You’ve brought your pontoon boat out of storage, dusted her off, and done all the requisite maintenance. Now you’re just waiting for a good weekend to go out and ride. You’ve heard some of your boating buddies talk about insurance, but you don’t really need it for your pontoon, do you?
While it’s not necessarily illegal to forego pontoon boat insurance (at least not in most states), skipping over it can cost you lots of money if you ever get in an accident. Most pontoon boat insurance plans cost $100 to $300 a year, so there’s no reason to go without.
If you’re a first-time pontoon boat owner who’s just hearing of boat insurance for the first time, then you won’t want to miss this article. In it, we’ll cover all facets of pontoon boat insurance, including where to get it, what it covers, and how much you’ll pay for it.
Do You Need Pontoon Boat Insurance?
Let’s get the first question out of the way: do you even need pontoon boat insurance? From a legal standpoint, not really. Well, that is, unless you live in Utah or Arkansas. Those two states do have legalities surrounding boat insurance.
Do you hail from Utah? Then if you own a personal watercraft or motorboat, you need insurance. Not just any insurance will do, either. It must include coverage towards property damage ($15,000 and up), bodily injuries to groups ($50,000+), and bodily injuries to a single rider ($25,000 or more).
Now, the need for insurance only applies if your boat can get up to 50 horsepower. Otherwise, you can legally skip this insurance.
If you call Arkansas home, then again, your personal watercraft or boat must be able to reach 50 horsepower or over to necessitate coverage. Otherwise, you don’t need it. Those vessels that do require insurance should have at least $50,000 to spare for liabilities.
What Happens if You Get Caught without Insurance?
Let’s say you read the above section and decided you didn’t need pontoon boat insurance. Maybe you’re thinking of getting it, but you haven’t pulled the trigger yet. What would happen if you got caught without insurance while riding in your pontoon boat?
If you live outside of Utah and Arkansas, then legally, nothing. The Coast Guard or other water authority won’t call the cops on you because nothing would really come of that anyway. You might get a warning, but that’s about it.
The better question becomes why would you want to go boating without insurance?
Let’s set up a scenario to underscore the importance of having pontoon insurance, or any boat insurance, really. You go out riding on a beautiful, sunny day. It’s a perfect afternoon, which means lots of other boat owners had the same idea as you. The water is a little cramped with so many vessels out. You try to maneuver out of the way of another boat, but the sun is in your eyes. Before you know it, you collide! Uh-oh.
Like any accident, the two of you get to shore (or a dock) to discuss the accident and how the damages will get paid for. Without the sun in your face, you can see you dinged up the other person’s boat pretty good. Worse yet, you accidentally hurt a passenger or two onboard their boat.
The other boater asks you how you’ll afford the damages, which are clearly your fault. You say you’ll do so out of pocket because you don’t have boat insurance. Then you get the bill for repairs to the other person’s boat. You also get slammed with medical bills for the injured passengers. Before you know it, you’re in over your head. You can’t afford all these payments!
Here’s another scenario. You’re out for a bit of night riding. It’s dark, but you have your flares and lights on. There’s another boater out on the water, but it’s just the two of you. You’re doing a good job keeping your distance for safety’s sake.
All of a sudden, bam! They slam into the back of your boat. You’re not sure how it happened, but it did. It’s not your fault, but the other boater doesn’t have insurance and neither do you. Worse yet, they don’t even stick around to give you their information, so you’re now stuck paying for everything yourself. You will pay for everything yourself, too, since you don’t have insurance. Boat repairs can get quite costly, which you’ll soon find out firsthand.
Hopefully, those two scenarios proved why it’s so crucial to have pontoon boat insurance. The accident doesn’t always even have to be your fault and you can still get screwed out of your hard-earned money.
Which Companies Offer Pontoon Boat Insurance?
Okay, okay, you’ve caved. You’re finally convinced you need to insure your pontoon boat. How do you even begin to go about this?
If you’ve ever gotten your car insured before, which we’re sure you have, then the process isn’t all that different. First, you need to find a company that covers boats. Obviously, it’s much more common for an insurance company to offer a plan for motor vehicles than boats, but more companies do it than you might think.
Once you find your company, you’ll meet with a representative to discuss your coverage plan. You pay monthly or annually and voila, you’re protected from boating accidents like the ones we talked about in the last section.
How do you find a company that offers pontoon boat insurance? Start with the more common ones like State Farm, Allstate, or Progressive. You can also try United Marine Underwriters, a company that deals exclusively in boating insurance. Sullivan & Strauss Agency, Inc. and Trusted Choice are two other options you have.
Choosing a Pontoon Boat Insurance Plan
There are two types of boat insurance that companies like the above will typically offer you: agreed value or actual cash value insurance. Let’s discuss both in more detail now.
Agreed value insurance is recommended for those with a newer pontoon boat. With this insurance, the representative will work with you to select a fair value for your boat. As you pay insurance over this year and the next, that value doesn’t change. The only instance in which it would change is if you damaged the boat. While it’s a more expensive type of insurance compared to actual cash value insurance, you might consider it nevertheless.
Then there’s actual cash value insurance. If you have an older pontoon boat, then you’ll find this insurance offers fairer rates. With this, you can get some money in the event your boat becomes a total loss (which can happen with older boats). While you pay less for this insurance, the cash value potential is lower.
How Much Will You Pay for a Plan?
