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Boat Insurance Comparison: 2016 review
Here we explain the basics of marine insurance and review the best boat insurance providers.
Finding the best boat insurance package does not have to be a difficult job. You should review insurance policies from at least 3 reputable providers, then pick the most appropriate one. Give them your credit card number and you’re done.
Next thing you know, you’re out on the water and you can relax.
The following review began as a shared resource for a group of my friends at our local marina. We all moor on the same dock (G-Dock at Marina Village) and we often found ourselves complaining about our boat insurance cost and policy details. Full disclosure: I’m not an insurance broker. I don’t work anywhere near the insurance industry. I teach college biology in San Diego. I’m just a long time boater who was never convinced I was on the right policy. I figured there was a need for a publicly accessible, comprehensive review of the popular powerboat and sailboat insurance providers.
After reading this article you’ll have a better idea which is the best insurance policy for you. You should also know how much boat insurance is going to cost you. Almost all the insurance reviews below contain links to receive a free online quote. So, get your boat information ready, fill out a handful of quotes and see which one offers the best policy for the lowest price.
I combine a range of inputs to create this list: national ratings, customer feedback, first-hand experience, industry comparisons, boat forum discussions, social media comments, boat insurance average cost, company policy information, ext. I also warn readers about common problems boaters run into with insurance providers (depreciation levels on older boats, hurricane policies, ext.)
This review is divided into 2 parts:
- Boat insurance 101: a summary of the basics of boat insurance (skip this if you’re an old salt.)
- Boat insurance reviews: an alphabetical list of most of the popular providers.
I update this boat insurance comparison page at the end of each year. So…if you have any relevant feedback on your provider, please reach out on the All Things Boat contact page. I’ll incorporate your comments into the next update. Thanks!
Even good boats end up high and dry.
This is me in Alaska after miscalculating a low tide.
It happens…Stay insured!
The basics of boat insurance
Boat insurance financially protects boaters from unexpected mishaps. It’s similar to auto insurance, except there’s no roads, just water.
What is covered in your policy? You probably want your boat insurance to cover damage to your boat (hull insurance) and any damage your boat may inflict on other properties (third party liability).
Hull insurance includes repairs or, in the case of total loss of vessel, cash compensation for the agreed value of the boat.
Third party liability covers any mayhem your boat may cause. Perhaps the wind shifts just as your engine dies… and your boat slams into the marina restaurant, a public pier, another boat, ext. You want your policy to protect you from these possibly huge expenses. If you have a serious mishap at sea, you may incur additional costs for spilt fuel, medical expense, emergency towing, salvage/rescue operations. All of these items are pricey, so you want to be very clear with the specifics of your policy.
Nautical lighting for the sea-faring mariner!
The author of this boat insurance page also builds these nautical pendant lamps. Check out these and others!
Hint #1: Many marinas require boats to have third party liability policies of $1,000,000 (smaller marinas may only ask for $300,000).
Hint #2: If you are the owner of an older boat, your insurance company may reimburse you for a claim at a ‘depreciated level’. This is often a point of contention with boaters and their insurance provider. If, for example, you damage your boat and incur $1,000.00 worth of hull damage and your provider is paying you out at a 70% depreciation level, this means that after you pay your deductible, you will only receive $300.00. Make sure you have the ‘depreciation’ conversation with your insurance agent – and then get all the specifics in writing!
This is how much your boat insurance will cost you annually. As you might expect, the broader the coverage, the higher the cost of the premium. Similar to car insurance, more expensive boats will demand a higher premium. It is worth speaking to the agent about the specifics of your boating habits. You may find you’re entitled to discounts. For example, I get a discount because I have a boating license in my state. My friend receives a discount because he stores his boat in a covered shed. Make sure you get all the premium discounts possible!
Hint #3: Get your boat inspected by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. This is a completely free, 15-point safety inspection that confirms your vessel is in compliance with all safe boating requirements. At our marina, the Coast Guard hangs fliers up each year encouraging boaters to schedule an appointment. Many boat insurance providers offer discounts for boats that have passed the Coast Guard safety inspection.
Boat insurance…because sometimes things don’t work out.
How much is boat insurance???
Here’s some basic math to estimate your boat insurance cost.
