Updated: October 2016
Losing your boat to theft can be a shocking experience, but if you have boat insurance, the loss may be much less painful.
Thousands of boats are stolen in the United States annually, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The NICB's 2015 boat theft report says that personal watercraft (such as those often called by the brand name "Jet Ski") were the most commonly stolen that year. Small motorboats, called runabouts, were the second most-targeted watercraft.
And while most thefts occur during the spring and summer months, boats are stolen every month of the year, the NICB says. If you're a boat owner, here are some ways insurance may help protect your investment if your boat is stolen.
Boats that are taken from your dock, the marina or from a mooring are often covered by property 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.
Boats may also be stolen while they are on trailers. 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 or contact your agent 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.
A boat insurance policy's property coverage generally helps cover 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 boat insurance policies typically provide limited coverage for accessories such as 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 equipment.
Non-boating-related belongings that you bring on board, like prescription glasses, clothing and jewelry, are not usually covered by standard boat insurance policies.
Some policies cover dinghies and tenders and their attached motors, especially on large yachts, but policies covering smaller boats often don't.
Adequate insurance can be very 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.
The amount you'd receive from your policy in the event that your boat is stolen typically depends on the type and amount of coverage you purchased. Boat policies typically offer theft coverage for "actual cash value" or "agreed amount value," according to the Insurance Information Institute. Here's a breakdown of those coverage options:
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 amount value. The amount paid is the specific amount you and your insurer previously agreed upon for this scenario.
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.