North Carolina

North Carolina has a rich history of boating that dates back centuries. In fact, Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge went aground near Beaufort inlet in 1718. Cape Hatteras is a major cut-off point for most boating insurance companies. Many of these companies refuse to insure vessels that navigate below Cape Hatteras prior to the end of Hurricane Season. Despite the dangers, the Outer Banks provide welcome opportunities to anglers. In the space of a few miles you can enjoy deep sea fishing, brackish water fishing, fly fishing, and inshore fishing.

As befits a boating capital, North Carolina sees roughly 30% boating participation, and almost 24% boat ownership. That is significantly higher than much of the country. Their 367,000 registered boats rank them roughly 10th in the nation, with more boats than most of the Gulf states. With 301 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, North Carolina draws boaters from all over the world. North Carolinians and tourists alike flock to the Outer Banks to cruise, sail, Jet Ski, and surf (though that last one isn’t a boating activity per se).

North Carolina Boat Insurance

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

  • Loans: If you use a loan to buy a boat in North Carolina and plan to keep it there, you will need to purchase North Carolina 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. The Outer Banks may get most of the national and international attention, but most North Carolina 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 North Carolina boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 14% of North Carolina residents use a canoe or kayak as their primary vessel. Plenty of North Carolinians 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 North Carolina 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

Unfortunately, North Carolina suffers a high rate of boating accidents each year. Although 10th in boating registrations, North Carolina ranks 6th in boating accidents. Now, North Carolina’s boating season is more year-round than the boating season in, say, Maine, but the numbers are still concerning. North Carolina has more accidents even than South Carolina, which has far more registered boats. And those accidents were not cheap. Accidents in North Carolina cost $3,347,900 in damages. That averages to a massive $23,400 per accident. Most of us do not have that kind of money lying around. Boat insurance for most of us costs a fraction of that figure.

North Carolina boating accident statistics

North Carolina’s boating fatality rate is slightly higher than the national average. North Carolina is once again sixth in fatalities, nation-wide. We should always keep in mind that our enjoyment of the nation’s waterways carries an inherent risk. Accidents on the water can become tragedies in an instant. Every boater should be attentive and mindful of the risks every time they leave port. Alcohol enhances these risks. North Carolina managed to cut alcohol-related accidents by 40% in 2016, and the number of alcohol-related boating deaths fell by 75%. Nevertheless, alcohol is involved in a high percentage of boating accidents and fatalities across the country each year. Any time you head out on the water, for your safety and the safety of others, designate an operator who doesn’t drink.

We know Insurance can’t protect you from everything. It doesn’t help prevent accidents or keep your boat safe in a storm. It does, however, 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.