A power boat is an essential tool to full enjoyment of Lake Powell.

Considering renting a power boat from a private party this summer? Beware. There can be serious pitfalls.

My family and I decided to rent a wake boat for Lake Powell and try wake surfing a while back. We found one for $450 a day plus $150 for insurance. Pricy, but it's an expensive boat. Problems started the day we arrived.

The boat was being repaired—new bilge and speedometer gear on the hull. Renters from the previous day didn’t return the boat until after midnight, so there was no time to clean, fuel or check for damage. They told us those renters knew nothing about boating and they had to go to the lake to give lessons.

Because it was a two hour wait while the worked on the boat, it was too late to use it on the first day. When we finally got it on to the lake, it was taking on more water than the bilge could pump. We had to keep stopping and restarting the pump. Then it stopped. We had to pull the boat out and put in another new pump on the third day. That one also had trouble keeping up with water and eventually stopped on the fourth day. In the five days, we got use of the boat less than two days. The trip was ruined.

Because of boat problems, we chose to leave the houseboat on buoy and tied the wake boat up on nearby buoy at night. The wake boat never touched dry land. We called the owners on the morning of third day and they reluctantly agreed to refund one day. Also, when we got the boat it was dirty and empty. They agreed to refund us if we filled it. All total they greed to pay $750.

We dropped the boat off and thought all was well. No. They called and said we damaged the boat. Seems there was a scrape, about two inches long on one blade of the prop near where it went on the shaft; screws were loose on the canopy; there were white scuff marks on the black boat where our buoys held it away from the houseboat during the day, which I removed with a wax I bought; and damage to the bottom, as they said, “you did it because there’s new damage over old damage.”

At this point, it was a they-said-we-said. Did we damage the boat? No. The boat was in better shape when we returned it than than when we took it. But, again, we had no proof.

We lost our $1,000 deposit and insurance paid about $5,000. Insurance paid $600 for small scrape on the prop. Same prop? Screws holding the canopy? They were in place when we returned it. Scuff marks? Taken out with wax. Bottom damage? The boat never touched dry land. Can we prove it? No. They agreed to pay us the $750 when they got the insurance check. Never happened. That was a year ago.

On the fifth call it was: “F___ You. So sue us.’’ Between the rent and the insurance they got close to $10,000 from us. We got a boat that was damaged, mechanically unsound and used less than two of the five days. Again, can we prove it? No.

Advise: If renting from a private party, take video of every nook and cranny—the prop, the bottom of the hull, the sides, the interior, the trailer, the motor and the canopy. Then take a second video upon returning it of every possible angle.

If the owner agrees, call the party that last rented the boat to see if there were any problems.

I’ve found we’re not the first victims. There have been several cases were renters have trusted the owner only to end up with a pricy bill. One renter took it to court and was ordered to pay $10,000 in damage. He had no proof, just his word against the owner.

It was a costly lesson for us. So, do your homework and have proof and keep excellent records. Renters beware.