Boat insurance: Are you reading the fine print?

Greg Harding
Deckee Pro  Posted March 13 2016

The following article is a guest post from community member Greg Harding. Greg is an experienced east-coast cruiser and has been contributing helpful reviews and recommendations to Deckee for over a year.

Having just renewed our insurance I thought I would write about the importance of having insurance and reading the small print or disclosure documents related to the policy. As someone famous once said, “the devil is in the detail."

Personally I would not be without insurance for our boat. My view is if I can't afford the insurance, I can't afford the boat. Over the years I have met many boaters, power and sail, who are not insured. If a person makes the choice not to insure the boat they accept that if they damage a boat due to their negligence then they are responsible for the cost of repair. I have heard of cases where this has occurred and the person responsible has had to sell their boat to cover the cost of repair. With the cost of today's boats it is quite reasonable to expect that the cost of repair may be far greater leaving the person in severe debt.

I do not know of a marina or haul-out facility that does not require a boat to have full comprehensive or third party damage insurance before they will haul you out of the water or allow you to berth at their facility. I have always found that I have had to supply my insurance papers to prove I had up-to-date insurance coverage. When cruising we keep a scanned copy of our policy on a memory stick and email a copy to the marina in question so we don't have to keep a paper copy on board when cruising. Most marinas we have stayed at on the east coast require a minimum of $10 million dollars liability insurance.

Last year when we received our insurance renewal I re-read the disclosure document. Both my wife and I were quite surprised to see in the small print that our boat (or any boat for that matter) was not covered for insurance if we anchored or on a mooring in Pioneer Bay or Shute Harbour in the Whitsunday Islands. As cruisers we found this clause highly restrictive in that we are bound by the policy to berth at the the marina just to visit or re-provision. Even if anchored or moored with a responsible skipper on board you are not covered even in the most benign conditions.

It was quite disconcerting cruising last year and talking with fellow cruisers who were insured with the same insurers and were un-aware of this clause within their policy and anchored in Pioneer Bay on many occasion and unknowingly were uninsured for that time.

In looking at different policies over the years the following points are just some of the things we found in relation to some policies.

If your boat is over ten years old some insurance companies will automatically increase the cost of your policy due to the age of you boat. If your boat is over 15 years of age an insurance company may start requesting a survey of the boat or a rigging inspection every couple of years – an added cost to be aware of.

If you intend on cruising, an insurance company (as in our case) may require you to advise them of when and where you intend to cruise, i.e. The Whitsundays (We are based in Lake Macquarie NSW). One of the things we have noticed in talking to other cruisers and the insurance policies they have is how your excess may change due to the circumstances of a claim.

For instance, we are aware of a friend who’s excess was very low in normal circumstances but if his boat was damaged as a result of a named storm (cyclone) his excess would increase to 25 percent of the value of his boat. One policy he declined had a 50 percent excess for cyclones. So if your boat is valued at $100,000 your excess if $50,000. If boat value is $200,000 excess is $100,000. This can be an enormous sum of money. Some policies will require you to be berthed at a Cyclone rated marina to be covered by insurance or a known secure location in mangroves.

When considering my policy this year I contacted another well known company and requested a quote as we were considering taking the boat to Asia. While it was a very very competitive quote the small print was worth noting again.

As an example, our sails and coverings including the bimini and sail bag were not covered for wind damage, regardless if the sails were down or up. We are a sail boat so to have an integral and expensive part of the boat not covered for what it was designed to do was a deal killer.

Also the fact that we were expected to pay for repair to damages up front (not just the excess) and then be reimbursed by the insurer was also a deal killer. In fairness to the insurance company they did state if circumstances did not allow the owner to cover the bill they would arrange payment, however I still believe one should be aware of these clauses and what is required to make a claim.

This is not a shot at insurance companies as all I have dealt with clearly state in their disclosure policy what is and is not covered. We have been very happy with our insurer who we have been with the past 20 years. It is incumbent on the owner to ensure that policy taker is clearly aware of all of his or her responsibilities and limits relative to their particular policy. If in doubt I forward an email to the relevant company requesting clarification and keep a record of all contacts. I always request a email with verification of changes to the boat or policy so there is no confusion if a claim is made at a later date.

Finally I repeat, read the small print, it may save you a lot of heartache in the future.

Note: Deckee's free boat insurance comparison tool now allows you to easily compare the benefits and inclusions of different policies. We also provide you with an expert broker service to help negotiate the best policy and price from various insurers. Try it out!

7 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Greg Harding


Write your reply...
Derek Tracey
Posted February 3 2017
Well done Greg
1 person found this helpful. Do you?Thank Derek Tracey
Captain Bazza
Posted September 30 2017
A great reminder to read the fine print. Thank you.
Was this helpful?Thank Captain Bazza

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