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Watercraft Insurance: What You Should Know Before You Hit the Water

June 7, 2024

As you drive down the highway witnessing jet skis and boats being towed to their destinations, it’s a sure sign that summer has arrived. For those living in a four-season state, you’ve been longing for the days of fishing, cruising and all the fun activities that boating season brings.

However, before your initial launch, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure you and your watercraft are properly protected.

When is it Safe to De-Winterize Your Boat?

De-winterizing is your first opportunity to clean, inspect and make necessary repairs to your boat after months of being in storage. Whether you do this yourself or pay a professional, this process, if done properly, could save you large expenses down the road. It’s important to wait until the last spring freeze to prepare your watercraft for the boating season, or you risk exposing your boat engine to serious damage.

Are You Properly Insured?

Before you officially launch into the boating season, take steps to ensure your watercraft insurance is in good order. Whether you are zipping around on jet skis, piloting your yacht on the open sea or simply relaxing on your pontoon boat, having the proper watercraft insurance is vital.
With any owned watercraft comes additional liability exposure. The Coast Guard publishes an annual report which provides statistics related to boating accidents, injuries and fatalities. If you or someone operating your watercraft is involved in an accident and found negligent, there’s no way to pre-determine what the financial implications could mean to you.

Most homeowners’ insurance policies include liability coverage for specific watercraft. However, size and horsepower limitations do apply. Smaller watercraft with limited or no engine power, such as canoes, small sailboats and fishing boats may be covered. Even if your watercraft meets the criteria for liability coverage under your homeowner’s policy, the coverage provided for physical damage under a homeowners policy is typically very limited (less than $2,000).
Higher valued boats should be written on their own watercraft or yacht insurance policies. It is always recommended that you insure for high limits of liability and add your boat to your personal excess liability umbrella policy.

What Will My Agent Need to Obtain Proper Insurance?

Many factors go into writing a watercraft policy, but your insurance advisor will need some basic information to provide you with a quote:

  1. Year, make and model of the watercraft, hull ID number, length and value.
  2. Engine year, make, serial number, horsepower and maximum speed.
  3. State of registration.
  4. A specific description of the waters you will navigate.
  5. Location where the watercraft will be moored and stored (when not in use).
  6. Primary operators, their boating experience and any completed safety courses and/or licenses.
  7. How the watercraft is titled
  8. Loss history
  9. Recent boat survey for watercraft over 10 years old

For bigger yachts and coastal exposures, coverage may be more difficult to obtain. Insurance carriers will require additional information, such as hurricane plans. They may even require that you employ a full-time captain.

When reviewing your insurance policy or comparing insurance quotes from multiple insurance providers, you must understand the warranties and limitations within the policies. You may find that certain activities are limited or excluded (i.e. chartering, racing) in one policy contract, but not in another. As with any insurance policy, it’s essential to know how your contract reads.

For help understanding your insurance policy and assurance that all your coverage needs are met, consult with your trusted advisor.

For assistance with any watercraft or personal insurance-related questions, visit our Personal Risk page or contact:

Lisa Buehner
Senior Private Client Advisor, CPRIA, CISR Elite



This article originally published in May 2022.

Note: This communication is for informational purposes only. Although every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, Oswald makes no guarantees of any kind and cannot be held liable for any outdated or incorrect information. View our communications policy.