Boat Insurance Buyers’ Guide

Read our guide to buying boat insurance, for both first-time craft owners and those looking to renew their policy. Find out the key features and exclusions to look out for when purchasing cover for your boat.

What is boat insurance

Boat insurance is designed to protect your vessel, other craft and those on your boat. This can include cover against financial loss in the form of damage to your boat, a third-party claim against you from another boat owner for damage caused to their craft, or in the worst case, injury or fatality to you or one of your passengers.

Levels of cover that can be added include wide-ranging cover and third-party liability. Wide-ranging cover protects your boat if it suffers fire, theft, vandalism or accidental damage, while third-party liability provides financial protection if you have an accident involving another vessel. It compensates for any damage or injury incurred by that third party.

Do I need boat insurance?

Boat insurance isn’t a legal requirement on all waterways, but the high value of boats themselves and the potential for injury make it a risk not to have it. Additionally, many marinas require a minimum of third-party cover if you’d like to use their facilities.

If you are towing your new boat by to its mooring location by road, you should also ensure you take out your boat insurance beforehand. Any previous owners’ cover does not extend to you, and although your car insurance may cover your boat while on the journey, there are often restrictions depending on the length of your boat.

If you’re a new boat owner, it’s a good idea to seek some training. Reputable insurers like you to show you’ve reached a certain level of competence, either gained through years of experience, or following completion of a course, such as from the Royal Yachting Association.

What does boat insurance cover?

Boat insurance is designed to cover physical damage to equipment including the hull, sails, machinery, furnishings, on-board equipment and trailer. To ensure you purchase the policy that suits you and your boat best, verify the most expensive parts of your vessel and ensure that not only does the boat insurance policy you are taking out offer cover for damage to them, but also that you are aware of what deductions you will be faced with if you claim.

Standard boat insurance policies normally include:

  • Accidental damage, including fire, theft and malicious damage, sinking, stranding, collisions and salvage costs

  • Damage to the engines

  • Damage caused while your boat is being transported (though there may be length limits, so always check your policy)

  • Damage caused during lifting and launching

  • Damage to or loss of your boat due to latent defects

  • Damage caused by frost

  • Cover for personal items

Most policies also offer flexibility in terms of boat management, allowing anyone else to which you have granted permission to sail your boat to remain covered by your boat insurance. However, some polices do state that cover is void if your vessel is chartered, so if you are keen to do this, check whether this is acceptable.

As usual, all policies will vary, so ensure you choose the right one for your particular needs.

What is excluded from boat insurance?

Aspects that are excluded from standard boat insurance policies are:

  • Damage caused to the vessel due to deliberate misconduct

  • Damage due to wear and tear

  • Damage due to corrosion osmosis

  • Damage to machinery if your boat breaks down

Other areas to check your policy on carefully include the following.

Sailing limits – Always check your policy’s cruising range. UK policies usually only cover UK inland and coastal waters, so if you’re sailing further afield, you’ll need to extend your limits.

Seasonal cover – Some policies only provide cover for certain times and stipulate your boat should be secured ashore for the rest of the year. Check policy limitations: if you’re at sea when you should be ashore (due to bad weather or an unexpected sailing delay) you might not be covered.

Water sports – If you intend to use your craft for water sports, such as towing inflatables, check with your insurer that your policy covers this.

Trailer condition – Don’t forget to keep your trailer in good condition: if this fails, your boat may be damaged and rendered unseaworthy under your policy. Check the wheel bearings, hitch locks and breakaway cables carefully.

What factors affect boat insurance cost?

Racing – Make sure you don’t pay over the odds for localised sailboat racing. Some boat insurance policies provide cover automatically at no extra cost for localised sailboat racing such as the Round the Isle of Wight Race (including damage to masts, spars, sails and rigging). However, others may charge an additional premium, based upon the estimated cost of replacing the damaged parts. Make sure you ask before you buy – otherwise you could end up paying extra for something that’s automatically included elsewhere.

Mooring in marinas – Similarly, ask if there are any discounts for boats moored in marinas. Most insurance providers have agreements with specific marinas which could reduce your premiums by up to 20%. You can also save costs if your boat is kept ashore.

Changing mooring locations – If, after you’ve bought your policy, you change the mooring location or buy more gear/equipment, it is important to let your boat insurer know. If you don’t, it could affect any subsequent claim you make.

Boat insurance excess – Excesses will vary depending on your provider, but invariably the higher the excess, the cheaper the quote. Make sure know what you’re expected to pay out upfront if you make a claim – you may want to increase or decrease it.

Covering your boat with Towergate

Contact us today for a quote on 0344 892 1987 or see our boat insurance page.

About the author

Adam Summersby is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.