What is there not to love about pontoon boats? They are essentially floating party platforms. Their open design makes moving around easy. They tend to be wide and can accomodate a surprising number of people. In addition, their design allows for the placement of entrance doors. This makes boating more accessible to folks who may have some trouble climbing into and out of more traditional watercraft. This passenger-friendly design doesn’t slow pontoon boats down much either. Several companies now manufacture pontoon boats, capable of supporting two 175-HP engines. That’s more than enough juice to get you where you want to go, faster than you ever expected to get there. Pontoon boats also work well as rafts for outdoor parties. You can tie a few together in a bay or inlet, and spend the day relaxing with friends and family.
I probably don’t need to sell you on pontoon boats, but what about pontoon boat insurance? How can we best guarantee your long-term enjoyment of your pontoon boat, free from concerns about your financial safety? Well, first of all, what are the dangers?
Pontoon Boat Risks
The design of pontoon boats makes them less stable than other watercraft in inclement weather. Their open design offers imperfect protection from rain and spray, so passenger often find themselves wet. Their design also leaves them vulnerable to waves. Unlike traditional vessels, whose weight resides in their v-shaped hulls under water, the pontoons raise the center of gravity of the pontoon boats well out of the water. Pontoon boats are unlike catamarans, which have plenty of weight in the hulls and are significantly wider to make up for their shallow draft. Pontoon boats are rarely much wider than other power boats, and the pontoons are so light, that they provide little stability in serious waves.
In addition, People often over-load pontoon boats without thinking about it, with two possible results. They either make them top-heavy (remember, the pontoons are light), or load them incorrectly (too much weight on one side). In either case the risk for accidents increases substantially. This is particularly true in side-long waves, which can simply turn boats over, but it is not impossible for a pontoon-boat to flip in a following sea.
All of this means that your boat is more risky for your insurance company to insure, and they know this. As a result, your pontoon boat insurance will probably be very dependent on where you plan to boat. If you use your pontoon boat on an inland lake or river, you may not see prices much different than you would see on other power boats. If you plan to use it on the Great Lakes or the Ocean, however, you may find your insurance company jacking up your price, to account for that added risk.
Pontoon boats are also flimsier than fiberglass, steel, or wooden boats. They are made with aluminum, which is strong, but is engineered to be light. It is not nearly as hard as steel, and the sharp edges on docks and old underwater pilings can tear pieces out of them. They are even at risk on rocks if they’re moving quickly or brought down by waves. You even need to be careful when grounding, as a wrongly placed rock can wreak havoc on the pontoons. Insurance companies are wary of these dangers. They are likely to raise your rates or even cancel your policy if they decide that you’ve been driving your boat too cavalierly.
Another major risk stems from one of the primary uses for pontoon boats. As floating party platforms, it is not uncommon to see folks out with a cooler of beer and an anchor, ready to enjoy the day. Obviously drinking and driving never go together, particularly on boats. You need to have a Designated Driver whenever you’re out on the water having drinks. Even for your passengers, drinking on the water heightens the risk of injury. As the boat owner, you can be held liable for anyone’s injury or death on your vessel. Obviously, the greatest fear is someone going overboard, but there are plenty of injuries when people remain squarely on deck. As we all know, water moves constantly, and your guests may not always be holding on when a rogue wave, or even a ski boat wake rocks the boat. It sounds comical, but such incidents cause thousands of fall injuries every year. The presence of alcohol increases those chances significantly.
Pontoon Boat Insurance
Our recommendation remains to have a fairly comprehensive policy for your pontoon boat insurance. This should include coverage for the boat and personal injury liability coverage. Generally speaking, the larger the engines, the more your insurance will cost. Larger engines are meant to be used, and insurance companies don’t like fast boats. You also want to be better protected, however, as larger engines add expense to your boat, and increase the risks of collision.
You must make your own decision regarding property damage liability insurance. Pontoon boats are usually maneuverable, so you may feel comfortable, assuming that you won’t ever hit anything. It only takes one time, however, and if the one time is a ski boat, that’s thousands of dollars of damage, easily. Pontoon boats are generally affordable, and you may feel safe enough to forgo insurance on your own vessel. That is your prerogative, but we strongly recommend that you at least get liability insurance.
That recommendation holds doubly true for personal injury liability insurance. Things happen, people fall. It often has nothing to do with the driver or owner, but you can nevertheless be held liable for someone else’s mistake on your vessel. If you only take your immediate family out on your boat, then that liability coverage would only cover the passengers of any other boat on the water. We all know how expensive medical bills can be. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to be wondering whether your insurance will cover it. We cannot stress strongly enough that you want personal injury liability included in your pontoon boat insurance policy.