New Florida law could lower chance you're buying stolen boat

Gov. DeSantis signs bill dubbed 'Carfax for boats'

By Brittany Muller - Reporter, Jennifer Ready - Reporter

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a law that is being called the "Carfax for boats."

The Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act is designed to help prevent boaters from buying a stolen or damaged vessel.

The law will provide title protection, meaning it will help the buyer and seller to protect the deal. Just like Carfax, under the new law, if a boat has been in an accident, it has to be reported so boaters can see that history.

Florida has the highest number of boat thefts in the country, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The latest numbers through April 2019 show there were 1,114 watercraft thefts with only a 35% recovery rate.

California is No. 2 on the list with 483 thefts. 

Florida cities leading the list on the highest watercraft thefts were Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. Jacksonville is also in the top 10, with 28 thefts in 2018, according to the NICB. 

The report found Labor Day was the number one holiday for watercraft thefts in 2018. 

Rusty Gardner, president of the Jacksonville Marine Association, said there were 64,000 damaged boats that have to end up somewhere.

"A lot of times it ends up with consumers who don’t have any idea that they're buying a boat that’s been damaged or salvaged or the bottom of a river," Gardner said.

Gardner said this is a good thing because it protects consumers. 

"That’s why it’s going to be important Jacksonville Marine Association as well as all the dealers in Jacksonville to make sure that people are protected when they’re buying a boat we want them to be happy when they’re on the water now that they’re upset because they been taken advantage of," he said.

Shane Carkhuff recently bought a boat. He said going through the hassle of the process of buying a boat would have been helpful to have this in effect.

"It’s unfortunate that a lot of people aren’t truthful and forthcoming as far as the condition of their boat and that’s why inspections are very important," Carkhuff said.

While boaters say they think this new bill is a step in the right direction,  they have questions about how it will work and if a boat's history can be guaranteed -- if it’s been previously repaired or sold, prior to it going into effect.

The law will go into effect in 2023.

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