Alabama is a state with a rich boating culture, and with good reason. The Alabama shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico runs for about 60 miles. If you add up all the shoreline on the tidal bays, rivers, and bayous Alabama’s southern counties, it is roughly 600 miles. And all that water is a huge draw for the Alabama tourism industry. Tourism’s impact on Baldwin county is estimated to be roughly $2 billion annually, with 50,000 jobs directly created. In addition, Alabama has one of the largest navigable inland waterway systems in the nation.  To date, it includes nearly 1500 miles of rivers and channels.

In 2016, Alabama was home to 261,741 registered boats. With only about 1.5% of the country’s population, it has about 2.2 % of America’s boats. Alabama ranks roughly 15th in registered boats, nation-wide, and the supply is diverse. Because Alabama has so many different types of bodies of water, It also contains a wide variety of boats. From aluminum dinghies and kayaks on Alabama’s smallest lakes, to cruising and racing yachts on the gulf, to airboats on the deltas, if it floats, you can find it in Alabama. Alabamans are more enthusiastic about boating than most Americans too. Almost 1 in every 3 Alabama residents boats recreationally every year, and 21% own their own boats.

Alabama Boat Insurance

So, are you required to have boat insurance in Alabama? Unsurprisingly, you are not. Much like most other states, Alabama’s state government does not require insurance on any watercraft. However, also like most other states, certain circumstances do require Alabama boat insurance.

  • Loans: If you use a loan to buy a vessel in Alabama, your lender will almost certainly require you to buy Alabama boat insurance. In fact, if your lender does not prescribe some level of insurance, you should probably find another lender. From the lender’s perspective, it would be foolish not to require insurance. Until your loan is paid off, your lender is several thousand dollars in the hole. Your boat is their collateral on that loan to ensure that you pay. If your boat sinks, your lender doesn’t want to lose that money. Your insurance policy will list the lender as the lien-holder. If you need to file a claim at any point, your check will list your lender as the co-payee.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in Alabama will require insurance. Much like lenders, marinas want to shield themselves financially from the actions of their members. If your boat damages another vessel in their waters, they want to avoid litigation. They would much rather your respective insurance companies take care of the fallout.

Small Boat Insurance

Obviously you don’t need to worry about marina requirements if you keep your boat on a trailer or in a garage. Alabama’s wide variety of water means that Alabamans own everything from cruising yachts to row boats  Because so many Alabamans boat on rivers and inland lakes, the vast majority of vessels are speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, and kayaks. Sure, some people keep their power boat at a local yacht club or marina, but many Alabama residents either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So if that’s your situation, does Alabama boat insurance still make sense? It’s a reasonable question. 11.3% of Alabama households use kayaks or canoes, according to the latest survey.  In addition, many Alabamans have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Many of us only launch our boats when we actually go boating. Even so, we highly recommend insurance for everyone.  Boat insurance can be extremely important for small boats, even if it isn’t required.

Liability Coverage

Power boats should always have insurance. In America, open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities than any other boat type, including Jet Skis every year. Even if you don’t have a loan on your boat, you should definitely buy liability insurance for both property damage and personal injury. Any power boat can go too fast, and accidents on the water can turn tragic quickly. Liability coverage is generally affordable, and it can wind up saving you thousands.

You should at least buy liability insurance on any boat you lend out. If someone injures themselves or another person on your boat, you can be held liable, even if you were not present. In addition, speed boats, Jet Ski’s, and pontoon boats are often expensive. If your vessel is involved in an accident, you want a policy that will help you recoup the damages. You can read more about pontoon boat insurance here, and power boat insurance here if you remain unconvinced.

Self-Propelled Boats

You should also at least consider Alabama boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. I know, no one expects a kayak to cause enough damage to need liability insurance, but accidents do happen. The note above about injuries on a borrowed boat still very much applies to kayaks. Liability insurance is especially cheap on a Kayak or canoe, and it never hurts to have. You should also consider insuring your kayak itself to protect it from theft or vandalism. Many newer fishing canoes and kayaks can cost $1-2k, and hull insurance is likely under $100. If someone steals it off your car or out of your garage, you want to be able to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

In 2016 Alabama saw 46 accidents. That is a remarkably low number in a state with so many vessels. Alabama only suffered 1% of the nation’s boating accidents in 2016, despite having 2.2% of the country’s boats. It was also an encouraging sign, as Alabama’s 46 accidents were a 42% drop off from 2015. Nevertheless, those accidents were not cheap. Total damages for 2016 boating accidents came to about 560,610. That averages to about $12,100 per accident. That is a financial hit that you don’t want to take. Insurance for the vast majority of boats costs a fraction of that price, and it could save you thousands more.

Alabama boating accident stats 2016

Boating Fatalities and Alcohol

Alabama’s fatality rate was roughly in line with the national average. Alabama saw a 33% drop in boating fatalities, which is always an encouraging sign, and we truly hope that the state maintains that progress. Of course, any boating death is one too many. We must always be aware that our exploration of the nation’s rivers, and lakes, and coastlines is inherently risky. The presence of alcohol enhances this danger. in 2016, alcohol contributed to 15% of Alabama’s boating accidents, but nearly 50% of the fatalities. Any time you leave shore you must have a designated operator who doesn’t drink.

Obviously insurance is unable to protect you from everything. We know that. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend insurance on every vessel. It at least helps protect you and your family financially if an accident occurs.