For over 25 years, the BoatUS Consumer Protection department has helped Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) members 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, BoatUS has surveyed its BoatUS Dispute Resolution files to identify eight trouble spots that boaters needing work done should know:
Finding a shop: Word of mouth is still king. Having American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) certifications are also two good signs. Boaters can also check out the BoatUS Consumer Protection Database for complaints filed by BoatUS members.
Get it in writing: 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.
Is there a guarantee for the work? Guarantees of 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.
Remove valuables: Bring small electronics, personal items and fishing gear home. Better safe than sorry.
Take photos: It’s always good to take a few “before” time-stamped photos of your boat in the shop (your smartphone 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 damage took place and possibly file an insurance claim.
Languish at your peril: 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. (Tip: 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.
A note about end of season repairs: Sea trials must take place during the warranty period, which has sometimes caused problems for BoatUS 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.