What is boat insurance?

Whether you have a yacht, narrowboat or dinghy you need to make sure it is protected on water and land. Here we explain everything you need to know about boat insurance.

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What is boat insurance and do I need it?

If you own a boat, it’s important it’s insured against damage to the boat, yourself and other people or property. In fact, while boat insurance isn’t typically a legal requirement, you may need to have it under certain circumstances, such as to keep it in a marina. 

There are lots of different levels of cover available, so you need to do your research carefully. Here’s everything you need to know including the types of insurance you can get and how to get a good deal.

What does boat insurance do?

The right boat insurance can protect you financially if your boat is stolen or damaged. It can also cover you if you damage someone else's property or cause an injury.

If you have spent thousands of pounds on your boat, a good insurance policy could save you a lot of money if something goes wrong.

Do you need boat insurance?

You do not legally need boat insurance in the UK to own a boat, but it gives you valuable protection if you have an accident.

There are also some circumstances when you have to get insurance, including:

What boats can you cover?

It is possible to find insurance for:

  • Yachts

  • Motorboats

  • Rigid inflatable boats (RIBs)

  • Jet skis

  • Narrowboats

  • Rowing sculls or skiffs

You may also be able to find cover for dinghies, speedboats and catamarans.

What does boat insurance cover?

Most boat insurers offer comprehensive policies that should protect you against the following risks:

Accidental damage

This covers the loss of your boat or damage as a result of fire, theft, accident or malicious damage.

Most policies cover your boat when it is:

  • Ashore (for example in storage or on your driveway)

  • In transit by road

  • Afloat on inland and coastal waters

Boat insurers usually pay up to the current market value of your boat if it is damaged beyond repair, or if the cost of repair would be more than its current value.

Loss or damage of personal belongings

You will be covered against any physical loss or damage to your personal possessions while they are on your boat. But your items will only be covered against accident, fire, theft or malicious damage.

Most cover personal belongings up to a set limit, for example, £1,000 for all items, with a single item limit of around £200.

Third-party liability

This means you will be covered if you cause:

  • Damage to another boat or property

  • Death or injury to another person

  • Pollution

  • Any other financial losses

Most insurers offer up to £3 million for third-party liability.

Some insurers offer third-party only policies, which will cover the above, but not any damage to your boat or your personal belongings, but they can be cheaper.

Personal accident

This will cover you, or anyone else on your boat if you have an accident that results in:

  • Death

  • Loss of limb

  • Loss of sight

  • A permanent disability that prevents you from working

Some insurers will pay up to £60,000 if you suffer from any of the above as a result of an accident on your boat.

Common boat insurance exclusions

All boat insurance policies contain exclusions you need to be aware of before you buy cover. Typical things to look out for include:

  • Some insurers only cover you while you are afloat if you are a certain distance from shore, for example 12 nautical miles offshore of the UK or Europe
  • Most policies will not cover the cost of repairing wear and tear, gradual breakdown or corrosion
  • Any damage caused while under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be covered
  • You may not be covered if damage is caused while your boat is being used for commercial use, unless this has been agreed with your insurer
  • Most claims for theft will be rejected if you have left your boat unlocked or unattended

Make sure you check the policy carefully for all exclusions so you can be confident any claim you make will be accepted.

Mooring your boat

It is important to notify your boat insurance provider where you plan to keep the boat when you’re not cruising. That might be moored on a canal bank, in a boatyard or on dry land.

If your boat is only kept in the water for part of the year, your insurer will likely need to know the address it is kept at and the means of storage the rest of the time.

You may find it more difficult to get cover if you travel in your boat year-round and have no fixed mooring or address, but specialist insurers may still be able to cover you. This may be more expensive, so you need to shop around.

How can I buy boat insurance?

When you apply, you will be asked several questions about your boat. This is so the insurer can get an accurate picture of your boat’s condition, what you will be using it for, and how secure it is when you’re not sailing in it. They will ask you:

  • The type of boat you want to insure

  • The age of your boat

  • The size of your boat

  • What your boat is made of

  • Where your boat will be kept

  • How you use your boat, for example, pleasure, racing or charter

You will also be asked to confirm how much your boat is worth, including any trailers, life rafts and equipment like life jackets and buoyancy aids you also want to cover under a policy.

How to get cheaper boat insurance

Boat insurance can be costly. Shopping around is one way to make sure you’re getting a good deal, but there are other things you can do to keep costs down. For instance, the cost of your boat policy could be reduced by:

  • Gaining qualifications: If you have taken any sailing courses and gained helmsman, skipper or yachtmaster tickets it could reduce the cost of your cover

  • Building a no claims bonus: If you have not made any claims on your previous boat insurance policies it could earn you a discount in the same way as car insurance

Keeping your boat safe: If you can keep your boat in a marina berth you could get a lower premium because of the improved shelter and security