What does boat insurance cover?

Last updated: January 2022

Boat insurance may help cover a motorboat, sailboat or personal watercraft if it's stolen, in an accident, or damaged by a covered peril like fire or lightning. Boat insurance may also help protect you if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property with your boat. Your policy may cover parts of the boat including:

  • Machinery
  • Permanently attached equipment
  • Fittings
  • Furnishings
  • Hull

A standard boat insurance policy is made up of various coverages. Here is a closer look into how they help protect you.

Boat insurance property coverage
Property coverage may help pay to repair your boat after it's damaged in an accident. It may also help pay to replace your boat if it's stolen. This coverage usually helps protect a boat whether it's on water or land.

Liability coverage
If you're found at fault for damaging another person's property with your boat, liability coverage may help cover the expenses. These may include the cost to repair or replace the other person's property, or their medical bills if they're injured.

Medical payments coverage
Suppose you or your passengers are injured after an accident on your boat. Medical payments coverage may help pay for resulting expenses such as hospital bills, medications or X-rays.

Uninsured watercraft coverage
What would happen if an uninsured boater collides with your watercraft, and you or one of your passengers are injured? The uninsured watercraft coverage on your boat insurance policy may help pay for the resulting expenses.

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Does boat insurance cover storm damage?

Boat insurance may help cover storm damage in a number of situations. The property coverage in a boat insurance policy may help pay for repairs if your boat is damaged in a storm. You may be covered against damage caused by:

  • Lightning
  • Hail
  • Windstorm
  • Flood

In some cases, boat insurance may also help cover equipment you keep on your boat, such as fishing gear, the Insurance Information Institute (III) says. Read your policy or check with your insurance company to learn what kind of storm damage it may cover and whether your policy helps cover equipment or belongings on your boat.

Does boat insurance cover hurricane damage?
Boat insurance may help pay to repair or replace a boat if it's damaged in a hurricane. You'll typically find that a boat insurance policy provides coverage for wind damage as well as flood damage.

Read your policy or check with your agent to learn of any scenarios in which your boat or equipment may not be covered.

Limits and deductibles for storm damage
Keep in mind that you will likely need to pay your deductible before boat insurance helps pay to repair covered storm damage. And, as with any insurance coverage, a limit will apply. The limit stated in your boat insurance policy is the maximum amount your insurer will reimburse you for a covered claim.

Does insurance cover a stolen boat?

Boat insurance typically helps cover theft. If you're a boat owner, here are some factors to consider about insurance if your boat is stolen.

Does it matter where your boat is when it was stolen?
Boats that are taken from your dock, the marina or from a mooring, are typically covered by the property coverage portion of your boat insurance policy. Boats stored inside a marine storage building may be covered by the building owner. But your policy could provide secondary protection.

If your boat is stolen while you're transporting it on a trailer, it may be covered by your boat insurance. Your boat trailer may also be covered if you purchased the appropriate coverage on your boat policy. Read your policy or contact your insurer 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 is damaged while it's docked or in storage.

If your boat is broken into, what's covered?
A boat insurance policy's property coverage generally helps cover the boat itself and equipment that's permanently attached. These include anchors, fuel tanks, motors, masts, spars, horns, lights, depth finders, mooring cleats and lines.

Unless other items are specifically added by an endorsement, standard boat insurance policies typically provide limited coverage for belongings like fish finders and navigation devices, televisions and satellite receivers, sound systems, computers, scuba and diving gear, and water skiing and fishing equipment. You may be able to purchase additional coverage for your boating equipment or personal effects.

Non-boating-related belongings that you bring on board, like prescription glasses, cameras, money, clothing and jewelry, are not usually covered by standard boat insurance policies. But they may be covered by renters or homeowners insurance.

Some boat insurance policies also cover dinghies and tenders and their attached motors. Ask your insurer whether your policy covers that type of equipment.

Adequate insurance can be important for a boat owner, so it's a good idea to find out exactly what is covered by your policy and ask your agent what you can do to help protect important belongings that aren't covered by your standard policy.

How much will an insurer reimburse if your boat is stolen?
The amount you'd receive from your policy if your boat is stolen depends on the type and amount of coverage you purchased. Boat policies typically offer coverage on an "actual cash value" or "agreed amount value" basis, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Here's how they work:

  • Actual cash value
    This is typically the depreciated value of the boat at the time it is stolen. If you wanted to replace the stolen boat with a more expensive model, you'd likely need to pay the difference out of your own pocket.
  • Agreed amount value
    This helps pay to replace your boat replacement based on its value that you and your insurer agree upon when you purchase coverage. This type of coverage is generally available for newer boats. While you may pay more for this coverage, your insurer will not factor depreciation into the amount you're reimbursed if your boat is stolen.

    When choosing your coverage, it's a good idea to consider how much you would be willing (or able) to pay out of pocket to replace your boat if it's stolen.

    Whether your boat is on the water, hitched to a trailer or in storage, you probably don't expect it to be stolen. But boat insurance can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have some safeguards in place, just in case a thief targets your boat.

Do I need boat insurance for the winter?

Even if your boat is in storage for the winter, you may want to hold onto your boat insurance. It still faces many of the same risks as when it's in use, including fires, theft and vandalism.

If you were to terminate your boat policy for the winter, and a theft—or some other calamity—were to happen, you could be responsible for paying for any damage yourself.

Does homeowners insurance cover a boat in storage?
Homeowners insurance may not cover a boat in storage, which is why boat insurance is important. Even if your homeowners policy does extend coverage to boats, the Insurance Information Institute (III) says it would likely only cover a small boat, like a canoe, small sail boat or another similarly low-powered watercraft. And the coverage would probably be minimal, the III adds.

If you plan to rent storage space for your boat, you may also want to check with the company to learn about any security measures it has in place and whether the facility provides any insurance for your watercraft.

Am I required to have winter coverage?
There may be some scenarios where you're required to have an active insurance policy during the winter months. For instance, if you have financed your boat, your lender may require that you hold year-round coverage for it.

Are there ways to cut off-season costs?
You may be able to adjust the cost of coverage in the off season. For example, reducing your limits or dropping some of your coverages may help lower your premiums. Check with your insurer to see what's available, and what makes sense for your situation.

Whatever you decide, though, you'll likely want to revert to your original policy come spring. That way, when you pull your boat out of storage, you can begin the season with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have protection for your boat, just in case.

Other types of protection

The coverage needs of boat owners will vary from person to person. It's a good idea to talk with an insurance company about coverage for the following components:

  • Boat trailers
  • Boat accessories (radar or geo-location instruments)
  • Special equipment (fishing gear, for instance)
  • Towing coverage

You may also want to look into whether your policy includes coverage to help pay for the cost of fuel spills or wreckage removal if there's an accident on the water.

How much does boat insurance cost?

The cost of boat insurance depends on several factors, including:

  • The coverages, coverage limits and deductibles you select on your policy
  • The type and size of the boat you're insuring
  • Where you will use and store the boat

You may qualify for boat insurance discounts for taking a boating safety class or having multiple policies with the same insurer. Check with your insurance agent to see if any other discounts are available to you.

Limits and deductibles

As with any insurance, coverage limits will apply. Limits are the maximum amount your policy will pay out after a covered loss. Read your policy to learn what your coverage limits are and talk with your local agent to learn whether you can adjust those limits based on your needs.

If you do need to file a claim, you'll likely need to pay your deductible, which is your share of a covered claim.

With a basic knowledge of how boat insurance may help protect you, your boat and others, you can set sail with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have certain safeguards in place.