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Here are some of the most frequently asked questions the BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau receives:

Q) My boat has blisters! Can I get help with the repair costs?

A) Although the majority of boat warranties don't include coverage for blisters, some companies will assist original owners if the boat is two or three years old. Owners should contact the manufacturer's customer service department to find out what "goodwill" policy may apply.

Q) The final bill for repairing my engine came to more than the mechanic said it would. What can I do?

A) In a case like this, it's best to be prepared before any work is done. Insist on a written estimate. Even then, unforeseen complications may arise which will add to the bill. Ask the mechanic to get your authorization if the repairs exceed 10% of the original estimate. If you feel you have been billed unfairly, discuss your concerns with the mechanic and, if necessary, get a second opinion. Billing disputes can be resolved in small claims court.

Q) I've been waiting months for my new boat to be delivered. The dealer says if I back out of the contract now, he can keep my deposit. What are my rights?

A) The seller does have the right to keep all or a portion of your deposit if you back out of the contract without cause. Buyers should protect themselves by insisting on a firm delivery date written into the contract. It also helps to include language stating that the sale is subject to satisfactory financing and insurance, as well as a sea trial and a marine survey, for used boats.

Q) I want to buy a used boat. How can I find out if the boat is sound or if it's had any major problems?

A) Because the majority of used boats are sold without manufacturers' warranties, buyers are advised to hire a marine surveyor for a pre-purchase survey to evaluate the boat's condition. Then, if any problems are uncovered, you can decide whether to look elsewhere or renegotiate the selling price, based on anticipated repairs.

Q) My dealer is slow to perform warranty work on my new boat. Seems like he lost interest once I signed the contract.

A) The manufacturer of your boat or engine is responsible for making sure warranty service is provided. If you have any problems, contact the manufacturer's customer service manager immediately and follow up with a written account of the problems you're experiencing.

BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau
880 S. Pickett Street
Alexandria, VA 22304
Tel: 703-461-2856 Fax: 703-461-4674

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