Tennessee’s landlocked geography leads few outsiders to consider it a boating haven. At 2.2% water, it is unlikely to break any records for maritime access. Tennessee is surprisingly boat-friendly, however. In addition to over 1,000 lakes and rivers across the state, Tennessee has two major rivers , the Mississippi River on its Western border, and the Tennessee River, bisecting the state’s western half.

Last year, Tennessee registered 254,091 boats. Tennessee sees about 26% of households participating in recreational boating every year, and over 21% of Tennesseans own their own boat. Fishing and hunting are particularly popular on Tennessee’s waterways. Plenty of folks also enjoy relaxing on a pontoon boat or ski boat, cooling off in the water from the summer’s heat.

Tennessee Boat Insurance

So, does the Tennessee state government require boat insurance? It may not surprise you, but no, it does not. Tennessee is much like most other states and does not require boat insurance on any watercraft. However, you may find that you need to buy Tennessee boat insurance anyway.

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in Tennessee with a loan, you will need to purchase Tennessee boat insurance. Your lender will require it. In fact, if your lender doesn’t require boat insurance of some sort, you may want to find another lender. Your lender has an excellent incentive 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 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 Tennessee require insurance to dock 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. Tennessee’s substantial coastline provides Sailors, Anglers, and Cruisers with more than enough space to store some truly immense vessels. Nevertheless, Tennessee, at 15% water, has a great deal of inland fresh and brackish water in bayous, rivers, and lakes. The vast majority of vessels on these bodies of water are speed boats, pontoon boats, dinghies, Jet Skis, and kayaks. You can often keep your power boat at a local yacht club or marina, but most Tennesseeans either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

So, should you still consider Maine boat insurance? It’s a reasonable question. 12% of Tennessee residents use a canoe or kayak. Now, that’s not a huge percentage, particularly looking at the rest of the country. However, plenty of Tennessee residents have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. They face no requirement  for insurance from anyone. Even so, we highly recommend insurance without exception, as it can be incredibly important, even on small boats.

Liability Coverage

You should always have insurance on any 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 need liability insurance especially 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 Tennessee boat insurance for canoes, kayaks, and row boats. 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 absolutely still buy liability insurance for the same reasons outlined above. Furthermore, you may find it worthwhile to insure your vessel itself in order to protect it from theft or vandalism. New fishing kayaks and canoes can cost $1-2k.  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

Tennessee saw an 8% increase in boating accidents from 2015-2016. Those accidents were expensive too. Tennessee boating accidents in 2016 totaled $1,188,740 in damages. That’s over $10,000 per accident. Many of the accidents costed even more. Boat insurance for most of us costs a fraction of that figure. No one likes paying their insurance premiums, but the intention is to protect you from claims like that, which can wipe out most of our savings accounts.

Tennessee Boating accident statistics

Boating Fatalities and Alcohol

Tennessee saw a corresponding spike in boating fatalities from 2015. Fatalities rose 38% in 2016, and the fatality rate jumped up above the national average. Any boating death is one too many, but boating deaths are on the rise around the country, and it is important that all of us take steps to boat considerately and safely. We take on a certain degree of risk any time we leave shore in a boat. It is incumbent upon us to remain alert and aware as we explore the waterways that this country offers.

Alcohol is one of the worst dangers that we face on the water. In Tennessee last year, 15% of overall boating accidents were fatal. In accidents where alcohol was a contributing factor, however, nearly half of them were fatal. Any time you head out on the water, make sure you designate a non-drinking operator. It is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you.

We understand that insurance is not a panacea to protect you from everything. It can’t prevent accidents or keep you safe in a storm. No one enjoys paying for something that they hope to never use. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend it because it protects your finances. A small yearly expenditure is, in our opinion, worth it for the protection it provides you and your family if an accident occurs.