GUIDELINES ON HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
OVER THE YEARS, BoatU.S. Consumer Protection has dealt with hundreds of repair-shop complaints, and we know what’s most likely to go wrong and how to avoid it. These tips can help you prevent problems and help you resolve them.
■ Find out if the shop uses contractors. Will your outdrive be rebuilt
in-house? Do they contract out for fiberglass repairs? Who ultimately will be responsible for the repairs and warranty?
■ Take a picture of your boat, engine, and trailer and attach it to the
repair estimate to document the condition of your boat, especially if
repairs may take a long time or the boat will be stored at the shop.
■ Be clear on terminology the shop uses. What is remanufactured
versus rebuilt? What does it mean when they say they’re going
to “service” something? Find out exactly what’s included in an
“Annual Service.” Assume nothing.
■ Always get a detailed receipt. Don’t be afraid to ask to have
more information put on it. A list of all parts used, total hours of
labor, serial numbers for engines and equipment, and a complete
description of the initial complaint and repair work performed
(including technician’s name) can pay off if there’s a problem later.
■ Keep in mind that maritime law gives providers of goods and ser-
vices the right to take legal action and “seize” boats until repair
and storage bills are paid. Good service or bad, you’ll have to pay
up to get your boat back, then work on resolving the problem. Pay
by credit card if you can. If there’s a problem and the shop refuses
to help, dispute the amount with your credit card company and
they’ll withhold funds while you try to work out the problem, giv-
ing you more bargaining power. Companies often have to pay a
fee if the charges end up getting reversed, which is more incen-
tive to make you happy. Get a copy of the warranty in writing. If
it’s the end of the season and you’re not going to use your boat
for months, ask if they will extend it so you’ll be covered once you
start using your boat.
■ Inspect your boat immediately upon pickup, and discuss any
problems with the shop. If possible, test-drive your boat pronto to
ensure it’s operating properly.
■ Beware of mobile mechanics. Many do quality work and can be
a great choice for simple maintenance work. But unless it’s an
established company, you may have a hard time finding them if
something goes wrong.
Likewise, well-known review sites are more
reliable than a website no one’s ever heard of.
A few more things to consider: Don’t
shop on price alone. Rates are partially deter-
mined by location. In popular boating areas
near big cities, prices may be substantially
higher due to overhead costs; some back-
water shops might do equally good work at
lower rates. Also, don’t let convenience be
the deciding factor. The shop on your way
to the lake might be an easy place to drop
off your boat, but do your homework and
make sure they’re up to the task. Ask about
the shop’s warranty. Many yards warranty
labor for 90 days, which won’t be enough if
you take your boat in during the off-season,
only to find out months later that the repairs