Although less famous for its boating than its neighbors Michigan and Minnesota, Wisconsin nevertheless provides incredible opportunity for boating enthusiasts. Wisconsin borders two of the Great lakes, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan, and ends at the Mississippi river in the west. It may be better known for its forests (roughly 40% of the state), but Wisconsin is also home to more than 15,000 lakes of various sizes. In addition, the state enjoys roughly 1000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, attracting boaters from all over the world. Like much of the midwest, Wisconsin’s boating rate is significantly higher than it is in the rest of the country. 42% of Wisconsin households participate in boating each year, a percentage surpassed only by Minnesota. Wisconsin may not have as many registered boats as Minnesota or Michigan, but it does rank in the top five, just behind California.

Wisconsin Boat Insurance

So, does Wisconsin require boat insurance? Not in the slightest. Wisconsin’s state government is in line with most other states and does not require insurance on any watercraft. However, certain circumstances do require Wisconsin boat insurance without fail.

  • Loans: If you buy a vessel in Wisconsin and need a loan to do it, your lender will require you to buy Wisconsin boat insurance. Indeed, if your lender doesn’t prescribe some level of boat insurance, you should probably find another lender. It would be foolish for any lender to let the insurance requirement slide. Until your loan is paid off, your lender is several thousand (or hundred thousand) dollars in the red. Your boat is their collateral on that loan. If you stop paying for whatever reason, they can seize your boat.  If your boat were to sink, however, it would become useless as collateral. There would be nothing to seize. Your lender doesn’t want to lose that money, so the requirement remains. Your lender will appear on the insurance policy as the lien-holder. If you file a claim at any point, the insurance check will list your lender as the co-payee.
  • Marinas: Most marinas, yacht clubs, and dockyards in Wisconsin will require insurance. Marinas want to protect themselves financially from any mistakes their members make. If your vessel damages the boat of another guest, they would like to avoid litigation. They would vastly prefer your respective insurance companies take care of the issue.

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. Wisconsin has great deal of Great Lakes shoreline. These thousand miles tend to attract larger fishing and cruising yachts, whether they are doing the Great Loop, or are simply exploring the Great Lakes. However, the 15,000 small lakes across Wisconsin ensure that hundreds of thousands of residents prefer speed boats, pontoon boats, Jet Skis, and kayaks. Some people keep their power boat at a local yacht club or marina, but many Wisconsin residents keep their boat on a trailer, either in a garage, or at a lot.

So if you aren’t worried about marinas or loans, is Wisconsin boat insurance still worth the price? It’s a reasonable question. Over 21% of Wisconsin households use kayaks or canoes. Kayaks have become the most common affordable fishing platforms across much of the U.S., Wisconsin included. The shallow drafts on kayaks allow them access to incredible fishing locales in smaller lakes and rivers that are inaccessible to larger craft. In addition, many folks have paid off their pontoon or speed boat, and keep them at home. Even so, we highly recommend insurance for everyone.  Boat insurance is extremely important for small boats, even if you aren’t required to have it.

Liability Coverage

You should always insure a power boat. Every year, open motorboats are involved in more accidents and fatalities than any other boat type. Even if your vessel is paid off, you should buy liability insurance to cover property damage and personal injury. You never expect an accident, but accidents on the water can be ruinous. Liability coverage is usually pretty affordable, and it can save you thousands if you need it.

You should also buy insurance on any boat you lend out, no matter how slow it is. If someone injures themselves or another person on your boat, you can be held liable, even if you were not present. In addition, Jet Skis, speed boats, and pontoon boats can be expensive. If your vessel gets into an accident, you will want insurance to help you recoup the damages.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 Wisconsin boat insurance for kayaks and canoes. It is more difficult to make the case for liability insurance on kayaks, as it is difficult to paddle into something hard enough to cause real damage. Once again, if you lend it out, just get liability insurance. If you and your immediate family are the only users, you might not need liability insurance. Even so, it’s generally cheap and never hurts to have. Furthermore, you should think about insuring your kayak itself to protect it from theft or vandalism. Many newer fishing kayaks and canoes can cost up to $1-2k. Hull insurance on that kind of boat is likely to be cheap. If someone steals it off your car or out of your garage, insurance can help you replace it. Click Here for more information on kayak insurance.

The Stats

Much like Minnesota, Wisconsin is a safer state to boat than most. Wisconsin is home to 5.2% of boat owners, nationally, yet only accounts for about 2.3% of the country’s boating accidents. Those accidents are expensive, however. In 2016, damages in 103 accidents came to $871,790. That’s about 8,400 per accident. For most of us, boat insurance costs a fraction of that figure.

Wisconsin boating accident statistics

The fatality rate is low in Wisconsin, roughly 3.3/100,000 boaters. That’s significantly lower than most other states, but there are some worrying trends. The number of alcohol related deaths has increased by more than 100% in the past 2 years. This trend is mirrored across much of the midwest, as Michigan and Minnesota saw similar increases. Plenty of people love heading out on the water for a few beers with friends. But alcohol and driving don’t mix. That’s just as true for boats as it is for cars. Please, if you plan on drinking, make sure you have a designated operator who is abstaining. Insurance can’t protect you from everything, and those are statistics that you don’t want to be a part of.