Oregon is a state with a particularly large boating population. This is not entirely surprising, with 363 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, and over a hundred lakes. In addition, The Columbia River makes up much of Oregon’s Northern border with Washington. The Columbia is one of the largest rivers in the U.S., and is the largest in the Pacific Northwest. Boating options are plentiful throughout the state, and Oregonians appear to take advantage. Oregon has about 156,000 registered boats, and they do not go to waste. 34% of Oregon households participate in recreational boating every year, and nearly 30% own their own vessels.

Cruising and fishing boats are common along Oregon’s western coastline. Fishing is a major economic boon to Oregon. Although it doesn’t boast the same numbers as, say Louisiana or Massachusetts, Oregon brings in about $144 million from the fishing trade. The Pacific Northwest has also become a destination for cruisers, eager to see a coastline that has, at least until recently, received less attention than its Atlantic counterpart. Oregon is a popular destination for sailors of large and small boats alike. If you come to Oregon with the intention of boating you won’t be disappointed.

Oregon Boat Insurance

So, Are you required to purchase Oregon boat insurance? It may surprise you, but much like 47 other states, the state of Oregon does not require boat insurance for recreational vessels. The Oregon government does highly recommend insurance, however, and we certainly do too You may find that you don’t have a choice. Certain situations will require you to buy Oregon boat insurance:

  1. Loans: If you purchase a boat in Oregon with a loan, your lender will probably require Oregon boat insurance. In fact, if your lender doesn’t require some level of insurance, you probably shouldn’t trust that lender. Your lender has a very good reason to require insurance on your boat. They are several thousand (or hundred thousand) dollars in the red on your loan until it is paid off. If your boat sinks or gets wrecked in an accident, they don’t want to lose that money. Your policy will usually list the bank or other lender as the lien-holder. If an accident occurs, your insurance check will then list the lender as the co-payee.
  2. Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards across Oregon require insurance to dock. Much like lenders, marinas’ reasons are entirely practical. If your boat damages some other boat on their property, they want you to be able to cover it financially. Marinas do not want to be dragged into any litigation. They would prefer that their customers’ insurance companies mediate any collisions. You may be able to get away with a short term mooring without notice. However, a stay of any length will almost certainly prompt interest in your boat’s insurance status.

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. If that’s the case, does Oregon boat insurance still make sense for you? It’s a reasonable question. 15% of Oregon residents use kayaks or canoes. Kayaks are becoming the go-to affordable fishing platforms in much of the U.S., primarily in states further north. In addition, plenty of people have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and simply launch them when they go boating. We highly recommend insurance for everyone, even for those with smaller vessels.

Liability Coverage

The case is easy to make for speed boats. Even if you don’t want insurance on your own vessel, you absolutely want 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. That is especially important for any boat you lend to others. If someone injures themselves or someone else 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 power boat insurance here, or pontoon boat insurance here if you remain unconvinced.

Self-Propelled Boats

The argument for insurance is strong, even for canoes and kayaks. If you and your family are the only operators, you may decide that you don’t need liability insurance, as you’re unlikely to hit anything hard enough to cause damage. We do still recommend it, given the unpredictability of boating, and you should certainly buy it if you lend your kayak or canoe to anyone. Furthermore, you may want to insure your kayak itself, 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

Oregon has mirrored the nationwide spike in boating accidents over the last couple years. In 2016, Oregon saw an increase in boating accidents of 26% over 2015. Such accidents were expensive too. Damages from boating accidents totaled $672,131 in 2016. That averages to roughly $8,100 per accident, with several of them costing thousands more. Boat insurance for most of us costs a fraction of that amount. You do not want to be stuck with bills you can’t pay, or debt that grows beyond your control.

Oregon boating accident statistics

Boating Fatalities

The fatality rate in Oregon is among the worst in the country. It is more than double the national average, and reflects a serious issue. With only 1.3% of the nation’s boats, Oregon suffers 2.7% of the nation’s boating deaths. We should always to remember that boating is inherently risky. Every time we leave shore ,we need to be aware of the potential costs, and remain vigilant to keep ourselves and our passengers safe. Alcohol is a major component of boating accidents and deaths nationwide, and here, at least, Oregon appears to be making progress. Last year, accidents that were attributed to alcohol dropped by more than 50%, and deaths in those accidents dropped 75%. Please, if you head out on the water, designate a non-drinking operator. Doing so protects your property, your life, and the lives of those around you.

We know that boat insurance won’t protect you from everything. It won’t stop an accident or keep you out of a storm. What it can do, however, is keep you financially safe against such eventualities. Boating is never predictable, and no one likes to pay for something that they hope to never use. Insurance helps manage that unpredictability, however, by providing a buffer between you and the damages in any accident. We strongly recommend it on all boats, and we hope that you will strongly consider it.