Idaho is landlocked and only 1% water, but the state nevertheless sees an avid boating population. The Gem State has the farthest inland seaport of any Western state, along the Salmon River, 465 miles from the Ocean. Idaho has roughly 880 square miles of water, which include over 2000 lakes and 93,000 miles of rivers. In addition to the Salmon River, the Snake River and Clearwater are among Idaho’s major rivers.The Snake River cuts through Hell’s Canyon, a popular destination for tourists looking for fast water.

Though you might not expect it, Idahoans participate in recreational boating at well above the national rate. In a state with 87,211 registered boats, Idahoans report 40% household boating participation. In fact, only slightly fewer (36%) own their own boats. More than half of those boaters fish recreationally, a popular past-time in a state with so many varied lakes and rivers. Kayaks are also popular, as are rafts on Idaho’s many whitewater rapids, which provide fun for tourists and locals alike. Still, many Idahoans enjoy their water a little more serene, taking a pontoon boat out on one of the many lakes instead. Whatever boat experience you’re looking for, you can find it in Idaho.

Idaho Boat Insurance

So, does Idaho require boat insurance? It probably won’t surprise you to learn that it does not. Idaho is much like most other states and does not require boat insurance on any vessel. However, you may need to buy Idaho boat insurance anyway.

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in Idaho with a loan, you will need to purchase Idaho boat insurance. Your lender will 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 because it protects their investment as much as it protects yours. Your lender is several thousand dollars in the hole until you pay your loan 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 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 Idaho require insurance to dock 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. Idaho isn’t exactly overflowing with marinas or yacht clubs, as such establishments are more common on larger lakes and oceans (though there are exceptions). The vast majority of vessels in Idaho are speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, and kayaks. Most Idahoans either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So, should you still consider Idaho boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. Nearly 16% of Idahoans use a canoe or kayak, and plenty of folks have already paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Nevertheless, we highly recommend boat insurance, even for small vessels.

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 need liability insurance especially 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 Idaho 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 buy liability insurance for the same reasons 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, on the other hand, 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

Last year, reported boating accidents increased 16% from 2014. Idaho ranked only 37th in registered boats in 2016, but ranked 24th in boating accidents. Those accidents were expensive too. Damages from boating accidents added up to $275,200 in damages in 2016. That averages to about $5,500 per accident, and many cost thousands more. For most of us, boat insurance costs a fraction of that figure.

Idaho boating accident statistics 2016

Boating Fatalities and Alcohol

The boating fatality rate in Idaho was worthy of concern in 2016. The rate suffered in Idaho was nearly double the national rate. Now, boating fatalities did drop by more than 20%, so the statistics are improving, but overall, Idahoans still suffer a far higher fatality rate than most other states. Now, this is partially attributable to the type of boating that Idahoans undertake. Whitewater boating is more dangerous than, say, relaxing on a pontoon boat, but accidents can happen to anyone. We take on an inherent risk any time we head out on the water. Our enjoyment of this nation’s waterways need to be balanced by our responsibilities when we head out on the water.

Alcohol can be absolutely lethal out on the water. In 2016, three accidents in which alcohol played a role left 3 boaters dead. Accidents can happen to anyone, but accidents under the influence of alcohol are inarguably more lethal than others. Please, any time you head out on the water, designate an operator who won’t drink. It is one of the most important things you can do for your own safety and the safety of your passengers and others on the water.

Obviously, we know that insurance cannot protect you from everything. It won’t prevent accident or injury. Nobody likes paying for something that they hope they’ll never need. Even so, insurance is incredibly important. It helps protect your family’s finances if an accident occurs. That’s why we recommend insurance on every vessel.