The second smallest state in the nation has a vibrant boating culture, and one look at its location tells you why. Bounded by Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, Delaware has a massive shoreline (relatively speaking. Its entire Eastern border is comprised of the Delaware River, the Delaware Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. The Port of Wilmington is a major arrival port for shipping companies. It brings in more than 4 million tons of cargo every year.

Recreational boating is an exceedingly popular past-time, with no one in the entire state of Delaware living more than half an hour from a major body of water. Sure, the state only has 61,901 registered boats, but that is more a function of Delaware’s size than its boating zeal. Delaware sees 27% boating participation, just about in line with the national average. Cruising yachts inhabit much of Delaware’s Atlantic coast, given its prime, central location. Further north, recreation boaters take pontoon boats, speed boats, and dinghies out on the Delaware river and its tributaries across the state. We have ourselves visited Delaware City, where a canal connects the Delaware river to the Chesapeake Bay.

Delaware Boat Insurance

So, does Delaware require boat insurance? Much like most other states in the U.S., Delaware does not require boat insurance. However, you may still need to buy Delaware boat insurance in certain circumstances.

  • Loans:If you use a loan to buy a boat, and plan to keep it in Delaware, you will need to purchase Delaware boat insurance. Your bank or other lender will require it. If your lender does not oblige you to get boat insurance, you should likely find another lender. The bank wants you to have insurance because it protects their investment much like it protects yours. Your lender is several thousand (or hundred thousand) dollars in the hole until you pay your loan off. Your boat is their collateral. If your boat is in an accident or sinks, your lender doesn’t want to lose that money. As a result, many lenders will include specific language in your loan policy to call in the full remaining price of the boat if you let your insurance lapse. Your bank or other lender should appear on your insurance policy as the lien-holder. Your insurance check will therefore list your lender as the co-payee if you need to file a claim.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in Delaware require insurance as well. Marinas, like lenders, want to shield themselves financially in the case of an accident. If your vessel collides with another in the marina, the establishment doesn’t want any part of it. They would much rather your respective insurance companies take care of any accident.

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. The Delaware Bay and Atlantic Coast may draw cruising vessels and anglers from all over the world, but most Delaware residents are perfectly content with their speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, or kayaks. You may keep your power boat at a local yacht club or marina. If so, you probably already know whether you need insurance. However, many Delaware residents prefer to keep their boat on a trailer, either at home or in a garage.

So, even if you don’t need it, should you still consider Delaware boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 13% of Delaware residents primarily use a canoe or kayak. In addition, plenty of Delaware residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Nevertheless, we highly recommend insurance for everyone. Boat insurance can still be vital for many small boats.

Liability Coverage

Liability insurance on your power boat is an absolute necessity. Open motorboats get into more accidents and cause more fatalities every year than any other boat type. Even if you’ve paid off your boat, you should at least buy property damage and personal injury liability insurance. Any boat with an engine can go too fast, and accidents on the water can be catastrophic. Liability coverage can save you thousands in damages, and it is usually affordable.

You should also buy liability insurance on any boat, of any kind, you lend out. If a person outside of your immediate family 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 suffers any sort of collision, 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 think about Delaware boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. Now, obviously it’s difficult to paddle a kayak into something hard enough to cause real damage. You may therefore feel that liability insurance isn’t worth it. Nevertheless, if you lend your kayak out, 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. Fishing kayaks and canoes can cost $1-2k, new.  Hull insurance, by contrast, is likely under $100. If someone steals your kayak out of your garage or off your car, you should be able to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

Delaware has seen a massive uptick in accidents recently, up nearly 200% since 2013. It is difficult to determine a cause for such a large increase. However, as many of the accidents involved collisions with other recreational vessels, one can assume that boat traffic and density played a role in the spike. And Delaware’s accidents were the most expensive in the country. Accidents in Delaware in 2016 led to $708,864 in damages. Averaged out, that is $30,820 per accident. That is an insane sum to have to pay out of pocket, and many of those accidents cost thousands more than that. Insurance is the only way to protect yourself financially if you find yourself in such an accident.

Delaware boating accident statistics 2016

Delaware’s boating fatality rate is extremely low and remains so, despite the spike in accidents the last few years. Delaware lost one person to boating in 2016, though it should be noted that any death is one too many. We all assume certain dangers when we head out on the water, and it is always worthwhile to remain aware of them. Alcohol greatly enhances these dangers. Delaware fortunately saw very few alcohol-related boating accidents in 2016, compared to the national rate. It is, however, always worth repeating: Boating under the influence puts your life and the lives of others at risk. Any time you leave shore, designate a non-drinking driver for the vessel.

We know that insurance isn’t a cure-all. It offers protection only after the fact. It won’t keep you out of a storm, and no one likes paying for something they hope they’ll never use. Even so, it provides financial protection that we cannot recommend highly enough. No one expects to be in an accident, and having insurance can protect you and your family from the financial burden that such accidents place on boaters.