NEWS from BoatUS
Boat Owners Association of The United States
880 S. Pickett St., Alexandria, VA 22304
BoatUS Press Room at www.BoatUS.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Scott Croft, 703-461-2864, SCroft@BoatUS.com
Used Boat Buyers Beware:
How To Steer Of A Hurricane Damaged Boat
ALEXANDRIA, VA, October 7, 2008 – By the time the new owner of a nine-year old, $35,000, 24-foot fishing boat approached the BoatUS Consumer Affairs Department for help, it was too late. Shortly after purchasing the vessel the new owner discovered that the boat had been subjected to “excessive trauma” from a hurricane that caused serious structural damage. Unfortunately, the new owner was now left with only one expensive option: litigation.
While buying a used boat is never easy, recent hurricanes could lead to an increase in the number of hurricane-damaged vessels for sale on the used boat market. While many boats are properly repaired and sold, sellers don’t always tell the whole truth and sometimes just finding out whether a boat has been hurricane damaged can be difficult – especially if cosmetic repairs have been made. Here are some tips that could help protect you from inadvertently buying a hurricane damaged vessel:
- Vote “independent”: Having a survey done by an independent surveyor is key. In the case of the 24-foot fishing vessel, the new owner hired a surveyor – who was recommended by the dealer – for the pre-purchase inspection. The true extent of the hurricane damage was never fully revealed until after the boat’s new owner, who lived in another state many miles away received delivery, became suspicious, and then hired his own surveyor.
- State line shuffle: Anyone wishing to obscure a boat’s history need only cross state lines to avoid detection. That’s because unlike automobiles, there are few states that have laws requiring the titles of junked or salvaged boats be “branded” as such. And only 36 states even have a requirement that powerboats to be titled. In the case of our 24-footer, the boat was damaged in Texas when a hurricane struck. The absence of salvage title allowed the unscrupulous seller to simply trailer the boat to Ohio to list it for sale with a dealer. A seller who is not willing to document where a boat has been berthed or registered for the past few years should be a red flag that extra vigilance should be taken during the inspection and pre-purchase survey.
- Fuzzy “background” checks: Although a few Web sites purport to provide comprehensive background information about used boats, consumers should be skeptical, since there is no one national clearinghouse for boat information, short of checking the records of each boat by calling the boat registration agencies in every state. And be aware that even if you do that, state boat registration records do not include information about accidents or insurance claims.
- “As Is” could mean “expensive”: Protections afforded consumers by federal warranty laws and state implied warranty provisions are limited when products are sold “as is.” Without a thorough inspection and pre-purchase survey, you may not find any storm-related damages until something major happens and new repair efforts reveal their true extent. And your insurance policy won’t cover the repairs since most don’t cover pre-existing conditions. If you do buy “as is”, consider adding a statement in the sales contract that says the seller has revealed everything they know about the boat’s existing or repaired damages.
- Eyes Wide Open: For certain buyers, purchasing a hurricane damaged vessel may be appealing, provided they have the time, budget and sweat equity needed to facilitate repairs. However, knowing it’s a “hurricane boat” is a must.
For more information on boat buying or to get a free copy of the BoatUS Guide to Buying and Selling a Boat, go to http://my.BoatUS.com/consumer
BoatUS – Boat Owners Association of The United States – is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its 650,000 members with a wide array of consumer services including a group-rate marine insurance program that insures nearly a quarter million boats; the largest fleet of more than 500 towing assistance vessels; discounts on fuel, slips, and repairs at over 885 Cooperating Marinas; boat financing; and a subscription to BoatUS Magazine, the most widely read boating publication in the US. For membership information visit www.BoatUS.com