Types of Power Boat Insurance
The most popular boat type by far in the United States is the Power Boat. Power boats come in innumerable shapes and sizes, however, so the power boat insurance market is equally diverse. Certain boat owners can get away with minimal insurance to cover liability, while others will require comprehensive, detailed (and sadly, expensive) insurance to cover them against all contingencies.
Many of us have spent a great deal of time on these, and they can be a lot of fun, whether they’re aluminum, fiberglass, or wood. They can be quite cheap (especially used), they draw very little water, are relatively durable and highly mobile. As a result, these boats are a huge portion of the boating market. We will never recommend that someone leave their boats uninsured. However, we can understand the decision for these cheaper models, only if the complete loss of the boat’s value is something you can sustain financially. On the other hand, because these boats can be unstable, we strongly recommend other components (like personal injury liability) regularly found within coverage.
When we think about relaxing on the lake, pontoon boats seem like the perfect choice. Particularly stable in flat water and capable of holding a relatively large number of people and gear, Pontoon boats have a lot to offer.
For starters, ten people would feel a little crowded in your dinghy.
Pontoon boats face two unique dangers that concern insurers. The first is that puncturing a pontoon is upsettingly easy. Most pontoons are made out of 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. Secondly, these boats face a significantly higher risk of tipping than most. 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 risk is heightened in waves, particularly when the driver has limited experience with them.
Our recommendation remains to have a fairly comprehensive policy for all Pontoon boats. This should include coverage for the boat itself and personal injury liability coverage. This is because people on pontoon boats, due to the flat floor, often forget that they are on a boat. Especially if guests aboard have been drinking, they 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.
These can be some of the priciest boats on the water, especially new. If you have managed to pay yours off (banks often require insurance if the boat is being used as collateral), it can be difficult to decide what level of coverage to get. Many policies are designed to cover the boat’s current value, as opposed to its replacement value (for more on this, please click here to read about your policy’s fine print). As a result, many ski-boat owners are actually under-insured if they need to replace their boat after a crash or fouling.
Your insurance company would really rather you just leave it at the dock.
Only you can decide what level of boat coverage is sufficient, but it is certainly something to consider before signing on to a policy. As to personal injury liability on ski boats, really take this seriously. If you are fortunate enough to have not seen a dislocation, serious laceration, hematoma or concussion, then count yourself lucky. For those of us who have, the risk to those being towed behind our boats at high speeds could not be clearer. To increase this risk even more, the majority of those participating are college age or younger, with all the concern, moderation, and risk-consciousness that we associate with teenagers.
At a certain age, your body just begins to say: “No”.
If you plan to tow water skiers, wake boarders, tubers or any other contraption, you should assume significant liability coverage on your boat insurance when you are calculating what boat ownership will cost you.
While very niche, we do want to highlight some particular concerns for boats that will be used for hunting. Unfortunately, accidental shootings while hunting happen every year, especially hunting waterfowl. Even a minor birdshot injury can be significant and costly. Although personal injury liability coverage can be expensive, you’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
Beyond specific hunting-related injuries, hunters will stay on the water much later in the season than other recreational boaters. As a result, weather, especially cold weather up north is an additional hazard to those aboard. With fewer other boats on the water, the likelihood of immediate rescue by a fellow recreational boater is less likely. As a general rule, boaters planning to hunt on the water should make sure they have high levels of liability coverage. It is VERY IMPORTANT to remember that NOT all policies provide coverage for injuries related to hunting accidents. It is important to be very specific with your insurance company before you agree to terms. They should know that you intend to use the boat to hunt, or your policy may well be void. You should know exactly what circumstances you are protected under, and make sure you have it in writing.
If you live aboard your boat, or are planning to, you probably already know that you should have insurance. Many marinas and clubs absolutely require it for live-aboards. Make sure your policy explicitly provides live-aboard coverage, as not all policies do. Additionally, if you live in a hurricane-prone region, make sure to clarify three things:
- What to do if a storm is coming
- How you should store your boat during hurricane season, and
- Whether you can live aboard during the season and still be covered.
One of our major concerns is that policy-holders consider the potential policy implications of moving their houseboat. Some policies do not provide coverage for the boat when it is in transit on the water, or only provide limited transit coverage. Please make sure to review what your policy states before moving your home. Because houseboats are often mostly stationary, a lot of accidents happen when owners first try to move them. They can be difficult to control, and their mechanical and steering systems often fall into disrepair.
This isn’t exactly an ocean-going vessel to start with.