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Boat Insurance 101
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What is boat insurance?
Boat insurance covers you in the event of a loss or damage to your boat. It covers most watercrafts with motors, including fishing boats, pontoon boats, paddle boats, leisure crafts and yachts. Boat insurance does not usually cover canoes, kayaks or personal watercrafts (PWC).
For small watercrafts, you may find some limited coverage under your homeowners policy. You may also be able to add a special endorsement or buy separate coverage.
What does boat insurance cover?
Your boat insurance policy may include the following:
- Collision damage: Includes repair or replacement of your boat, but may or may not include clean-up of wreckage unless you purchase optional additional coverage.
- Property damage liability: Covers damage you might cause to someone else’s boat, a dock, or other property or structures.
- Bodily injury liability: Covers injury you might cause someone while using your boat; includes medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and legal expenses.
- Comprehensive: Provides compensation if your boat is vandalized, stolen, or damaged in an incident other than a collision.
- Additional coverage options: Coverage for medical payments, fishing equipment, oil spills, personal property and roadside assistance, as well as damage and injuries from accidents caused by boaters who are uninsured or underinsured.
The amount of compensation you receive for a claim depends on a few things, including your deductibles, limits, and whether your boater’s insurance covers your boat’s actual cash value, replacement cost, or agreed-upon value.
How does boat insurance work?
When you buy boat insurance, you must decide on the amount of coverage you need for your boat, the deductible (maximum out-of-pocket expense per claim) and the types of coverage you need.
If you have an accident, experience a theft, or have another loss that is covered under your policy, you can file a claim and receive a payment covering the loss.
If you were in an accident with another boat that caused serious damage to your vessel, one of the following things would most likely occur, depending upon the insurance coverage you and the other boater have and the laws in your state:
- If you were at fault, your boat liability insurance would cover the damage up to the limits of the policy.
- If the other boater was at fault, their coverage would pay for your damage, up to the limits of their policy.
- If the other boater was at fault, but did not have boat insurance, or did not have enough to cover your expenses, uninsured/underinsured boaters coverage could cover the damage (if you had that coverage in place).
How much does boat insurance cost?
The cost of boat insurance varies depending on:
- The state you live in
- The type, size, and age of the boat you wish to insure
- The size of the motor and how it is powered
- Whether you are using it on inland waters or the open seas
- Whether you have selected additional coverage options
In general, boat insurance can range anywhere from as little as $200 to as much as $500 per year.
Insurance companies also offer a number of discounts. These discounts can give you a price break under certain situations. You may be able to receive a lay-up discount if you don’t use the boat year-round, or a discount for boating in fresh water instead of salt water.
You may also qualify for discounts if you’ve taken a boating safety course, or a good driving discount if your boating record is unblemished.
Is boat insurance required?
Boaters often want to know whether they have to carry boat insurance to enjoy the water. The answer is that boat insurance can be required for a variety of reasons. Some states require that you have liability coverage.
Marinas may require you to have boat insurance in order to dock your boat there. Additionally, if you take out a loan to buy a boat, the lender will most likely require that you purchase boaters insurance.
How much boat insurance do I need?
The amount of boat insurance you need depends on a number of factors, including the boat’s value, motor size, age, and how you use it. If you have a brand-new high-performance speed boat, you will need more coverage for bodily injury and property damage liability than if you buy a pleasure cruiser.
Insurance professionals recommend buying at least $1,000,000 in liability insurance, and even more if you have a fast, powerful boat that is both riskier and can cause more damage.
For uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, a typical minimum is $10,000. However, the amount you purchase should reflect the potential injuries and damage you may need to cover if you or one of your passengers is seriously hurt, or your vessel is damaged.
Your other coverage amounts, including collision coverage and comprehensive coverage, should be based specifically on the value of your boat.
Does boat insurance cover passengers?
Boat insurance covers boat passengers as well as the owner in an accident. Passengers on the boat are covered under the liability portion of the boater’s policy.
However, depending on the policy, this may or may not extend to water skiers you are pulling behind the boat. Be sure to work with a knowledgeable professional who can help evaluate your needs and risks.
Does boat insurance cover theft?
Comprehensive boat insurance covers the theft of the boat itself. Personal possessions carried in the boat may or may not be covered, depending on the policy. Therefore, you should carefully review the comprehensive coverage of your policy to determine exactly what is and is not covered.
If you plan to carry expensive fishing equipment or other items of value, you can purchase one or more additional riders, or policy endorsement, to cover those assets.
Does boat insurance cover hurricanes?
Depending on the insurance company and structure of your policy, boat insurance may or may not cover hurricane damage. If tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes or windstorms are a concern where you live or travel with your boat, ask your agent about storm damage coverage for your watercraft.
Does boat insurance cover engine damage?
Boat insurance sometimes covers engine damage. This varies from company to company, as well as by policy. Some insurance companies have machinery damage exclusions while others do not; it often depends on the age of the motor. Reimbursement may include replacement cost or be subject to depreciation.
Does boat insurance cover me if I hit a rock?
If you have comprehensive insurance or property damage coverage built into your policy, your boat insurance will cover collision with rocks, logs, and other marine obstacles.
Does boat insurance cover a blown engine?
Boat insurance covers a blown engine under some circumstances. Check that with the insurance company issuing the policy. Many policies will cover a blown engine when the cause is a manufacturer’s defect, but not if is due to normal wear and tear.
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