Life Ring


to the BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau

One of the first services offered by BoatUS nearly 30 years ago, the Consumer Protection Bureau operates as an informal dispute mediation service. BoatUS can help both sides in a dispute reach an amicable resolution. You can count on us for unbiased consumer information, education, and help.


Consumer ALERT!

Recall #170016T for Honda and Tohatsu Outboard Engines

The US Coast Guard has recently recalled over 2500 Honda and Tohatsu outboard engines. The recall involves the fuel system; the vapor separator float ingests fuel allowing the float to sink in the assembly. The USCG says that this allows the relief valve to open, which may result in fuel overflow from the air ventilation hole to the outside of the engine. 2522 units are affected. The recall number is is for American Honda Motor Co. and includes models BF 115 through 250, for years 2016 and 2017. In addition, Recall number 170017T is for an additional 130 Tohatsu engines including models BFT 115 through 250, for years 2016 and 2017. Contact your dealer who will make repairs at no charge. For more information download the recall notice.


Consumer ALERT!

Check Your Extinguisher

National Vessel Documentation Center

If a fire breaks out on board, the last thing you want to discover is that your fire extinguisher doesn’t work. More than 40 million Kidde brand fire extinguishers with plastic handles or plastic push buttons, manufactured between January 1, 1973, and August 15, 2017, and sold in the United States and Canada, have been recalled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that the extinguishers could become clogged or require excessive force to discharge and fail to activate during an emergency. In addition, the nozzle can detach and pose an impact hazard.

BoatUS urges all recreational boat and PWC owners to check your vessels for recalled extinguishers and request a free metal-handled replacement, if necessary. Visit for details. Alternatively, the company can be contacted at 855-271-0773.


Consumer ALERT!

Official-Looking Vessel Documentation Renewal Notices Can Lead to Confusion and Higher Costs

National Vessel Documentation Center

Consumer Protection is advising boaters with vessels having a US Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation to be wary of any letter arriving by US mail offering renewal. An increasing number of BoatUS members have complained that these letters direct them to websites that may be mistaken for the actual US Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Center located in Falling Waters, West Virginia, and appear to show a significant increase in the annual fee to renew US Coast Guard (USCG) documentation.

BoatUS advises that while the USCG does send official annual renewal notices by US mail, other notices being received by members are not from the USCG but rather third-party companies whose name or return addresses may appear similar to that of the official USCG Vessel Documentation Center. Members report the letters look like "real" USCG communications. Some examples members have forwarded to BoatUS do not have any disclaimers noting that they are not official USCG correspondence.

While third-party companies may legitimately provide services to assist with vessel documentation renewals, the USCG's own renewal process is simple for most vessels and the price, $26, is often much lower than what third-party services may charge. To renew, go to the USCG National Documentation Center website at and click on "instructions and forms."

If boat owners wish to file a consumer complaint about this or any other boating-related advertisement or company, BoatUS welcomes boaters to visit and click on "send us a complaint" button. BoatUS advises boaters who may have received mail that they believe is misleading or deceptive may contact the US Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 or through its website

Boat Buyers Toolbox

Boat Buyers Toolbox Cover

Whether you're a first-timer or an old salt, BoatUS Consumer Protection has a Boat Buyers Toolbox that will help insure that your next purchase goes off without a hitch. We've been helping people navigate the sometimes choppy waters of boat buying for over 40 years and can guide you through the ins and outs of finding a boat, making sense of warranties, deciding on extended service contracts, as well as how to get your boat inspected, financed and insured. Download your copy of the Boat Buyers Toolbox.

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Checked Tip of The Week

Internet scams are rampant. If you're buying or selling online and something seems fishy, follow your instincts and proceed slowly. Click here to read, "A Tale of Two Internet Scams" and "Tips For Selling and Buying With Online Classifieds"

Buying or selling a boat? Check out these helpful links.

For information on boat titling and registration by state, click here:

For our BoatUS Buying and Selling a Boat guide, click here:

For our list of NAMS and SAMS surveyors, click here:

For our sample purchase agreement, click here: Agreement.pdf

Make sure you get a repair estimate, IN WRITING. Have a repair shop agree in writing to contact you before continuing with any work should the repair exceed the estimate by a percentage or dollar amount you choose.

