The Sunflower State does not have the best access to large bodies of water, so the boating participation rate may surprise you. The Missouri River makes up about 70 miles of Kansas’ northern border, the Kansas River runs maybe 170 miles through the Northern portion of the state, and the Arkansas river flows through the Western and Southern portions. The tributaries of these rivers fan out and cover much of the state, but Kansas is only .6% water. As water usage has gone up for agriculture and city-usage, some of these rivers and their tributaries have run dry. This is more common in Western Kansas, where the Arkansas river often only flows after heavy precipitation.

Nevertheless, boating is common around Kansas. 25% of Kansas households participate in recreational boating every year, and 19% own their own vessels. That’s only a couple points lower than the national average, which includes several ocean-adjacent states. In 2016, Kansas had 81,243 registered boats. More than half of Kansas boaters use their boats for fishing, as it is a common past-time across the state. Additionally, the branch of the Missouri river that runs through Kansas sees about half a million tons of cargo a year, providing some economic boost to the state.

Kansas Boat Insurance

So, does Kansas require you to buy boat insurance? Unsurprisingly, it does not. The state of Kansas has no requirements regarding boat insurance for recreational vessels. We certainly recommend Kansas boat insurance, however, and the state government does too. So insurance is definitely a good idea, but you may find that you don’t have a choice. Certain entities require you to have insurance:

  1. Loans: If you purchase a vessel in Kansas with the assistance of a loan, your lender will most likely require Kansas boat insurance. If your lender doesn’t require some level of insurance, in fact, you should probably find another lender. Their reasoning makes sense. Your lender is several thousand (or hundred thousand) dollars in the red until your loan is paid off. Your boat is the collateral on that loan. If your boat gets into an accident and becomes worthless, your lender doesn’t want to lose that money. Your policy should list the lender as the lien-holder. If you need to file a claim, your check will then list the bank or other lender as the co-payee.
  2. Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards throughout Kansas require insurance to dock long-term. Much like lenders, marinas are trying to shield themselves financially. If your boat damages another vessel, they don’t want to be dragged into litigation. They want your respective insurance companies to take care of it.

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. Kansas is far from the ocean, and has few major marinas or yacht clubs. As a result, most Kansas residents to either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

If that’s your situation, does Kansas boat insurance still make sense? It’s a reasonable question. 7% of Kansas households use kayaks or canoes, according to the latest survey. Kayaks are becoming the go-to affordable fishing platforms in much of the U.S.. Kansas is no exception, as kayaks’ shallow drafts facilitate access to some incredible fishing locales that are inaccessible to larger craft. In addition, plenty of people have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and only launch them when they go boating. Even in such instances, we highly recommend insurance for everyone.  There are excellent reasons to buy insurance for small boats, even if you don’t strictly need to.

Liability Coverage

Power boats make the easiest case for insurance. Open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities than any other boat type every year. Even if you aren’t worried about your own vessel, you should at least buy liability insurance for both property damage and personal injury. Anything that goes fast can go too fast, and accidents on the water can be ruinous. You can generally find liability coverage at an affordable rate, and it can save you thousands if something happens.

Insurance is especially important on any boat you lend out. If someone injures themselves or another person on your vessel, you can be held liable, even if you were not present. In addition, speed boats, Jet Ski’s, and pontoon boats get expensive very quickly. If your vessel is damaged or sinks, you should have a policy to 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 at least consider Kansas boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. The note above about lending your boat out still very much applies to kayaks. If your immediate family are the only operators, you may not feel that you need liability insurance, as you probably won’t hit anything hard enough to cause damage. We always recommend liability insurance, as it is usually reasonable, and you never think you’ll need it until you do. You may also want to insure your kayak itself, to protect it from theft or vandalism. Many fishing canoes and kayaks can cost $1-2k. If someone steals it off your car or out of your garage, you want to be able to replace it. For more information on kayak insurance, Click Here

The Stats

With 32 boating accidents in 2016, Kansas saw a 33% increase from 2013. The rest of the country suffered a similar spike over the last few years, and few explanations exists. The accidents were expensive too. In 2016, boating accidents racked up $130,000 in damages. That averages to just over $4,000 per accident. For most of us, Insurance costs a fraction of that figure, and it could save you thousands more.

Kansas boating accident stats 2016

Boating Fatalities and Alcohol

The boating fatality rate in Kansas is even more concerning. Kansas’ boating fatality rate was several points higher than the national average in 2016. It was reflected a more than 200% increase in fatalities from the previous year. Nearly 1-in-4 reported boating accidents in Kansas was fatal in 2016. Boating has certain inherent risks. Any time we leave shore to enjoy this country’s waterways we assume certain dangers. We need to remain alert and conscious any time we head out on the water.

Alcohol is one of the most common causes of boating deaths. In 2016, alcohol played a role in 18% of all reported boating accidents, and nearly 30% of boating fatalities. Those numbers are not aberrations. Nationwide, boating accidents in which alcohol plays a role are far more deadly than other boating accidents. One of the most important things you can do for your safety and the safety of those around you is to designate a non-drinking operator any time you leave shore. It is absolutely vital.

We know insurance can’t protect you from everything. It can’t prevent an accident or stop an injury. It can, however, protect you financially from the fallout after an accident. No one likes to pay for something they hope to never use, but boating accidents can be astronomically expensive. Boat insurance is usually affordable, and it can save you far more than just the price of your boat.