Boat Bumpers: Pay Today, Save Tomorrow

How bumpers save your boat’s value at trade-in time

July 2016 Feature

I can’t tell you the number of times I do this routine: hum along in contentment, suddenly gasp in wild shock, sigh with relief, repeat. Nine times out of 10, this happens when I accidentally back into something while driving (the other 10 percent during particularly gripping episodes of White Collar). With my track record, you’d think I had one glass eye and an eye patch on the other.

I can count my lucky stars this usually happens around innocent things like little bushes and garbage cans rather than around other people’s cars or other people—which you should all be mighty grateful for. Let’s just say, if I didn’t have a bumper on the back of our Subaru, I’d be looking at some figures that would make my husband hide my driver’s license and tell the state I’m disabled.

And, like car bumpers that protect you from costly damage, boat bumpers will save you from some serious grief while docking or moored. Using your bumpers or fenders will protect the sides of your boat from scrapes and scuffs. Over time, after all, those little scuffs can add up to a gel coat that’s more exposed hull than coat. And to a next buyer, that’s certainly never attractive, nor is it the least bit of damage that can happen when you repeatedly dock without bumpers. With damage upwards of ruined rub rails to deeply bedded gashes that require serious repair work, not using bumpers is one thing you don’t want to mess around with.

Enter the authority figures to back me up here. Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Wise words to live by. Granted, most of Ben’s boating experience—though more than I realized—doesn’t include a modern pontoon or deck boat, per say, but the man was still smart. Prevention now saves you a lot in the long haul.

To be further convinced, all you have to do is talk to the dealers. They’ve seen a glorious spectrum of used boat conditions and know a thing or two about protecting your resale value. Unattractive marring at just about eye level surely won’t do it.

Bob Forbes from Lake West Marine in Gravois Mills, Miss., sees a lot of used boats each year at his dealership. I asked him what they look for when people bring their boats in to trade. Though there are several factors when assessing a used boat’s value besides “basic blue book,” the folks at Lake West Marine say they make sure to pay close attention to how the watercraft has been maintained and how clean the boat’s inside and outside is.

“If a customer has not used fenders, we find rub rails that are scarred, torn and, in some cases, missing altogether,” Forbes says.

He’s seen how “dock rash,” damaged rub rails, and other signs of missing bumpers or fenders really can take their toll on a boat’s gel coat and graphics. Of course, there are always those boat owners who are concerned about the price tag attached to larger bumpers.

Forbes tells his uncertain customers, “I would rather spend a couple hundred dollars on fenders now than spend thousands in repair costs down the road.”

Can you just hear the echoes of Ben Franklin in his voice?

Greg Mann from Mountain Auto and Marine seconds this. The Montana dealership he works from has luckily interchanged boats that don’t have a lot of existing damage, “I think because most people want to protect their investment,” Mann says.

He points out that the gel coating, which usually takes the hardest hit in scratches and chips, is kept safe from harm when a bumper stands guard between preservation and damage.

“Some dealerships even include bumpers with the purchase of the boat,” says Mann, which shows how important bumper use is to dealers out there.

We protect iPhones with fancy covers and presidents with Kevlar-vested bodyguards—heck, you’re even protected from me by auto and life insurance. So why not safeguard one of your biggest investments with bumpers?

It’s just plain common sense—using your boat’s bumpers is like wearing a life jacket: it doesn’t matter how well you dock or how well you swim when the water gets rough enough.

You might take a leaf out of Forbes’s book and say, “A few hundred spent on bumpers is worth thousands at trade-in time.”

It’s enough to warrant a good gasping when you realize how big of a bullet you just dodged.

Speaking of, if you hear me gasping, you’d better dodge.

Special Thanks To: 

Lake West Marine

Mountain Auto and Marine

  • Like what you read?

    Want to know when we have important news, updates or interviews?

  • Join our newsletter today!

    Sign Up
You Might Also Be Interested In...

Send to your friends!

Click here to read the current issue.

Already a subscriber? Please check your email for the latest full issue link.