Over the years, Consumer Protection statistics have shown details of hundreds of repair-shop complaints. So we kind of know what’s most likely to go wrong and how to avoid it.

These tips can help you prevent problems and help you resolve them.

  • Find out if the shop uses contractors. Will your outdrive be rebuilt in-house? Do they contract out for fiberglass repairs? Who ultimately will be responsible for the repairs and warranty?
  • Take a picture of your boat, engine, and trailer and attach it to the repair estimate to document the condition of your boat, especially if repairs may take a long time or the boat will be stored at the shop.
  • Be clear on terminology the shop uses. What is re manufactured versus rebuilt? What does it mean when they say they’re going to “service” something? Find out exactly what’s included in an “Annual Service.” Assume nothing.
  • Always get a detailed receipt. Don’t be afraid to ask to have more information put on it. A list of all parts used, total hours of labor, serial numbers for engines and equipment, and a complete description of the initial complaint and repair work performed (including technician’s name) can pay off if there’s a problem later.
  • Keep in mind that maritime law gives providers of goods and services the right to take legal action and “seize” boats until repair and storage bills are paid. Good service or bad, you’ll have to pay up to get your boat back, then work on resolving the problem. Pay by credit card if you can. If there’s a problem and the shop refuses to help, dispute the amount with your credit card company and they’ll withhold funds while you try to work out the problem, giving you more bargaining power. Companies often have to pay a fee if the charges end up getting reversed, which is more incentive to make you happy. Get a copy of the warranty in writing. If it’s the end of the season and you’re not going to use your boat for months, ask if they will extend it so you’ll be covered once you start using your boat.
  • Inspect your boat immediately upon pickup, and discuss any problems with the shop. If possible, test-drive your boat pronto to ensure it’s operating properly.
  • Beware of mobile mechanics. Many do quality work and can be a great choice for simple maintenance work. But unless it’s an established company, you may have a hard time finding them if something goes wrong.