Boat Repairs

Most boat owners do some of their own repairs and maintenance work, but regardless of how willing you are to do-it-yourself, the time will come when you need the services of marine mechanic or carpenter.

• As your first step, prepare a written outline of what problems need to be corrected.
• Next, get several quotes for the job. Written estimates are essential for all high-ticket repairs.
• Finally, for complex repairs, consult with a marine surveyor and consider having the surveyor serve as a liaison with the repair shop.

Because boat repairs can be complicated, unforeseen obstacles are common. Ask your repair shop how much similar repairs have cost in the past and what kinds of problems are possible along the way.

Your repair list will become more detailed and may even expand as you discuss the project with the shop or mechanic doing the work. Be sure the mechanic has a copy of your work order when the project begins.

Tips for keeping your sanity and checkbook intact:

• Get repair shop referrals from other boat owners or marine surveyors.
• If your budget is tight, make this clear before the job begins. The shop may be able to suggest ways to complete the project in stages.
• Get a written estimate before work begins. Estimates are an approximation of how much repairs will cost if no unforeseen problems crop up later.
• Ask for a target completion date and write this into your work order.
• When tackling large jobs, boat repair shops often require payments at various stages of the project.
• Be sure to verify that each stage has been completed before paying. If you cannot be on hand yourself, consider hiring a marine surveyor to make periodic checks.
• Ask the shop to obtain your authorization before proceeding with unforeseen repairs or when work goes beyond the estimated price. Ask to get back old or damaged parts.

Damages & Shoddy Workmanship

Before you pay the repair bill, inspect your boat or engine. Reporting problems immediately will make it easier to get the shop to correct them. Rely on a marine surveyor for a second opinion if you are unhappy about workmanship or how repairs were made.

Contact the manufacturer for assistance when warranty repairs are faulty.

When the shop refuses to cooperate, file a written complaint with the shop and keep all invoices to document your complaint. Try to get your money back through dispute mediation or small claims court.

Billing Disputes & Maritime Liens

Most boat yards and marinas require payment in full for repairs before boats leave their premises.

Maritime law gives providers of goods and services — for example, marinas, boat yards and mechanics — the right to take legal action to “seize” boats until repair and storage bills are paid. The legal process even gives them the right to recoup the value of their services by selling boats or property on board if bills aren’t paid promptly. Good service or bad, it’s up to the consumer to either pay up or prove that the debt is unfair.

To improve your chances of avoiding billing disputes and maritime liens:

• Ask for references before having repairs made. If you break down far from home, contact your boat manufacturer for suggestions about reliable shops in the area.
• Meet with the mechanic to discuss any questions you might have about the completed repairs or your invoice.
• Demonstrate your good faith by agreeing to pay for undisputed portions of your bill.
• Get a second opinion from another mechanic or a marine surveyor.
• Do not stop payment on your check after you pay your repair bill. This can be interpreted as intent to defraud the repair shop and you might find yourself facing criminal charges.

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