Appraisal Checklist

When considering buying a used boat you may find our 'Appraisal Checklist' helpful. When viewing the boat use this checklist to help you examine the condition of the boat, identify any rectification, repairs or improvement work that you feel needs to be done and possibly be built into any future negotiations, and also confirm the asking price.
It is often a good idea to take someone else with you when viewing a boat but this checklist will help you with some key areas to look out for. Not all the points below will be relevant to you, it depends what boat you are buying.
  • What ancillary equipment is onboard the boat?
When you first see the boat, look first at the ancillaries; the lines (or ropes), the fenders, the safety equipment on board. If these are in sufficient quantity to keep you safe, the boat well tied up and safe from berthing scrapes and are in condition, then the chances are that the boat's been looked after too.
  • Are Ancillaries included? Yes or No
Check whether these ancillaries are part of the deal. You're going to need them so, if they're not, take this into consideration when negotiating the price.
  • What condition are the external surfaces in?
Examine carefully all external surfaces, such as the gel coat, woodwork and upholstery. Again if they are in good condition, it probably reflects the care of the owners.


  • What condition is the woodwork in?
Check any wooden decking as well as the interior woodwork for any damp spots; these spots usually show themselves as darker than the surrounding wood and will be soft to touch.
  • What condition is the sails & rigging (on a sailing boat only)?
Check that the sails and rigging are in good condition; look for evidence of repairs but also ensure that the sails and rigging function easily and freely.
  • Examine the hull & superstructure
Examine the hull and superstructure (above the deck, e.g. the gelcoat over the cuddy or around the helm position) carefully and look for any cracks or chips in the gel coat. Look for any evidence of blistering or fading.
  • Examine the rib tubes
With ribs check for any tube blistering, delamination or evidence of previous puncture repairs. Also check that the air valves to the tubes function correctly.
  • What condition are the deck fittings in?
Check any deck or hull fittings to ensure that they are in good condition, have a strong fitting, function correctly and, where they go the hull, are watertight.
  • What condition is the paintwork in?
Check the paintwork for any evidence of 'touching up' or mis-matched paint. If there is any found out when and why this occurred. It may affect your judgment about the boat or provide you extra negotiating strength.
  • Are hatches in good working order?
Open and close all hatches to see if they're in good working order and that they don't show signs on water ingress inside. If they do, it can means that they're not watertight.
  • What condition are the Canvas covers in?
Check that they're in good condition, that all the poppers are in place and that they fit.
  • What electrics are present?
Check all electrical cabling, looking for any signs of repair, temporary fixes, rust and loose connections.
  • Check steering & transmission
Check that the steering and throttle control cables are in good condition and that the wheel moves freely (and without squeaking) and that the transmission smooth, from forward, to neutral, to reverse.
  • Test Functionality
Test anything that has a switch or a handle, to see that they function correctly, in particular navigation lights, horn, bilge pumps, internal lights, winches, heating, generator, cooking facilities, taps, toilets.
  • Look for water marks
Look for water stain lines inside the boat or inside any engine compartment. If they exist, it would indicate that there has been some kind of flooding, so find out what, why and how frequently it's occurred.
  • Check all sea cocks
Open and close any/all sea cocks to check that they're easy to operate and are watertight when closed.
  • Are there any gas run appliances?
If the boat uses gas for the galley check connections to gas cylinders and cooker for leakage. Also check the bilges for the presence of a gas smell. If you possess a hand/portable gas alarm, take it along with you and use it.
  • What is the condition of all Anodes?
Check the condition of all anodes protecting your boat, prop and engine from rust. If they're well worn they'll need replacing and this should be considered when negotiating; if the anodes are completely worn away then there's a good chance that there will be damage (corrosion) elsewhere, so look for it!
  • Look at the Boat below the waterline (if it is out of the water)
Check the condition of the hull beneath the waterline and the condition of any antifoul treatment that's been applied.
  • What is the condition of the propeller?
Check the condition of the propeller for signs of corrosion, especially if the anodes are badly or totally worn away.
  • Look at the underwater alignment & check for damage
Check the line of the propeller with the rudder and, in the case of inboard engines, the straightness of the line between the shaft and propeller and check for 'wobbling' between the two. Look for signs of any collision damage or twisting caused by tangling with fishing nets or other debris in the sea. The shaft, propeller and rudder can be expensive to replace, so check carefully.
  • Check the bilges for signs of oil leaks
Check the bilges, beneath the engine for water ingress and for oil. If oil is present, it's a sign of an engine oil leak.
  • Are the engine mounts in a sound & good condition?
Yes or no?
  • Check the oil level & condition
Check the oil level of the engine and examine the colour and texture of the oil. If it's grainy or gritty, they're possibly tiny slivers of metal that indicate potentially serious mechanical problems. If the oil has a slightly milky appearance, it signifies that there is a water leak into the engine.
  • Check water levels
Check the water level and examine the engine block itself for any signs of white water residue marks externally. If it exists, it indicates that the engine has been running hot in the past.
  • Does the fuel tank have any signs of leakage?
Yes or no.
  • Check the condition of hoses & connectors
Check the engine's fan belts, hoses, connectors, fuel lines and gaskets for condition and signs of wear or leakage.
  • Is a trailer included?
Yes or no.
If there's a trailer, check its condition for wear, including the winches and tyres and that it operates smoothly and with ease, raising and lowering the boat.
  • Check the canal boat steel hulls and superstructure
Check when the hull under the waterline was last 'blacked' (should be no more than 2 years previously) with tar to protect the hull and when the superstructure was last repainted (should be no more than 5 years previously). If either are past the 'sell-by' times specified they are both significant items in terms of time and/or expenditure and the selling price should reflect this (downwards!). Perhaps as importantly, they reflect the level of care that the current owner has taken with their boat – what else has not been attended to?
  • Confirm asking price