Boat Warranties: A Handbook for Buyers

Boat warranty information can be confusing, to say the least, because there are a number of different types of boat warranties and virtually all of them have their own unique terms and conditions. When you buy virtually any new boat extended warranty information should be examined closely, so you know exactly what you’re getting with your hard-earned dollars. But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, there are different types of boat warranties that offer very different levels of coverage.

Boat warranties can give you peace-of-mind. Photo by Bryant Boats.
Boat warranties can give you peace-of-mind. Photo by Bryant Boats.

Types of Boat Warranties

The main types of boat warranties can be broken down into manufacturer warranties, and extended warranties (called “extended service contracts”). Generally speaking, most manufacturer warranties cover defects in workmanship and/or the premature failure of major components of a new boat, while engine warranties provided by the engine manufacturer cover mechanical problems. Extended warranties, often purchased through third-party insurance companies, usually offer coverage for both and are often purchased after the manufacturer warranties have run out or by someone who’s purchased a used boat.

Boat Manufacturers offer warranties. Photo courtesy of Hornet Marine.
Boat manufacturers offer warranties. Photo courtesy of Hornet Marine.

Boat Manufacturer Warranties

Manufacturer warranties may or may not be transferable, in some cases are transferable for a fee, and in some other cases will be partially transferable. The major portions of a boat warranty usually can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Bow to Stern Warranty
  • Structural Warranty
  • Hull Warranty
  • Blister and/or Gel Coat Warranty

A bow to stern warranty covers the entire boat and all its pieces-parts, aside from the engine. Many builders don’t include this in their warranty, some do for a single year, and some builders offer it for a three-, four-, or even five-year period. Bow to stern warranties that last for years at a time should be considered a valuable perk, though they’re not usually transferrable if the boat is re-sold.

Structural warranties are usually limited to the major components of the boat: its hull, deck, bulkheads, stringers, and sometimes other major parts. Again, these vary from manufacturer to manufacturer in duration and in how comprehensive the coverage is. Many builders, however, offer structural warranties for a significant period of time that is often transferrable.

Hull warranties cover just that – the boat’s hull. Catastrophic hull failure is a rare event with modern boats, and this is where you’ll sometimes see extremely long or even lifetime warranties apply.

Blister and gel coat warranties usually apply specifically to blisters, which form when water gets between the gel coat and fiberglass and causes a bubble-like appendage to form. At one time this was a major issue, but with modern boat construction techniques, these days it’s actually very rare to see a boat develop serious blistering issues. Still, it’s nice when a manufacturer has enough confidence in their own craftsmanship to warrant against blisters forming.

Extended Boat Warranty

Additional boat or yacht extended warranty options are provided by a large number of insurance agencies, and can be purchased in addition to an existing manufacturer warranty or as a failsafe when purchasing a used boat that’s no longer under any other sort of warranty. These can usually be arranged to cover as much or as little as you’d like, but naturally, how much you’ll pay for the coverage is directly related to how expensive and complex the boat is and just how comprehensive you want the coverage to be.

Technically, these types of boat warranties are extended service contracts. But since people commonly use the word “warranty” they’re often marketed with that terminology. This can be a bit confusing, since warranties are guarantees made by a seller or manufacturer – not by a third party – and there are federal laws regulating them. Companies selling service contracts, on the other hand, are usually regulated state-by-state as insurance companies and are only obligated to provide the services specifically spelled out in the policy contract. To make matters even more confusing, some boat dealers will offer extended service contracts on top of the boat warranty which you’re already getting, when purchasing a new boat. And if it’s backed by a third party, not the manufacturer, the devil is in the details.

An example: let’s say you have a service contract that covers part failures in the boat and engine. One day the alternator on the engine causes a fire. The service contract may pay for a new alternator, but not necessarily the fire damage that occurred as a result of the defective part. It all depends on the fine print. The bottom line? When you consider purchasing an extended warranty, make sure you read that fine print and know exactly what coverage you’re getting.

Steps in the Process

If you want to find out about a manufacturer’s boat warranty or a boat engine warranty the details are easily discoverable, usually right on the manufacturer’s website. Investigating your options for an extended service contract is also quite simple. Here are the steps in the process:
1. Find a reputable insurance company you’re comfortable working with.
2. Fill out a coverage request form, which will include your personal information and information about the boat and engine you want covered. Depending on the policies offered and the type of watercraft you have, you may also need information regarding a boat trailer, auxiliary power, and/or other major accessories.
3. Sit back, and wait for a quote. If you filled out a coverage request online, you’ll usually receive a response in days if not hours.
4. Examine the details, read the fine print, and determine if the coverage being offered meets your expectations.

The Bottom Line on Boat Warranties

A decade or more ago, boat warranties were generally very poor and of very limited duration. But most boat manufacturers now offer reasonable warranties that give a boat owner peace of mind. When you get right down to brass tacks, however, there is still a huge variation in the marketplace. As a boat buyer, the best thing you can do is look closely at the boat warranty being offered and make sure you understand exactly what level of protection you’re getting, before you sign any dotted lines.


How much does a boat warranty cost?

The warranties that come with a new boat, or warranties from the boat or engine manufacturer that are transferrable to second owner upon a boat’s resale, are considered part of the package and their costs are rolled into the initial purchase price of the boat. Third-party extended boat warranties (extended service contracts) range greatly in cost and there’s no way to know how much one will cost you until you apply for a quote. Even then, recognize that as a rule of thumb the better and more comprehensive the coverage is, the higher the price tag will be.

Why isn’t my engine warranty part of my boat warranty?

When it comes to cars, the manufacturer generally makes the complete package – engine and all. But with boats, this isn’t the case. Many boat manufacturers offer a selection of engines from different engine builders, and none of them are involved directly with manufacturing the engine. So it only makes sense for the engine warranties to be backed by the engine manufacturer as opposed to the boat builder.

Who performs repairs under a boat warranty or an engine warranty?

Whether you’re the original owner or not, usually it will be the dealer who sold the boat or a different dealership which sells the same make of boat. Most dealerships service what they sell, and most manufacturers have stated rates they pay a dealer to do specific work which both parties have agreed to.

Is there a difference between a boat extended warranty, and a yacht extended warranty?
Not really, there’s no “official” way to differentiate between yachts and boats and the warranties for each depend entirely upon the manufacturer

Are boat warranties pro-rated?

They may be in some cases, but often they are not. This is another situation where you need to read the fine print.