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Marine Dealers are not all Created Equal

By: Mark Romanack


Having worked in the marine industry my whole life, one fact stands out: Not all marine dealers are created equal. On a daily basis we are contacted by fishermen and boaters who have issues with their respective fishing and or recreational boats. When we ask these people if they have contacted their dealer, the overwhelmingly common answer is “my dealer is not helping with the problem”.

When the dealer is the problem, you got big problems in the marine industry!

These days getting service or warranty work can take weeks or months. The best way to avoid time consuming service or warranty work is to purchase reputable and dependable products in the first place. Do your research and buy brands that have stood the test of time. Secondly, search out the most trustworthy dealers even if that means driving a considerable distance to purchase a new boat.


HOW THE MARINE INDUSTRY WORKS

For every angler or boater who is happy with the dealer they purchased from, there are several who wish they had purchased elsewhere. The marine industry is a lot like the auto industry in that when you need warranty or service work, you need a trustworthy dealer who can perform that service.

All boats, motors and related accessories are sold through an extensive network of dealers. Because you can’t contact the manufacturer directly to solve the problem, it’s imperative that the dealer you select to purchase from has a reputation for providing quality service after the sale.

Think of it this way, if your Ford pickup truck won’t start, you don’t call Ford to complain, but instead you call the dealer who sold you the vehicle in the first place. It’s the same in the marine industry.

When something breaks or needs repairing on a boat, the dealer is tasked with fixing it 99% of the time. The exception to this rule is that in cases where the damage is significant, it might be necessary to ship the boat back to the manufacturer for factory warranty repairs.

On average dealers are charging $100.00-$120.00 per hour for marine service work. If the work is covered under warranty, the dealer will charge the manufacturer for the necessary parts and repairs, not the customer.

Just like at your car service center, when parts are needed, the dealer should be providing the customer those worn out parts as proof the repair was necessary.


BUY HERE, SERVICE THERE

When boat customers make the mistake of buying from a dealer who isn’t willing to provide service after the sale, it’s often hard to find another dealer who is willing to step up and do the work. Dealers prefer to service the items they have sold, not fix problems created by other dealers. Go figure.

It’s this very reason why it’s so important to research a dealer before signing on the dotted line for a boat purchase.


WARRANTY AND SERVICE WORK TAKES TIME

If you find yourself in a situation that requires warranty or service work on a boat, brace yourself for time line that is about to unfold. Because the marine business has never been busier and finding qualified mechanics and repair technicians has never been harder, warranty and service work may take much longer than anticipated to be completed. The idea of getting your boat in for service and back on the water in the same week is a pipe dream these days. Even simple service tasks can takes weeks to complete simply because of the back log of customers dealers are struggling to serve.

If your boat has something seriously wrong and must be returned to the manufacturer for warranty work, it’s going to take months, not weeks for that work to be completed.


BUY WHAT DOESN’T BREAK

It may sound overly simplistic, but one of the best ways to avoid spending all your time at the service counter is to buy marine items that don’t break in the first place. Stop in to just about any marine dealer and have a quick visit with the mechanics. Ask them what outboards, electric motors, etc., are the most trustworthy and which ones typically require the most wrenching!!

A mechanic is going to tell you the truth, because he is hoping you buy an engine or other product that isn’t going to need his service anytime soon. It’s true that any outboard can fail and need service, but some brands are much more trustworthy than others. Do your research before buying and chances are you’ll spend more time on the water and less time dealing with the hassles of broken gear.

Big or small, the brand of outboard you put your hands on will determine how much time that investment spends in the repair shop. Yamaha Outboards have earned a reputation for dependability the ole fashioned way, but working day in and day.


WORD OF MOUTH IS BEST

Every marine dealer is after your business, that’s a fact. Not every dealer however is going to treat their customers fairly after the sale. The best way to figure out which dealers are trustworthy and which ones are to be avoided is word of mouth.

Before you lay down that hard earned cash, do a little “water cooler” research to figure out what dealers are all about customer satisfaction and which ones are just trying to fleece the sale. In general, the longer a dealer has sold a particular brand, the better the odds that dealer is the real deal.

Manufacturers routinely cut ties with dealers that simply don’t measure up to the customer service standards required to make customers happy. Remember all manufacturers are looking for customers that are going to be coming back to purchase other products or new boats down the road.


SUMMING IT UP

No one wants to spend their fishing or boating season making repeated trips to a marine dealer. Before buying a boat, choose the dealer wisely. Folks like to buy local, but when it comes to the marine industry local isn’t necessarily the best option. Driving a little further to purchase from a reputable dealer is money in the bank, especially when it’s time to service that boat.

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