Don't be duped
8 ways to avoid problems at the boat repair shop
The vast majority of boat repair shops do the job right, but sometimes they—or boat owners—make mistakes. Here are eight trouble spots that boaters needing work done should know:
- Finding a shop. Word of mouth is still king. Having American Boat & Yacht Council and Better Business Bureau certifications are also two good signs. Boaters can also check out the BoatUS Consumer Protection Database for complaints.
- Get it in writing. Get a written estimate before work begins. If work goes beyond the estimated price, tell the shop to obtain your authorization before proceeding with unforeseen repairs. If it’s not in writing, there’s no way to confirm the work was requested.
- Is there a guarantee for the work? Thirty, 60 or 90 days are typical. Ask if parts and labor are included. Don’t wait until after the warranty expires to check the repairs.
- Remove valuables. Bring small electronics, personal items and fishing gear home.
- Take photos. It’s always good to take a few time-stamped “before” photos of your boat at the shop. Accidents do happen, and you may need before and after photos to show that shop damage took place and possibly file an insurance claim.
- Languish at your peril. Avoid having your job pushed to the back burner by staying frequently informed about ongoing repairs. Legitimate delays due to seasonality, parts sourcing, weather and personnel often occur, but if you think you are getting put off, you probably are. Cut your losses and find another shop. (For larger jobs, ask the shop to periodically email you pictures of work in progress. It may help keep the job on schedule.)
- Inspect, inspect, inspect. When picking up the boat after repairs have been completed, ensure each bit of repair work matches the actual invoice. If you have a dispute with the final bill, you’re in better legal shape if you pay it in full, preferably on a credit card, and then file a complaint with the shop or your credit card company.
- A note about end-of-season repairs: Sea trials must take place during the warranty period, which has sometimes caused problems for boaters who store their boats for winter before ensuring the repairs are satisfactory. Any issues found in the springtime will likely come out of your wallet.