6 Problems with Contender Boats That Need Your Attention

Contender is a well-known brand that manufactures and sells sports fishing boats. Most of the boats fall under the center console type.

The Contender boats usually come with fewer features and options compared to the competitors. But they are quite respected in the community because of their reliability and stable performance.

Also, the careful manufacturing process and engineering behind the design mean you won’t find a lot of problems with Contender Boats.

However, there are a few areas where the boats from Contender seem to show weakness. In this article, we’ll be going over a small list of issues related to Contender Boats.

6 Problems of Contender Boats

These center console fishing boats are minimalistic and that means they don’t need high maintenance routine. But you will still experience a few problems once in a while. Here are the 6 problems with Contender boats.

1.) Concerns about the Wiring

The electrical wiring on the Contender boats seems to have been under complaints. Some owners had experienced damaged wiring long before it went out of warranty. In general, they are found to be of lesser quality compared to other similar boats.

2.) Hull Design

All of the Contender boats in the recent past had a questionable design i.e. the hull was mostly wood. That was a bad design on their part and they learned it when it started to issue. Since then, they have moved away from using wood as the main structural component to using metal and steel.

But there are still wood pieces in some areas of the hull.  Two areas that still have wood are the transom and the bottom anchor locker. Among the two, the bottom anchor locker will give you the least headache.

The Transom Is a Weak Spot

While the anchor locker is fine, it can’t be said about the transom. It has been coated and painted with good protective solutions, but wood is wood. No amount of protection will work when the coating slowly fades away with the splashes of water.

You can increase the longevity by sealing, foaming, or wrapping fiberglass on it. But slowly but surely, the wood in the transom will absorb water. It starts with a few stress cracks. Water seeps in through these cracks in the sealing and fiberglass and attacks the wood.

Then, it will warm and expand, and after a while, it will show cracks. Many owners have shared their experiences with cracked transoms in the community forums.

While these can cause leaks in your boat, it’s not common. Why do cracks show up?

Cracks in the transom happen due to the flexing of the outboard motor bracket. When the wood takes in water, it warps, but the fiberglass on it doesn’t warp. This difference in reactions causes the fiberglass to crack more.

Is the Wooden Console Something to Worry About?

Yes, the center console is also made of wood. But that should not make you concerned. Even if water seeps in, the boat won’t sink because it is not the job of the center console to keep your boat afloat.

It may look bad visually, but there is nothing to worry about.

Fixing a Cracked Transom

It’s quite easy to fix a cracked wooden transom. Find the cracks and use a grinder to create a wider hole to apply putty properly.

After using putty on the spots, put a strip of fiberglass on it, or you could also use an ABS-plastic piece and glue it on.

3.) Damage to the Exterior

Contender fishing boats come with a gel coating on the boat exterior. There have been complaints left by the owner that cracks have shown up in the gel coat. Not to worry! These cracks on the exterior are merely the result of stress.

You will see many such claims in the community forums online. And while they are true, it should be taken mostly as a cosmetic concern rather than an actual worry about the build quality.

These cracks do not necessarily develop into a structural problem. Since Contender boats run hard in the open sea, it can seem that these cracks cause performance issues and risk allowing water inside.

But you should not worry as these are not deep cracks.

If you don’t like the cracked look, it can be solved with the following steps,

  1. Drive your boat to the docks and take it off the water 
  2. Wash off all the dirt and grease from the boat’s exterior
  3. Let it dry in the sun
  4. When the boat has dried enough, locate the cracks
  5. Gouge out the cracks to make them wide enough to apply gel coating paste
  6. If you use a hand grinder, it would be the best and the easiest method
  7. Sand the area and use a dry clean cloth soaked in acetone to clean the spots
  8. Match the color of the gel coat, and prepare the required amount of gel coat
  9. Now, fill in the cracks with the gel coat mix using a putty knife
  10. Overfill the cracks so that there isn’t any air left inside the cracks
  11. Wrap the spots with a plastic covering to let them cure
  12. You could scrape off the extra gel coat now or do it later after it dries
  13. When it’s cured and dried, sand the spots to remove the extra bit of gel coat
  14. Finish your project by polishing the spots

4.) Older Model Parts

If you are an owner of an old Contender boat model, you may have already faced the issue of not finding some necessary parts.

Some brands keep supporting their old models by keeping the required parts in manufacturing. But some other brands choose to look forward and focus all their logistics and support on the newer models.

The Contender is in the latter group. Sometimes it becomes hard to find some parts for the older models. However, the brand hasn’t explicitly mentioned how long it supports its older models.

Since online retailers do not keep a large inventory, you can use the parts request form on their website to request a replacement part.

But from the discussion in community forums, it’s clear that most of the time, replacement parts are not available. One of the reasons is that some parts are made by third-party manufacturers.

