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Grey imports are a challenge to the industry. Sydney broker LEE POULSON says play it safe and buy local instead

With luxury goods industry suffering worldwide (especially in the US) an emerging trend has been for local boat buyers to consider importing their dreamboat, either secondhand or brand-new from a distressed American dealer.

There are so many risks involved and we’ve heard some of the horror stories first-hand, but the main danger is the lack of post-sales support or warranty, both from the manufacturer of the boat as well as all ancillary parts including engines, fixtures and fittings.

Warranty is, in my opinion, priceless. We also know how important post-sales service is to our customers and I really feel for the people who buy a boat with inherent problems and no idea of how to solve them.

Something else to consider when thinking about importing a boat is the fact that you have no idea what condition the craft is in, not to mention the engine. And if you think you can counteract any risk by having the international dealer carry out a marine survey, think again. We’ve also heard stories about dodgy surveys being offered that carry no legitimacy whatsoever.

We actually had one Regal buyer who imported a boat that had full structural damage. They telephoned us to ask for a replacement boat, because they were advised Regal offers a lifetime warranty on the hull.

I really felt for this owner, they were misinformed by the US dealer, and didn’t know they had no claim for warranty. The lack of international law to assist this buyer meant he had no legal recourse and had to accept the fact that the boat was a write off.

As a dealer, we pay a premium to use the safest shipping systems and while a boat might be in a satisfactory condition when leaving port, there is no guarantee of it arriving in the same condition.

Further to this, all our boats are built by the manufacturer as per Australian specifications and it can be expensive to have them switched over to comply with these requirements, for example, changing electricals.

What boat buyers don’t know is that we begin all our pricing at the US RRP and simply add on our cost of getting the boat to Australia as well as pre-delivery and commissioning of the boat with certified engine authorities. Contrary to some perceptions, we do not put a massive margin on top and all of our post-sales service and safety kits provided are done so as a courtesy to our customers.

Our customers’ feedback is that they love us taking care of all servicing and maintenance, etc. and enjoy our support. For us, it’s about building friendships with our customers and we are not focussed on making sales only. I think this is important for the ongoing success of all Australian retailers.

Another point worth mentioning is that a lot of boats designed and built in the US are intended for freshwater use and are not necessarily conducive to saltwater conditions. This can lead to ongoing maintenance issues. As we know how to option our boats with the latest anti-corrosive technology, including Ocean X Drives and Neutra-Salt, we feel we can adequately safeguard our customers from expensive maintenance costs that might otherwise occur at about the five-year mark.

It’s true the difference between importing a boat yourself or ordering from us can be a few thousand dollars or thereabouts, keep in mind we bring in all our boats with the more expensive anti-corrosive solutions and offer warranty support and ongoing maintenance.

I tend to worry more for the people who don’t have the chance to learn the truth about ‘grey’ importing. Not only can they get burnt by buying a ‘lemon’ but it also hurts the reputation of our premium brands when they inevitably run into costly maintenance issues and we have bad secondhand boats on the market.

While it is a challenge to overcome the grey-import issue in Australia, we do find at least 98 per cent of our prospective owners stick with us after we take them through the transparent pricing and provide them with genuine advice. Therefore, we are confident that this obstacle will soon phase-out as people prefer to have the security of buying from an authorised dealer with full customer support.

Premier Marine is the Australian importer and distributor for Frauscher, Chris-Craft, Regal Boats, and Baia, and is based at Rose Bay Marina, Sydney. For more information, contact Lee Poulson, phone 0430 351 876 or email:


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