Before you start talking to insurance agents, it’s helpful to know the ballpark estimate for your annual boat insurance premium. Here’s how you get that estimate.
Determine the current market value of your vessel. 1.5% of that number will be a good approximation for your annual premium.
For example, I own a 30 foot sailboat that is worth $13,000.
So, 13,000 x .015 = 195.00
Therefore, for a typical policy insuring my sailboat, I would expect to pay $195 per year.
In my case, that works out about right. I’ve moved around a lot and changed boat insurance companies over the years. On average, I’ve paid about $250 annually for my premium. This has included full hull coverage for my boat, 1 million in third party liability and the regular add-ons (fuel spill, limited towing package, $10,000 in medical expenses for captain and crew, ext.).
Expect to pay a higher premium if you live in a state with a high incidence of hurricanes (South Carolina, Florida, ext.)
Hint #4: If you do live in a hurricane prone area, your insurance company may expect or demand that you haul out your boat if a confirmed, dangerous hurricane is scheduled to make landfall near your marina. This can be a major inconvenience as hauling out a boat takes time and money. Make sure to know what is required regarding approaching storms.
Starting to compare boat insurance options…
Before you start your research it’s smart to first contact your auto insurance provider. They may offer boat insurance. The benefit is convenience. There may also be a discount for insuring your boat along with a car. However, not everyone is happy with this scenario. This option can lead to an unusually high premium and insufficient coverage for the boat. Check what your car insurance provider can offer, if you aren’t happy, then consult the following boat insurance reviews.
All of the following providers are top rated by A.M. Best rating agency.
Boat insurance reviews: our alphabetical list of the best boat insurance providers
Allstate is a massive insurance company that insures most types of assets, including boats. They were founded in 1931 by the Chairman of Sears Roebuck. Allstate has a good reputation for providing affordable insurance for boaters. As of 2015, they claim they’re average monthly premium cost for boaters is $20.00. That puts their average annual premium cost at $240.00. $240.00 is a great price for boat insurance, however, this number will go up quickly if you have a large boat or live in a hurricane prone location. Part of the reason for their lower rates is their discounts. You receive a 20% discount by combining an Allstate homeowner policy with boat insurance. If you pay the full premium upon signing up, you can knock off another 10%. And if you’ve taken an approved boat safety course, take another 5% off your premium. These discounts can add up…
We’ve heard from boat surveyors that, in general, Allstate pays out claims quickly. This is obviously a huge benefit to anyone who has just experienced a loss. However, it’s important to note that Allstate only insures boaters within 100 miles of the U.S. or Canadian coast. If you’re planning on a Baja cruise to La Paz or island hopping in the Caribbean, this is not going to be the best boat insurance provider for you.
Here’s a link to find an Allstate agent near you.
Bluewater Yacht is a favorite for the long distance cruisers. If you’re planning to sail around the world or perhaps spend a few years in Polynesia, put a call into Bluewater. They generally allow coverage for passages with just 2 crew members. This is suited for a husband and wife team. If you start a long distance trip and don’t switch to a provider who specializes in world cruising, you can expect your coverage to triple (or get cancelled).
Bluewater Yacht Insurance is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They provide insurance from only major, A-rated companies, which are all approved to write worldwide coverage (including all U.S. states). They don’t use any of the smaller, offshore companies that are sometimes offered to world cruisers.
Incidentally, cruisers should be prepared for extra demands from insurance companies prior to agreeing on a policy. For example, it’s common for Caribbean cruisers to be asked to provide a rigging inspection, as tropical storms can often topple a mast and boom off a poorly rigged boat. Also, as you may imagine, sailing around the world requires considerable skill and experience. You will receive much more scrutiny regarding your skill level when applying for a worldwide policy via Bluewater. If you and your wife are newbies, you may need to bring along an experienced professional captain. However, in our opinion, that would take a lot of the fun out of the cruise. Better to spend a few years training in smaller waters before you make your big puddle jump!
Here’s a link to start the form for a Bluewater quote.
Boat U.S. Marine Insurance Program has been offering boat insurance, and only boat insurance, since 1966. They provide insurance for yachts, powerboats, sailboats, anglers, jet skis and all other powered crafts. Boat U.S. is very popular among the boating community. People are drawn into this provider because of their low rates and the strength of their emergency towing package.
