Jet Ski Insurance
Whatever you call them, Personal Water Craft (or PWCs) comprise one of the fastest growing segments in the boating industry. Unfortunately, not enough Jet Ski owners maintain Jet Ski insurance. Because of their size, many people don’t think it’s worth ensuring their PWC. We strongly disagree and feel that it is imperative to insure your Jet Ski, given its speed and power.
First, some terminology. Many (perhaps most) people use the term “Jet Ski” as a catchall to describe PWCs. This is similar to using “Kleenex” for facial tissue or “Xerox” to copy something. “Jet Skis” are a particular brand of PWC, made by Kawasaki.
Because “Jet Ski” is the most widely used word to describe PWCs, however, we will use them interchangeably here, as we discuss the Jet Ski insurance market.
Insurance on Jet Skis usually costs less than on, say ski boats, because they are significantly cheaper upfront. Nevertheless, make sure you spring for both property damage liability and personal injury liability insurance. According to a 2012 Coast Guard report, PWCs were involved in nearly 19% of all boating accidents and 24% of boating injuries. Jet Skis are like motorcycles on water, with speed, maneuverability, and enough acceleration to shoot out from under you if you aren’t paying attention.
Like motorcycles, Jet Skis, too, possess unique characteristics and dangers that distinguish the PWC insurance market from the wider boating one.
Jet Ski Engines
Mechanically, Jet Skis are powered by an impeller, rather than a propeller. This means that they suck water in and shoot it out the other side, rather than pushing it, as a prop does. The system is powerful. It allows significantly greater acceleration than is possible with a prop boat, but it has its drawbacks. The impeller sucks in anything that drifts in front of it, including plastic bags, sand, and debris. All of these wreak havoc on the delicate system, and can lead to engine failure. For an insurance company, that delicacy is a liability.
People do not generally realize how easy it is to damage a Jet Ski until they own one. They look like indestructible torpedoes of endless fun, but they probably receive dings and scratches more than any other boat type. Jet Skis lack any braking system, and are impossible to steer in neutral. Drivers routinely dock their Jet Skis the same way I stop myself on ice skates, with similar results. While a couple little chips won’t ruin your experience on the water, you might be shocked at how much it costs to have them buffed or repainted.
The case for property damage liability coverage
While Jet Skis are almost infinitely maneuverable, they also lend themselves to a certain degree of risky behavior. We often treat our Jet Skis with about as much concern as bumper cars, but anything you hit can cost money. Even damage to docks and piers can cost hundreds of dollars. And that’s before you consider damage to other boats out on the water. I once watched a buddy of mine pull up to a boat of friends, let go of the throttle, turn the handlebars, and plough directly into the side of the boat because (I’ll say it as many times as I need to) you really can’t turn these suckers in neutral.
If you (or your child) is at fault in an accident, you will be responsible for damage to the other boat. Such damages easily range into thousands of dollars, and no one wants to pay that kind of bill out of pocket. The Florida Fish and Wildlife conservation Commission released a study of 2011 data, indicating that Jet Skis caused $316,856 of property damage in that year. That’s just one year in one state. So property damage liability coverage is a “must”, in addition to personal injury liability coverage.
Why would I need personal injury liability insurance?
Jet Skis are immensely fun, but they can easily be dangerous. We all like to push the limits of speed on our Jet Skis. I personally like to find the biggest wave I can and see how much air I can get.
All that speed and power can be dangerous in untrained hands, however. The same 2012 statistics indicate that inexperienced drivers caused 22% of PWC accidents. Jet Skis have no brakes, and are generally impossible to steer unless you’re on the throttle. Meanwhile, their acceleration and turning radius at speed can easily throw riders off, or worse, roll over in the water. A friend of mine was pitched forward off of a Jet Ski when the nose buried into the water at high speed. He sustained a softball-sized hematoma on his groin. It was months before the mass disappeared, and he was inches away from a life-altering injury. Now, if that Jet Ski had belonged to someone else, he could have legally sought damages from them. Is that fair? Perhaps not, but you should be certain you are protected before you let anyone else near your Jet Ski.
Interested in learning more about insurance risks individual PWC’s face? Click below to learn more about each brand.