Known colloquially as “The Great Lakes State”, Michigan is a veritable playground for boating enthusiasts. At least during the summer. The 11th-largest state is 41% water, giving residents and visitors access to some of the best boating in the country. Michigan has 3,288 miles of shoreline, giving it the second longest shoreline in the country, following only Alaska. Whether you like to Cruise, sail, fish, or relax, Michigan has the perfect body of water for you.

Michigan Boat Insurance

So, Michigan require you to buy boat insurance? It does not. The state of Michigan has no requirements regarding boat insurance for recreational vessels. We certainly recommend Michigan boat insurance, however, and the state government does too. Although not in the top 5, Michigan suffers more boating accidents per year than most states. This isn’t entirely surprising, as over 37% of Michigan residents participate in recreational boating. The only states with more registered boats are Minnesota and Florida. 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 Michigan with the assistance of a loan, your lender will most likely require Michigan 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, they don’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 Michigan 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 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. The massive variety of lakes and rivers across Michigan allow a majority of Michigan residents to either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer. If that’s your situation, does Michigan boat insurance still make sense? It’s a reasonable question. Over 21% of Michigan 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.. Michigan 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. Every year, open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities than any other boat type. Even if you aren’t worried about your own vessel, you should definitely 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 for 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 can get expensive very quickly. If your vessel is damaged or sinks, you want 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 Michigan 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 are unlikely to need liability insurance, as you probably won’t hit anything hard enough to cause damage. You may still want to insure your kayak itself, however, 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

In 2016, 125 federally reported accidents occurred in Michigan waters. That is a 38% increase on the previous year, and one of the largest spikes in the country. Now, several states saw more accidents, but several of those states (like Florida and California) have year-round boating weather, which Michigan decidedly does not. Those accidents led to $550,000 in damages.

Michigan boating accident statistics

Of course, many of the costs of boating accidents are not measurable in dollars. Michigan suffered a 50% spike in boating deaths in 2016.  Fatalities occurred in nearly 1/3 of reported accidents. In most accidents, fatalities occur when passengers are not wearing personal flotation devices. It is imperative when you head out on the water that you bring a PFD for every passenger, and that you designate a driver who doesn’t drink. Nationally, alcohol is the main contributing factor in 19% of boating deaths.