Click here for a free insurance quote from Boat U.S.
If you’ve spent any time in the water near busy U.S. marina/harbors then you’re probably very familiar with the sight of a Boat U.S. tow boat in action. Their standard policy includes a fairly comprehensive tow package. We’ve heard from many boaters that only sail in coastal U.S. waters and they say they’re very pleased with the tow coverage. If you often travel long distances from shore, make sure to ask the distance limits on a rescue tow. Last year, one boater told us lightning had struck their power boat and Boat U.S. took care of the claim promptly.
All Boat U.S. policies include 24/7 availability for assistance to emergencies, full salvage cost coverage, $25,000 base medical coverage and full coverage for any discharge of fuel/oil that may occur in a grounding, fire, collision, sinking, ext.
Boat U.S. Marine offers coverage in all 50 states to boat owners with a U.S. address. In regards to international cruising, Boat U.S. offers more range than Allstate but much less than Bluewater Yachts. They have ‘seasonal cruising extensions’ for boaters traveling through Canada, the Bahamas, Mexico or Bermuda. This means they can add-on an extra element to your coverage/premium for the time you are in these locations. So, if you plan to take a month or so and cruise to nearby countries, then Boat U.S. will work just fine. If you think you may go farther, talk to Bluewater or IMIS.
Their premium cost is partly determined by location of boat, age of boat and the type of power (sail, diesel, outboard). They offer premium discounts if the boat owner completes the boat safety course via National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). If your boat is used in lakes and rivers instead of coastal salt waters then premiums are cheaper. For each year you remain claim free, you receive a 25% reduction in your deductible. There’s an extended payment plan if you want to pay with monthly installments. The customer must put down 30% of the quote, then the balance is paid in installments.
If you’re curious whether a Boat US policy is cheaper than your current policy, fill out this Boat US online form and receive a free quote.
Let’s hope this skipper kept his boat insured.
Charter Lakes began operating in 1976 as a smaller insurance company in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Relatively recently, they merged with Travelers Insurance Company and began to focus solely on marine insurance. If you spend anytime on boating forums, you’ll see that Charter Lakes is commonly mentioned as one of the best boat insurance providers. Their exclusive focus on boats and their emphasis on customer service has secured Charter Lakes as a favorite among many captains.
Charter Lakes only represents A rated insurance companies. They, like many other providers, pride themselves on their fast claim response time. They guarantee a response to a claim within 24 hours.
Fishermen are especially fond of this provider. Charter Lakes offers policies especially suited for different types of fishing boats. Whether you operate a large offshore fishing vessel, a small bass boat or you enter into tournaments, Charter Lakes has conditions and coverage options advantageous to your situation. You can request a quote from Charter Lakes here.
IMIS, or International Marine Insurance Services, is a smaller provider based out of Maryland that has a devoted fan base. They’ve been providing service since 1987 and pride themselves on their exclusive focus on boats; all of their agents are avid boaters.
Similar to Bluewater Yachts, IMIS offers quality policies for international travelers. Their Jackline Insurance Program is designed for cruising boats sailing throughout the world. The intent with the Jackline program is to keep boaters as safe as possible while sailing off into the unknown. This program is underwritten by Markel American Insurance Company, an A-rated group by A.M. ratings company. Jackline is an ‘all risk’ policy, including coverage for ice/freezing damage, reef damage liability, pollution liability, mechanical breakdown and other mishaps that may occur while boating in exotic (i.e. possibly dangerous) locales. Medical insurance plans are also available for international travelers.
IMIS is a popular sailboat insurance provider for international cruisers
Cruisers routinely switch to IMIS once they begin their long distance adventures. An advantage to IMIS is they extend their policies into certain nations that have, historically, experienced political instability. So, if you are planning to drop anchor in Havana, Cuba or spend time in Cartagena, Columbia, IMIS can ensure you remained covered. IMIS also allows coverage on older boats as well as wooden boats, these can be issues with other providers.
Experience is a key factor when IMIS sets your premium. If you are new to boating and have ambitious international plans, you should expect to receive a high premium quote. This has been an issue for some.
One strength to IMIS, mentioned by more than a few boaters, is their response to claims in the wake of storms. Boats damaged by hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida should expect exceptionally good service. If you have an experience contrary to this, please let us know.
