Every summer, boat owners begin to weigh the risk versus reward of insuring their boats for the season. When I think about “do I need boat insurance?” some try to weigh the risks of an incident against the cost of protection, while others simply accept that coverage provides the peace of mind they need to enjoy their time on the water.
If you’re trying to decide whether to invest in boat insurance, start by comparing this coverage to another common type of summer coverage: sun protection.
While some people feel that their chances of getting sunburned aren’t enough to justify the use of sunscreen when outdoors, others have done their research and understand risks to spend time in the sun unprotected.
The same applies to boat insurance. Not every person who invests in this coverage will need it — much like wearing sunscreen can̵7;t 100% guarantee someone won’t get skin cancer — but the odds are much better with coverage if something does happen.
In this article, we will explore the potential risks associated with boating, review the general benefits of consistent coverage, and reveal some of the factors that contribute to the price of boat insurance.
The risks of boating
Although we don’t like to think about accidents that occur during such a peaceful leisure activity, roughly 5,000 boating accidents occurs annually in America.
The most common of these boating accidents were collisions with other recreational vessels, flooding, collision with a fixed object, grounding and falling overboard.
Although accidents on the water can come in different forms, the results are often the same. Boating accidents in 2022 resulted in more than $62.5 million in property damage and a large number of injuries and deaths among passengers, swimmers and other boaters alike.
Most fatalities in boating accidents occur when an individual is thrown from the boat into the water and comes into contact with the boat’s propeller. In many cases, the individual is not wearing a life jacket, which is more likely to result in the individual drowning when injured.
Did you know: Usage statistics show that only 11.6% of adults and 65.8% of children wear life jackets when boating.
Always wear a life jacket when operating a boat to reduce the risk of injury and death from an unexpected accident.
What causes most boating accidents?
Many factors can contribute to boating-related deaths, including operator’s inexperience, inattentionand excessive speeding. The absolute most common factor, however, is alcohol.
Alcohol is the leading cause of at least 19% of boating-related deaths by 2022. Just like driving, alcohol can impair a boater’s ability to operate their boat safely. It impairs judgment and affects the driver’s vision, balance and coordination.
However, alcohol consumed while on the water poses an additional risk not experienced by those who only drink on land. The consistent exposure to stressors on the water, such as noise, vibration, sun, glare, wind and water movement produces fatigue known as “boat hypnosis”. According to Boat USA“boats’ hypnosis” can “slow down reaction time almost as much as if you were legally drunk.”
Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol in addition to this natural response to being on the water amplifies the effects of this sensation. As a result, each drink multiplies your accident risk.
The extra risk with new boat owners
The Covid-19 pandemic inspired a renewed interest in the outdoors, leading to a 40% increase in new boat sales in 2020. Today, million Americans are boat owners, with first-time boat buyers representing over a third of that population.
As a result of the large number of new drivers, it has become a consistent upwards in the event of accidents, injuries and deaths on the water. During the covid pandemic alone, propeller-related accidents increased by 44%, and boating fatalities increased by 25%.
What does Boatowner’s Insurance cover?
Now that you understand the potential risks of boating, it’s time to explore the protection that comes with boat insurance.
Although coverage will vary depending on the specific policy, coverage usually provides protection for your Boat, engine-, trailerand Accessories. In addition, boat insurance will also provide liability protection for covered losses to others arising from the operation of your boat.
Typical coverage includes losses caused by:
- Fire, lightning and wind storms
- Explosions, sinking or stranding
- Theft and vandalism
- Collision and damage during loading, unloading or launching
- Motorway collision or disturbance
Liability protection for boat owners
“You have a variety of exposures when you own a boat, including liability,” says Judy Dammeyer, senior product development specialist for personal lines at Central insurance with four decades of personal boating experience. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in a policy that provides liability coverage.
Liability coverage protects you from legal liability resulting from covered claims for bodily injury or property damage that occur while driving your vehicle. Medical compensation applies to passengers on board your boat, including skiers, who suffer a bodily injury as a result of a covered loss.
Factors that affect the prices of boat insurance
Determining the appropriate boat coverage is based on several factors. Some of the most common include:
- Boat Specifications: This includes the value, size, speed and condition of the vessel itself, as well as the specific type of watercraft and engine it uses.
- A clean driving record: Depending on your state, an insurance company may check your DMV record when determining your premium. They may consider prior DUI (or BWI), reckless driving, etc.
- Previous losses: If you have filed claims for boating accidents (or other types of injuries) in the past, it may be considered.
- Additional coverage: If you decide to insure personal belongings such as water skis, tubes, life jackets, etc., this can also be taken into account.
How to reduce boating risks
“It’s important to remember that there are rules for boating,” says Dammeyer. “People often think of water as a big, open road where they can do whatever they want, but that’s not the case.”
She recommends some simple rules to stay safe while on the water.
- Always wear a personal flotation device when boating and insist that your passengers do the same.
- Never drink alcohol while operating a boat.
- Sign up for one boat safety course.
- Make sure your boat has working horns and lights.
- Be careful when you’re out on the water.
“You can’t control everything and everyone when you’re around other boaters, so it’s important to know what to look out for and embrace safe personal boating practices at all times,” she says.
Do I need boat insurance?
The short answer is: yes.
“There are often common misconceptions that a boat is covered under a homeowner’s policy or that you only need coverage during the boating season. Both of these assumptions are incorrect,” says Dammeyer, clarifying that boat insurance is an additional, year-round policy that all boaters must consider .
Additionally, Dammeyer explains that certain circumstances may require this form of coverage. “If you have a loan on your boat, the bank will require coverage just like they would with a car,” she says. “Or if you hit another boat or cause an injury while boating, you’ll get medical payments just like you would with a car accident.” Boat owners may also be required to have boat insurance when docking at a marina facility.
Remember: Boat insurance requirements vary by state and circumstances. If you own or operate a boat, it is important to understand the liability insurance laws specific to your state.
Boatowner’s insurance with central
Central’s boat owner and boat dock coverage policies are uniquely designed to ensure our customers’ peace of mind in all situations. Whether you experience damage to your vessel or dock, or are found liable for an injury that occurs while on the water, you can rest easy knowing that Central is there to protect you.
Not already covered by Central? Find one independent central agent today to get a quote.
Please note: The above information is of a general nature and your policy and coverages provided may differ from the examples. Please read your entire policy to determine your actual coverage.