This Legal Guide explains your warranty rights when you get a lemon boat and the manufacturer will not live up to their warranty.
What can the Federal Lemon Law do for me if I have a Lemon Boat?
Under the right circumstances, it can require the manufacturer of the boat to pay you damages or maybe even buy it back if your boat has a defect that substantially impairs the use or value or safety of the boat and it was not, or could not get, properly repaired in a timely manner. Technically, the law's name is the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act and it actually covers almost all consumer products, including boats, as long as the product costs more than $25 and it is intended primarily for consumer-type use. Recreational boats fit that definition.
Does the Federal Lemon Law cover boats?
Yes, as long as you bought the boat new and it came with a written warranty. It does not matter if your defects related to the hull, equipment, or another part of the boat. The federal lemon law covers the whole boat.
Does the Federal Lemon Law cover used boats?
Yes, as long as the warranty was transferred to you and it was still in effect when your defects arose.
How do I know if I have a Lemon Boat?
All new boats come with a warranty from the manufacturer and sometimes with warranties from other companies who made some of the equipment or parts installed on the boat. If it has a warranty, the federal lemon law covers it. Those warranties often say that the manufacturer will pay for parts and labor if your problem is one that is covered by their warranty. If you have problems with your boat, then generally the first thing you should do is go back to the selling dealer or an authorized repair shop so the problem can be diagnosed and fixed. However, if they are not able to correct the problem within a reasonable number of attempts or within a reasonable amount of time, then your boat may qualify for the federal lemon law remedies. Some states say that if your faith in the reliability has been shaken, even though repairs are done, then you may have a lemon boat. That means you could get paid damages or maybe even make the manufacturer take it back and refund your money.
How many chances do I have to give them before I can say my boat is a lemon?
First, remember that your problem has to be one that is covered by the warranty. If it is, then your obligation is to complain about it and their obligation is to get it fixed within a reasonable number of chances. How many chances are "reasonable" depends on the defects. Some problems should be fixed on the first attempt but others may take more attempts to find the source of the problem. The best answer is to talk to an independent expert surveyor about the defects and ask them for their expert opinion.
How much time do I have to give them before I can say my boat is a lemon?
Any defect that is covered by warranty has to be fixed within a "reasonable" amount of time. Some defects might take an hour while others (like replacing an engine) could take much longer to get done. It all depends on what the defect is. You can get the answer by asking an independent expert surveyor how long they think it should take to do the job right. If your boat is in the repair shop too long, then you may have a lemon.
I think I have a lemon boat, so what should I do next?
Contact the manufacturer directly. If the problem has not been fixed within a reasonable number of repair attempts or within a reasonable amount of time, then ask them to replace your boat or buy it back. Don't expect them to quickly agree with you because replacing or buying back a boat can be very expensive for a manufacturer. Be prepared to fight for your rights. If negotiating does not work, you may want to contact a private attorney. Make notes of everything that you say to them and they say to you, so you have a record in case you need it later. As sure as you do that, it will probably all get worked out and you won't need it; as sure as you don't, you'll end up wishing you had.
How can I find out more about the Federal Lemon Law and other consumer protection laws for boat owners?
Write your state attorney general's consumer protection office. They often can provide free information. For online information you can go to www.BoatLemonLaw.com for more information or legal help.
Additional resources provided by the author
Here are links to a few resources that may help you understand your legal rights and how boat warranty laws can help protect you so you don't waste your money.