The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes is actually home to 11,482 lakes of 10 acres or more. In addition, it has a 150 mile shoreline on Lake Superior, known to the locals as the “North Shore”. Although winters in Minnesota get famously cold, summers are hot enough to boat all across the state, and most Minnesotans do. In the last survey, almost 50% of Minnesotans participated in recreational boating. That is the highest boating participation rate in the country. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that in 2016, Minnesota had more registered boats than any other state except Florida.

Minnesota Boat Insurance

So, are you required to have boat insurance in Minnesota? Not according to the state government. Much like most other states, Minnesota’s state government does not require insurance on any watercraft. However, also like most other states, certain circumstances do require Minnesota boat insurance.

  • Loans: If you use a loan to buy a vessel in Minnesota, your lender will almost certainly require you to buy Minnesota boat insurance. In fact, if your lender does not prescribe some level of insurance, you should probably find another lender. From the lender’s perspective, it would be foolish not to require insurance. Until your loan is paid off, your lender is several thousand dollars in the hole. Your boat is their collateral on that loan to ensure that you pay. If your boat sinks, your lender doesn’t want to lose that money. Your insurance policy will list the lender as the lien-holder. If you need to file a claim at any point, your check will list your lender as the co-payee.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in Minnesota will require insurance. Much like lenders, marinas want to shield themselves financially from the actions of their members. If your boat damages another vessel in their waters, they want to avoid litigation. They would much rather 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. Minnesota is far from the ocean, so far fewer boaters own large fishing vessels or yachts. The exception, obviously, is the North Shore, where boaters have whole expanse of Lake Superior in the warmer months. Because so much boating occurs on smaller lakes, the vast majority of vessels are speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, and kayaks. Some people keep their power boat at a local yacht club or marina, but many Minnesota residents either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So if that’s your situation, does Minnesota boat insurance still make sense? It’s a reasonable question. Over 23% of Minnesota households use kayaks or canoes, according to the latest survey. Kayaks are some of the most common affordable fishing platforms across much of the U.S., and Minnesota is no exception. Kayaks’ shallow drafts allow them access to some incredible fishing locales in smaller lakes and rivers that are inaccessible to larger craft. In addition, many Minnesotans have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Many of us only launch our boats when we actually go boating. Even so, we highly recommend insurance for everyone.  Boat insurance can be extremely important for small boats, even if it isn’t required.

Liability Coverage

Power boats should absolutely always have insurance. In America every year, open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities than any other boat type, including Jet Skis. Even if your vessel is paid off, you should definitely buy liability insurance for both property damage and personal injury. Just about any power boat can go too fast, and accidents on the water can be ruinous. Liability coverage is generally affordable, and it can wind up saving you thousands.

You particularly need insurance 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 at least consider Minnesota boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. The case for liability insurance is tougher to make for kayaks, as it is hard to paddle into something hard enough to cause real damage. However, the note above about injuries on a borrowed boat still very much applies to kayaks. If you and your immediate family are the only users, you probably don’t need liability insurance, though it’s generally cheap and never hurts to have. You should also consider insuring your kayak itself to protect it from theft or vandalism. Many newer fishing canoes and kayaks can cost $1-2k, and hull insurance is likely under $100. If someone steals it off your car or out of your garage, you want to be able to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

As one might expect from a state with more registered vessel than almost every other, Minnesota also endures more accidents every year than most other states. It suffers far fewer accidents and fatalities than the nationwide distribution of registered boats would suggest. Despite owning 6.9% of all registered boats, Minnesota only accounts for about 2% of the nation’s boating accidents, and has one of the nation’s lowest fatality rates. Now that is at least partially attributable to location. The states with the highest numbers of accidents tend to have ocean coastlines. Perhaps using smaller boats on smaller bodies of water incentivizes Minnesotans to boat with more consideration.

Minnesota boating accident statistics

Even so, those accidents were not cheap. Minnesota’s accidents totaled $228,400 in damages last year. In addition, the number of fatalities has risen the last 3 years, and is up 50% from 2014. This has corresponded with a spike in alcohol-related accidents, which have jumped 70% in the same time-frame. It is obviously your decision whether to purchase Minnesota boat insurance or not. Insurance can’t protect you from everything. We do, however, strongly recommend it to protect yourself and your family financially. The insurance is usually affordable, and it can save you thousands if something goes wrong.