5.) Battery Switch

Many owners have complained about the battery switches that have become damaged too soon. Only replacement solved the issue. It happens due to prolonged exposure to moisture in the sea.

6.) Gas Tank Failure

This is an issue that bugs almost all types of fuel-powered boats. The gas tank will start showing problems after 10-20 years of putting it in operation. But the tank could fail sooner than that.

Now, a gas tank fails because everything in a Contender boat is foamed in place, and then fiberglass is placed around it. While this is good for the boat’s structural durability, things become complicated for the fuel tanks. This is a trade-off you have to accept and prepare to tackle.

If water gets inside the glass, it has every opportunity to seep in and mix with the fuel. But there is no chance for the water to evaporate. In such a condition, saltwater coming in contact with the metal tank is a recipe for disaster.

While this is not an urgent matter, it certainly needs your attention every time you do maintenance. The fix can cost thousands of dollars. Replacing 2-3 fuel cells can sometimes cost you $15000 to $20000 or even more in some cases.

General Drawbacks of Contender Sports Fishing Boats

Overall, the Contender fishing boats are a winner in terms of performance and customer satisfaction. However, it’s not a perfect boat by any means. Here are a few things that I have found the Contender is lacking.

  • There are still wooden components in the hull design, which makes it highly vulnerable to leaks and cracks on the exterior
  • Contender doesn’t support their older models with replacement parts
  • Some of the parts are from third-party manufacturers, and that means getting the right parts on your own is a struggle
  • Stress cracks are easily formed, damaging the beauty of the vessel

Contender Boats: Unsinkable?

If you look at the reviews from the existing customer base, there is nothing but praise for the boats. So far, there have been only a few cases of Contender vessel sinking.

One of the best features of the Contender hulls is the high wall that prevents water accumulation inside. But in any case, it’s not a good idea to let the cracks linger on as they can develop into a bigger issue.

Although it is ensured by law that the newer boats should not sink all the way, it would be wrong for us to claim the Contender Boats as unsinkable.

The ocean can sink any vessel when it gets turbulent. Things become much worse when you don’t maintain the vessel regularly. Irregular drainage and a damaged overflow system will cause the boat to accumulate water.

While it is quite hard to sink a Contender boat, they are not free from the danger of leaks.

Positive Review – Are Contender Boats Good?

Well, we talked a bit about its problems. I think we should end with a good note since these boats are of top-notch quality.

Durability: Contender builds their boats to withstand the hard splashes of waves in the open sea. The fiberglass used in these boats is of the highest quality. With vinyl ester resin on the wood parts, the structural integrity is not easily compromised.

Minimalistic But Functional: One of the striking characteristics of the Contender boats is their function-oriented design. There is nothing “unnecessary” in the boat’s design.

As one of the main top-tier brands, Contender prides itself on maintaining a minimalistic design. There’s hardly any focus on amenities. Each and every part of the boat is there to enhance your offshore fishing performance through speed and stable cruising in the high sea.

Contender Boats: Justifiable Hefty Price Tag?

The Contender boats indeed have a premium price tag. The price starts from low 5-figures and can go up to 7-figures for some models.  

For many customers, this is a deal breaker. However, those who have owned one can attest to the quality and long-lasting service. It makes the boats well worth the price.

Even so, there are competitors that provide similar features in a lower price bracket. But those too will face the similar problems we discussed earlier in the article.

FAQs About Contender Boat

  1. Does Contender make a good boat?

The brand has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the best fishing boats in the community. There is debate about it being a smooth ride, but these boats are undoubtedly fast. They are remarkable at withstanding the impact of the sea.

  1. Where are Contender Boats made?

Contender builds its semi-custom fishing boats in Florida. The old manufacturing plant is in Homestead, Florida. They have just opened a second manufacturing plant in Florida. It’s in Fort Pierce. This 100,000-square-foot facility will be used to build 32-foot and smaller semi-custom boats. And the older Homestead facility will be handling the 35-foot and larger boats from now on.

  1. What are Contender boats made of?

Since its inception, Contender has been using fiberglass hulls in its boats. The fiberglass is carefully laid with hands. These hulls ride the sea waves like no other.

  1. Do Contenders use foam in their boats?

Contender uses a significant amount of foam in the core of the composites. And this gives the boats an amazing level of unsinkability compared to the competition.

Final Words

These problems with Contender boats aren’t specifically related to Contender. But rather, all the boats of similar category and design face those issues at one point in their service life. It’d be foolish to take these common problems as a deal-breaker.

In fact, the Contender boats are superior to many of its competitors in terms of sea-keeping and offshore fishing experience.

Related: 6 Common Problems with Duffy Boats You Need to Know

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