Is Your Boat a Lemon? Signs to Watch for and Steps to Take

If you’re familiar with lemon law – or the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act – you may assume this law only applies to automobiles. While lemon law exists across the country, state lemon laws can vary.

California’s lemon law applies to cars, boats, RVs, motorcycles, scooters, and even some consumer products that may also qualify under the state’s lemon law.

The reality of owning a boat is mechanical problems happen all the time – and are expensive to fix. While some are due to wear & tear and operator error, some can be traced back to errors in the manufacturing process. If your boat is facing recurring issues caused by a manufacturer defect, you shouldn’t be stuck with large repair bills.

These should be covered by boat lemon law.

In this article, we’re going to explain the signs you’ve got a faulty vessel – and what you can do under lemon law for boats.

Let’s get moving.

Understanding California Boat Lemon Law

Boat lemon laws in California – or the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act – work very similarly to lemon law for automobiles. If yours meets the state’s qualifications, it may be eligible for a buyback or replacement.

The guidelines of lemon law for boats in California are:

  • The vessel was covered under the boat manufacturer’s original warranty or express warranty when the defect was initially reported; and
  • The boat’s defect is substantial in that it impairs its safety, functionality, and/or value; and
  • The defect was not caused by operator misuse, error, or neglect; and
  • The boat manufacturer has been given a reasonable number of attempts to fix the defect; or
  • The boat has been out of commission for repairs for 30 or more total days.

If a vessel meets these requirements, boat owners may be eligible to file a lemon law claim with the help of an experienced boat lemon law attorney.

Not sure if your boat qualifies for boat lemon law in California?

You’re not alone.

The first move is to get in touch with a boat lemon law attorney. Most offer free consultations to understand the facts of California law and determine if you have a valid claim.

In other words, you have nothing to lose by calling an attorney with your questions.

What Types of Boats Qualify for California Boat Lemon Law?

Not all boats qualify for benefits under California boat lemon law. Paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, etc., do not generally apply in lemon law cases. The types of boats that may qualify include:

  • Sailboats
  • Pontoon boats
  • Motor boats
  • Speed boats
  • Yachts
  • Catamarans
  • Fishing boats
  • Jet skis

These types of boats can have many, many types of defects that qualify for boat lemon law. If you’re not sure whether or not your watercraft meets the state’s qualifications, get in touch with a boat lemon law attorney to learn more.

Signs Your Boat Might Be a Lemon

Generally, a boat may be classified as a “lemon” if it exhibits recurring issues beyond the normal wear and tear.

1. Mechanical Problems

The most common symptoms of defective boats are recurring mechanical problems which the manufacturer was not able to repair after multiple repair attempts. Engine problems are the most common, but others may include the:

  • Cooling system
  • Fuel system
  • Steering
  • Transmission
  • Bilge pump
  • Battery
  • Exhaust

2. Structural Problems

Structural problems can be extremely dangerous on boats – not to mention difficult to repair. These issues commonly involve:

  • Hull
  • Deck
  • Bulkheads
  • Stringer
  • Mast and rigging system
  • Rudder

3. Cosmetic Problems

Cosmetic problems may be difficult to argue in a boat lemon law case, but they can have a serious impact on the value of the vessel. These include:

  • Accelerated oxidation
  • Cracks
  • Upholstery
  • Window and hatch leaks

These issues – mechanical, structural, or cosmetic – may indicate underlying mistakes in the manufacturing process, which render the boat unreliable or unsafe. Recognizing these signs early on is crucial in a boat lemon law claim.

It’s important that boat owners get regular inspections and perform routine maintenance to spot these issues before written warranties expire.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Boat is a Lemon

If your boat has been subjected to multiple unsuccessful repair attempts by the manufacturer – usually at least two – you may have a lemon boat on your hands.

The first step in California boat lemon law is to speak with a reputable boat lemon law attorney.

To reiterate, most boat lemon law attorneys offer FREE consultations. Trustworthy attorneys understand you’ve probably never experienced this process before. You may not have even known boat lemon law exists until now.

These lawyers will take the time to educate you on the basics of boat lemon law, assess your situation, and determine if it’s worth pursuing a California boat lemon law claim. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Keep all records related to the sale of the boat
  • Purchase order
  • Written warranty information
  • Loan paperwork
  • Organize all communication and documentation with the manufacturer
  • Email communication
  • Repair orders
  • Invoices
  • Keep all receipts related to the defective boat
  • Towing expenses
  • Parts
  • Docking fees
  • Etc.

In a boat lemon law claim, your goal is to get compensated for every last dollar you spent on the defective boat – and you’ll need documentation for all of it.

Talk to an Experienced Boat Lemon Law Attorney

If your boat is showing the signs of a lemon under California boat lemon law, you shouldn’t have to cover repair costs out of pocket.

The manufacturer needs to be held accountable for producing and selling/leasing a defective product.

At Cline APC, we help people who purchased/leased defective cars, RVs, motorcycles, boats, and more seek fair compensation under California lemon law.

Our firm works on a contingency fee agreement. This means the manufacturer pays our fees as part of the settlement AFTER we win the case – and we charge you nothing out-of-pocket to manage your boat lemon law claim. Start the process today and schedule a FREE consultation. Call 888-982-6915, send an email to, or fill out a free case evaluation.

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