People tend to associate many activities with Colorado: skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking. Most people who aren’t locals, however, are unlikely to put ‘boating’ on that list. A dry state, Colorado is only about .36% water. It makes that third of a percent count, however, with myriad rivers and lakes. Certain boating activities draw more tourists than others. The Colorado River and its various tributaries draw folks from all over the world for kayaking and whitewater rafting. Colorado also has thousands of lakes and reservoirs where one can launch a speed boat, pontoon, or sailing dinghy for the day.

There are only about 84,800 registered boats in Colorado, but 22.4% household boating participation, only a little below the national average. That is indicative of an active rental market, since Coloradans are as likely as tourists to enjoy running rapids in a raft. So do not underestimate the availability of boating in Colorado. opportunities are closer than you might think.

Colorado Boat Insurance

So, does Colorado require boat insurance? Colorado, like most other states, does not require insurance on registered vessels. You may still need to buy Colorado boat insurance in certain circumstances, however.

  • Loans: If you purchase your vessel in Colorado and plan to keep it there, you will need to purchase Colorado boat insurance. 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, and they see insurance as a key aspect of that protection. The lender is out several thousand (or hundred 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 Colorado require insurance too. Marinas, like lenders, want to shield themselves financially in the case of an accident. 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

Now you obviously don’t need to worry about marina requirements if you keep your boat on a trailer or in a garage. Compared to the coastal states, Colorado is home to very few marinas or yacht clubs on its rivers and lakes. Most Coloradans are perfectly happy trailering their speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, or kayaks to launch ramps across the state.

So, if you don’t own a yacht, should you still consider Colorado boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 9% of Coloradans use a canoe or kayak as their primary vessel. Plenty of Colorado residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. We nevertheless highly recommend insurance for everyone. Boat insurance is still vital for many small boats.

Liability Coverage

Liability insurance on your power boat is basically necessary. Every year, open motorboats cause more boating accidents and fatalities than any other style of boat, including Jet Skis. Even if you have paid off your boat, you should still purchase property damage and personal injury liability insurance. Any boat that drives fast can drive too fast, and accidents on the water can suddenly become tragic. Liability coverage may save you thousands in damages, and it is usually affordable.

You should also buy liability insurance on any boat you lend out, no matter what kind of boat it is. 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. In addition, speed boats, Jet Skis, and pontoon boats can be expensive. If your vessel suffers any sort of accident, you want a policy that will help you buy a new boat, or at least cover repairs. You can read more about pontoon boat insurance here, and power boat insurance here if you remain unconvinced.

Self-Propelled Boats

You should also consider Colorado 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 lend your kayak to anyone, you should absolutely buy liability insurance for the reasons we’ve outlined above. 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

Colorado’s accident statistics have bounced around substantially. In 2016, Colorado saw a 19% increase in reported boating accidents from 2015. However, the 2016 statistics were still 24% below the 2013 numbers. As befits the smaller waterways of Colorado, damages from accidents were less severe than in many coastal states. However, boating accident damages still came to $173,080, or roughly $4,025 on average. Insurance costs a fraction of that number for most of us, and it could save you thousands more.

Colorado boating accident statistics

Boating Fatality Rate

The fatality rate in Colorado is highly concerning. Colorado saw one of the highest boating fatality rates in the nation, at 14.2/100,000. That is a higher fatality rate than all but two states, and reflective of the 50% increase in boating deaths from 2015. With just .7% of the nation’s boats, Colorado suffered 1.7% of the country’s boating deaths.

Many of those deaths are attributable to how Coloradans boat. Navigating rapids by boat, while unquestionably fun, can be dangerous. Very often the people undertaking the rapids have no prior experience, or they are professionals, pushing the limits of what is possible. Both groups face higher risks of fatality. We must always be aware of the dangers we face when we leave shore. Aquatic activities are inherently risky, and nature demands our respect and consideration.

Boating and Alcohol

Alcohol enhances the dangers of boating immensely.. Colorado is ahead of the national average here. Only 7% of the boating accidents, and 8% of the boating fatalities were attributed to alcohol. Nationwide, those percentages are much higher, but it bears repeating. If you leave shore in a vessel of any kind, make sure you designate a non-drinking operator. It just isn’t worth the risk.

We know that insurance can’t protect you from everything. It won’t keep you out of an accident, or keep your boat safe. It can mitigate the financial damage, however. Insurance can save you thousands in the event of an accident and protect you and your family financially.