Boat insurance helps cover repairs due to accidents, theft, fire, storms and other perils. It also offers liability protection in the event your watercraft injures someone or damages someone else’s property.
Even if you don’t use your boat regularly, insurance can provide peace of mind in case of unexpected events. To help you find the policy that best fits your lifestyle, check out Money’s guide to the best boat insurance companies for 2021.
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- Wreckage removal and fuel spill cleanup included
- Accident forgiveness and disappearing deductibles
- Coverage limitations for expensive watercraft, and for big boats in hurricane-prone states
Not every insurer includes in its standard coverage the removal of your boat if it is wrecked and damage from fuel spills. Progressive is among those that do, but there are limitations. Wreckage removal is covered only when it is deemed to be legally necessary, and fuel spills only to the limits of your liability coverage.
Progressive boat insurance policies include accident forgiveness which keeps rates from increasing if your claims are for $500 or less. Boaters who’ve been Progressive customers for at least four years and remained accident-free for three are exempt from rate increase for any boat accident, regardless of the claim amount.
For an additional cost, you may include a “disappearing deductibles” policy that deducts 25% from your deductible amount for every claim-free period on your boat policy — until it reaches zero.
But Progressive has more limitations than some insurers on the vessels they will insure, and where they will do so. Personal watercraft (such as jet skis) worth more than $27,000 are not covered. In hurricane-prone states, insurance is not available for boats over 35 feet in length or that are worth more than $175,000.
Insurance companies generally offer policy discounts if you’re insuring multiple boats, have taken safety courses or combine your boat insurance policy with homeowners or auto insurance. Progressive, on the other hand, offers those and more, for a total of more than 10 discount options which might help you lower your boat insurance cost.
You can get discounts for being the original owner of the boat, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCG), United States Power Squadron (USPS) or United Services Automobile Association (USAA), not having any watercraft or motor vehicle violations or accidents on your record for the last three years, making payments on time and more.
Like other insurers, Progressive offers a wide array of optional coverages. These include those for total-loss replacement, which provides full reimbursement without depreciation;
on-water towing; and full replacement cost and repairs to the lower unit of an outboard motor — even if it’s caused by wear and tear.
Additional coverage options:
- Total-loss replacement
- On-water towing
- Fishing equipment
- Personal effects
- Mechanical breakdown
- Medical payments
- Trip interruption
- Uninsured/underinsured boater
- Comprehensive coverage
Progressive policy discounts:
- Responsible driver
- Original owner
- Transfer from another company
- Association member
- Advanced quote
- Pay in full
- Prompt payment
- Safety course
- Small accident forgiveness
- Large accident forgiveness
- Disappearing deductibles
- Free boater safety and education programs to earn discounts
- Extra-cost towing and emergency assistance plans available
- Geico auto insurance policyholders may get a discount
- Option to extend your coverage to Alaska, Bahamas, Mexico and the Caribbean
- Not all policy options available in every state or vessel type
- Does not offer replacement-cost insurance
- BoatUS membership required to sign up for unlimited towing benefits
BoatUS is one of the largest membership-based organizations for recreational boat owners. While a membership isn’t required to get a BoatUS insurance quote, buying one entitles you to benefits much like those offered by AAA or other auto clubs for your car. These include BoatUS safety courses (free to all, regardless of whether they have BoatUS insurance), the completion of which can earn you discounts on your boat insurance.
The company is owned by Geico and offers agreed value, actual cash value and liability coverage policies for most types of boats — though not replacement cost coverage, which many insurers offer.
The Membership program offers discounts on charter cruises, towing, fuel, boat supplies and fishing stores, watercraft storage, repairs and other services. There is also towing assistance, which varies by the membership level you choose.
The four membership plans vary in price between $25 and $179 per year. Each plan includes 24/7 towing assistance, jump-starts, fuel delivery and soft grounding. As you move up a price tier, the plans may cover up to 100% of emergency tows and provide a reimbursement of up to $3,000 for tows not provided by the BoatUS towing network.
