5 - 2012

Keep Your Finances from Sinking; Get Boat Insurance

Many folks say the only thing better than having a boat is having a friend with a boat. That’s not true, even though boat ownership does entail a lot of responsibility, including maintaining it, docking it and, yes, insuring it.

Insuring it? Yes. Even though there are no state or federal requirements for it, here are some reasons why insurance is very important for the boat owner. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), there were 12.2 million registered recreational boats in the U.S. in 2011. More than 4,588 accidents were reported to the Coast Guard, with 758 deaths and 3,081 injuries and $52 million in property damage. Nearly half of those reported accidents involved open motorboats.

The bottom line is that a boating accident could put you on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical treatment and property repairs. You don’t want to be left on your own if this happens.

You also want coverage if your boat sinks or is vandalized. Most policies also cover damage to the hull, sails, machinery, furnishings and equipment on your boat, in addition to damage to your boat trailer.

All this means that when you shop for your boat, you should also shop for boat insurance quotes. All policies aren’t created equal, of course. Following are some coverage options you should consider when shopping your quotes:

Boat liability

This is similar to your auto liability insurance. It provides coverage in the event you cause an accident with your watercraft. Among the things it gives you protection for are injuries, property damage and legal defense.

Boat medical payments

This helps you pay for treatment of injuries for people on the boat, including yourself, relatives and other guests.

Other coverages

Full coverage details vary by provider, but you can also get coverage for your personal property, fishing equipment and injuries caused by an uninsured boater. There also can be options for on-water towing and total loss replacement.

Here are some ways to save on boat insurance

All that coverage comes at a price, of course. But there also are ways you can reduce your premiums. Be sure to ask your agent about the following:

  • Tailor the policy to the way you use your boat. If you only travel on inland lakes and rivers, you won’t pay as much as you would if you cruise coastal waters.
  • Take a boating safety course. The course must be accredited, however. Check to make sure your carrier is comfortable with the one you choose. Coast Guard training is a good option.
  • Maintain a good driving record. Yes, many carriers will look at your record on the road to get an idea of how much risk you’ll present on the water.
  • Adjust the liability limit and deductible. Boat liability policy limits generally start at $15,000 but can be extended up to $300,000. The higher the coverage limit, the higher the premium. If you’re confident there won’t be a problem, you can choose a lower coverage limit. Typical deductibles for policies are $250 for property damage, $500 for theft and $1,000 for medical payments. These can be adjusted as well. Higher deductibles mean lower premiums. However, remember that you’ll have to come up with that deductible amount before you get any help from your policy, so choose wisely.
  • The right equipment. Some companies offer discounts if you have approved fire extinguishers and radios.
  • Bundling. If you have more than one policy with a provider, such as home or car insurance, you could receive a price break.

Owning and insuring a boat can be a costly proposition. But it could be even costlier if you don’t insure it. With some smart choices, you can minimize your costs and still enjoy protection from the worst problems. Meanwhile, your new boat could help you attract some new friends.

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