When It Comes to Watercraft, Oil and Water Don’t Mix – Are You Covered?

If you’re a boat owner, there’s a chance you may have overlooked obtaining the right boat or watercraft insurance policy. Perhaps you’ve been under the impression that your homeowner’s policy covered your boat as well. The truth is that some homeowner’s policies may provide limited boat liability insurance coverage, with the determining factor being usually the power of the boat motor. It’s best to check your policy carefully and discuss your specific situation with your insurance agent.

Now’s a good time to make sure you have appropriate coverage. And if you do have a boat or watercraft policy what exactly is being covered? There are different coverage options for boat owners to insure that their boat and its passengers are protected. These options include physical property damage, watercraft liability, medical payments, fuel/oil liability, uninsured watercraft, boat equipment, and emergency services.

The environmental disaster of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico comes to mind, and boat owners have shown concern about coverage for unforeseen circumstances. An oil spill from your boat could have a serious financial impact if you are personally responsible to pay for the clean-up. This type of occurrence is usually covered by the watercraft liability coverage on the boat owner policy. However, some policies do have separate limits that are specific to fuel oil liability.

Keep in mind that a personal umbrella liability policy, which provides an extra cushion beyond normal liability limits, does not extend to a fuel spill liability. Therefore, it’s very important to carry $500K or $1MM in fuel spill coverage on the boat policy to make sure you’re protected.

Boat owners may also neglect to take other operators into account when purchasing their policy. If you borrow someone else’s boat, make sure your policy covers your liability on that boat, including fuel spills, which would be outlined under non-owned boat liability coverage. Although some boat policies will cover any “permissive operators” who drive the boat with permission, some boat insurance policies may provide coverage only to those operators listed on the policy. In addition, if someone operates your boat and causes a serious accident, they may be covered as a “permissive driver,” but be careful because your policy may only cover those individuals specifically listed on your boat policy as operators. And this is a case where a personal umbrella liability policy could come in handy. While this policy would cover your liability exposure in operating someone else’s boat, there are underlying limits that will likely leave you with a gap of $100,000 or more.

But here’s the good news! There are a number of discounts that could help you save on boat insurance. These discounts might include policies on a new boat and diesel engines. You might also be eligible for a multi-policy discount on your boat and auto insurance. And remember that you may be able to earn discounts for successfully completing certain boat education courses.

Talk to your local insurance agent for more information. Safe boating!