Also, do note that since BoatUS is a subsidiary of Geico, they offer the same policy. In fact, the Geico boat insurance quote process redirects you to the BoatUS website.
Not every insurer allows you to buy extra-cost coverage for countries other than the U.S. from them or facilitate buying it from their partners. BoatUS allows you to extend your coverage to Alaska, Bahamas, Mexico and the Caribbean — all of which are rarely or ever included in standard boat insurance.
Additional coverage options:
- Dock contract liability
- Fishing guide
- Ice and freezing
- Lifetime repair guarantee
- Lower deductible for dinghies
- Lower deductible for electronic issues
- Mechanical breakdown
- Personal effects coverage
- Medical payments
- Unlimited towing
- Trailer coverage with roadside assistance
BoatUS policy discounts:
- Safety courses
- Eight packages by boat type
- Multiple discounts, such as those for boaters 55 years or older
- Bahamas and Mexico navigation included with Elite package
- Specialized insurance options for USAA members
- May not cover boats over 50 feet in length or $500,000 in value
- Some coverage options only available with the Elite package
Insurance companies usually offer a base policy that boaters can customize by adding optional riders or by choosing policies tailored to boat type. Foremost offers an unusually high number — eight — of such packages, tailored to boat type, age or coverage level. These can simplify the selection of the policy features you need.
Foremost also offers three main packages: the Saver, Plus and Elite. The Saver is an inexpensive insurance option that provides actual cash value settlements which take depreciation into account.
Upgrading to the Plus allows you to add total loss replacement settlement, which pays to repair your boat to the condition and with the same materials as before an accident, rather than only to a depreciated amount.
The Elite is the most comprehensive choice, adding pollution (spill) liability, navigation across the Bahamas and Mexico, towing services and more.
There are also packages for pontoon boats, boats that are more than 25 years old, speedboats that reach speeds of 77 mph or greater and personal watercraft such as jet skis.
Every plan can be customized with extra coverage options for medical payments, personal property, the boat’s transport trailer and more.
Additional coverage options:
- Personal Liability
- Uninsured Watercraft
- Medical Payments
- Towing and Roadside Assistance
- Trailer coverage
- Personal property
- Trip interruption
Foremost insurance discounts:
- Policy paid in full
- Boat features protective devices (fire extinguishers, monitoring systems, etc.)
- Safety course
- Loss free renewal
- Prior insurance
- 55 years or older
- Affinity and alliance
- Covers an unusually wide variety of watercrafts, including yachts, kayaks and canoes
- Optional coverage for rented boats
- Lay-up discount available if you don’t use the boat year-round
- No actual cash value coverage available
Like many other insurers, State Farm boat insurance pays for damages your boat causes to others’ property, such as to another boat or to a dock, and injuries to others during accidents. But State Farm also offers an optional add-on liability protection for rented boats, a rarer feature of boat policies.
State Farm provides liability protection when you rent a boat during a vacation or while yours is being repaired — in fact, they may also reimburse part of your rental costs if you rent a boat while yours is in the shop. And if you rent your boat to someone, State Farm may also help pay for damages to your boat caused by the person who rented it.
Additional coverage options:
- Fishing tournament fee reimbursement in the event you can’t participate due to boat damage or loss
- Incidental commercial fishing coverage
- Uninsured/underinsured watercraft coverage
State Farm insurance discounts:
- Taking safety course
- Lay-up discount if you don’t use the boat year-round
- Boating in fresh water instead of salt water
- Covers especially large and/or expensive yachts
- Complimentary background screenings, travel briefings, and discounted rates on security services
- Consultations on local laws and customs
- No deductions for depreciation on most partial loss claims
- No information on website about policy discounts
Insurance companies typically cover boats up to 50 feet in length and up to $500,000. Chubb, on the other hand, has two insurance plans tailored for pleasure yachts that are between 36 and 70 feet in length and valued at up to $3 million. Coverage is also available for captained vessels of 70 feet or longer and valued at $3 million and up.
