When a Thief Targets Your Boat

Published July 2014

Losing your boat to theft can be a shocking experience, but if you have boat insurance, the loss won't be nearly as painful.

On average, about 6,000 boats are stolen in the United States annually, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The NICB's 2013 boat theft report explains that the boats most likely to be taken are personal watercraft (often called by the brand name 'jet skis'), with under-20-foot runabouts close behind.

A motor boat enjoying the water.

Here are some things every boat owner should consider to help keep their watercraft safe.

Does it Matter Where Your Boat is When it is Stolen?

Boats that are taken from your dock, the marina or from a mooring are often covered by property coverage (sometimes called comprehensive coverage) as part of your boat insurance policy. If your boat is stored inside or outside in a marine storage building, the primary insurance may be held by the owner of the storage facility, but your policy may provide secondary insurance.

The NICB says boats are most frequently stolen when they are on a trailer. If your boat is stolen while you are moving it from one place to the other, it may be covered by your boat insurance if you purchased the appropriate property coverage. Consult your policy for specific details.

You might be tempted to cancel your boat insurance when your boat isn't in use, but this could leave you uninsured if your boat is stolen or incurs covered damage during those months.

If Your Boat is Broken Into, What's Covered?

Comprehensive boat insurance generally covers the boat itself and equipment that is permanently attached, such as the anchor, fuel tanks, motors, masts, spars, horns, lights, depth finders, mooring cleats and lines.

Unless other items are specifically scheduled or added by endorsement, standard policies often don't include such accessories as fish finders and navigation devices, televisions and satellite receivers, sound systems, computers, scuba and diving gear, and water skiing and fishing equipment. These standard policies do typically cover 10 percent of the total limit in the base policy and you can purchase additional equipment coverage. Non-boating-related belongings like prescription glasses, clothing and jewelry are not usually covered by standard policies, either.

Some policies cover dinghies and tenders and their attached motors, especially on large yachts, but policies covering smaller boats often don't.

Also, note that many insurers cover trailers separately—for a small additional premium. If your trailer is stolen while you're pulling your boat, it will likely be covered by your auto insurance policy, but if it is taken from a storage facility or even from your driveway, it may not be covered unless it is separately insured.

Adequate personal property insurance can be very important for a boat owner, so find out exactly what is covered by your policy and ask your agent what you can do to protect important belongings that aren't covered by the basic policy

How Much Will an Insurer Reimburse If Your Boat Is Stolen?

When it comes to the situation of your boat being stolen, boat policies are generally written as either "actual cash value" or "agreed value."

Actual cash value. If your boat is declared a total loss, the actual cash value is typically the fair market value of the boat at the time of loss, minus depreciation.

Agreed value. The amount paid is the specific amount you and your insurer previously agreed upon for this scenario.

Replacement cost. In the event of a total loss, your boat will be replaced with a new one of the same make, class, size and type, and outfitted with comparable equipment. If you choose not to replace the boat or if it's more than 5 years old, your insurance will typically pay you the amount of the original purchase price.

Which policy style is right for you depends largely upon how well you can withstand loss. Generally, purchasers of new boats choose policies based on agreed value, while owners of older boats are willing to take the extra risk entailed by purchasing actual cash value policies.

Related Resources:

Coverage subject to terms, conditions, and availability. Policy issuance is subject to qualifications. Allstate Insurance Company, Allstate Indemnity Company, Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL. © 2014 Allstate Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL.

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