West Virginia

The “Mountain State” is hardly known for its bodies of water. With water at .6% of its landmass, West Virginia is not exactly the boating capital that its neighbors to the East are. Nevertheless, rivers and lakes are plentiful across West Virginia. The Ohio River makes up its northwestern border, the Potomac comes in from the East, with its famous tributary the Shenandoah River, popularized by John Denver. In all, roughly 46 rivers run through West Virginia. Many of them still transport commercial goods and have for hundreds of years.

West Virginia had 57,305 registered boats as of 2016. That is the 7th fewest boats in the nation. Nevertheless, 25% of West Virginian households boat recreationally every year, and nearly 1/5 own their own vessels. Fishing is a popular past-time in West Virginia, as are water skiing and tubing.

West Virginia Boat Insurance

So, West Virginia require you to buy boat insurance? Unsurprisingly, it does not. The state of West Virginia has no requirements regarding boat insurance for recreational vessels. We certainly recommend West Virginia boat insurance, however, and the state government does too. Insurance is definitely a good idea, but you may find that you don’t have a choice. Certain entities require you to have insurance:

  1. Loans: If you purchase a vessel in West Virginia with the assistance of a loan, your lender will most likely require West Virginia boat insurance. If your lender doesn’t require some level of insurance, in fact, you should probably find another lender. Their reasoning makes sense. Your lender is several thousand (or hundred thousand) dollars in the red until your loan is paid off. Your boat is the collateral on that loan. If your boat gets into an accident and becomes worthless, your lender doesn’t want to lose that money. Your policy should list the lender as the lien-holder. If you need to file a claim, your check will then list the bank or other lender as the co-payee.
  2. Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards throughout West Virginia require insurance to dock long-term. Much like lenders, marinas are trying to shield themselves financially. If your boat damages another vessel, they don’t want to be dragged into litigation. They want your respective insurance companies to take care of it.

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. West Virginia is far from the ocean, and has few major marinas or yacht clubs. As a result, most West Virginia residents to either dock at home, or keep their boat on a trailer.

If that’s your situation, does West Virginia boat insurance still make sense? It’s a reasonable question. Nearly 11% of West Virginia households use kayaks or canoes, according to the latest survey. Kayaks are becoming the go-to affordable fishing platforms in much of the U.S., and West Virginia is no exception. Kayaks’ shallow drafts improve access to some incredible fishing locales that are not navigable for larger craft. In addition, plenty of people have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and only launch them when they go boating. Even in such instances, we highly recommend insurance for everyone.  There are excellent reasons to buy insurance for small boats, even if you don’t strictly need to.

Liability Coverage

Power boats make the easiest case for insurance. Open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities than any other boat type every year. Even if you aren’t worried about your own vessel, you should at least buy 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 if something happens.

Insurance is especially important on any boat you lend out. If someone injures themselves or another person on your vessel, you can be held liable, even if you were not present. In addition, speed boats, Jet Ski’s, and pontoon boats get expensive very quickly. If your vessel is damaged or sinks, you should have a policy to 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 at least consider West Virginia boat insurance for canoes and kayaks. The note above about lending your boat out still very much applies to kayaks. If your immediate family are the only operators, you may not feel that you need liability insurance, as you probably won’t hit anything hard enough to cause damage. We always recommend liability insurance, as it is usually reasonable, and you never think you’ll need it until you do. You may also 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

West Virginia suffered a 50% spike in boating accidents in 2016. The rise in boating accidents occurred nation-wide, but the increase was not nearly as high in most states. Those accidents cost a great deal of money too. Damages due to accidents cost $211,097 in 2016. That averages to nearly $8,800 per accident. For the vast majority of us, boat insurance costs a fraction of that figure, and it could save you thousands more.

West Virginia boating accident stistics

The boating fatality rate in West Virginia is worryingly high too. West Virginia’s fatality rate is several points higher than the national average. In fact, 20% of all boating accidents in West Virginia last year were fatal. Any boating death is one too many, and we need to remain aware of the dangers any time we leave shore. Our enjoyment of this nation’s waters carries an inherent risk. In order to protect ourselves and our passengers, we need to stay alert at the helm.

Alcohol enhances all the dangers of boating. West Virginia is fortunate that alcohol has not led to any deaths in the past couple years. Last year, 25% of all accidents were attributed to alcohol. Please, if you plan to head out on the water, designate an operator who does not drink. It is one of the best decisions you can make for your safety and the safety of those around you.

We know that West Virginia boat insurance won’t protect you from everything. It won’t keep your boat out of an accident, or keep you injury-free. It can help protect you and your family financially, though. No one likes to buy something that they never want to use, but boat insurance is usually affordable, and it can save you thousands.