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House Boat Insurance

The Complete Guide to House Boat Insurance

When you think about houseboats, danger may not come to mind. The fact is, houseboat accidents can lead to damage or injury out on the water. According to the the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • Since 2005, houseboat collisions have resulted in 158 cases of injury and 35 deaths
  • In 2011, 75 houseboat collisions resulted in 16 cases of injury and 2 deaths
  • 32 collisions occurred because of machinery failure, operator inattention or operator inexperience

Accidents can happen anywhere and any time. You are best protected by an insurance policy that meets your needs and budget.


Do You Need House Boat Insurance?

When you walk through a marina, you may see a variety of houseboats moored there. Newer models can be as long as 150 feet and cost well over $1 million. Other varieties of houseboats range in value. It follows that insurance for a houseboat is unique to the boat and the owner; your insurance agent will give you more insight into your insurance needs.

You will certainly need liability coverage for your houseboat. Liability coverage would provide financial protection in case you are at fault for bodily injury or property damage while using your boat. It may also be a good idea to buy coverage that will protect your investment in your houseboat if someone else is at fault for your property damage and does not have sufficient insurance to pay your costs.


What Are Marine Surveys?

Houseboat insurance comes at a price. If your boat is older than ten years, the insurer will conduct a survey first. The cost of the survey will depend on the value and the size of the boat. For each foot of the houseboat’s length, the cost of a marine survey will be $10 to $30.Thus, the survey fee for a 30-year old houseboat valued at $50,000 will be approximately $750.

This survey will assess your houseboat in several ways, and will state:

  • Its current value
  • Its condition
  • Its seaworthiness

If you decide to sell, insure or finance your houseboat, the survey can be very important. The findings of the survey will help assign a value to your houseboat, making it considerably easier to find a buyer or a lender.


Houseboat Insurance Coverage Types

Houseboat insurance policies usually provide two types of coverage. They include:

  • Actual Cash Value (ACV): ACV policies take into account the depreciated value of the houseboat when a claim is made. The depreciation is deducted from the total value before your claim is paid out by the insurance company.
  • Agreed Amount Value (AAV): AAV policies pre-determine the value of the houseboat, including the hull and all other attached equipment and hardware. You must ensure that you document all parts of the houseboat with their corresponding values appropriately. If you make a claim, the insurer will pay the total agreed amount value for the damaged part of your boat.

Because a houseboat faces the same risks as any other vessel on the water, insurers treat them as boats, not houses. Some insurers might not provide insurance coverage if you live solely on your houseboat. Be sure to verify that you have the adequate coverage for your houseboat before listing it as your primary residence.


What Kind of Houseboat Insurance Should You Get?

Having adequate houseboat insurance is important. Your houseboat insurance should include coverage that will protect you financially, and will cover your liability for accidents on your boat or damage that you could cause to another person or property. Coverage options include, but are not limited to:

  • Watercraft liability insurance: Covers injury to people and damage to property during the operation of the houseboat
  • Medical payments: Covers medical payments for injuries to you or your passengers
  • Comprehensive: Covers damage caused by theft, storms, fire, sinking, collision, capsizing, and vandalism, and so on
  • Uninsured boaters: Covers damages due to a collision caused by an uninsured boater
  • Roadside assistance: Covers the cost of towing the houseboat on roadways
  • Fuel spill liability: Covers the cost of fines and clean-up operations from fuel spillage
  • Towing: Covers the cost of towing the houseboat on water
  • Fishing equipment: Covers the cost of lost fishing equipment
  • Wreckage removal: Covers the cost of removing the wreckage or debris left over from a major mishap or collision
  • Personal effects: Covers lost or damaged personal articles of a significant value
  • Living expenses: Covers living expenses while the houseboat is being repaired

These are just some of the options you may have when you go to purchase houseboat insurance. Your options may be different depending on the insurer you choose, the state you live in, and the length of time you plan to be on your boat. Those who live full-time on a house boat may have different insurance needs than those who rent houseboats to customers, for example. Be sure to talk with your agent and make sure you're getting the coverage you need to protect your finances.


Factors Affecting Your Houseboat Insurance Premium

Insurers decide the amount your premium will be based on the value of its hull and other factors, including the horsepower, age, length and the current condition of the houseboat. Usually, the liability limits on houseboat insurance policies range from $100,000 to $1,000,000.

How you use your houseboat will also have a bearing on your premium. Your premium could vary depending on the following factors:

  • Occasions for use: Do you live solely on your houseboat? Do you use it only for taking vacations? Do you rent it out or let others borrow your houseboat?
  • Location of the houseboat: The waterway where your houseboat is located will also be an important factor. Premiums will vary depending on whether the houseboat is in a river, an ocean or even a region prone to experiencing hurricanes.
  • Rentals: If you rent a houseboat, your premium could depend on the owner’s experience, the use of the boat and the duration it will be in the water.
  • Movement: Your insurer will also consider whether you remain in one place or travel to multiple locations in your boat.

Things to Know About Your Houseboat Insurance

When searching for houseboat insurance, gather some information on the coverage provided. This could help you find out your rights as an insured customer. It will also help you understand the limitations of your policy. Things to pay particularly close attention to are:

  • The frequency with which your insurer will conduct marine surveys
  • The navigational limits under which your houseboat will be covered
  • The discounts provided by your insurer if you live on your houseboat only for some months in the year
  • The deductible(s) on your policy
  • The scope of coverage to handle the additional liabilities arising from living in the houseboat
  • The coverage provided for dinghies or PWCs, if applicable
  • The discounts applicable if you complete courses by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadron, Red Cross or other safety training organizations

An insurance policy that provides you with the coverage you need for your houseboat is important. It will ensure that you are covered when an incident happens that can jeopardize your livelihood.

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