The descendants of the ships that once propelled global trade, modern day sailboats are faster, safer and more efficient than ever before. A few decades ago you might have had to spend $500,000 to buy a boat that could cross the ocean safely. Now you can do it for less than $100k. While these boats vary a lot, they largely fall into three categories (at least for those who are not having their assistants read this page):
- Large Sailboats (or Yachts)
- Catamarans or Multihulls.
For most sailors, this was our introduction to the water. If you have been a dinghy sailor, or have been around it, you probably know some or all of these, but just to name a few:
- Pram (optimist for younger readers)
These simple boats are easy and (compared to their larger brethren) cheap introductions to the water. If you’re looking at small sailboat insurance, you first need to determine who is most likely to use the vessel. From there you can get a good idea of what kinds of risks they may face, and what kind of environments they will be using it in. For those inclined to race more competitively, you should also be aware what it will cost to keep the boat at racing quality. As most dinghy sailors are teenagers or younger, cuts, bruises, and especially concussions are dangers that should not be ignored.
Sure, it’s safer than it looks, but still…
One of your authors sustained a substantial laceration on his wrist when he paddled his dinghy into the engine of a docked boat (by accident, presumably). That said, many boat owners go without insurance on these small vessels, which, while risky, is likely less so than on larger, powered boats.
Big Boats (Yachts):
If you picture a modern sailboat, this is what you typically imagine: 25-60 feet, one or two masts, and, as any owner will tell you, a bottomless pit for money.
The wind is the only part that’s free.
These beautiful machines have even more moving parts and gizmos to break than traditional power boats. This usually means that owners have even less time to think about sailboat insurance. That said, because these boats are so complicated, it is even more important to make sure you are appropriately insured. Additionally, the live-aboard capabilities found in even relatively small sailboats mean that you have the ability to push your geographical limitations even further. Because so many yacht owners use their boats to travel, insurance companies can overcharge you. So make sure you discuss your intended usage with your insurance company. If you plan to stay local, they may be able to reduce your rates. If you intend to travel, however, ensure that your protection extends to your destination.
While boats of all kinds are lasting for longer and longer, sailboats seem to be experiencing this trend to an even greater degree. There is a lively used-sailboat market, so many buyers wind up looking at boats that are 20-30 years old. As owners develop a passion for their babies that extend far beyond the realm of logic (financial or otherwise), old sailboats are a staple of nearly every “For Sale” listing. While they may seem like great “deals” with impressive “size for the money”, remember that:
- Old boats can have extraordinary maintenance bills, and
- Larger boats mean more expensive slips
But you are here to read about insurance and old boats are frequently more difficult to insure. In rare instances some companies won’t even cover a boat, due purely to its age.
If Blackbeard would feel at home in it, your insurance company might not cover it.
As a buyer you have to consider what that will mean for the process of buying, selling or getting a loan for the boat. Sailboat insurance companies usually require a survey for boats older than 20 years or so. They do this for two reasons:
- They have a more accurate third party perspective on the true value of the boat. Most companies expect boat owners to fudge their estimates higher.
- These surveys frequently find structural problems that can indicate areas of heightened risk. If that happens, do not be surprised if the insurance company requires you to fix it. The company will usually use a contingency clause to keep the policy inactive until the problem is addressed.
While some complain about the cost of such surveys, they can be an incredible bargain. In many cases they expose expensive needed repairs that new buyers wouldn’t otherwise recognize. We highly recommend that you get one before buying an older sailboat.