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While hanging out on the Hog Island beach yesterday, ankle deep in the water, Rebecca and I had a nice conversation with some new friends about, among other things, the value of warranties. We’ve all experienced the sales clerks at the cash registers trying to sell us an extended warranty on some $10.00 item. And, of course, you’re smart enough to know that these things are just money makers for the businesses selling them, and thus decline. But what about high-ticket items? Should you get the extended warranty on them? Or what about the normal warranty? Is it of any value? As is often the case, the answer is, it depends.

For those living in North America, businesses with excellent return policies can be a pleasure to deal with. West Marine comes to mind, or at least their return policy was good when we were in Canada. I had a friend tell me that he once purchased 12 boat fans from West Marine, all the same model, and their extended warranty on one of them. When the fans died, which he knew they would, he would return them, one by one. Of course he was gaming the system, but the guys at WM knew, and didn’t seem to care. After all, the products should be designed to last more than a year or two anyway!

In the Caribbean, we have had excellent service from Budget Marine, who have always stood behind the products that they sell. Even though we have had some awful luck with a few high-dollar items that we purchased from them, in every case they looked after us, and for that they will always get our recommendations. CruiseRO Watermakers is another company that stands behind their products 100%. We recommend them as well.

Have you had excellent repair/return service from a particular marine company? Let’s here about it!

Our friends were relaying the story about having their air-conditioning fixed. As it is a newish system, and still under warranty, the technician they had helping with the problem couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just send it back to the company for repair. Here is where things get complicated.

What will it cost to remove a large item, like an air conditioner, for example, package it up, and send it back to the USA? A fair amount, would be my guess. Then, of course, you need to wait for the repair to be processed, and wait some more for the item to be shipped back to you. For those of us living on a boat, getting items shipped in to the islands is not always that easy. And on some islands, Grenada for example, even a zero-dollar warranty replacement will be subject to import duty, on both the full value of the item, and the shipping charges! So, in our friends’ case, is it any wonder that they were willing to simply pay a local technician to make the repair, if it was possible? It’s no surprise to me!

I remember when we purchased our Yamaha 2-stroke outboard in Florida. After telling the salesman that we were heading to the Caribbean, he let us know that the warranty was only valid in the USA. In other words, if we had trouble with the engine once we left the States, we couldn’t just take it in to a local Yamaha dealer in the islands. We would instead need to ship it back to the USA, something that we all knew was never going to happen. Was I happy about that situation? No, but what could I do? I wanted that engine. Feeling confident that we would be able to find qualified service people to help with the engine in the event of any troubles, we went ahead and purchased it anyway. In this case, warranty value = zero.

What is the one item that I do typically purchase an extended warranty on? Laptop computers. It could just be me but I think that laptops lead a hard life. Even in pre-boat days, I have had to take advantage of warranties to have laptops repaired, or at least in one case, replaced. In my opinion laptop computers are a high enough priced item, and small enough, to make shipping back to the company worthwhile. Your milage may vary.

10 Comments

  1. The thing about laptops is also that there are a lot of non-standard parts that can only be obtained by the manufacturer for a while until the 3rd party suppliers determine they were popular enough to sell parts. Keyboards, track pads, frames and casings, and even displays can be very proprietary.

  2. West Marine in down town Toronto on Queens Quay was my “go to” store when working on my boat in the spring. A 5 minute drive from where I was on the hard just north of The Docks what drew me to WM was Larry…one of their sales guys who is a wealth of info and advice. I didn’t mind spending a bit more in return.Unfortunately WM is toast in Canada but Larry lives on at The Rigging Shoppe….about 20 km away.
    Because service, pre sales or after sale, is important to me I still make that trip.

  3. http://www.sailblogs.com/member/karma/?show=gallery&aid=34806&pid=724432

    American couple sailing in Patagonia ,nice pics on this site.

  4. I’ll give a shout out to MorningStar. Solar controller died in St Thomas. MorningStar shipped me a new one and only asked that I return the dead one when I had an opportunity. Really excellent support.

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