Complete Coverage

Tips for choosing the appropriate insurance policy.

Rick Stern October 18, 2012

As the boat product manager for Progressive Insurance, I’ve helped many boaters land policies to keep them worry free on the water. While spending time doing what you love is certainly fun and enjoyable, it’s important to remember that boating is inherently dangerous and expensive.

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While insurance provides peace of mind, be sure to routinely inspect bilge pumps and all fittings below the waterline. Photo: FSF MAG

It goes without saying that protection against damage, theft and bodily harm are essential, however boating insurance policies vary greatly and can also protect you against environmental cleanup, trip interruption, tournament fee reimbursement and emergency towing.

As a boat owner it’s important you understand that on the water insurance can be a lot more complex than insuring a vehicle. You must fully understand the complexities and various policies, as you will eventually sail through troubled waters if you ignore the fine print. Furthermore, protection and available policies vary greatly depending on your provider, so be sure to shop around and see who offers the greatest coverage and the best value.

As a fisherman, one of the first things you’ll want to consider along with boat coverage is equipment coverage. Equipment coverage will help pay for your gear if it is lost, falls overboard or gets stolen. If you are an extremely passionate angler with an arsenal of tackle, make sure that you have enough coverage for all of your equipment as quality fishing gear is not cheap. The bottom line is that if you use it to fish it can likely be covered. Fishing equipment coverage is generally an optional add on, so be sure to speak with your provider and see what yearly premium you’ll have to pay for the amount of coverage you need. It is crucial you take photographs, save receipts and keep a detailed inventory of all of your insured equipment.

Likewise, you’ll want to carefully consider the value of the boat you are insuring. One area of specialized coverage that can help protect you from depreciation is agreed value. Simply put, if your boat is ever declared a total loss your insurer will pay you the amount the boat was worth at the time the policy was purchased. You are covered for that amount for as long as you maintain your policy, even if a total loss occurs years later. Conversely, actual cash value coverage will pay you for the value of the boat at the time of the loss. Depending on how much your boat has depreciated over time, the payout difference between the two could be substantial. Because you will get more in return, agreed value coverage tends to cost more than actual cash value coverage, so it is really up to you to decide which settlement method best fits your particular needs.

Living in Florida, you’ve probably experienced many hurricane seasons. Some are rougher than others, but most boaters have learned to adequately prepare before a storm hits. It is essential that your boat insurance is a part of your hurricane preparedness plan. First and foremost, don’t wait until hurricane season to purchase a coverage plan since many insurance carriers won’t write a policy if a storm is named or forming in the Gulf or Atlantic. Secondly, make sure your policy fully covers your needs. For example, haul-out protection provides reimbursement for fees accrued when moving a boat to a safer location. After a storm has passed it’s important you document any damage with detailed photos and written assessments.

If you routinely venture far off the coast, or cross the ‘Stream to The Bahamas, talk to your agent or insurer and make sure your coverage applies. While I can’t speak for other insurers, Progressive’s standard policy covers international waters within 75 miles of the U.S. coast, and an optional endorsement can be purchased that extends coverage to 125 miles, plus most of the eastern Bahamian islands. All policies have limits and you don’t want to be stuck in the gray area, so be sure to communicate all of your needs with your agent before signing on the dotted line.

Taking all of this into consideration, make sure you consider the value you’re getting from your policy. Value doesn’t always mean discounts and savings; it’s about getting the most from your policy to fit your particular needs. Approach shopping for insurance the same way you approach buying anything else. Make side-by-side comparisons of what you’re getting from each insurer, while factoring in each provider’s history in the boating industry and reputation for handling claims. If you need help comparing insurance, consider talking to an independent agent. The bottom line is that you can’t afford not to have adequate coverage.

Get Covered

With a little knowledge, it’s easy to save on boat insurance. Your local independent agent can do the research for you and help you find the savings and coverage you want. If you choose to do it yourself, be on the lookout for discounts and money saving incentives.

  • Disappearing deductibles: Earn a 25 percent lower deductible every year you don’t have a claim. After four claim-free years, you have a zero deductible!
  • Claim-free renewal: Get a discount for having been an accident-free boater during your previous policy period.
  • Advance quote discount: Earn a discount just by getting a quote one or more days before you buy the policy.
  • Bundling discount: Insure your boat, home, car and other valuables with the same insurance company to save money.
  • Original owner status: Get a lower rate if you’re the first owner of your boat.
  • Paid in full discount: Pay the entire amount of your boat policy up front and save.
  • Rewards for being a good driver: How you drive a car may help you save. A clean driving record from the past three years—no accidents or violations—can save you money on your boat insurance.

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