IMIS can provide an online quote here.
Mariners was founded in 1959 by Byron Chamberlain and is headquartered in Newport Beach, California. Mariners has additional offices in San Diego, CA and Bradenton, FL.
Mariners covers small boats navigating local U.S. waters as well as mega-yachts cruising around the Mediterranean. The staff at Mariners have done quite a bit of offshore boating so they’re aware of many of the mishaps associated with that activity.
Mariners offers boat coverage in their Odyssey program. This is an “All-Risk Agreed Value” policy, which includes oil pollution liability, tenders and PWC coverage, and substitute yacht coverage.
Last year, we heard from a reader that’s very pleased with her liability policy that only costs her $200.00 annually. She only cruises U.S. waters.
Here’s a link to the Mariners boat insurance quote page.
NBOA Marine Insurance is a large U.S. provider that is highly regarded for their policies on a wide range of watercraft. Like other providers, their provided insurance will depend on the boat and the experience of the owner. NBOA offers third party liability coverage from $100,000 to well over $1,000,000.
Response from boaters is largely positive regarding NBOA. People often mention their customer service as exceptional. We’ve read many positive stories detailing NBOA’s response to filed claims (quick reimbursement for towing, full coverage for a damaged drive train caused by motoring running over crab pots).
NBOA is also well regarded for their fair premium costs. Many folks have switched from Progressive and Boat U.S. and found better premiums at NBOA. If you don’t take your boat far from your home port, definitely mention that to a NBOA agent. Considerable discounts are given for boaters with restricted cruising ranges.
Boaters can get a quote online or call customer service here.
Pantaenius has been in the insurance business since 1899. The yachting section of their company has been in operation since 1977. Pantaenius is very much an international entity with offices in Germany, Monaco, Spain, Denmark, Australia, Austria, United Kingdom and America.
Pantaenius offers a very popular policy called the ‘America Yacht Policy’. Their website states they currently have over 80,000 yacht owners on this policy (this is a large number for one policy). The America Yacht Policy covers boats over 27 feet in length.
Admittedly, there are some impressive features with the America Yacht Policy. Most notably, Pantaenius does not incorporate depreciations on partial loss to vessel. This means owners of older boats will not receive reduced reimbursements for damage to their vessel. Additionally, the America Yacht Policy covers many costs without the payment of a deductible. For example, personal effects are covered for owner and crew without deductible. Also, any accidents that occur during overland travel or routine storage are also covered with no deductible.
We’ve heard that Pantaenius is one of the most popular insurers for offshore yachts. One of our readers reported last year – they were T-boned by a fishing trawler and Pantaenius helped in every way possible with no subsequent increase in rates.
We also heard from a frustrated Florida boater who lives on his boat and is paying a high premium with Pantaenius. He’s also required to haul out for every tornado storm warning issued.
Here you can fill out an online questionnaire and request a quote with Pantaenius.
The Pegasus Group is a privately owned company based in Clearwater, Florida. This group is well regarded and primarily services boats in the Florida and Caribbean area.
Our readers have informed us the customer service at Pegasus is good and agents will do everything in their power to keep boaters happy. We’ve heard from a liveaboard couple moored in a hurricane zone that were very pleased with their new $2250.00 annual premium. Pegasus did not demand a new survey, they accepted their previous 5 year old survey.
Request a marine quote here with the Pegasus Group.
Most people are familiar with Progressive, or at least with Flo, their TV spokeswomen. Progressive represents a very large and established group of insurance companies. They began in 1937 with a drive-in claims office, they are now ‘progressive’ in that they allow online shoppers the chance to see comparison rates.
Progressive insures a wide range of boat types, however, there are quite a few boating scenarios that aren’t covered by Progressive. Most strikingly, Progressive will not insure a boat over 50 feet in length and/or with values over $250,000. Progressive also won’t offer physical damage coverage on a boat that is both more than 15 years old and worth more than $20,000 (it should be noted that many boats fall into this category). They also won’t insure boats used as a primary residence (live-a-boards). And, if you have a houseboat with no engine or a boat with more than 2 owners, Progressive will not offer you a policy.
