Louisiana is perhaps most famous nationwide for its bayous. To be honest, I think most people just like the word. But bayous, slow-moving streams of fresh or brackish water, are ubiquitous across Louisiana. In fact, 15% of Louisiana is water. This water comes in many forms, from bayous and swamps, to the massive Mississippi River on Louisiana’s eastern border, to the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Louisiana has 397 miles of coastline on the Gulf.

This coastline supports a vibrant maritime commercial industry, from fishing to shipping. Commercial fishing is a massive industry in Louisiana, despite significant damage to the marine population from oil spills and to the coastal infrastructure from hurricanes. Louisiana’s estimated earnings from seafood sales total roughly $2 billion per year, 10th in the nation. In commercial shipping, Louisiana capitalizes on its possession of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The Port of New Orleans is one of the busiest ports in the world, with access to the primary navigable thoroughfare in the United States.

Given Louisiana’s dependence on water, it is unsurprising that Louisianans are particularly water-bound folk. Louisiana has 306,689 registered boats, good enough for 12th in the country, despite ranking 25th in population. Roughly 1/3 of Louisiana households participate in boating every year, and 1/4 own their vessels. These statistics don’t even include the millions of tourists who come to Louisiana every year. Sure, many come to visit New Orleans without a thought for the Gulf. Few tourists can be bothered to learn why New Orleans became such an important city. However, plenty of visitors take the opportunity to explore Louisiana’s coastline, her swamps and bayou’s. They stir something in the imagination and draw tourists from all over the world. You can’t truly explore Louisiana without getting into a boat.

Louisiana Boat Insurance

So, does the Louisiana state government require boat insurance? It may not surprise you, but no, it does not. Louisiana is much like most other states and does not require boat insurance on any watercraft. However, you may find that you need to buy Louisiana boat insurance anyway.

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in Louisiana with a loan, you will need to purchase Louisiana boat insurance. Your lender will require it. In fact, if your lender doesn’t require boat insurance of some sort, you may want to find another lender. Your lender has an excellent incentive to require insurance. 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 Louisiana 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. Louisiana’s substantial coastline provides Sailors, Anglers, and Cruisers with more than enough space to store some truly immense vessels. Nevertheless, Louisiana, at 15% water, has a great deal of inland fresh and brackish water in bayous, rivers, and lakes. The vast majority of vessels on these bodies of water are speed boats, pontoon boats, dinghies, Jet Skis, and kayaks. You can often keep your power boat at a local yacht club or marina, but most Louisianans either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So, should you still consider Maine boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 9% of Louisiana residents use a canoe or kayak. Now, that’s not a huge percentage, particularly looking at the rest of the country. A kayak may feel slightly too close to the water for some people in a state that’s famous for its large aquatic reptiles. However, plenty of Louisiana residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. They face no requirement  for insurance from anyone. Even so, we highly recommend insurance without exception, as it can be incredibly important, even on small boats.

Liability Coverage

You should always have insurance on any 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 Louisiana boat insurance for canoes, kayaks, and row boats. 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 absolutely still buy liability insurance for the same reasons outlined above. Furthermore, you may find it worthwhile to insure your vessel itself in order to protect it from theft or vandalism. New fishing kayaks and canoes can cost $1-2k.  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

Louisiana suffered a significant uptick in boating accidents in 2016. Accidents spiked almost 30% from 2015. That surge in boating accidents mirrored a nationwide spike in 2015. As a result, Louisiana’s accident rate was roughly in line with its share of registered boats. However, one hopes that such trends do not continue. In addition to the dangers involved, boating accidents are expensive. in 2016, boating accidents racked up $1,597,799 in damages. That averages to $14,266 per accident, which is far more than most of us have lying around. Insurance on most vessels costs a fraction of that figure, and it could save you even more.

Louisiana boating accident statistics 2016

In addition to the monetary cost, boating accidents cost lives all too often. Louisiana suffered 24 fatalities in 2016. Given the massive spike in boating accidents, it is a bitter relief that boating fatalities “only” increased 9%. Louisiana’s boating fatality rate is still 2 points above the national average. That is, sadly, common in states with a lot of boat traffic. The good news is that Louisiana has seen a drop in both boating accidents and fatalities related to alcohol use each of the last two years. Alcohol amplifies all the risks of boating, and plays a role in 8% of accidents and nearly 20% of boating deaths every year. Any time you go out on the water, please designate a non-drinking operator. Doing so could save your life and the lives of those around you.

We understand that insurance is not some sort of panacea to protect you from everything. It can’t prevent accidents or keep you safe in a storm. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend it because it protects your finances. A small yearly expenditure is, in our opinion, worth it for the protection it provides you and your family if an accident occurs.