America's premier boat
builders are offering comprehensive 5-year warranties for most components, in addition
to their usually longer coverage for structural elements. Given the complexity of
boats, the terrible pounding they must endure, and the fact that they are built
by hand in very low production numbers compared to automobiles, this is a monumental
customer service achievement. By baking in 5-year warranty and service contracts,
a handful of U.S. boat builders have set themselves apart not only from their competition
-- but also from the world's very best automobiles.
Studies done this spring by BoatTEST.com indicate that warranties are now much more
important than they have been in the past to new boat buyers. Longer, comprehensive
warranties signal higher quality and more value in the minds of consumers.
Lexus LS 600 HL
Formula 45 Yacht
Premier 275 PTX
Larson Cabrio 370 5 Years
In a study BoatTEST.com conducted
this spring among its readers we found that boat warranties have become a fairly
high priority when buyers select a new boat. Several years ago, BoatTEST began publishing
warranty information along with its tests and we have watched more and more
visitors click on this data button over the past 18 months. These days new boat
buyers want hassle-free, turn-key boating experiences. They want a boat which is
reliable from stem-to-stern and one in which the builder takes responsibility for
the components it installs.
The days of builders
saying "it's not my fault" when a bilge pump or engine goes south are not gone yet,
but we're well on our way to a new paradigm of builder responsibility. As always
it is a few leading players who set the mark higher, forcing all of the players
to suck it up and do better.
Formula's 5-Year Program
The first builder that we noticed
making the leap to a 5-Year Warranty on most components was Formula back in 2001.
This company has long been a leader in high-quality fit and finish, innovation,
styling, and rugged construction. Formula's roots are in offshore racing boats so
it has known for a long time how to keep its boats together. But keeping the hull
in one piece and making sure that scores of components from dozens of different
vendors keep on ticking for five years in a saltwater environment (with some owners
who never heard of the concept of preventative maintenance), is an even higher
order of difficulty.
Formula calls its program the "5-Year Protection Plan." Here is how the company
explains it: "Each Formula is protected by a combination of original manufacturers'
warranties and supplemental product protection, which provides comprehensive coverage
for a minimum of five years from the boat's original purchase date.
"In general, Formula and the boat's major component manufacturers (engines, transmissions,
generator) administer warranty for the first year of ownership. Thereafter, a supplemental
product protection plan - Formula Guard - takes over, providing extended coverage
for many factory-installed accessories and components, including the major items
Click here to see a video of President Scott Porter explaining the
Click here to read more about Formula's warranty...
Larson Goes 5-Years
Last fall, Larson introduced their new warranty program called "Five to Life." Essentially,
it offers a mix of OEM warranties and a service contract adding up to five years
on all components, plus a lifetime warranty on the hull. Importantly, the warranties
are not "pro-rated" on the age of the service contract and the component. In other
words, if a bilge pump dies in the fourth year of the program, you will receive 100% of the cost of the pump, not 20% (the value of the one year of life left
on the 5-year guarantee).
Larson also makes note of the fact that they cover osmotic hull blistering for five
years. It is interesting to note that some builders do not warranty their hulls
against blistering at all. Larson puts a value on their warranty, saying that it
runs from $1900 to $6400, depending on the model, which is what you would have to
pay to buy a service contract. This builder's package includes coverage for TVs,
stereos, all electronics, switches, gauges -- and even lights that are factory or
dealer installed. Towing, hoisting and blocking also are covered for the first $50
to $100, depending on the procedure. Overall, it is a comprehensive program.
to view a video of Larson General Manager Jeff Kruschek explaining the program...
Click here to read more about the Larson "Five to Life" warranty program...
Premier's 5 Year
Toon to Toon
Last year Premier also instituted a comprehensive 5-year warranty program. Premier
covers every pontoon boat it makes with what it calls "...an ALL-INCLUSIVE limited*
warranty on mechanics and construction and our personal commitment to customer satisfaction.
Every screw, staple, cleat, bracket, couch, helm, wire—everything—is covered and
eligible for full replacement. In addition, we continue our exceptional lifetime
warranty on decks and rotocast furniture, a 20-year warranty on Bimini frames, and
a 5-year warranty on carpet and vinyl."
Premier is one of the few companies, maybe the only one, which audaciously uses
the term "stem-to-stern" coverage. One might think that a pontoon boat is relatively
simple compared to a Formula or a Larson, and that is certainly correct. Even though
Premier is building boats with sterndrive engines, heads, galleys and many other
amenities usually associated with larger boats, they are apparently less problematical.
Nevertheless, there are boat builders who make boats a lot less complex than pontoon
boats that keep their warranties to one or two years.
These three companies are not the only ones with 5-year warranties. Cobalt and Correct
Craft also have 5-year warrranties and other companies have 5-year, 10-year or
lifetime warranties on hulls. Before you buy, check out this important factor.
Are Not the Same
Take the time to read the fine print when it comes to warranties. More and more,
we find that builders are getting away from the lawyering that was once prevalent
and are just using plain language to explain what is, and in some cases, what is
not covered. This is smart, since expectation is everything and obscuring what is
really not covered will only cause ill will in the future.
We should add that all companies are not the same, either. Every month BoatTEST receives
a call or two from owners who are disappointed that their builder is dragging its
feet on the warranty bargain. While there are -- thankfully -- few of these calls,
there does seem to be a pattern. Some companies seem to jump on problems and others
apparently drag their feet. Some companies interpret their warranty quite strictly,
while others are more interested in a happy customer even if they know the owner
is abusing them.
Before buying a boat, ask your dealer what component is most likely to fail and
whether it is covered and for how long. Ask if the builder pays his "shop rate"
for warranty work. The dealer will either say that it does, or he will get high
blood pressure. If it is the latter, chances are that you are considering a brand
that has a flinty attitude when it comes to warranty work.
We applaud the builders that have comprehensive 5-year warranty or service contracts.