The only U.S. state made up entirely of islands, Hawaii Has a long history of boating that dates back to its discovery by Polynesian sailors in 300 CE. Although the percentage of boat registration in Hawaii seems surprisingly low for such a maritime-dependent community (9%), that figure is misleading. Hawaii does not require registration for boats that are

  1. Manually propelled
  2. Sailboats, 8ft or shorter
  3. registered with the U.S. Coast Guard

A significant number of Hawaiians use kayaks or canoes, either for recreation, or as fishing platforms. According to the latest statistics, roughly 23% of Hawaiians engage in some sort of boating activity. Hawaii’s boating laws are some of the most stringent in the nation, and if you’re looking for Hawaii boat insurance, you should make sure you’re compliant.

Hawaii Boat Insurance

Like most other things in the islands, you are likely to spend a little more on Hawaii boat insurance than you would in other states.

Hawaii boat insurance

Though the tradeoff is substantial…

This is primarily due to the cost of labor, if someone needs to repair your boat, and the cost of parts that need to be shipped from the mainland. Nevertheless, you should be able to find decent insurance for 2-3% of your boat’s value. While there is always a temptation to skimp on insurance to save a little money, we strongly recommend that you get boat insurance for several reasons.

Hawaii boat insurance is slightly more complicated than insurance in other states. Like most of those other states, the state government of Hawaii does not require boat insurance. However, this statement comes with a fairly large caveat. Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources owns a significant percentage of the marinas on all 8 main islands. These facilities, run by the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (a division within DLNR) require insurance for vessels moored there. The insurance they require is fairly comprehensive too. Not only does DOBOR require liability insurance in excess of $500,000, they also require coverage for:

  1. Salvage costs,
  2. Pollution containment
  3. Wreck removal, and
  4. Damage to docks

Finding a mooring ball or a slip in Hawaii without insurance on your boat is exceedingly difficult. Most private marinas require insurance as well, and the rationale is simple. Most marinas want to ensure that if damage occurs in their water, the owners’ insurance will take care of it. Marinas require it because they do not want to be dragged into litigation over damages, resulting from a lack of insurance. As a result, the Hawaiian government uses their own marinas to ensure that any boat of significant size in Hawaii has at least basic insurance. Such restrictions obviously do not apply to boaters who own their own docks, or who trailer their boats from home.

So why else might you need Hawaii boat insurance? The easiest answer is:

Boat Loans:

If you use a loan to purchase your boat, your lender will almost certainly require you to insure it. In fact, if the lender doesn’t insist upon insurance, you probably shouldn’t trust that lender. Now, most of us take out loans when we buy a boat. Even cheaper vessels like pontoon boats easily cost over $10k. It’s tough to drop that much money at once, and loans give most of us a leg up in the purchasing process. However, lenders don’t want to lose 70% of the boat’s value if it’s lost in the first year or two of ownership. They therefore require insurance to protect their investment. The bank or other lender will be listed as the lien-holder on the policy. As a result, any compensation from your insurance company will include them as a co-payee.

Small Boats

So, let’s say you own a canoe or kayak, don’t need a mooring, and have paid it off, does it make any sense to have insurance? After all, it’s not like you’re likely to run anything over with it. In this case, you can probably get away without liability insurance. As long as you don’t routinely ram yachts intentionally, you’re unlikely to need it. The big exception is if you let someone else use your canoe or kayak. Anyone outside your immediate family has grounds to sue you for damages if they injure themselves on your vessel, even if they’re alone in your kayak. It may not be entirely fair, but if you lend out your kayak, (and certainly if you rent it), make sure you have some level of liability insurance.

If you and your family are the only operators, you can probably do without liability insurance. Even so, you may want to insure your kayak itself to protect it from theft or vandalism. Many canoes and Kayaks can cost $1-2k. If someone steals it out of your garage, you want to be able to replace it. For more information on kayak insurance, Click Here.

The Stats

Hawaii suffers relatively few accidents, compared to most of the mainland states. Undoubtedly, Hawaii’s strict licensing and boater safety requirements have made a significant impact on the accident rate. However, the severity of accidents in Hawaii is extreme. Those 14 accidents resulted in 8 deaths, and $150,000 in damages, or nearly $11k per accident. As Hawaii is primarily surrounded by Ocean, it is not entirely surprising that accidents can be severe when they occur. You are always taking a chance when you leave shore in a boat, but your risks are significantly higher on the ocean. Boat insurance is just one of your necessary risk-mitigators in a state that consistently has one of the highest rates of boating fatalities.

Hawaii boating accident statistics 2016

Hurricane Insurance in Hawaii

Despite being in an active Hurricane region, Hawaii has suffered relatively little hurricane damage, compared to the islands of the Caribbean, and the Gulf states. The notable exception was hurricane Iniki in 1992, which hit Kauai directly and caused over $2 billion in damages. Since 1992, plenty of Hurricanes have passed by the island chain. However, they have either made landfall as less severe storms, or missed the islands entirely. In such instances they may cause storm surge and bring heavy rain and flooding, but they do not wreak the kind of destruction that hurricanes do.

As with all insurance decisions, this one is your choice. Hawaii has an excellent record for avoiding hurricane damage, so you may feel comfortable not spending extra on that provision. However, if you intend to venture offshore, either for fishing, cruising, or to do a crossing, at least consider it. During the season, such storms can form frighteningly quickly. The money you spend on insurance could save you tens of thousands.