That said, most boaters are very happy with Progressive. Friends of mine that are familiar with many different boat insurance companies, report that Progressive is the quickest to pay out on a claim. That’s obviously an important criteria. We’ve heard from folks that had their boats totaled in Hurricane Sandy, they said Progressive paid up promptly. Their website makes it incredibly easy to sign up (many boaters access Progressive through their USAA account).
At the time of writing, Progressive doesn’t require a recent boat survey and they cover up to 75 miles offshore (that includes Catalina Island…for all of our California readers).
You can find a local Progressive agent or retrieve an online quote here.
Seaworthy is another relatively new marine insurance company that has gained a devoted following. They were established in 1989 in Annapolis, Maryland. In 2007, Seaworthy was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway. Earning the trust of Warren Buffet is, of course, a good indicator for any business. In the insurance world, this means Seaworthy became endowed with rigorous capital strength and security for policy holders. Geico, the enormous auto insurance company also owned by Berkshire Hathaway, writes their boat and personal watercraft coverages through Seaworthy. Seaworthy is currently rated A+ by A.M. Best.
Seaworthy features 5 different policies for different types of boats. There is a low-cost ‘actual cash value’ package for pleasure boats, and an ‘agreed hull value’ package for yachts, mega-yachts and charter boats. We’ve heard from customers that Seaworthy offers slightly better navigational limits for trips into the Caribbean (for example, Turks and Caicos is covered). If you plan to cruise these islands, make sure to discuss this with your agent.
Some users have reported that switching from Progressive to Seaworthy cut their premium in half, this may hold true for you, but will obviously depend on the specifics of your boating scenario.
It should also be noted, that in the summer of 2015, a reader of this article reached out to us to relay this story. This boater – let’s call him ‘Mike’ – spoke with a Seaworthy agent and was talked into their Premium Full Coverage. The stated full value of his vessel was set at 11,000.00.
2 months later, Mike hit ground and cracked the lower unit of his outboard engine. After going through the claims process, Mike was notified that he would only be reimbursed at an 85% depreciation level for the cost of repairs. This amounted to about 177.00 for a 1,400.00 repair. While it’s normal to see massively depreciated levels for claims on older boats, Mike was under the assumption that his ‘Premium Full coverage’ would yield better value. Mike subsequently cancelled his policy and received a refund. I think the moral of this story is that you can assume nothing – regardless of the name of the policy. Ask the agent how depreciation levels will affect claim reimbursement – and make sure to get that all in writing. If your older boat will prevent you from getting decent payment on repairs (due to depreciation), then skip the full coverage and only purchase basic liability.
You can find a Seaworthy agent in your state and start the quote process here.
Topsail Insurance is a British boat insurance company that was launched in 1996 and now provides specialist yacht and motorboat insurance to a worldwide community. Topsail is based out of the Brighton Marina in East Sussex, England.
This group specializes in long distance and blue water cruising insurance. Their focus is boats that are cruising in the UK, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Pacific Regions, South East Asia and Polynesia.
We heard from a well traveled Captain who claimed Topsail is unbeatable for world cruisers.
Request a Topsail quote for either a motorboat or a yacht here.
Alright…that’s the end of our review.
We hope our 2016 boat insurance comparison provided a few ideas and helped you start the process of getting your boat insured. When you’re ready, pick up the phone and get quotes from at least 3 providers. That should give you a feel for the range of price and coverage for you and your boat.
Do you need some comic relief ??
Does your brain hurt from reading these boat insurance reviews and thinking about boat insurance cost?
Well, we just put together a boat name page that is pretty awesome.
Here at All Things Boat, we are all too familiar with the stereotypical boating personalities you find out on the water. So…we decided to make a boat name page organized by all these classic boater types.
Click image above to see our list of funny boat names.
If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out.
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Click here to find out the boater education/boat license requirements for your state in the US.
If you are considering using solar electricity on your boat, here’s simple DIY instructions to install solar panels for boats.
Disclaimer: We do our best to ensure the information on allthingsboat.com is accurate and updated at all times, however, we are unable to guarantee the accuracy of all information. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and factual. However, the boat insurance average cost for a policy and the policy details will change year to year. For the most current and complete policy details for both powerboat and sailboat insurance, please verify with the provider directly on their website or through an agent.
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