey. Or is that an additional cost. Thanks
Whilton Marina | Mon Jun 1, 2020 at 10:50am
Hello Dave, No the price of a hull survey doesn't cover the cost of hauling the boat out of the water. The survey price is paid to the surveyor, haul out is done by the marina and is charged separately by the marina.
Clive Chaplin | Wed Sep 2, 2020 at 12:40pm
Thank you for all the information that you supply why I've been looking at other marina's but you come top of the list with all the information you supply to any buyer thank you and please be safe I'll be looking in the near future to buy a boat but it will be bought from you
Maurice castle | Sat Sep 5, 2020 at 12:38pm
Does the surveyor inspect the inside of hull?
Caroline | Mon Sep 7, 2020 at 5:42pm
Hi,If I buy a new narrowboat with a full year warranty, do I still need a survey?
Pat McEachran-Hill | Sun Sep 27, 2020 at 8:34pm
We recently had buyers who requested a survey. Survey brought up several issues with the boat. We have asked for a copy to carry out the repairs but we can only buy a copy paying the same amount to the surveyor as it cost to complete the survey. Is this usual practice. Also the vendors have pulled out of the sale.
Whilton Marina | Fri Oct 16, 2020 at 4:27pm
Hi Clive, Thank you for your kind message. Yes we like to provide as much information for purchasers as possible. Many Thanks
Whilton Marina | Fri Oct 16, 2020 at 4:38pm
Hi Maurice,No they surveyor doesn't inspect the inside of the hull, the surveyor is very limited on what they can do when it comes to the internal hill.
Whilton Marina | Fri Oct 16, 2020 at 4:39pm
Hi Caroline, If you buy a brand new narrwoboat the hull is new and everything inside is new therefore you do not need a survey as the hull and internals are not old enough to have any issues. Thanks
Whilton Marina | Fri Oct 16, 2020 at 4:49pm
Hi Pat, Normally with permission of the original owners of the survey the surveyor can transfer the survey into your name for a reduced cost. Hope this helps. Thanks
Andrew | Sat Dec 12, 2020 at 7:41am
If you have a complete survey carried out and the boat passes either before or after relevant repairs will a new safety certificate be issued ?
Kim | Tue Jan 5, 2021 at 2:20pm
Hi had a meter reading done for a 1979 springer . The hull read it was 2. Something mm thick mostly all over. Apparently I was told that 40 years ago they were manufactured and were only about 3 mm thick new as better grade steel. Would this pass a hull survey also would I be able to get comprehensive insurance on it ?
Whilton Marina | Thu Jan 21, 2021 at 12:55pm
Hi Kim, Considering our knowledge in narrowboats we would say no the boat wouldn't pass a hull survey or get comprehensive insurance on the boat, the boats hull needs to be 4mm or thicker to pass a hull survey and be safe. Hope this helps.
LF | Thu Feb 4, 2021 at 2:24pm
If a survey was carried out on a narrow boat to inspect the hull for insurance and loan purposes, does it sound right that there was no record of thickness of the hull?
