I am a new boater, excited to be on the canals, enjoying the experience, and learning a lot in a short period of time.
After a recent visit from a River Canal Rescue (RCR) engineer, who was very helpful, I found myself in need of a tank clean and an informal recommendation to use Tankbusters.
As this seems to be an issue many boaters will come across at some point I thought an honest review of the Tankbusters service and what to expect from their pricing would be useful. I've seen a request on this forum for advice too.
I called Bruce from Tankbusters and after a pleasant phone call ended with a quote for cleaning the fuel tank on my narrowboat which amounted to £275 for a "base clean and removal of contaminants", plus extras and the hire of their generator, filters and £0.22 per mile for travel.
A few days later Bruce and his Wife arrived in their van. The actual tank cleaning was pleasant enough. We helped with the fetching and carrying of equipment from the van, the Tankbusters along with a very friendly fellow boater helped us pull my boat a short distance to the nearest bridge.
Before Bruce started I asked how much the actual total would come to and in a joking way Bruce told me a story about a large river boat "at least twice the size of yours" whose tank he had recently cleaned "they had change from a grand" at the end of the process. This was given across with a joking reassuring tone the implication being "so yours will be nothing like that". With the £275 quote at the time I was assured that all would be well.
During the cleaning conversation flowed, and I kept the tea and biscuits coming. The Tankbusters gave me a few samples of the nitrile gloves they were using, we used my power cable for their generator.
For interest, the process was simple, a generator runs a pump connected to a long metal nozzle and a filter, sucks up the diesel, filters it and runs it back into the tank. This is repeated as required.
At the end of the cleaning (approx two hours) I was given three diesel samples from my tank, a sample pre-cleaning, a sample post-cleaning and one Tankbusters considered as minimal requirements for any diesel we put into the tank. I was advised strongly against taking fuel from any work narrowboats on the canal and informed I should take the "minimum requirement" sample to any refueling station from here on in and not to refuel if the diesel was dirtier than the sample.
When it came to starting the engine up, the Tankbusters sprayed a little quick-start to get things moving. We helped pack the gear away I was given an invoice for the job (which I confess I did not pay close enough attention to - it was getting dark and I wanted to move the boat to out of sight of the bridge to moor overnight. We said goodbye with the understanding we would take care of payment the next day.
The next day I looked at the invoice for the service, this amounted to £679.70
The original quote was £275
The extras had totaled £407.70
Water filters (£192)
1 micron filter bags (£68)
Fuel additive (£24)
All year fuel additive (£18)
Mileage had been added at 0.55p a mile. (£90.20)
I called Bruce to discuss the invoice, he insisted that I has misheard the cost per mile for travel, I had written this down during the quote conversation and certainly would not have been happy with 0.55 a mile. I also communicated that I believed he had over charged me for an extra set of filters (£94) which had not been used and also that I believed he had misrepresented the final cost of the job when he had given me the quote.
He told me the invoice was correct and that he cannot give a full quote at the time of quoting as he does not know the full extent of the job before arriving. Personally I think it would be an honest better practice to give the price of the filters and a general impression of the final cost. Also to give the correct price for mileage.
The next day Bruce called and informed me the 4 water filters were added accidentally to the invoice and he would subtract them from the total. I requested an updated invoice to reflect this which I would pay. Bruce demanded I paid the full amount before sending the invoice and after a back and forth of text messages Bruce agreed to produce the invoice.
I pressed the point for an invoice as by this time I was concerned at the amount of trust I should have and I wanted to cover myself in case something more were to happen.
Bruce emailed the invoice through, a total of £583.70 (still a £308,70 difference) & I paid.
On a personal note, I would consider that if the 'extras' for a job are to exceed the quoted price to this extent then an explanation of these costs of those extras should be explained at the time of the quote. The jovial demeanour and impression over the phone in my case certainly did not reflect this and was, in my opinion a calculated decision.
Now I must stress that this was my personal experience and I have no experience with any of the Tankbusters team beyond Bruce. Obviously it goes without saying that you are free to make your own choices.
My sincere hope is that my experience is useful to anyone who is looking to have their tank cleaned in the future. As a new boater (and as such in a vulnerable position) I certainly would have benefited from this information and I would have made a very different decision at the time.
It is probably obvious that I had a disappointing experience here but I have tried to be as objective as possible so other boaters might benefit from the experience either way.