BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau


Boat Warranty Limits

By Charles Fort
Published: February/March 2013

Members send lots of queries to BoatUS Consumer Protection about the small print in boat warranties, everything from "Am I covered for this?" to "What on earth does this mean?"

"What can void my warranty?" Taking a boat to a non-authorized dealer for warranty repairs will usually void the warranty and leave you on the hook for the bill, unless it's been approved ahead of time. However, normal maintenance performed by a non-dealer shop (or by you) won't void your warranty as long as the materials used (oils, lubes, and parts) are manufacturer-approved. If a dealer doesn't perform the maintenance, make sure you keep accurate records in case you need proof later.

Commercial use of a boat usually voids the manufacturer's warranty and using an LLC to buy a boat could be construed as commercial use. Some manufacturers, such as Nitro, state that if a boat is registered to a corporation, or multiple persons (not husband and wife), it's assumed to be used commercially and the warranty is void. Check with the manufacturer if you're not sure. Federal documentation of ownership is not considered commercial use. Racing, lack of proper maintenance, damage, abuse, installing too large an engine, and overloading the boat are all legitimate grounds for voiding a warranty.

Incidentally, manufacturers often demand that a new owner fill out a registration form within 15 days of purchase to validate the warranty. Federal law does not require doing this; however, it'll likely make the paperwork process easier when repairs are needed, and it also gives the manufacturer contact information in case of a recall.

"What isn't covered in my warranty?" Most companies don't cover rainwater leakage through biminis or even hatches and portlights. Window breakage, stress cracks, and bottom paint are usually excluded. Corrosion and deterioration of underwater metal are almost always excluded.

"My manufacturer was bought by another company. Will they honor my warranty?" Probably not. Often, when builders go out of business, the assets, but not the liabilities, of the company will be sold to a new corporation, even if the name is the same and the new company keeps building the same boat. Not buying the liabilities frees them from having to honor warranties.

In the end, it's better not to rely on a salesman's assurance that "everything will be taken care of." Read the warranty or call the manufacturer to find out for certain. Warranties may be hard to wade through, but to head off surprises in the future, spend a little quality time with yours. And if the promises unravel? Contact the BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau for help.End of story marker

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BoatUS Consumer Protection may be able to help you find a workable solution. If you need help, email us at or call (703) 461-2856.


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