Responsible boat owners want to protect their watercraft from all kinds of threats, as well as protect others from the dangers they pose while on the water or docked at the marina. When you own a boat, you need coverage to guard against perils like storms and theft, but also liability in case you end up in an accident.
Fortunately an independent insurance agent can help you find the right boat insurance to meet your needs. They'll make sure you get set up with all the coverage necessary, long before you ever need to file a claim. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, here's a deep dive into boat insurance.
What Is Boat Insurance?
Boat insurance operates similarly to car insurance in that it's designed to protect your boat against numerous risks, including collisions, theft, vandalism, storm damage, and more. Basically it's a contract with an insurance company in which the insurer agrees to reimburse the boat owner for covered financial losses relating to their watercraft. Of course, each policy comes with its own set of coverage exclusions, too.
Why Do I Need Boat Insurance?
Although it might seem unlikely, boating accidents do happen every year. If you don’t have insurance, you’ll be completely responsible for all injury and property damage expenses.
If your boat gets damaged in any way, you’ll be left with the bill to fix it, without the right coverage. And since boats can easily cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, that’s probably not a bill you’d like to pay a second time.
Some of the most common types of boating claims include:
- Collisions with another watercraft
- Collisions with the pier when docking
- Weather or storm damage
- Stolen boats, especially when parked in a garage
An independent insurance agent can further inform you of the importance of having the right boat insurance.
The Best Boat Insurance Companies
Boat insurance is available from many different insurance companies, and the best way to find the right carrier for you is through working with an independent insurance agent.
While many insurance companies offer boat insurance, finding coverage could also depend on the area you live in.
The best insurance companies for boat insurance:
|Boat Insurance Companies||Star Rating|
|United Marine Underwriters|
One boat insurance company outshines its competitors:
- Best overall boat insurance company: Nationwide
Nationwide has been providing quality insurance coverage to customers for more than 95 years, and has an "A+" rating from AM Best. The carrier's boat insurance includes the following coverages:
- Bodily injury liability
- Property damage liability
- Uninsured/underinsured boater
- Medical payments coverage
Optional coverages, including roadside assistance and on-water towing and labor, are also available.
Nationwide also lists several boat insurance package options on their website:
- Weekenders: If you take gear onto your boat and remove it when you’re done, you can get coverage up to $1,000 for fishing equipment, $3,000 for personal effects, and $500 for towing.
- Overnighters: If you spend the weekend or take short boating trips, you can get coverage up to $2,500 for fishing equipment, $5,000 for personal effects, and $2,500 for towing.
- Light tackle anglers: If you own a bass boat or smaller fishing boat, you can get coverage up to $5,000 for fishing equipment, $2,000 for personal effects, and $2,500 for towing.
- Deep water pros: If you fish big waters, gulfs, bays and oceans, you can get coverage up to $10,000 for fishing equipment, $5,000 for personal effects, and $2,500 for towing."
With such comprehensive coverage options available for boaters of all kinds, Nationwide easily earns our top recommendation for boat insurance.
When considering the necessity of boat insurance, it's helpful to review the numbers. Here are just a few boating stats to take into consideration.
Boating Accident Statistics
With nearly 4,500 boating accidents per year and nearly 3,000 boating injuries, having enough protection is critical. Having to pay for costs out of your own pocket for repairs to your watercraft, or medical treatment for your passengers or third parties, could be devastating. Especially considering that boat-related damage totaled $49 million annually as of 2020.
Boating Accidents by Primary Contributing Factors
Inattentive and inexperienced boaters cause the vast majority of boating accidents. Excessive speed and machine failure are also major causes. Interestingly, the force of waves was the lowest contributing factor to boating accidents, at least in this study.
Knowing that most boating accidents are due to human error, it's even easier to understand the necessity of having the proper protection in place. Before you ever take your boat out on the water, it's imperative to be set up with the right boat insurance to protect not only your boat, but yourself and others as well.
Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover My Boat?
It does, to some extent. Coverage is extremely limited, usually to $1,000 or 10% of your home's total insured value. Furthermore, homeowners insurance often doesn't include liability coverage for your boat. Basically, if you plan to actually take your boat out on the water and expose it and yourself to numerous risks, you need to look into a boat insurance policy.
What Does Boat Insurance Cover?
Boat insurance provides a lot of important protection, not only for your boat, but also for you and other boat owners. Boat insurance includes the following main coverages:
- Personal property damage: Included your boat, trailer, and engine if they are damaged by a covered peril like vandalism, etc.
- Medical payments: Coverage reimburses for treatment of injuries to you and your passengers who get hurt in some way by your boat or while on your boat.
- Property damage liability: Coverage reimburses property damage costs to third parties caused by your boat.
- Bodily injury liability: Coverage reimburses for injuries to third parties who are physically harmed by your boat.
Additionally, many insurance companies offer specialized boating packages or coverages that could include the following:
- Uninsured/Underinsured boaters: Just like car insurance, this covers your injury expenses if the other boater is responsible but either doesn’t have any insurance or doesn’t have enough to cover your expenses.
- Fishing equipment: Sometimes fishing equipment is automatically included up to a certain limit, such as $1,000. If it’s not automatic or you want higher limits, those are available.
- Water sports liability: Some policies exclude water sports from your liability coverage, so be sure to read your policy or ask your independent agent if they're covered under yours.
- Emergency assistance on the water: This coverage endorsement provides water towing and other assistance services through a maritime dispatch center.
- Roadside assistance for your boat and trailer: If you don’t add roadside assistance to your boat insurance, your regular roadside assistance is likely leave your boat on the road. Adding it to your boat policy will guarantee that the towing company will take your vehicle, boat, and trailer to the nearest facility.
