How to choose the right boat insurance

Date posted: 2 November 2013

When I refer to boats, in this blog I am also taking into consideration yachts, motor cruisers, canal boats and barges. Speed boats, ribs, catamarans, small commercial vessels, dinghies and jet skis. Tenders should be incorporated in your boat insurance.

Why do we have boat insurance? As well as giving us peace of mind and a sense of security for our crafts, having boat insurance also means that in the worst case scenario – total loss, we would be in a position to replace our vessels. If we are unfortunate enough to hit another boat and cause damage to either the third party or ourselves again we may cringe and apologise profusely, but in the back of our minds we know the unexpected costs will be covered by our boat insurance.

Although boat insurance is not obligatory in and around the U.K. coastal waters, if you are using your boat on Inland waterways, part of holding the inlands waterway license is that you will have insurance for your vessel.

In many other countries it is an offence not to have boat insurance, and the policy should be written in the language of the country. This is currently the law in Spain, Italy and Greece. The minimum these countries require is third party insurance, but the minimum limit of indemnity is 336.566,78 Euros or about 240,000 Sterling.

We own a Westerly Riviera, and belong to a Westerly Owners Association. Because a large number of member’s boats are insured though one company we have various perks and gain quite a discount. It’s good to check and see if your boat make has a similar scheme running.

There are so many boat insurance companies available to us, it’s quite tricky to work out which is the best value or most suitable for our needs. When getting quotes from companies you ought to consider if the insurers will require a recent survey report, usually these are required for boats over a certain age ( determinable by the insurance company), self builds or refitted boats.

You will be asked what the sum insured should be, which will equate to the full payout on total loss. To accurately calculate this you will need to specify the values of individual items such as outboards, tender, electronic equipment etc. I would advise creating an inventory, you will be surprised at how much the sum insured should be, up and above what you paid for the boat. Check this list each year and update it, phone in when you purchase items mid season as well.

Sometimes you will be asked for proof of purchase for these articles, it’s advisable to keep a note of receipts, serial numbers, the make and model of the equipment, and photograph tangible items.

Consider your cruising area, if you only use coastal waters up to twelve miles offshore, report that. But remember if you cross from England to the Channel Islands you won’t be insured. Remember to inform your insurers when you leave to cruise new areas, you don’t need to be over insured for your normal sailing. Just pay an additional small premium for the few weeks of the year you are outside your normal cruising area.

You will also be asked what your sailing qualifications and experience are, here you may be asked for tangible evidence in the way of certificates or a log. Having sailing qualifications gained through organizations such as the RYA or ASA will reduce the coat of your insurance. Insurance companies assess the risk, your premiums may be lower with some companies if you are well qualified to sail.

Mooring, either in marinas, dry sailing, and trot or swing moorings is another area that will have significance to your premiums; marina berths are deemed a lesser risk than a swing mooring. Where and how you moor will affect the risk your boat faces, subsequently influencing the underwriters assessment of risk.

Whilst mooring, insurers may also stipulate how to attach the mooring line/strop, for example chain or rope, two lines, and a plastic tube over the line. But to be honest I have had less incidents on a swing mooring than in the marina, I’ve been clunked a number of times in marinas, naturally there is never a nicely folded piece of paper under my windscreen wiper with said owner’s details.

You should also consider additional cover, such as legal cover, racing cover, underwater machinery cover. With legal cover ascertain what this will entitle you too, contractual disputes, just legal advice or full legal cover, including repatriation.

If you are lucky enough to own a larger boat, always check to see if a minimum crew is required.

What type of cover do you require; own damage, damage by a third party, damage to a third party, theft/vandalism and naturally fire. I would suggest all the above.

Well by now one would hope that you’ve got the general idea, be careful when purchasing boat insurance. In the unlikely event that you need to claim, remember to take all steps to minimize the loss, always act as though you were uninsured. Make no admission of liability, and contact the insurers and if necessary the police as soon as you discover the damage and certainly before you start repairing the boat.

I hope that you have picked up some useful points for when you renew your next year’s boat insurance.

Don’t forget you can always cover some of those insurance costs by letting your boat through Static Boat Holidays for a few weeks a year!

Just send an enquiry email to Viv via

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