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How to Choose the Right Boat Insurance Coverage

By The Ahoy! Crew
Published April 10, 2022|Last updated May 24, 2022

Under ideal circumstances, recreational boating provides an escape from all of the daily distractions of a landlocked life. Out on the water, you can relax and soak in the horizon with friends and family – or all by your lonesome if that’s your preference. You can infuse your day with excitement behind the steering wheel of a powerful boat or cutting through waves on your sailboat. Boating offers novelty, whether you’re spotting dolphins at the helm of a sailboat, wakeboarding behind a motorboat, or keeping an eye out for rogue crab pots in the distance. It’s this unique combination of serenity and surprise that makes being on the water so magical for humans, according to Blue Mind author Wallace J. Nichols.

However, some surprises can turn a serene day into a nightmare, like the crab pot that escaped your attention and wound itself around your propeller. Boaters know better than most that the environment is always changing, and boaters, more than most, do what they can to prepare for the unexpected. We check our lines diligently. We conscientiously flush our outboard motors to prevent corrosion. We keep our PFDs and our fire extinguishers in good working condition. And we protect our investment with boat insurance coverage.

Do you need boat insurance?

Only a handful of states – Arkansas, Hawaii, and Utah – require boaters to purchase boat insurance for their watercraft. However, many marinas require proof of insurance coverage for boaters who intend to use their slips or moorings. You’ll also need proof of boat insurance for your bank if you intend to finance the purchase of your boat.

When is a boat insurance policy useful?

While it’s true that you can opt out of boat insurance in most states, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Your boat is an investment, and it’s an investment that takes a beating over time. It’s subject to hurricanes, ice storms, fires, and all of the other hazards that come with boat life, even if you’re mostly in a slip. When you’re out in open waters, the risks increase exponentially, including injury to other people and boats.

Boat Insurance Tips: The American Boating Association found that, in 2020, the number of boating accidents increased 26.3%, the number of deaths increased 25.1%, and the number of injuries increased 24.7% from the year before. Boat sales went up during the same period, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, likely due to people seeking to escape the confines of the pandemic. In other words, there are more inexperienced boaters on the water now than ever before, which statistically increases the likelihood of collision risks even among seasoned boaters.

How much does boat insurance cost?

Boat insurance experts recommend that a boat owner obtain at least liability insurance. This minimal investment in a boat policy will specifically cover damage to someone else’s property if you’re at fault in a boat accident and medical payments for injuries that occur on your boat. Naturally, when boaters extend the coverage of their boat insurance policies to include additional coverage, such as a boat policy that covers the market value of the boat.  In the event of a consequential damage, they have peace of mind that in the event of an accident, the insurance is there to ensure they can quickly get back onto the water.  What does a traditional boat insurance policy cover?

Until recently, boaters didn’t have many options when it came to boat insurance. When boat insurance is handled by insurance companies whose primary market focus is vehicles and houses, you get boat insurance that looks exactly like car insurance, a homeowner’s policy, or liability insurance. For example, a standard boat insurance policy will provide:

  • Bodily injury coverage to pay for medical and legal bills associated with injuries received on your boat,
  • Property damage to protect you if you cause a boating accident that causes damage to another boat or other property,
  • Collision to cover the cost of repairing or replacing your boat after an accident,
  • Comprehensive coverage to pay for repair costs if something other than a collision takes a toll on your boat,
  • Uninsured and underinsured boaters in case you or your boat are injured by someone who hasn’t bothered to purchase insurance, and
  • Medical payments coverage for medical expenses no matter who is at fault.

Look familiar? Basic boat insurance coverage reads like a rehash of auto insurance, but boaters know that the risks associated with a boat on the open water are different than those associated with a car on the open road.

Some people rely on their homeowner’s insurance policy to cover their boat, but that coverage tends to be very limited. Most policies will only cover:

  • Personal watercraft whose inboard motors are less than 50 horsepower,
  • Personal watercraft with outboard motors less than 25 horsepower, and
  • Sailboats smaller than 26 feet.

Boat Insurance Tips: Many homeowner’s policies will only reimburse you up to $1,000 for boat damage caused by fire, wind, and other common hazards, and there are frequently provisions that add further restrictions to claims filing. Because you’d have to first pay your deductible, and most homeowners policies have deductibles greater than $1,000, filing a claim rarely makes sense and tends to be extremely frustrating.