The two yacht insurance policies include standard coverage options such as agreed value coverage, emergency towing and assistance and liability protection. However, Chubb’s policies go further to cover costs incurred to haul or dock the vessel due to an incoming storm, coverage for the marina where the yacht is stored, liability protection for the boat’s crew and more. They may also pay up to $25,000 to cover the cost of fines and penalties as a result of marine environmental damage and more.
Yacht owners may also benefit from a lack of deductions for depreciation on most repairs, and coverage of up to $10,000 to charter a boat if your own vessel can’t be repaired within 72 hours. There is similar coverage for renting a watercraft in the event your own is unavailable.
Additional coverage options:
- Pet injury coverage
- Replacement-cost coverage for dinghy and tender
- Optional higher limits for emergency towing and assistance
- Marine Environmental Damage coverage
- Temporary Substitute Watercraft coverage
- Optional higher limits for trailer coverage
- Insurance coverage for watercraft used for commercial purposes
- Covers liability for damage to the vessel’s storage facilities
- Diminishing deductible program
- Few physical branches nationwide
Where most boat insurance companies cover boats and watercraft used recreationally. Markel offers insurance policy that covers for business purposes, including commercial fishing, boating classes, renting and chartering.Its marine insurance policy also covers liability for any damage the vessel causes to the rental facility where it is stored.
Markel covers several types of boats, whether it be a yacht chartered for sightseeing or a boat you own and operate for marina cleanups. Several insurance options are available such as coverage for damaged equipment and liability coverage for property damages, bodily injury, pollution (including fuel spills) and the crew.
Markel also offers policies for boats meant for personal use, with rates as low as $100 per year.
The company is also among a few boat insurers that reduce your deductible for each year you don’t collect on a claim. The deductible drops by 25% each year. After four years of being claim-free, it’ll reach zero.
Additional coverage options:
- Business interruption
- Boat towing
- Boat lifts
- Fishing equipment
- Tournament fee reimbursement
- Premises liability
- Slip and mooring liability
- Emergency expense reimbursement
Markel insurance discounts:
- Diesel engine
- Primary operator age 40 and over
- Insuring more than one boat
- Boating experience of five years or more
- Pairs you up with the best providers for your needs
- No membership needed, but members get benefits such as emergency towing and discounts at marine retailers
- Provides financing to buy new or used vessels
- Must go through quote process to get more information on coverage options
If you’re unsure as to the boat insurer that’s best for you, you may want to go for a boat insurance agency. The National Boat Owners Association (NBOA) connects you with insurers for all types of boats including speed boats, sailboats, fishing boats, catamarans, and yachts, as well as watercraft such as jet skis.
The insurance companies NBOA works with offer a wide range of coverage options such as liability protection with limits from $100,000 to over $1,000,000, towing services and personal property reimbursement. Some insurers also offer total loss replacement coverage which replaces your boat with a new one of the same make and model, or similar, in the event of a total loss.
A membership isn’t necessary to get insurance but does get you benefits including emergency dispatch services, towing coverage, marine financing, industry discounts and more. NBOA offers two membership plans, costing $35 or $75 per year.
Other companies we considered
- Offers premiums as low as $25 per month
- Discount if you own a home, even if it’s not insured under Allstate homeowners insurance
- High ratio of complaints filed with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
- Insurance packages ideal for fishing trips
- Pollution liability coverage and wreckage removal are included
- Roadside assistance included if you insure your boat trailer with Nationwide
- Limited coverage add-ons available
- Scored below average on several J.D. Power customer satisfaction study
- Members get a 5% discount on coverage for most watercraft valued under $150,000
- Discount for being claim-free
- Insures most types of boats
- USAA boat insurance only available to military families.
- Coverage for a wide range of vessels, including property liability and physical damage coverage for kayaks, canoes, dinghies, row boats, stand up paddle boards and more
- Additional policies for personal watercraft, houseboats, sailboats, bass and fishing boats, yachts and speed and power boats
- Multi-policy discount
- Policies available only in 19 states
- Membership includes discounts on BoatUS insurance policies
- USPS safety course graduates get a one-year complimentary membership with BoatUS
- Insurance program only available to members
- Membership entails an additional cost
Boat Insurance Guide
Boat insurance works similarly to car insurance by providing financial protection against damages to your vessel and others, as well as paying medical expenses to you or your passengers and covering other liability claims.
