Mississippi draws its name from the river that forms its western boundary. Between the largest river in the country and the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi has a rich boating culture, despite only being 3% water by landmass. Mississippi is home to 132,441 registered boats, as of 2016. Mississippi’s recreational boating falls roughly in line with national statistics. 24% of Mississippi residents participate in boating, just under the national average.  In addition, 21% of Mississippi households own a boat, which is just above the national average. Many Mississippians take advantage of their state’s waterways to fish and/or hunt. With 44 miles of ocean coastline, Mississippi provides anglers, cruisers, and recreational boaters with excellent opportunities to enjoy the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi is also home to the Port of Pascagoula, one of the top 25 ports in the nation by cargo volume.

Mississippi Boat Insurance

So, does Mississippi require boat insurance? unsurprisingly, Mississippi, like most other states, does not require insurance on registered vessels. The Mississippi state government highly recommends it, however, and you may still need to buy Mississippi boat insurance in certain circumstances.

  • Loans:If you purchase your vessel in Mississippi and plan to keep it there, you will likely need to purchase Mississippi boat insurance. In fact, your bank or lender will not approve your loan without proof of some insurance. If your lender doesn’t require boat insurance, you may not be dealing with a trustworthy lender. The bank wants to protect their investment, and they see insurance as 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 Mississippi, whether on the Gulf or on an inland river or lake, 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. Most Mississippians 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 Mississippi boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 12% of Mississippi residents use a canoe or kayak as their primary vessel. Furthermore, plenty of Mississippians have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. We nevertheless highly recommend insurance for everyone, whether or not you own a yacht.

Liability Coverage

Liability insurance on your power boat is extremely important. 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, and accidents on the water can quickly turn tragic. Liability coverage may save you thousands in damages, and it is usually modestly-priced.

You should also buy liability insurance on any boat you lend out. 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 consider Mississippi 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. On kayaks it may be only a few dollars. 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

Mississippi suffered 43 boating accidents in 2016. This percentage is roughly in line with Mississippi’s share of registered boats nationally. More concerning was the general trend of accidents in the last couple years. After an encouraging lull in 2014, accidents in Mississippi spiked by 72% in the last two years. That spike caused $257,750 in damages last year. That is an average of almost $6,000 per accident, and many of them were significantly more. For most of us, insurance is a fraction of that cost.

Mississippi boating accident statistics

Mississippi’s boating fatality rate was perhaps the most alarming statistic. In 2016 Mississippi saw a fatality rate several points higher than the national average. Boating fatalities increased each of the last two years by nearly 50%. In fact, last year 1/4 of all boating accidents in Mississippi were fatal. That is an extraordinarily high percentage of fatal accidents, and drives home how important it is to be aware of the dangers every time you leave shore. It is perhaps not unrelated that Mississippi experienced a spike in alcohol-related boating accidents and deaths last year. Enjoying our nation’s waterways is inherently risky, and there is a responsibility attached to that risk. We need to be aware of the dangers any time we leave shore. Please, designate a non-drinking operator before you head out in any vessel. Failing to do so risks your own life and the lives of other boaters.

We know that insurance can’t protect you from everything. Boating carries an assumed danger, and insurance won’t keep your boat safe in an accident, or assure your safety. What it can do, however, is protect you and your family financially in the event of an accident. Insurance is usually affordable, and it is far cheaper than paying for an accident out of pocket.