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?"

Read The Fine Print!

It used to be that manufacturers seemed to consider new-boat warranties a necessary evil; the small print on the back of the sales brochures offered little and lasted for barely a year. But now manufacturers realize that warranties can differentiate their products from those of their competitors, and that buyers are paying attention.

Warranties have improved, with better coverage (some with bow to stern) and longer durations (up to lifetime on hulls), and most are now transferable. But warranty language is typically not user-friendly and exclusions often take up more space than coverages. The following are a few of the most common questions boat buyers have.

"I seem to have several different warranties. Why isn't there just one?" Usually a boat builder provides a warranty that promises their boat will be free of defects for a period of time, often a year or two. This warranty covers things such as steering systems, electrical and plumbing systems, and other items the manufacturer builds. Builders often provide separate warranties for hull integrity and hull blisters.

In addition, boat builders buy some components from third-party vendors, such as engines, air conditioning units, and electronics, which come with their own warranties. The boat's warranty typically covers them, but only up to the duration of the original boat warranty. After that, problems have to be taken up with the individual manufacturers. This brings up an important point. Warranties, whether for the entire boat or the VHF, are nearly always "limited," which means that it's up to you to return the boat, engine, or broken radio to the manufacturer for servicing.

"The engine on my new boat broke down and the boat builder won't cover the repairs. What should I do?" In most cases, the engine manufacturer, not the boat builder, provides engine warranties. Often, the dealer handles the warranty for both, which is why it's a good idea to buy from a dealer who's certified for engine warranties, too. Otherwise, you'll need to take the boat to a shop that's authorized.

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