However, unlike with cars, most states don’t require that boats be insured — although some marinas might ask for insurance to rent a dock. Lenders might also demand it to finance a vessel.
Even if these requirements don’t apply to you, insuring your boat might be a good idea — especially considering boating accidents increased around 26% from 2019 to 2020.
What boat insurance covers
Policies vary between insurers but coverage typically includes:
- Property damage coverage: also known as physical damage coverage, it insures against damages or loss of your vessel caused by collisions with other boats or objects (such as a dock or buoy), theft, sinking, fire, storms and other risks. The property covered may include the hull, motor, fittings, furnishings and other equipment.
- Liability coverage: helps pay legal expenses and settlements if you’re found at fault for someone’s injuries during a crash, for example. It also covers damages to others’ property, such as a boat or dock you collide with.
Optional boat insurance coverage
Boat insurance companies may offer extra coverage options for:
- Medical payments for injuries to you or passengers
- Roadside assistance if the vehicle used to tow your boat breaks down
- Wreckage removal in the event your boat sinks
- Watersport injuries or damages from tubing wake surfing, or other similar activities
- Fuel spill cleanups for accidents or a leaking gas tank
- Personal property such as fishing equipment, scuba gear, clothing, smartphones and more
- Uninsured/Underinsured boater damages your boat
- On-water towing if your boat leaves you stranded
- Mechanical breakdowns
- Ice and freezing damage
- Hurricane haul-out in case you have to move the boat to safety due to a storm
- Extending your navigation to Alaska, Bahamas, Mexico and the Caribbean
Types of boats covered
The types of watercraft covered vary across insurance companies but may include:
- Bass/fishing boats
- Pontoon boats
- Power/speed boats
- Jet boats
- Personal watercraft (PWC) such as jet-skis
Some insurers may also cover non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddle boards.
Agreed value vs. actual cash value policies
Companies offer one of two types of reimbursement: agreed value and actual cash value. The type of policy you opt for will determine your premium as well as the coverage limits.
Agreed value coverage
This pays the amount you and the insurer agree on when the policy is purchased. It doesn’t take into account the value of your boat at the time a claim is submitted. It provides the most protection since it pays to replace or repair your watercraft without deductions for depreciation.
Actual cash value coverage
This option takes into account the market value, age and condition of the watercraft at the time of the accident. The insurer pays for repair or replacement costs after accounting for depreciation. Actual cash value policies have cheaper premiums but provide less coverage in the event of total loss.
Some companies also offer replacement cost coverage. This type of coverage reimburses the full amount needed to repair your boat after an accident. In the event of total loss, the insurer pays to replace your watercraft with the same or a similar model.
Is my watercraft covered by my homeowners or umbrella insurance?
Homeowners insurance may cover your boat — as long as the watercraft meets the insurer’s size and speed restrictions.
Most policies cover small boats under 26 feet of length and with engines of 25 horsepower or less. However, note that coverage limits for physical damage are usually low — typically no more than $1,000 or $1,500 per item — so you may need to purchase an add-on “endorsement” to insure your watercraft to its full value. Also, coverage for medical payments, other personal property or liability may be excluded.
In other words, a homeowners policy may be enough for small, slow boats that are not used often. Serious boaters who are out on the water often or own a boat with a value that exceeds their homeowners policy limits should consider a comprehensive boat insurance policy.
Umbrella insurance may also cover your watercraft. However, the underlying policy covering your boat must first meet the liability requirements of your umbrella policy. For instance, an umbrella policy won’t cover legal fees and damages if it requires a minimum liability coverage of $500,000 and your boat or homeowners insurance caps at $300,000.
What boat insurance doesn’t cover
Unless it’s stated otherwise on your policy, most policies don’t cover:
- Wear and tear
- Damage from animals
- Manufacturing defects
- Servicing and maintenance
Other exclusions may include accidents that take place while boating outside your policy’s navigation limits or during a lay-up period.
