Do I Need Boat Rental Insurance?

Reasons for Boat Rental Insurance

Boat rental insurance rates vary widely, depending on what type of boat you plan to rent. Do you want a pontoon boat to relax out on the lake, a Jet Ski to feel the rush of acceleration or a yacht charter in the islands? No matter your answer, insurance is probably the last thing on your mind. Even though it isn’t your boat, you should make sure you have insurance before you sign for the rental.  Boat rental insurance is important for three main reasons;

  1. Drivers of rental boats are often unfamiliar with the model of boat.  We are not demeaning your driving ability, but every throttle handles differently, every boat coasts differently and every boat reverses differently.

    Yacht boat rental insurance

    She doesn’t slow down as quickly as you might like.

    While not all accidents happen at the dock, many do, and knowing that you’re covered if something does happen will make the day that much more enjoyable.

  2. While many rental companies are honest and staffed by good people, there are some bad actors out there.  Even if you never come within a boat length of a scratch, rental insurance helps protect you from unscrupulous employees who try to pin a particular scratch or chip on your driving. Additionally, in many cases the turn-over time between uses is quite short. Even honest rental locations may not have fully detailed the boat before you take it out. Rental insurance does not prevent such misunderstandings, but it certainly can help.

  3. Finally, boat rental insurance can include health and life insurance components (although you should not assume that they do).  Should the worst happen, this small cost can protect you, and keep a bad situation from turning worse.

Jet Ski Rental Insurance (PWC rental insurance)

Despite the vast numbers of people who rent Jet Skis every year, few even consider Jet Ski rental insurance. And they really should. Anyone renting a Jet Ski without extensive experience should absolutely opt for insurance. You can often get it for cheap, and you’ll be saving yourself a massive headache down the road if something goes wrong. Even people with years of riding experience purchase Jet Ski rental insurance when renting them for the family. In fact, people with more experience are far more likely to spring for the insurance because they know how easily something can go wrong. The risks are just too high. To address just a few of the reasons to get Jet Ski rental insurance:

  1. While no boat has a brake like a car, some can stop more effectively than others, and Jet Skis are not a part of that group.  Crashes into docks and other boats are common, and the damage can add up quickly.

  2. We all have our own reasons for renting Jet Skis, but I have never personally rented one to circle slowly and contemplate nature.

    boat rental insurance

    You’re not truly relaxed until you’re 3 feet above the waves.

    When you accelerate and turn quickly, or jump off waves you raise your probability of flipping the boat and flooding the engine.  Sometimes this just is a pain and ruins the afternoon, but it can, especially in salt water environments, lead to expensive cleanings/replacements.  Do not subject yourself to this risk.

  3. Teens are often a core demographic of jet ski users, and if this is the case for you, just remember how risk-averse and health-conscious they can be. 

  4. For more specifics on jet ski risks click here.


Yacht Charter Insurance

Not everyone feels comfortable bareboat chartering a boat for island hopping or offshore fishing (and many should not).

Sailboat rental insurance

I can understand the temptation, though…

For those of us that do, we face a tough question: IF we trust our abilities, should we spend the extra money on insurance? This tends to be a fairly self-selecting group, and as such, we’re an opinionated bunch. I tend to believe that, unless it is excessively expensive, yacht charter insurance is worthwhile. Generally speaking, you do not know the boat. How has it been maintained? How well does it steer or reverse? Many yachts you’ll charter have been beaten to hell precisely because so many people use them without experience. You may not discover an engine issue until you’re 60 miles offshore. Even more important, how well do you know it in an emergency? Have you checked the exact location of through-hull fittings and their respective plugs? In the midst of a storm, I want to be focused on the lives of my crew, my guests, and myself, without worrying about a deposit.


Pontoon Boat Rental Insurance

Outside of Jet Ski rentals, pontoon boats may be the most commonly rented boat. With thousands of rental locations, particularly on lakes and rivers, Pontoons offer a cheap opportunity to entertain a large number of people on the water. While not typically fast, they ride high out of the water and can, when driven safely, keep people dry and happy.  With Pontoon boats, two of the most substantial risks that would involve an insurance company are:

  1. Puncturing a pontoon (typically on a rock, piling or dock ledge), and

  2. Flipping the boat.  

Now, pontoons are made of metal and seem awfully strong, but you would be shocked at how common punctures actually are. They are especially common on boats that have experienced lots of stress. “Stress” is usually a result of beaching, poor docking and regular trailering, all of which are common in rental boats. In addition, while flipping may seem hard to imagine, it actually is quite common in two forms, flipping forward (or pitch poling) and flipping side to side. The first most commonly happens when motoring a heavily loaded boat directly into waves too quickly. In extreme instances this can cause the boat to fall on top of everyone. The second, when the boat flips sideways, is undoubtedly more common. Usually this results from a combination of factors. If a larger than expected wave comes in at the wrong angle when the boat is heavily or poorly balanced (too much weight on one side) pontoon boats can flip with worrying ease.


What if you are renting out your own boat or lending it to someone else?

This is a common question that we’ve gotten and it is a very good one.  First of all, DO NOT assume that your existing insurance policy will cover the boat under another user. While this can be the case, it depends entirely upon your policy. You should certainly confirm with your insurance company prior to lending your boat to someone. If you rent out your boat you will need to alter your insurance policy. Insurance companies classify boats that are used for commercial purposes (like renting) differently from recreational assets.  If you are renting it through a website, make sure to talk with the site about what coverage you may get through them, or if they have any agreements with insurance companies.