South Carolina

South Carolina is one of the most boat-friendly states in America. The state is ranked 23rd in population, but 7th in registered boats, with 518,269. South Carolina is home to 4.4% of the boats in the U.S., with only about 1.6% of its people. It is therefore no surprise that South Carolina’s boating participation rate is well above the national average. Nearly 30% of South Carolinian households boat recreationally every year. In addition, nearly 1/4 of South Carolina households own their own vessel.

South Carolina’s geography helps encourage boating all across the state. It has a 187-mile coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, and the state itself is 6% water, with 683 square miles of lakes. In addition to several natural ports, South Carolina possesses a chain of barrier islands, called the “sea islands”, that make up its eastern border. We have ourselves spent some time exploring the South Carolina coast by boat, and found it truly gorgeous. South Carolina is a true boating haven.

South Carolina Boat Insurance

So, does South Carolina require boat insurance? Not exactly. Much like 47 other U.S. states, South Carolina does not require insurance on registered vessels. The South Carolina government does highly recommend it, however. Furthermore, you may still need to buy South Carolina boat insurance if you fall into certain circumstances.

  • Loans: If you use a loan to buy a boat in South Carolina and plan to keep it there, you will need to purchase South Carolina boat insurance. Your lender will not approve your loan without it. If your lender allows you to neglect your boat insurance, you likely 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 on your loan until you pay it back. Your boat functions as 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 South 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. South Carolina’s beautiful coastline and nearby islands certainly tend to draw more cruisers and offshore anglers than say, Oklahoma does, but most South Carolinians still own speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, or kayaks. Such vessels are much easier to drag 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 already know whether or not you need insurance.

So, if you don’t own a yacht, should you still consider South Carolina boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. Nearly 13% of South Carolina residents use a canoe or kayak as their primary vessel. Plenty of South 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 vessels.

Liability Coverage

Liability insurance on your power boat is crucial. 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 with an engine can drive too fast, and accidents on the water can quickly turn tragic. Liability coverage can 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 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. If you remain unconvinced, you can read more about pontoon boat insurance here, and power boat insurance here

Self-Propelled Boats

You should also at least consider South 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 appreciate the help replacing it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

South Carolina has seen a significant spike in boating accidents the last few years. It is a spike that mirrors similar increases across the country, but it is nevertheless concerning. last year, South Carolina saw an increase of 10.5% in accidents from 2015, and a full 30% since 2013. Those accidents cost nearly $1 million in damages too. That averages to $7,200 per accident, and was much higher for many of them. Boat insurance costs a fraction of that amount, and can wind up saving you thousands more.

South Carolina boating accident stats

Boating Fatalities

South Carolina’s boating fatality rate in 2016 was well below the national average, though it was still a full point higher than it was the previous year. We hate drawing attention to boating tragedies, but we want everyone to recognize and prepare for the dangers that exist any time you go out on the water. There are certain risks that we take on when we leave shore to explore our nation’s waterways. For most of us, the joys of boating far outweigh the risks, but we should always remain cognizant of them.

Alcohol enhances these risks substantially. South Carolina saw an increase of 28% in alcohol-related boating accidents in 2016, and a 30% increase in boating deaths attributed to alcohol. These are sobering figures, and we always believe that it is worth repeating guidelines on alcohol. If you plan to leave shore, Make sure you designate at least one operator who will not drink. You risk far more than money when your driver is under the influence.

We know that insurance can’t protect you from everything. It won’t keep you out of an accident or prevent injuries. Many people don’t want to pay for something that they hope they’ll never need. We strongly believe that you should be buying insurance nevertheless. It can save you thousands and protect you and your family financially if an accident occurs.