An independent insurance agent can help you get equipped with all the coverage you need under boat insurance.
Additional Coverages for Boats
There are still several more optional coverages for boat owners beyond what's traditionally offered in a watercraft policy. These include:
- Hurricane hauling services: Some companies offer this hurricane evacuation coverage, which covers the cost of moving your watercraft out of the county it’s located in.
- Personal property coverage: Personal property is almost always covered under your homeowners policy, even when it’s not in your house. But your deductible is often higher, so you can add personal property coverage on your boat policy to avoid a homeowners claim.
- Wreckage and fuel removal: This pays for the costs to recover or destroy wreckage and fuel if you get in an accident. It's sometimes included automatically, but you’ll want to double-check your policy because this is typically an extra expense.
- Replacement cost or agreed value: Newer and more expensive boats can be insured for agreed value, which means the insurance company will pay you the full amount that you paid for it, without taking into account age and depreciation.
- Pet coverage: You can even insure your pet while it’s traveling in the boat with you. This coverage provides up to $1,000 or so towards veterinarian fees if your pet gets injured on the boat.
Your independent insurance agent will recommend these or other additional coverages they believe would be a good match for you.
What Kinds of Boats Need to Be Insured?
Ideally, all boats would be insured for at least liability coverage. No matter what type of boat you have, it could cause serious injury and property damage, and you could get sued for it. Your liability insurance would cover the costs of the lawsuit and any settlement, up to your policy's limits.
Aside from liability, deciding on whether to put physical damage coverage on your boat is ultimately up to you. Similar to putting comprehensive coverage on a car, your decision will be based on the value of your boat and how much money you’re comfortable losing in the event of a total loss.
Common boats that are insured include:
- Jet skis
- Fishing boats
- Ski and speed boats
- Utility boats
Some boats are covered under your homeowners policy, but the coverage is limited. Typically, boats are only covered for liability under a homeowners policy for:
- Inboard or inboard/outboard motorboats with less than 50 horsepower
- Outboard motorboats with less than 25 horsepower
- Sailboats smaller than 26 feet
Do I Need Boat Insurance?
|Large Sailboats||Boats with small engines|
|Jet boats||Any other small, slow, inexpensive boat|
|Personal watercraft like WaveRunners|
|Anything that runs faster than 25 mph|
All other types of watercraft have no automatic liability coverage under homeowners insurance. And your homeowners policy's property damage section might cover your small boat, but only up to $1,000.
What Does Reimbursement from Boat Insurance Look Like?
Your boat insurance policy will reimburse for a lot of important things, but not everything. Liability coverage can typically be purchased with limits between $15,000 and $300,000 to protect you from lawsuit costs.
|Boat Insurance Typically Covers:||Boat Insurance Doesn't Cover:|
|Damage/destruction due to fire, lightning, theft, vandalism, and collisions||Wear and tear and routine maintenance|
|Damage/destruction of the boat and permanently attached equipment like anchors||Defective machinery|
|Property damage liability||Damage/destruction by sharks or other sea creatures|
|Bodily injury liability||Damage/destruction from insect infestations, mold, and mussels|
|Guest passenger liability if someone drives your boat without permission|
|Medical payments for you and your passengers|
Your independent insurance agent can discuss any concerns you may have about what your boat insurance policy does and doesn't cover.
How Much Does Boat Insurance Cost?
You can expect to pay between $200 and $500 a year for boat insurance, but it could be higher than that, depending on the type and value of your boat. Similarly, if you just want liability on your boat, you’ll probably only pay the minimum premium of $75 to $100 a year.
The coast of your boat insurance depends on the following factors:
- Type and value of the boat
- Horsepower of the boat
- Usage of the boat
- Prior boating or driving claims
- Your driving record
- Your age and boating experience
The best way to find exact quotes and figures for boat insurance in your area is to work with a local independent insurance agent.
Finding Discounts and Savings on Boat Insurance
Fortunately there are typically several discounts available for boat insurance. While the available discount options will vary by insurance company, some common examples are:
- Diesel-powered boat discounts
- No prior claims discounts
- Bundling discounts, such as buying boat insurance and home insurance with the same company
- Safety course discounts
- Loyalty discounts
An independent insurance agent is your greatest ally when it comes to finding discounts on boat insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions about Boat Insurance
|Do you have to have boat insurance on a boat?|
|You should have at least liability coverage on your boat if you plan to actually use it, to protect yourself against lawsuit costs if you cause bodily injury or property damage. Having property coverage on your boat is optional.|
|How much does boat insurance cost?|
|The cost of your policy will depend on several factors, including the size, value, and horsepower of your boat. Typically, policies range somewhere in the hundreds annually.|
|What's the cost difference in insuring different boats?|
|The more of a risk a boat is to operate, the more likely it is to be expensive to insure.|
|Do I need to insure my boat trailer?|
|You might want to, since car insurance doesn't cover the cost of repairing or replacing your boat trailer if it gets stolen or damaged.|
|Does boat insurance cover passengers?|
|Yes, if your policy includes medical payments, it will cover injuries to your passengers if you get into an accident.|
|Does boat insurance cover theft?|
|Usually, yes. Double-check your specific policy to be sure.|
|Does boat insurance cover hurricanes?|
|Usually, yes. You'll want to double-check your policy, but typically boat insurance does cover storm damage, including hurricanes.|
|Does boat insurance cover engine damage or a blown engine?|
|No, boat insurance often excludes defective machinery or maintenance costs.|
TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Paul Martin
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