North Dakota

North Dakota does not, at first glance, appear overly boat-friendly. It is extremely landlocked, and sparsely populated, with a mere 67,022 registered boats. That figure, however, says more about the state’s population than it does about its boating culture. North Dakota has one of the highest boating participation rates in the country, with 42% of households participating. Boat ownership is also high in North Dakota, with 34% of household reporting boat ownership. That figure is well above the 20% average in the rest of the country. Between the Missouri River in the Western half of the state, Devil’s Lake in the East, and the myriad lakes and rivers between, North Dakota has ample opportunities to boat, fish, and hunt all across the state.

North Dakota Boat Insurance

So, does the North Dakota state government require boat insurance? No, it does not. North Dakota is much like most other states and does not require boat insurance on any watercraft. However, you may need to buy North Dakota boat insurance anyway.

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in North Dakota with a loan, you will need to purchase North Dakota boat insurance. Your lender will require it. In fact, if your lender does not require boat insurance of some sort, you probably want to find another lender. Your lender is highly incentivized to require insurance. It protects their investment as much as it protects yours. Your lender is several thousand dollars in the hole until you pay your loan off. The boat functions as collateral to ensure that you pay. If your boat is in an accident or sinks, your lender doesn’t want to simply lose that money. Your lender will appear on the insurance policy as the lien-holder. Your insurance check will then list your lender as the co-payee if you need to file a claim.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in North Dakota require insurance to keep your boat there. Marinas, like lenders, want to shield themselves financially in the case of an accident. If your vessel damages another, the marina doesn’t want any part of it. They would vastly prefer that 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. North Dakota isn’t exactly packed with yacht clubs and massive boats. The vast majority of North Dakota vessels are speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, and kayaks. Sure, if you’re on one of the larger lakes, it’s possible to keep your power boat at a local yacht club or marina. However, most North Dakotans either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So, should you still consider North Dakota boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question.  14% of North Dakota residents use a canoe or kayak, which is just about in line with the national average. In addition, plenty of North Dakota residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Even so, we highly recommend insurance for everyone, including the owners of small boats.

Liability Coverage

For starters, you should always have insurance on your power boat. Open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities every year than any other boat type. That includes Jet Skis, which people generally perceive as more dangerous. Even if you’ve paid your boat off, you should at least buy property damage and personal injury liability insurance. Any power boat is capable of going too fast, and accidents on the water can be catastrophic. Liability coverage can wind up saving you thousands, and it is is usually affordable.

You especially need liability 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 think about North Dakota boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. Now, we know that it is difficult to paddle a kayak into something hard enough to cause real damage, so you may feel that liability insurance isn’t worth the money. Nevertheless, if you lend your kayak out, you should buy liability insurance for the reasons we’ve outlined above. Furthermore, you may find it worthwhile to insure your kayak itself in order to protect it from theft or vandalism. New fishing kayaks and canoes can cost $1-2k, which is a real amount of money.  Hull insurance, by contrast, is likely under $100. If someone steals it out of your garage or off your car, you want to be able to replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

North Dakota is one of the safest states in the country to boat. With .6% of all the boats in the country, North Dakota only suffered .3% of the nation’s accidents. Part of this relative lack of accidents is undoubtedly due to North Dakota’s relatively low population density. Most accidents in the U.S. are collisions with other recreational vessels. Obviously, the more spread out such vessels are, the fewer collisions will occur. Nevertheless, a state with such a high level of boating participation and such a low accident rate is encouraging.

We would be remiss if we failed to point out the price of those accidents, however. Accidents in 2016 totaled $88,500 in damages, for an average of $5,900 per accident. That is a serious amount of money, and boat insurance for most of us is a fraction of that cost.

North Dakota boating accident statistics

Boating Fatalities

In 2016, North Dakota registered a single boating fatality, which is better than any state except Delaware and Vermont. Despite an increase of about 35% in accidents from 2014, fatalities dropped from 4 that year to 1. Obviously any boating death is one too many, but it is an encouraging trend. It stands in particular contrast to the nationwide spike in boating deaths over the last few years. Also, for the first time in 4 years, North Dakota saw no deaths as a result of alcohol-related boating accidents. Nationally, alcohol-related boating deaths are just under 20% of all boating fatalities.

As in any vehicle, any time you set out in a boat, make sure you designate an operator who doesn’t drink. Alcohol puts your life and the lives of other boaters in danger. Our enjoyment of our country’s shores, rivers, and lakes carries both a risk and a responsibility. We need to be aware of both any time we leave shore.

Insurance can’t protect you from everything. We know that. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend insurance for every vessel to protect you and your loved ones financially in the event of an accident.