Boat Insurance in California
For those that love the smell of saltwater, the feel of the wind on your face, the sound of the waves lapping against the hull: you were born to be on the water. Whether you have a runabout, a sailboat, or a million-dollar yacht, making sure you’ve got adequate insurance is a must. But how do we know if we are getting the right type of coverage to keep us safe?
Fortunately, Shift Insurance will be your first mate, guiding you to find the perfect policy for your particular craft. Finding the right level of coverage for your boat can be tricky—but when you bring us on board, we’ll take the guesswork out of the process.
Do I Need a License to Operate a Boat?
Some states do require boaters to have a valid license or take a boating safety course, however CALIFORNIA DOES NOT require a license to operate a boat. For this reason, it is important to consult with the boating law administrator’s office or contact the National Association of Boating Law Administrator’s Member Directory.
What is the Minimum Amount of Boat Insurance Required in California?
None. In California, having boat insurance is optional, meaning that it is perfectly legal to set sail without any financial responsibility set in place. However, boating without any sort of insurance is a big risk and even though it isn’t a state requirement, any type of loss could become very costly.
Since there aren’t any state requirements, the types of insurance packages offered for boats and vessels vary from that of standard auto packages.
What Are the Different Types of Personal Watercraft Classifications?
Here are the most common types of personal watercraft, and their descriptions, that can be insured:
Pontoon Boats – Usually have two aluminum barrel-like hulls under a stable deck with railings all the way around. They are very versatile and can be used for fishing, sunbathing and cruising around inland lakes. They often have a sun canopy to provide a shaded area and ample seating. Pontoon boats are most often powered by outboards.
Jet Boats – Powered by jet pumps that are linked to engines, jet boats can be small craft that accommodate only a few people or larger varieties that can pull water-skiers. They are typically transported to the water via trailer and cost less than most other in-board motor craft.
Cabin Cruiser Boats – These small cruisers generally use outboard or stern-drive power and are great for day cruising. They have a compact cabin area to allow for overnight stays and often have simple cooking capabilities.
Bass Boats – Designed to get to the fish as quickly as possible, these boats are usually outfitted with larger outboard motors. There are storage areas on board to store fishing poles, tackle and other gear. There is often a raised-deck casting platform, swivel seating, electronics and livewells, along with a designated area for a trolling motor.
Fishing Boats – These boats are designed specifically to allow for fishing from anywhere on the deck. They often have space for storing fishing gear. Most are outboard powered and they may have a small cabin.
Sailboats – Sailboats come in a variety of sizes, some with cabin features. They can have single or multiple sails, and often have motors for backup power.
Runabouts – The multi-purpose runabout is a great boat for a variety of activities: water-skiing, fishing, swimming, tubing, wakeboarding or sunbathing. They can have an open or closed bow and can be powered by outboard or stern-drive engines.
Personal Watercraft – Craft for one, two, three or more people that can be stood upon or straddled. Personal Watercraft are often referred to by their brand names such as Jet Ski®, Wave Runner® or Sea Doo®.
Deck Boats – Named for the one-level deck throughout, this multi-purpose craft can be used for anything from fishing, swimming, sunbathing or short cruises. They usually accommodate a number of people. Most are outboard powered but they may use stern-drives.
Kayaks – Small, paddle powered craft for one or two people kayaks are used for everything from short-distance cruising on calm waters to riding whitewater rapids to sea adventures and sight seeing. Professional quality and handmade kayaks can be quite costly.
What Types of Insurance Packages are Available for Boats and Vessels?
Physical damage package options are based upon the vessel type, age, and maximum speed of the watercraft. Each standard personal watercraft will have different deductible options depending on its characteristics. For example, a personal watercraft will have deductible options of:
Each type of watercraft will have its own coverage options, however, certain pontoon boats are classified differently and subsequently have additional deductible options. In addition to deductible limits from $250 to $5,000, pontoon limits can also be either 1%, 2% or 5% of the value of the vessel. These are all things to consider when looking into the right policy for your specific needs.
Many carriers will offer different tiers of coverage ranging from standard to elite packages. Usually for just a slightly higher premium, elite packages will have more coverage options.
What Does Boat Insurance Cover in California?
Boat insurance policies can range from basic to comprehensive coverage depending on your needs. While there is no minimum financial responsibility that is required by law, it is highly recommended that some sort of insurance policy is in effect just in case of a loss. Here is an example of a standard amount of coverage you might find on a policy and what it covers:
|Coverage Component||Example Limits of Coverage|
|Uninsured Watercraft Bodily Injury||$100,000|
|Physical Damage||Value of Watercraft|
|Fuel and Other Spillage Coverage||$854,400|
|Trip Interruption Coverage||$1,200|
As you can see, many of these coverage options are similar to that of standard automobile policies aside from a few vessel specific options. These basic forms of coverage that are available on both standard auto insurance policies and boat insurance are:
- Collision coverage – Covers you against damages to your vessel that occur as a result of a collision with another boat or dock (may not include clean-up of wreckage unless additional coverage is purchased).
