Shore leave: Do I need boat insurance?

Don’t count on your homeowners policy to automatically protect your boat — especially when you hit the water (or the road).

Your homeowners insurance provides some very limited coverage for watercraft: theft while on your residence or weather damage only if it’s in a fully enclosed building. To completely protect watercraft that you own, you need additional coverage for your boats, sailboats, and jet skis.

A special endorsement on your homeowners policy or a separate boat insurance policy can insure you against risks like sinking, collision, and theft. But even more importantly, boat insurance provides liability coverage, meaning you’re insured if you injure someone or damage property while operating or transporting your boat.

Ask your agent about the following:

Watercraft, motors, and trailers: Protect the whole package and insure your boat, outboard motor, and trailer as part of your boat insurance.

Boater safety: Some carriers offer discounts for policyholders who’ve completed a boater safety course. Discount or not, safety training is always a good idea. You can even do the course online.

Territory limits: Taking your boat on a big vacation? Check your policy first for any limitations. Common territory limits exclude ocean coverage after a certain number of miles off shore.

New purchases: If you already have boat insurance, it may include a “newly acquired property” provision that would extend coverage to a new boat purchase for a short period of time. No such extensions exist, however, for first-time boat owners. Your best advice is to call your agent before you leave the dealership…whether or not you already own a boat.

When you do purchase a policy, check the exclusions carefully and be sure that you’re protected for all the boating activities you and your family enjoy.