Although Iowa is extremely landlocked, it nevertheless has a vibrant boating culture. Its location certainly plays a role. Iowa’s borders are, to a great extent, rivers. Iowa’s Eastern border is the Mississippi River, it’s Western border is the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers. In addition, the Des Moines River bisects the state, and makes up part of its southern border. In addition, Iowa has hundreds of rivers and lakes crossing the state. So Iowa may only be .7% water, but opportunities to boat are plentiful.

Iowa falls in line with its Great Lakes-adjacent neighbors as far as boating goes. The Hawkeye State ranks 30th in population, but 21st in registered boats, with 205,145 in 2016. 29% of Iowa households participate in boating, and nearly 20% own their own boats. Iowa may not be a yacht-heavy state, with little access to massive bodies of water, but the opportunities for power-boating, fishing, kayaking, and dinghy-sailing are plentiful.

Iowa Boat Insurance

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

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in Iowa with a loan, you will need to purchase Iowa 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 Iowa 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. Iowa isn’t exactly overflowing with marinas or yacht clubs, as such establishments are more common on larger lakes and oceans. The vast majority of vessels in Iowa are speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, and kayaks. Most Iowans either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So, should you still consider Iowa boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 13% of Iowans 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 Iowa 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

Iowa has seen a steady increase in boating accidents over the past few years, with accidents up 50% from 2013. Now, it is worth noting that with 1.7% of the boats in the United States, Iowa only sees .8% of its accidents, so it is a relatively safe place to boat. Boating accidents cost money, though, and in 2016, Iowa boating accidents led to $79,154 in damages. That’s roughly $2,139 per accident, with several costing thousands more. For most of us, boat insurance costs a fraction of that figure.

Iowa boating accident statistics 2016

The boating fatality rate in Iowa was a couple points below the national average in 2016. Nevertheless, Iowa still saw a 50% spike in boating fatalities from 2015. In the same time period, the number of accidents in which alcohol was a factor also doubled. Across the nation, Accidents in which alcohol is involved are statistically more likely to result in a fatality. Please, any time you leave shore, designate a non-drinking operator. We all face inherent risks any time we head out on the water, and alcohol enhances those dangers considerably. The decision to designate a driver is one of the most important you can make for your own safety, and the safety of other boaters.

Obviously, we know that insurance cannot protect you from everything. It won’t prevent an accident or injuries. No one enjoys paying for something they hope to never need. Even so, it will at least mitigate your financial risk. That’s why we recommend insurance on every vessel. It helps protect your family’s finances if an accident does occur.