- Comprehensive coverage –Provides compensation if your boat is vandalized, stolen, or damaged in an incident other than a collision.
- Uninsured Boater Coverage – According to the latest statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III) 12.6% of California drivers had no car insurance. Since boat insurance isn’t a mandatory requirement in California, the number of uninsured boaters is even higher. Uninsured boater coverage can cover damages caused by one of these uninsured boaters.
- Towing and roadside coverage – If your vessel has stopped running due to non-accident related events (e.g. mechanical or electrical breakdown), this coverage can be of assistance.
- Medical and funeral services coverage – pays for the medical or funeral expenses of you and your passengers after an accident, regardless of fault.
In addition to these overlapping coverage options, some boat/vessel specific options you should consider are:
Diminishing deductible – With a diminishing deductible option, your insurance deductible decreases a certain % each year you’re claim-free until your deductible hits zero. It applies to both your comprehensive and collision deductibles. The standard reduction percentage is 25%; however, some policies do offer up to a 50% reduction each year.
Trailer Coverage – With trailer coverage, they will insure any trailer that is designed to transport the vessel and is listed on the declarations Page.
Water-sports Liability – Provides liability coverage equal to your Personal Liability limit for water-sports such as waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding.
Hurricane Haul-Out – In the event of a named storm, you can receive reimbursement of expenses to have the vessel moved by a professional. This coverage will typically pay 50% of the costs, up to $2,000.
Trip Interruption Coverage – If an insured is more than 250 miles away from their mooring location and has a direct, sudden and accidental loss, you can receive reimbursement for:
- Transportation costs incurred by the loss
Boat Lift/Cradle/Hoist – You can receive compensation of up to $2,000 for a covered loss of an insured’s boat lift, cradle and/or hoist.
Pet Coverage – If Personal Property coverage is purchased, up to $1,000 is provided for injuries or death to a cat or dog occurring as a result of a covered loss while occupying the watercraft.
Fuel and other Spillage Coverage – If the insured is required by law to clean up, remove or contain a pollutant that was accidentally spilled, discharged or leaked from the watercraft, compensation can be provided up to the specific limits listed on the declarations page – If offered, typically $854,400.
Who Are the Best, Most Responsive Boat Insurance Carriers?
There are over 150 California admitted insurance companies that do business in California. So just like the boat you own, your ideal policy is distinctive to your circumstances, your preferences, and your needs. As a result, you need an agency that specializes in boat insurance and offers a large variety of vetted carriers—that can find you the best policy for the best price. Here is a list of some of the top insurance companies by market share, as of 2016. In no particular order:
- Foremost STAR
- Pacific Specialty
- NBOA Marine
- Mariners General
- Maritime Insurance
- State Farm
What Boat Insurance Discounts are Available in California?
- Boating Safety Course/License Discount
- Protective Device Discount
- Multi-Policy Discount
- Multi Unit Discount
- Affinity and Alliance Discounts
- Insured Age Discount
- Lay-Up Discount
- Prior Insurance/Transfer Discount
- Loss Free Renewal Discount
- Paid in Full Discount
Can I Get a DUI on a Boat?
In California, operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is known as a B.U.I. and holds much of the same penalties as driving a vehicle on land while under the influence. Just like a D.U.I., the legal consequences of a B.U.I. include steep fines, penalties and even prison time in some cases where an injury or death occurred as a result. The legal B.A.C. limit for any persons operating a boat/vessel is exactly the same as when operating a vehicle – .08%. This means that anybody that is caught with an alcohol limit higher, is subject to receiving a B.U.I., however, the Harbors and Navigation Code does allow passengers to consume and have open containers on a boat, as long as the operator of the vessel is not over the legal limit.
The primary causes that attract law enforcement officials to boaters are:
- Erratic driving of the boat
- Right-of-way violations
- Equipment violations
- Lack of visible registration
If suspected of boating while under the influence, an officer has the right to conduct field sobriety tests and chemical testing (breath and blood) and if the operator fails to pass, the end result could be a B.U.I.
Get Greater Value Through Bundling
Insuring your boat with the same company that handles your auto insurance and homeowners insurance gives you the best value. Let Shift Insurance show you how bundling your coverage can bring your bottom line down.
All aboard for quality, custom insurance. Call us today.