Building a Better Boat-Buying Experience

Marine Retailers Association of the Americas sets high standards for boat dealers.
Boaters buying a new boat
MRAA Certified Dealers adhere to the Marine Industry Consumer Commitment, which includes expectations in sales, service and operations. Customers can trust they’ll get an honest sales experience from a Certified Dealer, like Oak Hill Marina and Oak Hill Outdoor in the Lake Okoboji area of Iowa. Marine Retailers Association of the Americas

Searing sunlight glints off the water, throwing shards of white. The teal depths invite a swan dive or at least a cannonball. Boaters do enjoy some heart-swelling beauty. A boat puts you smack in the middle of a new paradise any given day.

When you buy a boat, you join the club. For that you need expert advice, and you need a boat dealer who wants to earn your business and keep it. That’s why the Certified Dealership program was launched in 2005. It offers buyers confidence with a third-party verification hosted by the nonprofit Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.

“Customers are looking for a great buying experience and a great experience with their boat—service after the sale,” says Klaus Fink, president of MRAA-Certified Angler’s Port Marine in Warsaw, Missouri. “They should buy from a dealer who cares.”

The process to become MRAA-Certified moves from the inside out. The business itself is scrutinized and streamlined, using a 70-point certification checklist. The list specifies standards for training and educating staff, tracking consumer contacts and communications, organizing and cleaning up the facility, streamlining service, and even assessing the accounting process.

“People who are spending money on boats don’t expect surprises,” Fink says. “Consistent execution is important in providing a consistent product to the customer.”

The MRAA process stipulates numerous requirements such as providing a list of customer activities and events, generating a sales-process map, submitting three completed inspection/rigging sheets, and describing the finished-on-time process, which ensures that repairs are completed properly. The entire certification review takes seven weeks.

Fink says that his dealership first finished the process three years ago. Not ironically, Angler’s Port was named among the top 100 dealers by Boating Industry in 2021 and 2022.

Unwrapping a new boat
Customers of Certified Dealers can expect high quality after-sales care in the service and parts departments, such as the service offered by Certified Dealer Midwest Water Sports in Crystal, Minnesota. Marine Retailers Association of the Americas

The program doesn’t stop with a one-time review that would simply allow a dealer to finish and then forget. It’s an ongoing annual process that holds dealers accountable.

The MRAA also requires dealers to accept and post in their facilities the Marine Industry Consumer Commitment, outlining what buyers should expect. That statement includes deliverables such as ensuring that advertising and representations are truthful and factual; providing an itemized list of all service charges with thorough explanation; and giving respectful, professional, and accurate responses to questions.

“There’s nothing strange in the commitment,” Fink says. “It says that you’re going to take care of your business, look after customers, and not leave them strung out with no help.”

Fink says that the MRAA’s guidance can be an invaluable tool for dealers. The organization provides continual assistance to businesses, analyzing their processes to promote best practices—even across multiple dealer locations.

The MRAA currently boasts 317 certified dealers across the country. Boat buyers who want to have confidence in the buying, financing, service and resale experiences can find a Certified Dealer by using the Discover Boating Dealer Finder at