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One-Stop Satisfaction

Lead Line — July 2004
By Richard Thiel

One-Stop Satisfaction
Many new boats are not covered by a single comprehensive warranty.
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If you plan on buying a boat anytime soon, I’ve got some good news for you: The boatbuilding industry is finally beginning to embrace the idea—if not the fact—of stem-to-stern warranties. If this sounds like something less than a frontal attack on an issue that has rankled many a boat buyer for years, it is. But at least there’s real movement in the right direction.

As most of you know all too well, the problem is that many new boats are covered not by a single comprehensive warranty but rather by an agglomeration of warranties from the many suppliers whose products go into the boat. So, while a boatbuilder may tout its hull warranty, when it comes to the refrigerator, stereo, genset, or engine, it often passes the buck to the owner, forcing him or her to contact the appropriate company to have a problem rectified. This is a real pain on a $50,000 runabout; on a $250,000 vessel it’s downright unconscionable.

At this point you may be tempted to curse those damn dealers, but in fact, the dealers have led the fight for all-inclusive warranties. While a few boatbuilders already offered such protection, it was a paper by the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) advocating stem-to-stern warranties that really got the ball rolling, according to Soundings Trade Only. Now it seems everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, and MRAA deserves a pat on the back.

The Soundings article identified a number of builders who advocated such comprehensive protection even before the MRAA paper, among them Formula and Island Packet. The latter, which builds both power- and sailboats, has reportedly offered a bow-to-stern warranty on all of its boats for more than two decades, and Formula has been offering an extended warranty covering all components and mechanical systems, except the engine, since 2000.

While the drive towards one-stop warranties is certainly welcome news, it’s also long overdue. Imagine purchasing even the most basic economy car and, when the radio dies, being told you have to track down the manufacturer to get it fixed. You wouldn’t stand for it. Many boatbuilders counter that the automotive analogy isn’t applicable, especially in larger boats that are as complex as any home. It is not at all unusual, they say, for new-home buyers to have to deal directly with manufacturers of such things as heating and air conditioning systems and appliances. That may have been true a few years back, but in Connecticut, where I live, all-inclusive warranties on new homes are the norm, not the exception.

And besides, the boating industry is spending big money on trying to attract new participants to the sport. It should be expending just as much effort at keeping existing customers, and one good way to do that is to make sure that whenever a boater has a problem, the first priority is to fix it and get him or her back out on the water as quickly as possible. The best way to do that is to make sure boaters need to go to just one place to get everything on their boat fixed. Thankfully, it looks like that’s finally going to happen.

This article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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