The price of insurance will likely drive you towards a certain company. How much should you expect to pay to keep your boat covered? It varies. If your boat is worth at least $20,000, then expect to pay about $300 a year for insurance. If you have a higher-quality, newer pontoon worth $100,000 or close to it, your insurance costs more. You’d likely pay $1,500.
We researched the pricing for several insurance companies we listed earlier in this article to bring you some real examples. If you choose to get your insurance through State Farm, then each year, you’ll shell out $180. It’s possible to earn a discount of 10 percent by going through a safety boating course through the insurance provider.
What if you favor Allstate? Their plans cost $240 for the whole year. While that’s more expensive, you can again shave down costs. This time, you’d need to use Allstate for your homeowner’s insurance as well.
Progressive offers even more competitive rates, with plans starting at $100 a year.
What Coverage Do You Get Under Your Insurance?
You’re browsing around for the best insurance policy and you’re pretty close to settling on one. Before you do, though, you want to know the extent of coverage from your boat insurance provider. Just like annual costs, insurance coverage provisions differ from one company to another.
That said, here’s some generalized info on what you should expect with your pontoon boat insurance plan.
- Specialized coverage: Those who got their pontoon boat with all the fixins’ should strongly think about asking their insurance provider about specialized coverage options. If someone steals your awesome new fish-finding navigation system or damages your pontoon boat grill, your insurance company will pay for the repairs/replacement.
- Salvage coverage: Serious accidents can leave your pontoon stranded on the water. In such a situation, your salvage coverage would come into play. This pays for towing your boat from the sea to the land and perhaps even to a repair shop.
- Consequential damage coverage: Has your boat rusted, corroded, or even gotten a little moldy? You try to fix the issue, but you’re thinking you need some replacement parts instead. With consequential damage coverage, your insurance policy takes care of the cost of replacements or repairs.
- Cruising extension coverage: If you have Mexico or the Bahamas on your must-see list for this year, then consider tacking on cruising extension coverage to your existing insurance policy. You might find you need medical care or boat replacements and repairs even when abroad, and cruising extension coverage can truly help.
- Property coverage: The worst has happened and someone got away with taking your pontoon boat! With property coverage, you won’t have to pay for your new boat, at least not entirely. That makes the sting of losing your pontoon boat a little easier to live with.
- Liability coverage: Were you on a friend’s boat but accidentally dinged something up to the point that it’s noticeable? Maybe someone got hurt because of something you did. With liability coverage, you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for these regrettable mistakes.
- Medical payments coverage: You just got in an accident on your pontoon boat. Don’t panic. With medical payments coverage, you won’t have to shell out tons of money for all that comes next. Trips to the doctor, hospitalization, treatments and medication, and x-rays all get paid for with this coverage.
- Uninsured watercraft coverage: Last but certainly not least, there’s uninsured watercraft coverage. This helps in the situation we discussed earlier where someone else hits your boat but doesn’t have insurance. You can still get medical bills and boat repairs/replacements covered if you add this to your plan.
Do You Need to Carry Your Insurance Paperwork Onboard Your Boat?
Hooray! With the information provided in this article, you finally went ahead and got your pontoon boat fully insured. Now you can ride with the peace of mind that if something ever happens, you’re not forced to pay for it all yourself.
Your insurance paperwork just arrived in the mail. Should you bring it with you on your pontoon boat when you go out for trips? Yes. Just like you keep your car insurance in your vehicle, you need to do the same with your pontoon boat.
What if you get your insurance paperwork soaked after a particularly wet day? Then it doesn’t do anyone any good. You’d hate to have to call your insurance company and ask them to mail you out another copy.
You have a few options to keep your papers safe and dry. You can get them laminated at a printing shop. There’s also plenty of waterproof file holders you can buy on sites like Amazon. Let’s discuss a few of these now.
This eight-piece file folder set has adorable illustrations of cacti throughout. Each file folder measures 6.7 inches wide by 8.3 inches long. They include a zipper for guaranteeing your insurance paperwork and other documents never get a drop of water on them. The file folders themselves are PVC plastic.
OverBoard’s waterproof document pouch includes D-rings along the side (four in all) so you can put it in a binder or attach it in other ways. Besides just water, OverBoard says your most precious documents stay safeguarded from dirt, sand, and dust. They designed their document pouch to resist UV sun damage as well as freezing. You could leave your paperwork on your boat all year with such great protection!
You might also try Warmwood’s waterproof bag. It’s 15 inches by 11 inches by three inches and can even fit a laptop that’s 13.77 inches by 10 inches. You get a handle for ultimate portability. Velcro straps keep moisture from getting in the bag and making your important documents all moldy. If you wanted, you could also put a tablet, batteries, legal contracts, cash, and a passport in the waterproof bag with your insurance paperwork. With its silicone base reinforced with fiberglass, this bag is also fireproof.
Our last pick comes from izBuy on Amazon. Their three-piece clip-on waterproof bags can hold all sorts of supplies, including money, medication, headphones, pencils and pens, and yes, your insurance documents. The nylon at the top of the bag provides great flexibility, and the plastic base can handle lots of wear and tear. It’s also waterproof, of course.
If you’re thinking of riding your pontoon boat without insurance, we strongly encourage you to think again. Accidents can and do happen, and going without insurance means paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars in boat repair costs and medical bills. It’s much better to spend a few hundred dollars a year to protect yourself and other boaters from risk each time you ride.