The Natural State is geographically diverse, with both the Ozark Mountains and the Mississippi River in the same state boundaries. The Arkansas River, the St. Francis River, and the White River all feed the Mississippi as major tributaries. The Arkansas Delta is a particularly wet stretch of land in Eastern Arkansas, primarily along the Mississippi River. Arkansas has few natural lakes, but many man-made reservoirs that allow boating.

So a small state that is roughly 2% water by surface area that ranks 33rd in population, manages to rank 23rd in boat registration. Arkansans registered 189,514 boats in 2016. 25% of Arkansas households participate in boating in some capacity, and even more than that, 27%, own their own vessel. While the recreational boating percentage is slightly lower than the national average, boat ownership is well above it. Water-rich Eastern Arkansas more than makes up for dry Western Arkansas with myriad opportunities for all kinds of boating. Fishing is most common, as nearly all Arkansas boaters fish in some capacity. Whether you want to fish, ski, or just relax, boating opportunities exist all over Arkansas.

Arkansas Boat Insurance

So, does Arkansas require boat insurance? You bet it does. Arkansas is one of only two states in the U.S to require boat insurance on motor boats. These requirements include:

  • Any motorboat over 50hp is required to have liability insurance
  • Any PWC of any size must possess liability insurance
  • Minimum insurance requirements are: $50,000 of liability coverage per accident.
  • Motor boats under 50hp are exempt and do not need to have liability insurance.
  • Applicable vessels must have proof of insurance on board whenever they are on the water.
  • Registration applications for applicable vessels must include proof of insurance

Now, we should note, Arkansas does not require you to insure your own vessel against damage. The state requirement only concerns liability insurance to ensure that you pay if you cause property damage or bodily injury to another party.

Hull Insurance

In addition to the Arkansas state insurance requirements, you may find that other agencies will require you to insure your own vessel. these include:

  • Loans: If you purchase your vessel in Arkansas and plan to keep it there, you will need to purchase Arkansas boat insurance to cover your own vessel in addition to the state requirement. In fact, your bank or lender will likely not approve your loan without proof of some insurance. If your lender doesn’t require boat insurance, you may not be dealing with a trustworthy lender. The bank wants to protect their investment, as they are out several thousand dollars until you pay back your loan. The boat is their collateral, so that they can seize it if you fail to pay. If your boat is in an accident or sinks without insurance, that collateral disappears. Therefore, many lenders include specific language in their loan policies to call in the full remaining price of the boat if your insurance lapses. Your lender will probably appear on your insurance policy as the lien-holder. If you need to file a claim, your insurance check will then list your lender as the co-payee.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in Arkansas require insurance too. Marinas, like lenders, want to shield themselves financially in the case of an accident. Marina insurance limits may be higher than the state requirement if they worry that an accident will cause damage that is likely to exceed that value. If you collide with another boat in the marina, the establishment doesn’t want to be drawn into any litigation. They would prefer that your respective insurance companies take care of any accident.

Small Boat Insurance

So, if you don’t own a motor boat, should you still consider Arkansas boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 10% of Arkansans use a canoe or kayak as their primary vessel. We nevertheless highly recommend Arkansas boat insurance, even for canoes and kayaks. Obviously, it’s difficult to paddle a kayak hard enough into another boat to cause real damage, so you may feel that liability insurance isn’t worth it. Even so, if you ever lend your kayak to anyone, you should absolutely buy liability insurance. If someone outside of your immediate family injures themselves or another person on your boat, you can absolutely be held liable, even if you were not present.

You may also find it worthwhile to insure your kayak itself to protect it from theft or vandalism. A new fishing kayak or canoes can cost $1-2k. Hull insurance, on the other hand, is often under $100. If someone steals your kayak out of your garage or off of your roof rack, you may want the help to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

Arkansas, unlike much of the rest of the country, has seen a steady decrease in boating accidents over the last 4 years. Accidents in Arkansas declined 31% from 2012 to 2016. Arkansas boating accidents were nevertheless expensive to boaters and their insurance companies. Boating accident damages totaled $344,300 in 2016, for an average of $7,325, though many accidents costed thousands more. For the vast majority of boaters, boat insurance costs a fraction of that figure.

Arkansas boating accident statistics 2016

Boating Fatalities and Alcohol

Arkansas came in just below the national boating fatality rate in 2016. Boating fatalities did not shift much between 2015 and 2016, but any boating death is one too many. We all take on certain risks any time we leave shore. Our enjoyment of this nation’s waterways has certain unavoidable dangers, and all we can do be alert and conscientious boaters whenever we are at the helm.

Alcohol impairs our ability to boat responsibly. In 2016, 4.2% of reported Arkansas boating accidents were related to alcohol. However, 20% of all Arkansas boating deaths occurred in alcohol-related accidents. That is a common trend across the country. Alcohol-related accidents are simply more likely to end in tragedy than other boating accidents. Please, any time you head out on the water, designate a non-drinking operator. It is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself, your passengers, and other boaters out on the water.

We know that insurance can’t protect you from everything. It won’t keep you out of an accident, or keep your boat safe. No one enjoys paying for something that they hope to never need. It is incredibly important, however, and Arkansas requires it. Insurance can save you thousands in the event of an accident and protect you and your family financially.