Although Georgia’s surface area is only 2.6% water, a vibrant boating community exists for several reasons. Georgia has 70,000 miles of streams and rivers criss-crossing the state, 425,000 acres of lakes, and 4.5 million acres of freshwater wetlands. Those are all in addition to the 100 mile Atlantic coastline on Georgia’s Eastern coast. It should therefore come as no surprise that Georgia ranks 11th in registered boats nation-wide. Last year, Georgia boasted 335,723 registered vessels, up 8,000 over 2015.

The diverse array of water bodies creates opportunities for all boaters. Cruisers, racers, and deep-sea anglers gravitate towards Georgia’s East Coast. Major river systems like the Savannah and the Chattahoochie provide opportunities for power boaters, and the myriad lakes and reservoirs are playgrounds for dinghy sailors and kayakers. As a result, 30% of Georgian households participate in recreational boating in some capacity.

Georgia Boat Insurance

So, does the Georgia government require boat insurance? No, it does not. Georgia is much like most other states and does not require boat insurance on any watercraft. However, you may need to buy Georgia boat insurance anyway.

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in Georgia with a loan, you will need to purchase Georgia boat insurance. Your lender will almost certainly require it. In fact, if your lender does not require boat insurance of some sort, you may want to find another lender. Your lender is highly incentivized to require insurance. It protects their investment as much as it protects yours. Your lender is several thousand (or hundred thousand) dollars down on your loan until you pay it off. The boat functions as collateral to ensure that you pay. If your boat is in an accident or sinks, your lender doesn’t want to simply lose that money. Your lender will appear on the insurance policy as the lien-holder. Your insurance check will then list your lender as the co-payee if you need to file a claim.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in Georgia require insurance to keep your boat there. Marinas, like lenders, want to shield themselves financially in the case of an accident. If your vessel damages another, the marina doesn’t want any part of it. They would vastly prefer that 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. Georgia has a substantial coastline and large rivers that cater to the cruising, fishing, and seafaring crowd. However, most of the state isn’t exactly packed with yacht clubs and massive boats. The vast majority of Georgia vessels are speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, and kayaks. Sure, if you’re on one of the larger lakes, it’s possible to keep your power boat at a local yacht club or marina. However, most Georgians either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So, should you still consider Georgia boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question.  11% of Georgia residents use a canoe or kayak, which is only slightly below the national average. One presumes that the plethora of aquatic reptiles in Georgia turns some boaters off to the idea of being that close to water.

Georgia boat insurance

Yeah, I might go with a pontoon boat too.

In addition, plenty of Georgia residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Even so, we highly recommend insurance for everyone, including the owners of small boats.

Liability Coverage

For starters, you should always have insurance on your power boat. Open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities every year than any other boat type. That includes Jet Skis, which people generally perceive as more dangerous. Even if you’ve paid your boat off, you should at least buy property damage and personal injury liability insurance. Any power boat is capable of going too fast, and accidents on the water can be catastrophic. Liability coverage can wind up saving you thousands, and it is is usually affordable.

You especially need 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 think about Georgia boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. Now, we know that it is difficult to paddle a kayak into something hard enough to cause real damage, so you may feel that liability insurance isn’t worth the money. Nevertheless, if you lend your kayak out, you should unquestionably buy liability insurance for the reasons we’ve outlined above. Furthermore, you may find it worthwhile to insure your kayak itself in order to protect it from theft or vandalism. New fishing kayaks and canoes can cost $1-2k, which is a real amount of money.  Hull insurance, by contrast, is likely under $100. If someone steals it out of your garage or off your car, you want to be able to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

Georgia suffered a spike of 21.7% in boating accidents from 2013 to 2016. Now, Georgia remained roughly in line with the rest of the country’s accident percentage, though that is not exactly comforting. The country at large went through a similar spike in boating accidents over that time period. Those accidents cost money too. Last year, boating accidents cost Georgians $652,228 in damages. That’s an average of about $5,800 per accident, and many of them cost far more than that. Boat insurance costs a fraction of that amount, and it can save you thousands more.

Georgia Boating Accident Statistics

Even more concerning, the boating fatality rate in Georgia remained above the national average. We should always be cognizant that our enjoyment of America’s astounding waterways carries a risk every time we leave shore. Because of where they occur, boating accidents can become tragedies in an instant. Alcohol greatly exacerbates the risk for tragedy. Unfortunately, Georgia saw a spike of 50% in alcohol related accidents last year. Alcohol was involved in 10% of reported boating accidents, but 32% of boating deaths. Please remember if you’re leaving shore, designate an operator who doesn’t drink. Accidents under the influence often have costs far beyond money.

We know that insurance can be a tough pill to swallow. It is a cost for something that you always hope you don’t need. And Insurance can’t protect you or your boat from getting into accidents. It can protect you and your family financially if an accident occurs, however, and for that reason we strongly recommend it to all boaters, no matter your boat.