How much does boat insurance cost?
Your premium will depend on factors such as:
- Navigation area: boating inland (lakes or rivers), coastal regions or traveling to the Bahamas, Mexico and the Caribbean (sometimes also Alaska).
- Boat type: the model, year, size and speed of your watercraft.
- Your boating record: prior boating violations, accidents, claims or boating safety courses.
If insuring a used boat, underwriters might require a marine survey to determine your vessel’s overall value and condition. The surveyor inspects the boat for any underlying issues with its structure, machinery and onboard equipment.
Some insurers offer policies for as low as $25 per month or less but these usually only offer basic liability protection. These advertised prices go up as you add more coverage options to your plan.
How to save on boat insurance
An actual cash value coverage policy is the cheapest option, since your insurance company can factor in depreciation when paying for damages. Choosing a lower liability limit and a higher deductible can also lower your monthly premium. However, these options mean you could pay more out of pocket for damages, injuries or legal fees after an accident.
Insurers also have policy discounts that can help you save money on your premium. These commonly include:
- Insuring more than one boat under the same policy
- Bundling your boat, homeowners and car insurance policies
- Paying your insurance in full
- Taking safety courses
- Having claim-free periods
- Having no boating accidents on record
- Owning a diesel-powered boat
- Not using your boat during during certain months (lay-up)
- Installing safety devices such as fire extinguishers or a fume detector
Common reasons for boat insurance claims to be denied
Boat insurance only covers events that are explicitly stated on the policy declaration. However, a claim might get denied even if your policy provides coverage for it. Here are some common reasons that may be the case:
- You were operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Not providing proper maintenance to your watercraft
- Damages or injuries that exceed policy limits
- Making mistakes in filing a claim
- Failing to safeguard your boat before a storm
- Using your boat for commercial purposes (this usually requires marine insurance tailored for businesses)
Boat insurance can help cover the cost of repair and injuries to you and others due to a collision with a dock, buoy or other boat. Theft, vandalism, fire, storms and other unexpected events may also be covered.
How much is boat insurance?
You should expect to pay between $200 and $500 a year for boat insurance, as a rule. Insurers calculate your exact premium based on the type of boat you own, any past accidents, whether you’ve taken safety or other boating courses and whether you use your boat mainly inland or in coastal regions. Additional coverage options you choose, such as wreck removal, fuel-spill cleanup, will increase the cost of your premium.
What does boat insurance cover?
The type of events and damages your policy covers depends on the policy you choose but may include physical damage to the boat due to a collision, damage to personal property, bodily injury, towing, liability protection and more.
Do I need boat insurance?
Boat insurance isn’t required in most states — although exceptions include Arkansas, Utah and Hawaii. Even if coverage is not legally required in your state, marinas and ports usually ask for insurance if you wish to dock or moor your boat at their facilities. Additionally, lenders might require insurance if you lease or finance your boat.
How much boat insurance do I need?
The amount of insurance you need depends, of course, on the value of your craft. It also depends on where you dock, moor or store your boat. Some marinas require at least $300,000 in liability protection but it can be as much as $1,000,000.
How We Chose the Best Boat Insurance
Here’s what we looked for when choosing the best boat insurance companies:
Coverage options and discounts
We looked for companies that offered a comprehensive selection of insurance packages, coverage add-ons and policy discounts.
As we researched companies, we focused on those that receive mostly positive feedback on online review sites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and customer satisfaction studies by J.D. Power.
We considered the financial strength of each company by looking up their rating from A.M. Best, a credit rating agency that focuses on assessing the creditworthiness of insurance companies. All our picks scored between A and A++.
We evaluated every insurer’s complaint trend report from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
Summary of Money’s Best Boat Insurance of 2021
Progressive – Best for Policy Discounts
BoatUS – Best for Membership Benefits
Foremost – Best Insurance Packages
State Farm – Best for Covering Boat Rentals
Chubb – Best for Yachts
Markel – Best Insurance for Businesses
National Boat Owners Association – Best Insurance Agency