How to Insure Your Boat + 12(ish) Boat Maintenance Tips

vintage boat with three people inside on lake

If you own a boat (or if you’re thinking about it), you’ve definitely heard this phrase: “The two best days of being a boat owner are the day you buy it, and the day you sell it.”

We’d like to update that a little bit - we think the two best days of being a boat owner are the day you buy it, and the day you insure it. Because owning a boat is awesome! And owning a fully insured boat - a boat that’s protected against as many of the things that can happen to a boat as possible - well, that makes the life of a boat owner just a little bit more secure. Which feels just about as great as cutting a wake through the nearest lake, river or bay.

But how do you insure a boat? What types of insurance do you need when buying a boat? And who should you go to for your boat insurance needs? Here’s a few things that will help your boat insurance search (plus a few maintenance tips for good measure):

How do I insure my boat?

Marine vehicle insurance - which can cover fishing boats, sailboats, pontoon boats, speedboats and other powered vehicles (save for smaller things like personal watercrafts, aka Jet Skis) works a lot like car insurance with some interesting boat-specific extras.

Boat insurance policies often include collision, property damage, bodily injury and comprehensive coverage. Boat policies may also include coverage for expensive tools (and toys) permanently attached to your boat (fishing radar, anchors), trailers and towing, mechanical breakdown coverage beyond normal wear and tear, and even salvage coverage (basically if your boat needs to be “recovered” from the lake or ocean floor).

Your costs will be based on factors including size of the boat and the strength of its motor, where the boat’s going to be used, who’s going to be responsible for it and of course: the boat’s value. Like with motorcycle insurance, you can ask about layup periods where your boat will be out of use but still insured (for a temporarily lower rate). And before you let the kiddos drive, make sure your policy covers any damage that may be incurred while an underage operator is at the helm.

And finally, check with your home insurance policy for smaller boats like canoes, kayaks and rowboats: You may have some coverage for those as your personal property.

What about insuring my classic or antique boat?

Good news - Hagerty has a solution for that. Even though we’re mostly known for our classic car insurance, did you know that we started out in the marine insurance world? It’s true - Hagerty Marine Insurance was born in 1984, and we expanded into our collectible car in 1991.

So if you have a wooden boat like a Chris Craft, a fiberglass boat older than 1990 or a variety of other collectible marine vehicles, let’s talk! Our agreed-value coverage may be a better fit for your boat than standard policies.

Some friendly boat maintenance tips for your newly insured boat (and for new-to-boating owners)

Now that you’ve got the basics on getting your ship insured, here’s a few things to keep it shipshape and happily floating for years to come. Since powered boats have a lot more to worry about than your traditional sailboat, we’re going to focus on their maintenance here:

Hull and Topside Maintenance:

Wax and polish your hull a couple times per season if you can - this gives you a chance to check for any nicks, scratches or cracks and catch them before they turn into a major problem. For fiberglass boats, this also keeps the gelcoat from getting cloudy.

Hose down your hull as much as possible after each trip; keeping the finish clean is especially important in saltwater to keep any corrosion and buildup to a minimum and keep invasive species out of where they shouldn’t be.

You’d think that canvas and upholstery would be pretty weather resistant on a boat, and it is - but only to a point. Keeping your nonskid surfaces are a worthwhile expenditure as well, even if you’re doing the prepping and painting yourself. Your non-broken ankles will thank you.

Engine & Propeller Maintenance:

Where water meets internal combustion engines, problems can and will occur. Many boat maintenance pros recommend never using a fuel with ethanol, using fuel stabilizer for those two-week stretches or more where you can’t fire up the engine, and even using a micron filter to keep water particles out of the engine (while letting the combustible fuel through).

If you thought an oil change was important for your car, imagine being a mile or two offshore and having your engine seize up. Always be aware of your oil maintenance schedule, check your oil levels before every trip and keep an eye on your oil pressure gauge while underway.

Check your propeller for any dings, dents or nicks. Also keep an eye out for any accumulated fishing line every trip or two and remove anything you find. It’s almost impossible to see it floating on the surface, and if you get it wrapped up in your propeller it won’t just slow you down; it could damage your propeller shaft.

Battery Maintenance:

Check your battery before every trip - you never know if an indicator light left on will end up stranding you.

If you won’t be using your boat for a week or two (or more) flip the battery switch so that no charge will trickle off during the downtime.

You should get a good four or five seasons out of a marine battery, and when you change it out, make sure to use a marine-specific battery as they’re built for optimal boating performance.

End-Of-Season Maintenance

If you live in a climate where the boating season runs year round, this is less of a concern, but for those of us whose winters get less than ideal for water based activities, you’ll need to set aside some time to get your boat ready for a few months of rest.

For most engines, a “fogging” treatment is recommended, which gives the interior a thin layer of lubricant and keep things moving and also adds some anti-corrosion properties; top off your tank and add fuel stabilizer as well. Depending on your type of engine, winterizing may also include an antifreeze treatment to ensure that no water is left in the system to freeze and then sit there for weeks and months.

Get all the water out of everywhere else, too - open your drain plugs, make sure your bilge pump is free and clear, and get any water out of the onboard plumbing system if you have one.

For the exterior, giving your boat a final wash and wax is mandatory - this gives you one last chance to check for any smaller issues that may have happened during the season (and have them fixed in its downtime) but also to protect the exterior against the elements and temperatures that it usually isn’t in contact with.