Report: by John Tiller,
Every year, many of us need to have some repair made on our boat,
often something beyond our personal knowledge and skills. This column combines some
advice from BoatUS
and some personal experiences to make suggestions on how to avoid
a repair person or shop.
Select a reputable and
Ask for referrals.
Ask your boating friends about
Check the internet for online
reviews and boater forums.
Check with the local Better
Business Bureau and BoatUS for complaints.
Learn about the credentials of
the technicians. Mechanics
or shops with credentials and good diagnostic equipment may cost more,
result is likely more reliable. Credentials are offered to qualified
individuals from both manufacturers and the American Boat &
Yacht Council (ABYC Certified Marine Technician).
Insist on a detailed
estimate in writing.
This should include details of
services, parts, and time needed, plus other items that might be needed
depending on what is found once the work is under way.
Have a clear understanding of
hourly rates and when they apply.
Clarify any added fees, such as
storage. I recently had my boat in for new electronics and it was
hauled so new
through-hulls could be installed.
charged for storage every day they had the boat.
That is, I paid them to keep my boat.
Does any auto mechanic do that?
Clarify what, if any, charges
are added for travel time if the boat is not in their yard.
When additional work may be
needed, ask up front what complications and costs arose in similar
situations. Ask for
a “not to exceed”
Understand what, if any,
warranty is included.
Determine if any warranty
includes labor or just parts.
Get that in writing.
Define how long they can take
to do warranty work; having someone else do the work due to your
with the original repairs will likely invalidate any warranty.
Remove any valuable items.
This includes portable
navigation gear, personal items, and fishing gear.
Document the outside and
inside, including the condition of the seat cushions and tables. It is easier to show a
“before picture” if
they damage your boat.
Get a time estimate in writing,
then hold the repair facility to it.
not let the boat sit with them for months.
There may be delays in getting parts or due to bad
weather, but the
longer the boat sits in the facility, more likely it is to suffer
have some parts “borrowed.”
Inspect the invoices and the
In my recent electronic
service, I was charged twice for some items.
The service person claimed to have been confused. I might have believed that
the first time,
but not the second.
Pay with a credit card.
That makes it easier to argue if there are
problems with the repair.
Be sure to sea-trial the boat
and the repairs during the warranty period.
After that, you are likely out-of-luck.
Warranties generally begin when you pay and take
possession of the
boat. For seasonal
boaters who have work
done and then put the boat directly into storage, that can be a
problem if the warranty period is 30 – 90 days.
How to handle a problem. If
there is problem, most
shops will cooperate to resolve it.
not, consider the following actions.
Consult with a third-party
expert, hopefully with the shop’s cooperation.
Send a written compliant in
some detail to the shop.
Keep all invoices and
correspondence about the issue. Make
contemporaneous notes of any calls or in-person conversations.
Report the matter to your
credit card company and enlist their help.
File a complaint with the local
Better Business Bureau.
File a complaint with the
BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau.
Sometimes it can get the dispute resolved.
Pay the bill; otherwise the
facility can put a lien on your boat.
That is why a credit card can be useful.
Avoid taking to social media to
denigrate the facility. That will likely stop any communications and
their side. Besides,
you can always do that
Most repairs are done in good faith and there
will be no major
careful in selecting
a shop will reduce the risks of issues.
However, it is your responsibility to be careful.