More than 20 years ago, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) started asking its members about their boats, their marinas, their boat dealers and any other marine service provider that they had worked with. The organization wanted to know how boats were holding up, if any problems arose, and whether or not boaters were being treated fairly if a dispute had arisen. Most importantly, it wanted to share that information to help other boaters steer clear of problems.
The online BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Database recently reached its 10,000th entry, and it remains the only nationwide database of consumer complaints and safety information reported by boat owners, the Coast Guard, manufacturers, marine surveyors and marine technicians.
The database contains thousands of specific reports about boats, marine engines, boating products, dealers, marinas and related boating services as well as information about how, or whether, the companies involved responded to each complaint. Also included are manufacturer's defect recall notices and safety alerts published by the U.S. Coast Guard and a selection of service bulletins issued by boatbuilders.
The database can be searched by boat and engine make, model, year, hull number or serial number, or by the type of problem and they can also register a new problem.
To increase accuracy, BoatU.S. makes every effort to collect boat make and model information and hull and engine identification numbers. Having this data is vital because analysis often shows that problems are confined to specific models or a series of hull numbers.
The database does not rate or evaluate boats, engines, marine products or services, so users should not expect to find an overall company report card. Also, boaters searching the database will most likely find reports about larger companies simply because large companies have more products on the water. "Keep in mind that the presence — or absence — of reports is as much a reflection on market share, rather than the quality of a boat or lack of it," said BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau Director Caroline Ajootian.
The database is located at http://www.BoatUS.com/consumer and available to BoatU.S. members. The Web site gives prospective users the option of signing up at a special online rate of $19 per year.