Despite winters that can be fairly described as “biting”, Massachusetts is home to a vibrant boating culture. Between the Atlantic Ocean, the Charles River, and the 3000 or so lakes of varying sizes around Massachusetts, boating options are nearly endless in the 7th smallest state in the country. Boston, Cape Cod, and Nantucket are havens for cruising sailors and power-boaters, and a vibrant racing culture exists for sailboats and rowing shells. As you might expect from the state that brought you Moby Dick, the fishing industry retains an enormous importance in Massachusetts. A recent federal report estimated that commercial fishing brought about $4.4 billion in revenue to the state. It also supports roughly 83,000 jobs.

Massachusetts boat insurance

Though thankfully we’re no longer using these guys for target practice.

Massachusetts ranks in the middle of the pack for boat registration with 1.2% of all boats in the United States. However, as Massachusetts contains roughly .22% of the landmass of the country, it still has an enormously dense concentration of boats. That density is reflected in the boating habits of Massachusetts residents. 36% of Massachusetts households boat recreationally.

Massachusetts Boat Insurance

So, does Massachusetts require boat insurance? Despite a thorough, comprehensive guide to boat insurance, Massachusetts does not require insurance on registered vessels. The state government does highly recommend it, however, and you may still need to buy Massachusetts boat insurance in certain circumstances.

  • Loans: If you use a loan to buy a boat in Massachusetts and plan to keep it there, you will need to purchase Massachusetts boat insurance. Your lender will not approve your loan without it. If your lender allows you to go without boat insurance, you probably aren’t dealing with a very trustworthy lender. Your bank wants to protect their investment, and insurance is a key aspect of that protection. The lender is out several thousand (or hundred thousand) dollars until you pay back your loan. The boat is their collateral, so that they can seize it if you fail to pay. If your boat is in an accident or sinks without insurance, that collateral disappears. Therefore, many lenders include specific language in their loan policies to call in the full remaining price of the boat if your insurance lapses. Your lender will probably appear on your insurance policy as the lien-holder. If you need to file a claim, your insurance check will then list your lender as the co-payee.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in North Carolina require insurance too. Marinas, like lenders, want to shield themselves financially in the case of an accident. If you collide with another boat in the marina, the establishment doesn’t want to be drawn into any litigation. They would prefer that your respective insurance companies take care of any accident.

Small Boat Insurance

Now you obviously don’t need to worry about marina requirements if you keep your boat on a trailer or in a garage. Boston Harbor, Cape Cod, and Nantucket may get all the press, but most Massachusetts residents are perfectly happy trailering their speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, or kayaks to launch ramps across the state. Of course, you may keep your power boat at a local yacht club or marina. However, if so, you probably know whether you need insurance already.

So, if you don’t own a yacht, should you still consider Massachusetts boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 25% of Massachusetts residents use a canoe or kayak as their primary vessel. Plenty of Massachusetts residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. We nevertheless highly recommend insurance for everyone. Boat insurance can still be vital for many small boats.

Liability Coverage

Liability insurance on your power boat is basically necessary. Every year, open motorboats cause more boating accidents and fatalities than any other style of boat, including Jet Skis. Even if you have paid off your boat, you should still purchase property damage and personal injury liability insurance. Any boat that drives fast can drive too fast. Accidents on the water can quickly turn tragic. Liability coverage may save you thousands in damages, and it is usually affordable.

You should also buy liability insurance on any boat you lend out, no matter the style. If someone outside of your immediate family injures themselves or another person on your boat, you can absolutely be held liable, even if you were not present. In addition, speed boats, Jet Skis, and pontoon boats can be expensive. If your vessel suffers any sort of accident, you want a policy that will help you buy a new boat, or at least cover repairs. You can read more about pontoon boat insurance here, and power boat insurance here if you remain unconvinced.

Self-Propelled Boats

You should also strongly consider Massachusetts boat insurance, even for canoes and kayaks. Obviously, it’s difficult to paddle a kayak hard enough into another boat to cause real damage, so you may feel that liability insurance isn’t worth it. Even so, if you lend your kayak to anyone, you should absolutely buy liability insurance for the reasons we’ve outlined above. You may also find it worthwhile to insure your kayak itself to protect it from theft or vandalism. Fishing kayaks and canoes can cost $1-2k, new. Hull insurance, on the other hand, is often under $100. If someone steals your kayak out of your garage or off of your roof rack, you may want the help to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

Massachusetts has a high accident rate, relative to the rest of the country. Although Massachusetts is only home to 1.2% of the nation’s boats, it sees just over 2% of its accidents. It’s easy to see why. During the summer months, boating around Boston Harbor, Nantucket or Cape Cod can be an exercise in defensive driving. At times thousands of boats are utilizing the same stretch of water. And those accidents can get expensive. Last year boating accidents racked up $1,395,400 in damages. That averages to around $15,100 per accident. You don’t want to get stuck with a bill like that. Insurance for most of us doesn’t come anywhere near that figure.

Massachusetts boating accident statistics

Massachusetts also had an outsized fatality rate in 2016. At 10.7 per 100,000 boaters, it was double the national average, and accounted for 2% of the country’s boating deaths. Now, a couple factors come into play here. States with large fishing fleets do tend to have higher fatality rates. Anglers often leave harbor no matter what the weather threatens, and the job is difficult and dangerous, resulting in overall higher boating deaths. Nevertheless, we need to remember that our enjoyment of the nation’s waterways carries with it an inherent risk. Accidents on the water have more dangers than those on land. Every boater should be prepared to face them whenever they leave port.


The presence of alcohol enhances these risks. Massachusetts has seen a drop of 30% in the number of alcohol-related accidents in the past 4 years. That is an encouraging trend, as alcohol is involved in a high percentage of boating accidents and fatalities across the country every year.  Any time you head out on the water please designate an operator who doesn’t drink.

We know that insurance can’t protect you from everything. It can’t protect you from getting into an accident or keep your boat safe in a storm, but it will mitigate your financial risk. That is why we strongly recommend insurance on every vessel. It can, at the very least, help protect you and your family financially if an accident occurs.