Many people assume that since you do not need a Drivers License to operate a boat on open waters that you do not need to insure it. While that is technically true, in Wisconsin you do not need a license to operate a watercraft, you will still be legally liable for damaging property or bringing Bodily Injury to others while on the water or putting-in your boat.
First you may want to check your homeowners policy or call your agent to see if your home policy will cover boating liability. Some policies will cover your liability if your boat motor is rated under 100 Horsepower. The general idea here is that your small fishing boats, canoes and kayaks will be covered under your home policy as a nice policy bonus. But as you upgrade and add fishing equipment, stereo systems, skiing rigging or higher powered engines its tine to get that separate policy in order to protect yourself.
Will I be covered if another boater hits my watercraft or injures me or my passengers? The answer here is with a stand-alone boating policy you can purchase uninsured and under-insured coverage for very little to make sure your boat and medical bills are covered in the event an irresponsible boater causes you harm. There is no need to add insult to injury by having to sue someone after an accident on the water.
Can I purchase coverage to get my boat towed if it stops functioning on the water? With most policies you can buy on-water towing coverage. If you have ever been stranded out on a lake you will know how hard it is to get you pulled ashore and the next surprise will be your bill when you are safe on land. By adding towing you can rest easy this situation will not interrupt your leisure time.
Will my homeowners policy cover my personal items or fishing equipment if they are lost or stolen on the water or while on my trailer? The answer here is “maybe”. Again you will want to read your home policy or check with your agent to be sure. Whether it is covered or not the last place you want any type of claim is on your homeowners policy. It can affect your rates and in some cases get your policy non-renewed. This is why we recommend separate boat, atv/utv and snowmobile policies in the first place to our clients. On most boat policies you can add coverage for “personal effects” and “fishing equipment” for a low additional premium thus transferring that risk to a separate inexpensive policy.
Can I get Replacement Coverage on my fancy boat or will it be depreciated when a claim happens? Like most Automobile policies your boat will likely be values on an Actual Cash basis at the time of a claim. However on some boat policies if your watercraft is 1 or 2 years old you can buy an endorsement to ensure that if you have a large claim you can get a full replacement on your boat.
Will a mechanical failure be covered by my boat policy? The answer here is largely NO. Recently some insurance companies have added “affordable wear-and-tear” coverage or “lower unit” coverage to your boat policy. This was in response to so many related claims where a covered loss also caused damage to lower units in these boats. Ask your agent if this is a possible add-on but it is a good rule of thumb with any vehicle insurance policy to assume wear-and-tear is excluded and is more of a warranty issue.