Test all repairs right away. Don't wait for spring to test repairs made in the fall. A shop is not required to honor a warranty that has expired.

When choosing a dealer or service provider, ask yourself the following:

  • Are they trustworthy and competent?
  • Are they convenient to you and your boat's location?
  • Are they certified?
  • Have you checked their references and online reputation?

Don't be Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish. When buying a boat make sure to get a:

  • Survey of the boat –and pick your own surveyor. For a list of NAMS and SAMS surveyors go to:
  • Sea Trial
  • Engine inspection to include a compression test and oil analysis

Make sure the contract is contingent (and IN WRITING) on your ability to get financing and insurance, and your approval of the results of the surveys and sea trial, and that your deposit is fully refundable should the contingencies not be met.

Boat and engine warranties are a manufacturer's promise that they will correct specific problems that arise during a stated period of time. Warranties are not based on the hours a boat or engine may have been used. Consumers may be required to bear some of the costs associated with warranty repairs, such as transportation and hauling.

A good source of boat safety information is the US Coast Guard website, found online at: Here you can find Coast Guard recalls, submit your own suspected safety defect or look up a boat Manufacturer's Identification Code (MIC).

Federal Law requires marine manufacturers to notify owners when boats or engines contain defects that "create a substantial risk of personal injury" or when they don't meet manufacturing regulations. Manufacturers are responsible for correcting defects discovered within ten years from the time the boat or engine was built. Boats over ten years old are not covered by recall regulations. However, if you discover that your boat was subject to a safety recall, no matter its age, the manufacturer is still responsible to make the repairs. Safety Recalls can be found on the Coast Guard website at:

When having an engine either rebuilt or remanufactured, make sure you understand what is and what is not included, and get everything IN WRITING. A rebuilt engine typically has portions that are repaired and cleaned, but also contains parts that aren't. A remanufactured engine typically is completely overhauled.

Manifolds and risers are considered maintenance items and with heavy use in saltwater can have a life expectancy as low a 3 years. Internally, manifolds and risers are subjected to hot exhaust and water and externally they operate in an environment with perfect conditions for corrosion. Eventually, this corrosion can cause your engine to fail.

Most used boats and private sale boats are sold as-is. Federal and state laws absolve sellers from most liability in as-is sales. Getting a survey is the best way to help minimize the risk of buying a boat as-is. Remember, as-is must be stipulated in writing in the contract to be enforceable.

Buying a boat is not necessarily the biggest expense of boat ownership. An annual budget should include your loan, storage or slip fees, insurance, operation, and maintenance fees. During the first year of ownership on a used boat, be prepared to spend up to10 to 20 percent of the purchase price for repairs and updates.

A word about service contracts: Commonly called extended warranties, service contracts are actually repair insurance policies and are often administered by a third party company. Service contracts don't create a legal obligation between the manufacturer and buyer like a warranty does. Before you buy one, read it over and make sure the coverage is worth the money.

Many boat buyers forgo a pre-purchase survey due to cost, which is a bad idea. While a survey may cost a few hundred dollars, a serious problem with the boat will likely cost thousands. A survey buys peace of mind, as well as negotiating tools. Be aware that haul-out fees are negotiable, but are typically the responsibility of the buyer. For our list of NAMS and SAMS surveyors, click here:

Maritime law gives providers of goods and services - for example, marinas, boat yards and mechanics – the right to take legal action to "seize" a boat until repair and storage bills are paid. The legal process even gives them the right to recoup the value of their services by selling boats or property on board if bills aren't paid promptly. Good service or bad, it is up to the consumer to pay up and then dispute the charges.

Keep the lines of communication as open and friendly as possible when you have a dispute with a manufacturer, dealer or marina. Once you threaten to sue, a company will usually shut down communication. If you have reached an impasse and feel that you need assistance in dealing with a boating issue we may be able to help. You will find our "Submit a Complaint" form online at: