How To Protect Your Craft Year Round

I’m not so sure about the following statement: “The two best days in boat ownership are the day you buy it and the day you sell it.”

One thing is certain, however. Ownership is an important investment. Whether you are buying your first jon boat or a big lake boat, there are many pieces to the puzzle of boat ownership. Unfortunately, most folks are interested in getting a good deal or a cheap boat.

Having been on both the selling and buying side, I say this: price should not be the most important thing one considers when buying a boat. There are many more important factors such as condition, motor age, availability of parts, haul condition and what you plan on using your new craft for. There are many more factors, but these are a good starting point.

Of course, your boating experience is always a factor. There is no reason to buy a bass boat with a 175 on it if your experience is pond fishing in a car top.

As fall approaches, boats will be beginning to pop up for sale. One of things I always ask about when buying a used boat is maintenance records. Over the years I have found that a good marina will do wonders for the life of a boat/engine/motor.

Finding a good repair shop you are comfortable with is important. Unfortunately, when your boat goes down, we generally don’t have the time or the patience to interview boat mechanics. When looking for a shop, check with others who have had work done recently. Word of mouth can be a big help in steering one in the proper direction.

Having American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) certifications are also two good signs. Boaters can also check out the Boat US for complaints filed by Boat US members.

Get a written estimate before work begins, and remember that it is based on an approximation of how much the job will cost. If work may go beyond the estimated price, you can always direct the shop to obtain your authorization before proceeding with unforeseen repairs. Remember, if it’s not in writing, there’s no way to confirm the work was requested.

Also worth your consideration: Is there a guarantee for the work? 30, 60, or 90 days are all typical. Ask if parts and labor are included. Don’t wait until after the warranty expires to check the repairs. Bring small electronics, personal items and fishing gear home.

It’s always good to take a few “before” time-stamped photos of your boat in the shop. Your smart phone may have this feature built in or there are apps available. Accidents do sometimes happen, and you may need before-and-after damage photos to show the shop that damage took place and possibly file an insurance claim.

Avoid having your job pushed to the back burner by staying frequently informed about ongoing repairs. While there are often legitimate delays due to seasonality, parts sourcing, weather, and personnel, if you think you are getting put off, you probably are. Cut losses and find another shop. For larger jobs, ask the shop to periodically email you pictures of work in progress. It may help keep the job on schedule.

Inspect, inspect, and inspect. When picking up the boat after completion of repairs, ensure each bit of repair work matches the actual invoice. If you do have a dispute with the final bill, you’re in better legal shape if you pay it in full, preferably on a credit card, and then file a complaint with the shop and/or your credit card company.

Running your boat during the warranty period has sometimes caused problems for Boat US members who put their boats away for the winter before ensuring the repairs are satisfactory. Any open issues found in the springtime will likely come out of the boat owner’s wallet.

For more than 25 years, the Boat US Consumer Protection Department has worked with boat and shops to resolve disputes with repair facilities. The vast majority of shops do the job right, but sometimes they, or boat owners, make mistakes. To see what went wrong and to possibly learn from others, Boat US has surveyed its Boat US Dispute Resolution files to identify some of the most frequent problems boaters have when getting work on their craft.

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