THE ADVOCATE BoatU.S. CONSUMER PROTECTION BUREAU BY CHARLES FORT
DO YOU KNOW YOUR WARRANTY’S LIMITS?
Members send lots of queries to BoatU.S. Consumer Protection about the small print in boat
warranties, everything from “Am I covered for this?” to “What on earth does this mean?”
In addition, boatbuilders buy some components from third-party vendors, such as
engines, air conditioning units, and electronics, which come with their own warranties.
The boat’s warranty typically covers them,
but only up to the duration of the original
boat warranty. After that, problems have to
be taken up with the individual manufacturers. This brings up an important point.
Warranties, whether for the entire boat or
the VHF, are nearly always “limited,” which
means that it’s up to you to return the boat,
engine, or broken radio to the manufacturer
“The engine on my new boat broke
down and the boatbuilder won’t cover
the repairs. What should I do?” In most
cases, the engine manufacturer, not the boatbuilder, provides engine warranties. Often,
the dealer handles the warranty for both,
which is why it’s a good idea to buy from a
dealer who’s certified for engine warranties,
too. Otherwise, you’ll need to take the boat
to a shop that’s authorized.
IT USED TO BE THAT MANUFACTURERS SEEMED TO CONSIDER new-boat warranties a necessary evil; the small print on the back of the sales bro- chures offered little and lasted for barely a year. But now manufacturers realize that warranties can differentiate their products from those of their competitors, and that buyers are paying attention.
Warranties have improved, with better coverage (some with bow to stern) and longer
durations (up to lifetime on hulls), and most are now transferable. But warranty language is
typically not user-friendly and exclusions often take up more space than coverages. The following are a few of the most common questions boat buyers have.
“I seem to have several different warranties. Why isn’t there just one?” Usually a
boatbuilder provides a warranty that promises their boat will be free of defects for a period of
time, often a year or two. This warranty covers things such as steering systems, electrical and
plumbing systems, and other items the manufacturer builds. Builders often provide separate
warranties for hull integrity and hull blisters.
“What do hull and blister warranties
cover?” Each manufacturer has specific
language, but typically a hull warranty covers structural defects in the hull. Sometimes
builders try to limit what the “hull” actually
encompasses, though it’s usually defined
as the fiberglass shell, including transom,
stringers, and related structural reinforcements, which are below the hull-to-deck
joint. That means the deck is usually not part
of the warranty.
Manufacturers also limit what’s considered a defect. For example, gelcoat cracking and crazing usually isn’t covered even
if the cause is a flexing hull. Hull blisters
are caused by water slowly seeping into