A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

The Necessity of Comprehensive Marine Warranties

 You’ve had numerous discussions with your friends and family. As an educated consumer, you’ve shopped around for weeks comparing different boat brands and prices. You’ve made the decision to purchase a new boat, and then the wind gets taken out of your sails when you discover all the items that aren’t covered under your “so-called factory warranty”.  Scenario 2- You’ve wiped the boat down and gassed up for your weekend excursion. You turn the key, but the boat doesn’t start. You’re miles away from your local dealer and have no idea who to call.
 So, are comprehensive marine warranties really necessary? Absolutely! Customers are much smarter shoppers now and they’re tighter with their purse strings. With access to more information via sources like the internet, J.D. Power and Associates and the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s CSI program, the average buyer is also more educated than ever before. Let’s face it, the perception is that it’s not a question of if, but when, something on a boat is going to fail. Because of that, customers are asking more and more about available warranty coverage. It is something we have all been trained to ask when buying a car.  Unfortunately, many people compare the coverage and type of service they get on their car to what they should get in regards to their boat.  After all, their boat may have cost as much, or even more than their car.

Jamie Gaskins
President, SeaSafe Group


6 comments on “The Necessity of Comprehensive Marine Warranties

  1. David Sheriff

    The ultimate problem with warranties is that they cost real money to honor. The cost of the warranty has to be built into the price of the product. If you’re selling a poor quality or unreliable product, that’s essentially impossible. Warranty costs are reasonably small only if the product is so reliable that warranty work is rarely needed. Electronic consumer goods have reached this level. Automobiles are not far behind. Products made in the millions set unrealistic consumer expectations for complex products made in the hundreds operating in wet environments.

    The solution is to increase the quality of new boats to the point where the problem is manageable. Then make sure the customer can get competent service when needed. It isn’t always the cost that people object to, its unavailability. Finally, set proper expectations. A boat is not a car. Most experienced boat owners understand the ultimate issue: its a boat. Maintenance, preventative and otherwise, is just as much an ongoing cost as fuel or dockage.

    Your engine will not fail to start for the very first time when you have guests. It will fail to start if you have ignored a little difficulty starting previously or if you haven’t thoroughly checked the boat recently.

  2. Phil Friedman

    A “turn the key and go” boating experience is the goal of every marketing person in the industry. Unfortunately, we’re very far from achieving that level of reliability, irrespective of whether we’re talking about larger custom yachts or smaller production boats.

    Most manufacturers and builders simply do not budget in sufficient warranty reserve into their pricing. So when push comes to shove, the inevitable tendency is to skimp on providing a truly satisfactory level of warranty service.

    Beyond that, most manufacturers and builders fail to demand a high enough level of quality in the proprietary fittings and items of equipment they fit to their yachts and boats. This is not unwitting, as witness the fact that most boat manufacturers and builders seek to slip out from under warranty responsibility for proprietary fittings and equipment by creating a pass-through situation in which the consumer is covered by the warranty of the fittings or equipment manufacturer, and not the boat builder.

    The result is that the recreational marine equipment manufacturing sector continues to produce sub-standard fittings and equipment. Oh, don’t yell so loud! At least not until you tell me why a relatively low cost domestic refrigerator will run continuously for 20 or more years, yet I’ve never had a marine unit last more than 5, and sometime less. Similarly for A/C. And for pumps. Yeah, I know all about the corrosive environment, the shock loading, and so on. But I also know that its possible to build much more reliable equipment.

    As to required maintenance, perhaps the first step in establishing a comprehensive warranty program, is the confomitant creation of a factory-authorized and backed, prepaid, maintenance service program. There would be profit in that, As well as an increase in consumer satisfaction, which would lead to improved sales — or at least, fewer boaters leaving the market for sports and recreations that are less aggravating.

  3. Anonymous

    Where have I heard all this before? Again, despite all the meeting and industry hand-holding for over 20 years, nothing really changes. Now become certified? Certified what? It still boils doen to the fact that the dealer is only as good as his next load of boats with most manufacturers. With BC you need to move higher up the money curve to produce more revenue for them while at the same time try to figure out how to maintain margin to cover added capitalization cost. You can analyze all the csi stuff all you want, but If you’re not smart enough realize that customer satisfaction is everything, you won’t last long. I don’t know how many times I had to make policy adjustments to cover poor warranty. It’s something that has to be factored in and not get ulcers over. All these paid preformers like Keeter and Dammrich do is look good while flapping their gums. I’ll stick to running business, treating my employees and customers with respect, and making a profit while these industry philosophers keep re-inventing the wheel.

  4. gordy mckelvey

    A lot of the confusion concerning warranties would go away if people took the time to read the warranty information. A major problem in this industry is we the dealers and the builders use warranty for a marketing tool. Warranty is designed to replace what broke during a specified period of time that’s all. We have pissed off an eight hundred pound gorilla that feels like EVERYTHING should be covered from batteries going dead to running out of gas. That’s not the case nor should it be. The boat owners need to step up and learn about what is sitting in their boathouses. Dealers need to realize that the builders don’t really give a damn about warranty and in an effort to keep that money they built into the boat they will make you jump through every hoop possible before they will pay. Time to move on down the line. We figure in an extra $300.00 per boat to cover freebies to the customer and make up the difference in what the manufactueres won’t pay.

  5. David Wollard

    I recently bought all new furniture for my house. Now that is an industry that understands how to deal with collective warranites. I asked about my warranty coverage and was told that depending on the individual manufacturer it was between 90 days and one year. However should I have a warranty issue I needed to transport the furniture piece about 120 miles back to the distribution center (my nickel), then they would determine if I had a claim, if so a call would be made to repair (could take one hundred and twenty days) or replace the item. Or, purchase an all inclusive protection plan…….

    This issue is not executed well in the marine industry. If we really want to offer better customer service we can. What ticks me off is when a company that supplies a single componet of a boat bust it’s butt to provide great customer service to it’s OEM’s, their dealer group as well as the consumer and the selling dealer is too lazy or cheap to do the same. Consumers are frustrated with the level of support they get from their dealer. The dealer has treamendous support available from every contributing manaufacturer to the boats they sell. That support is free for the taking, but only a few smart dealers take advantage of this support, why?

  6. Chris Allen

    Boat and motor warranty issues are BIG. REALLY BIG! And the reason they are BIG is primarily due to the fact customers do not read and comprehend them early enough. And when they need them most is when they are read. Most boat warranties I have read are very clear, concise and well written…easily understood. Acknowledging a boat warranty should be a prerequisite to the sale of the boat, not some afterthought. Dealers are guilty more often than not by minimizing or “purposely” forgetting about the warranty and that can become a travesty for his customer. I suppose it could one day haunt the dealer too. While it’s true that the customer is far more savvy today than ever, an expensive, shiny new toy still lulls one into a euphoria that all is well regardless of what someone else may have said, or not. Excitement overrides rationale. When it involves a boat; however, we must have all the aftermarket goodies to make it better, more fun, customized and more comfortable.

    As a manufacturer of a niche marine appliance, we know that the boating customer is seriously compromising his boat warranty giving no consideration whatsoever to its language or to the consequences by installing some of his “must have” electronics. These electronic “goodies” are important to us. And what aggravates the situation even worse, is when the manufacturers of these wonderful appliances and aftermarket accessories oftentimes take for granted that the customer understands the potentially costly compromises he might make by its mere installation.

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