Insurance for Boats and Marine Vehicles

Note: This is a Q&A I created for an insurance agent who provides special insurance policies for boats and marine vehicles like Ski-Doos and Wave Runners. This was one of a series of several articles on very specific types of insurance the agent offered. It also ran with a campaign of accompanying videos.


Boat Insurance & Marine Insurance Policies

I’m a big fan of boats: I grew up on a boat, and during my entire childhood, I spent many weekends with my Dad out on the lake with our family boat. We took it everywhere: Salt Lake, Lake Powell, lakes in Idaho, Nebraska, and more. So as an insurance agent, I’m very familiar with how fun having a boat can be, but I also know they’re high-speed vehicles with no brakes.

In the decades I’ve spent in and around boats, I’ve seen all kind of mishaps with boats on the water: I’ve seen boats catch on fire, I’ve seen them flip over, I’ve seen people fall off of them, and I’ve seen them sink. Watercraft are fun “toys” to have, but they’re also a serious piece of machinery.

In Colorado Springs, even though we’re a long way from the ocean, there are still many places you can use a boat: I have clients that take their boats to Pueblo Reservoir, Cherry Creek Reservoir, Lake Powell, and more. An important part of enjoying your boat out on the water is making sure you have the right kind of insurance coverage to protect you in case of a mishap, or worse, an accident.

There are many aspects to the insurance policy you want to have on your boat. Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for an insurance policy for your boat.

What kind of boat qualifies for boat insurance?

There are many types of watercraft that can be considered for boat insurance, including:

  • pontoon boats
  • cabin cruisers
  • fishing boats
  • runabouts
  • deck boats
  • jet boats
  • bass boats
  • sailboats
  • one man boats
  • personal watercraft (ski doos, jet skis, wave runners, etc)

Every insurance company is different, but my agency covers all of the above. Sometimes people who buy a personal watercraft like a wave runner will think “I don’t need boat insurance, since this isn’t a boat,” but they forget that it’s the smaller craft like these that often cause the most problems. Even though they cost much less than a “boat” does, people still fall off of them, or they can run over a swimmer, and they frequently bump into each other.

What does boat insurance actually cover? Liability, or damage, or both?

The good news is that you can get policies that cover just about everything related to your entire ownership and experience of a boat. Here’s a great example: many boat owners themselves are very familiar with how boats work, they’re good on the water, they understand how to be safe, etc. But they’ll invite a guest over the summer and say “Hey, do you want to come with me to Pueblo Reservoir for the weekend?” and they don’t realize how inexperienced their friends or guests are. The most common accidents I see around boating is where a guest is on a boat, who has no experience on the water at all, and he’s never been on a boat before, and he doesn’t know how to safely get in or out of the boat, or he wears the wrong shoes, or for whatever reason, they’re cruising along, and the boat hits a wave, and the guest falls out of the boat. …it’s important to make sure the boat owner has insurance coverage for all of these cases. What if the guest becomes injured when falling off the boat, or slipping on the dock and needs medical treatment? What if they become permanently impaired due to their injuries? Don’t forget: sometimes people will think “Hey, they’re a boat owner—they clearly have plenty of money,” and they’ll hire an attorney and try to sue you. These are the situations you want covered by boat insurance—liability for boat owners is a big deal.

In addition to your need for liability coverage, you’ll want coverage for damage. There are so many opportunities for a boat to become damaged. Whether it’s on the trailer driving down the road, or backing up your trailer to the water, launching your boat at a crowded ramp, being out on the water, trailering it when it’s done, and taking it home. There are many steps involved in the actual boating process, and plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. Make sure you have an insurance policy that covers all aspects of your boating experience.

Will my insurance policy cover the boat only on the water, or also during transport?

All of the insurance policies that my agency writes covers you not only on the water, but also during transportation. Many times, people (especially in Colorado) will leave their boats in the driveway or the side yard all winter long and then during their first outing in the spring, they’ll forget to check their trailer wheels and tires. It’s an easy mistake to make, but this can cause major problems: sometimes the rubber on the tire gets worn and the tread blows off during transport, or the wheels haven’t been greased so they lock up while driving. No matter the cause of the problem, it still results in a major complication: you’re stuck on the side of the road, and you need to be towed. The problem is, most towing companies aren’t prepared to tow a trailer with a boat on it. Our insurance policies cover not only having your car or truck towed (if that’s the issue) but also having your boat towed, so you can get to a mechanic, and get back on the road as quickly as possible. Our policy covers all of this: both on the water, and on the road.

Am I still covered if I leave the country on my boat?

It depends on exactly where you’re going, so check your policy to make sure. The policies my agencies write will cover you on any rivers, lakes, oceans, or bodies of water in the USA, and also the Bahamas, and Mexico.

Is my boat covered if it’s moored at a harbor not being used?

Yes! With all my policies, we have something called “slip coverage,” which means you can leave your boat moored (at Pueblo Reservoir, for example) like many people in Colorado do, and it will still be covered. If you only want to go water skiing a few weekends a year, you can leave your boat at the dock and rest well at night knowing you’re still insured even though you’re hundreds of miles away.

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If you’re interested in a boat insurance policy, please contact my office for more details. I would be happy to be your agent and serve you with your insurance needs!