Whilton Marina | Mon Feb 8, 2021 at 3:05pm
Hi LF, if a hull survey is carried out there must be a record of the hull thickness especially for insurance purposes. Many Thanks
Lincoln | Wed Jul 7, 2021 at 3:44pm
Hi. A narrowboat that I'm interested in had a full survey carried out in November 2017. In 2018 the hull was blasted and blacked. The survey report returned good, and the recommendations where done by the current owner, who bought the boat following the November survey. They have invoices and names of the tradespeople that have carried out work on the boat since 2017. My understanding is that the steel hull can reduce 0.1mm per annum, and that the original thickness was 6mm to 7mm. This particular boat is over 40 years old, although the survey reported that the hull varried from 5.6mm to 6.5mm. Does this mean the hull has been very well cared for, there plating has taken place over the years? Is plating quite expensive? I mean to say that I recently read in a newspaper that a relatively new owner paid £12,000 on hull repair work. I presume that this costing is quite unusual?Kind regards, Lincoln
Lincoln | Wed Jul 7, 2021 at 3:44pm
Hi. A narrowboat that I'm interested in had a full survey carried out in November 2017. In 2018 the hull was blasted and blacked. The survey report returned good, and the recommendations where done by the current owner, who bought the boat following the November survey. They have invoices and names of the tradespeople that have carried out work on the boat since 2017. My understanding is that the steel hull can reduce 0.1mm per annum, and that the original thickness was 6mm to 7mm. This particular boat is over 40 years old, although the survey reported that the hull varried from 5.6mm to 6.5mm. Does this mean the hull has been very well cared for, there plating has taken place over the years? Is plating quite expensive? I mean to say that I recently read in a newspaper that a relatively new owner paid £12,000 on hull repair work. I presume that this costing is quite unusual?Kind regards, Lincoln
Alice | Sun Aug 8, 2021 at 6:15pm
Hi there,I have just put an offer in on a narrowboat - subject to survey. The vendor has asked for a 10 per cent deposit ahead of the survey to take the boat off the market. She's said that we can draw up a document to set out what would happen in the case that the boat didn't pass the survey/needed additional repairs. Is this standard practice? If so any advice on how to set about drawing up the document would be very much appreciated!
David jones | Sun Aug 15, 2021 at 3:03pm
Hi i am considering buying a new boat (stock item) would a survey have been done when build is complete or would i have to have a full survey done on a new build.
Whilton Marina | Fri Sep 3, 2021 at 12:04pm
Hi David, If your buying a brand new boat from a repatriable company you will not need a survey or a boat safety certificate. If the boat is three years old it will need a new boat safety certificate and we would recommend a survey.
Whilton Marina | Fri Sep 3, 2021 at 12:10pm
Hi Alice,This is standard practice, we ask for a £1,000 deposit subject to survey. The customer then sources an independent survey, if this comes back with major hull work we will refund the deposit money if the customer wishes and has lost confidence in the boat. We wouldn't be able to recommend how you'd go about drawing up a legal document.
pete | Tue Sep 21, 2021 at 12:09pm
Hi , My wife was looking at insurance costs and came across a requirement for boats over the age of 30 years of a water survey. I can not find any reference to this anywhere. Can you shed some light. Thanks.
Alan marsh | Tue Oct 12, 2021 at 8:33pm
HiCould you advise on the following please.We are considering buying a new build boat from a private seller.Would it need a full survey and certification and if so are your fees listed above still current.Thanks Alan
Whilton Marina | Tue Nov 23, 2021 at 10:09am
Hi Pete, Some insurance company's require a hull survey to check the thickness and condition of the hull, this is to protect you. Different insurance companies have different limitations on when they require a hull survey.
Whilton Marina | Tue Nov 23, 2021 at 10:14am
Hi Alan, The fee's listed above are not our costings, they are a rough guide. The costs have defiantly gone up since this blog was written in 2015. Full survey would cost you between £500-£800 Hull survey would cost you between £300-£500 depending on location. Thanks
Maggie Barber | Sun Jul 31, 2022 at 2:07pm
I wonder if you could possibly help. I have recently purchased a Narrowboat which had a full survey. The seller who is a friend, advised me that the survey came back with the required thickness for insurance purposes. It was stated there was slight pitting on the base plate of less than a millimetre and a recommendation was made that in 12 to 18 months the hull would require shotblasting and painting. Whilst I’m aware the survey belongs to the previous owner I was informed that I could purchase a copy in my name. With this in mind I purchased this boat, however on the 22nd July, which was 32 days after the survey, this boat partially sank. All the interior was damaged and there was approximately 14 inches of water in the boat. Subsequently the boat ended up in dry dock where it was discovered that the base plate was rotten. It literally took three days for a welder to try and repair this boat, but has informed me that he has done all he can but that it will sink again. Could you please advise me on where I stand.Many thanksMaggie Barber
Nobby | Sat Sep 10, 2022 at 4:44pm
Seems like a bit of a fiddle that it’s not transferable. An MOT goes with the car when its sold why not a boat survey ?

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