Finding the right boat repair shop near you in the Charleston Area

This article is designed to help the novice boat owner navigate the waters of finding the right boat mechanic or boat repair shop near you in the Charleston area. 

So you have purchased a boat a few months to a year ago and have enjoyed the boat thus far but now the summer is winding down and you want to ensure you are keeping up with the maintenance of your boat. You recall the boat salesman talking about turning the boat in for its hourly services but really don’t recall the process. Well, typically every outboard motor needs to be serviced at its first 20 hours on the water, then again at its first 100 hours on the water and typically every 100-200 hours after that. This is commonly referred to as “100 hour service”. This 100 hour service is for the outboard motor only, where most boat repair shops and mobile boat mechanics follow the manufacturer’s guidelines of changing the outboard engine fluids, filters, spark plugs, etc. This is a critical step in maintaining your outboard motor’s warranty and more so to keep your outboard motor functioning properly. So, who can perform this outboard service for you? 

The first answer that comes to mind and which many people choose purely out of relationship and simplicity is the dealership where you purchased your boat. There is nothing wrong with this option as you will have certified boat mechanics performing your service and they are the best at keeping records for your outboard warranty claims if the need arises. The downside to using a boat dealership is twofold, they are commonly the most expensive option where a 100 hour service will be somewhere north of $500 dollars and secondly the turnaround time could take weeks. In the Southeast, most prominent boat dealerships are slammed from February – August as most boat owners follow the same patterns of maintenance, therefore it is not uncommon to turn your boat in for a service that really only takes approximately one hour to perform but you may have your boat sitting in a dealership parking lot for 2-4 weeks. Boat dealership services are a perfect option for those who have little concern for the costs and the turnaround time. However, they are undoubtedly the best at providing the documentation of your services and repairs to sustain the life of your outboard warranty. 

There are other options to service your outboard motor. One of them is to find a mobile boat mechanic located near you. This option offers convenience to the boat owner in the sense that you don’t have to worry about trailering your boat to a dealership lot, nor do you have to worry about not having access to your boat for weeks on end. Instead, the mobile boat mechanic will set a date and time to service your engine, travel to your boat’s location and perform the 100 hour service. While most mobile mechanics are licensed and certified, do your research on that person or business before making your selection. Google reviews or other platforms that offer reviews are a great way for you to find out which mobile boat mechanic is worthy of your trust and business. While your outboard maintenance may be a daunting task to the novice boat owner, a 100 hour service on your outboard boat motor is very similar to changing the oil in your car so no PhD’s are required. In fact, many boat owners are fully capable of performing the service themselves but if you lack the tools or time then a mobile boat mechanic near you may be the best choice. On top of the convenience, mobile mechanics offer cheaper costs. Most mobile mechanics do not have the overhead of a boat dealership or boat repair shop so they are able to offer lower rates, generally around 50% less than the average dealership price. The downside to mobile boat mechanics is the warranty documentation. If you fail to remind them, many will not offer any documentation as part of their boat maintenance service. On top of that, some outboard motor manufacturers may require your motor to be serviced by an authorized dealership to maintain the warranty. It is incumbent upon the owner to know the rules of your warranty— many allow the customer themselves to perform the outboard maintenance as long as it is documented. 

Beyond basic maintenance of your outboard motor, the same applies for repairs to your outboard. Boat dealerships are going to have better access to the parts required to fix your outboard as well as some of the best outboard motor technicians. However, it comes with the price of their overhead and the dreaded waiting lists. Meanwhile, mobile outboard mechanics are capable of the same repairs to a degree that we will discuss in a minute but they come with less costs and a faster turnaround. The difference between the two really becomes apparent with the scope of the repair. If you have a large in-depth repair that requires the removal of a powerhead or similar functions, then almost all mobile mechanics will agree that a boat repair shop needs to handle your repair. However, the mobile boat mechanic can handle your simple repairs just as well and in half the time and costs. So, how do you choose if your outboard needs a repair? One recommendation is to have a mobile mechanic perform a diagnostic test on your outboard motor to pinpiont the problem, from there the mechanic can make a determination if they are confident and equipped to handle your repair. Here, the boat owner gets an education about his or her problem(s), paid a minimal amount and is better equipped to call boat dealerships or boat repair shops to get a quote of the costs and turnaround time for that particular repair. 

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