What are some common complaints about traditional boat insurance?

If you said filing a claim is the most common complaint among boat owners with traditional policies, you’d be right. Traditional insurance agents treat boat insurance as an afterthought or an add on, but boaters don’t see their boats that way. Your boat is your home away from home – but better. It gives you all the freedom of a car – and more. When something goes wrong with your boat, you want to make it right as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, claims on boats are not big business for traditional insurance companies. At best, they treat personal watercraft claims as any other claim. More frequently, they underserve boat claims. In the end, filing a claim for boat damage often adds disappointment to an already unfortunate experience.

Unreliable coverage is another problem that appears frequently in boat insurance complaints. Boat insurance costs, policies, and provisions frequently change without notice, a complaint we have heard consistently from fellow recreational boaters, fishing enthusiasts, and sailors.

When should boaters choose marine insurance specialists?

If boating is a significant part of your lifestyle, you’ll be happier with boat insurance specialists who understand the true value of your boat. If you spend lots of time on the water, boat insurance specialists will provide more reliable and useful risk management. If you’re tired of dealing with call center customer service agents who don’t know much about insurance or boats, you’ll definitely benefit from specialists. If you need boat insurance to cover more than wear and tear in dry stack, you should look beyond your homeowner’s policy at marine insurance policies that cover damage incurred during shakedown cruises and longer passages.

If your boat is currently covered by a boat insurance specialist, but you’re comparing your options, we’ve got a few questions for you to consider.

Does your current provider understand your boating lifestyle?

Ahoy! boat insurance is customized by boaters for boaters. We are naval officer veterans and avid boaters who also happen to be insurance executives and technology entrepreneurs. We founded Ahoy! with the goal of combining our passion for boating with our professional expertise in order to make recreational boating insurance modern and user-friendly. We aspire to provide a comprehensive suite of boat and yacht insurance, including the old standards such as uninsured boater coverage, medical payments coverage, liability insurance, personal property coverage. At Ahoy! , we have the knowledge and capability to customize your boat insurance policy with additional coverage unique to boaters, such as:

  • hull coverage,
  • fuel spill coverage,
  • consequential damage coverage,
  • replacement cost coverage,
  • on-water towing,
  • boat trailer coverage,
  • fishing equipment,
  • roadside assistance,
  • boat rental reimbursement,
  • personal effects, and
  • cell phone coverage if it falls overboard!

Does your current boat insurance company help prevent risks?

Our personalized policies are the result of our knowledge of the insurance industry and our understanding of the boating community. Our technology-based insurance app is the product of our tech savvy entrepreneurship. It provides innovative tools that help boaters proactively avoid risks, including:

  • self-inspection technology to ensure we get to know your boat like it’s our own;
  • patented software that alerts you to grounding hazards based on your location, speed, and course;
  • automatic trip detection to accurately identify when your boat starts sailing and gets back ashore, so if your new phone falls in the water, we can reimburse you; and
  • stolen boat retrieval assistance to support authorities in finding your boat should it be stolen.

Don’t worry. Our system doesn’t hold on to specific location data while you’re on land, so it doesn’t use much battery power.

Does your boat insurance company streamline your claims process?

We’ve also taken into consideration that most common complaint: the claims process. We use technology and best practices to throw you a lifeline the minute you need it. Our claims process is fast, clear, and facilitated by our “First Mate” concierge service, so you get conscientious claims processing support by boat experts when you need it. We want to get you back on the water before you’ve even had a chance to miss it.

Does technology matter when you’re choosing boat insurance?

Boats were among the first complicated technologies created by humans. It took a lot of imagination to look out at the vast horizon of the sea and say, “Can we get to the other side of that?”

The people who designed those early boats were pioneers constantly pushing into new territories, not just geographically, but technologically. Boaters expanded human knowledge in general through constant innovation. We owe our sense of direction to their compasses. We owe our sense of time to their chronometers. Technology and boating are bound up together, and boaters tend to take after their forward-thinking forebears.

We’d venture to guess you’re a pioneer, too. It’s a common thread we see in the boating community. We’re adventurers. We’re explorers. We’re innovators. So, yes, technology matters because technology brings the horizon closer through smart use of data. It ensures serenity on the water even when storms roll in, and that’s what boaters are looking for when they’re deciding on the right boat insurance provider.

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boat insurancebuying guide

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