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February 13, 2006

Shopping for a New Boat? Warranties are Better Than They Used to Be.

New boat warranties aren't what they used to be -- they actually have gotten better for consumers.

New boat warranties aren't what they used to be -- they actually have gotten better for consumers.  Nonetheless, smart boat buyers still need to do some homework before they buy according to an article in the April 2006 issue of BoatU.S. Trailering magazine by Raymond Rose of BoatU.S. Consumer Affairs.
"Just five years ago, less than 10% of boat manufacturers offered a lifetime structural warranty," says Rose.  "Now, almost 50% do, and the standard 'bow-to-stern' warranty has been expanded beyond the usual one year for many manufacturers," he added.
Since boat warranties aren't like traditional automobile warranties, Rose stresses that boaters need to take a close look in order to get the most from them.  Here are some tips that can help:

  • A warranty is a manufacturer's written promise to stand behind its products by providing service and repairs after purchase. By law, it must state what's covered, for how long, and how the manufacturer will remedy problems should any arise.
  • You have the right to look at a warranty before you purchase - do it. This could potentially save you thousands of dollars should a problem arise.
  • All warranties are "limited" - consumers may have to follow certain procedures, such as returning a warranty registration card.
  • Structural warranties are multi-year guarantees which in most cases only cover the hull itself. Other structures that reinforce it from within, such as stringers, are not covered.
  • Shorter, bow-to-stern warranties cover most manufacturer-built or manufacturer-installed components on a boat from one to two years.  However, unlike automobile warranties, boat builders do not warrant engines and may disclaim warranties on key components such as windshields, cleats, upholstery, appliances and electronic gear. You'll have to follow up with the individual manufacturers if there's a problem - and don't dismiss registering the warranty on these items.
  • If you do have a problem, never make repairs without authorization from the factory or dealer.  Keep in mind that "modifications" may void a warranty.
  • Federal law simply states that companies have the right to make a "reasonable" number of repairs attempts before they have to replace the product or refund your money. Because of this vagueness, BoatU.S. recommends that you keep a maintenance log of all breakdowns and repair receipts.
  • The number of transferable warranties is on the rise.  Having a transferable warranty adds resale value, but keep in mind some manufacturers will charge a fee to transfer a warranty to a new owner.

Boaters researching a new boat purchase can also go to the BoatU.S. online message boards at, and click on the "Consumer Q&A" link for a look at what other boaters are saying about their boats. It's a great way to find out if there are any problems or warranty issues other owners could be experiencing.