South Dakota

South Dakota, much like its neighbor to the North, does not immediately strike outsiders as a boating haven. It is landlocked between several states, is 1.7% water, and only registered 59,495 boats last year. That’s nearly 8,000 fewer boats than North Dakota, and 9th fewest in the country. As South Dakota’s population density is extremely low (5th least in the country), those statistics obscure an avid boating population. In fact, SD trails only 8 states in boating participation. 38% of South Dakota households participate in recreational boating, and 31% of households own boats. That is roughly 50% higher than the national average. The Missouri River bisects South Dakota, and the state has over 100 lakes and rivers for boaters to explore. Whether you like to hunt, fish, sail, or just relax, you can do it in South Dakota.

South Dakota Boat Insurance

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

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in South Dakota with a loan, you will need to purchase South 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 South 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. South Dakota isn’t exactly packed with yacht clubs and massive boats. The vast majority of South 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 South Dakotans either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So, should you still consider South Dakota boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question.  13% of South Dakota residents use a canoe or kayak, which is just about in line with the national average. In addition, plenty of South Dakotans 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 cause more boating 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 South 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

South Dakota experienced a spike in boating accidents of more than 100% from 2014-2016. As more people explore boating opportunities in South Dakota, such increases are likely to occur. They also reflected a nationwide upward trend in boating accidents. Such accidents were fairly expensive, resulting in $114,100 in damages. That averages to $5,700 per accident, with several of them costing thousands more. Boat insurance costs a fraction of that figure, and is intended for just that purpose: To prevent accidents like that from cleaning out our savings.

South Dakota boating accident stats

Boating Fatalities and Alcohol

The boating fatality rate in South Dakota is relatively high, at about 2.5 points above the national average. 20% of all boating accidents in South Dakota resulted in a fatality, in contrast to the national average around 13%. No matter where we go to boat, we all face certain dangers every time we leave shore. Certain risks are just inherent in the activity. We cannot plan for every eventuality, but we can mitigate the risks of boating by remaining alert and conscious ever time we take the helm.

Alcohol played a significant role in South Dakota’s boating fatalities. 66% of the boating accidents attributed to alcohol resulted in a fatality. Alcohol was only a factor in 15% of the reported accidents in 2016. However, it was a factor in 40% of the fatalities, which largely reflects alcohol and boating statistics across the country. One of the most important things you can do when you leave shore is to designate a non-drinking operator. Doing so could save your life and the lives of those around you.

Insurance can’t protect you from everything. We know that. Accidents happen, whether or not you have insurance insured. It sucks to pay for something that you hope to never need. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend insurance for every vessel to protect you and your loved ones financially in the event of an accident.