Insuring Older Boats

June 2022 Feature Joan Wenner, J.D.

A new to you boat purchase needs suitable insurance coverage as it is a significant expense and essential protection. (And most if not all marinas require it in their slip rental agreements.)

Some companies may offer temporary replacement while yours is under repair, loaners and even trip planning in addition to the typical coverages. You want to look for flexible marine survey requirements, "Agreed" value, not at fault-no deductible clause, and possible discounts for boat association members -- a good way of finding value in membership along with the obvious education and other benefits that some first-time boaters may not be aware. Also do a seasonal review of your present policy if having one for newly offered incentives or features.

While there is a boatload of legalese in policies, a knowledgable agent ideally familiar with older boats (important in my view) can wade through it and provide you with more clear, understandable explanations of all provisions.

Here are a couple of major points to consider:

Detailed information asked by potential insurers about an older boat is in large part to determine its seaworthiness. A material fact relating to a vessel's condition should not be concealed or misrepresented as you will be legally bound as it's 'material to the risk.' An older boat is not expected to be perfect in all respects and reflected in its condition evaluation, a seller, (and surveyor) for example, should be careful to disclose known problems. Later excuses of mistake or oversight won't fly and conseqences can be severe.

'Materiality' in the law has a broad definition in the law, though so does 'good faith' as concerns an insurer's dealings with a potential policyholder -- or an existing one for that matter (as is the customer's 'reasonable expectatons' if a claim made.) Wear and tear is one thing but frayed wires known to be existing is quite another.

While excluding special restorations and 'classics' coverage for our purposes here, there are certain basics for arriving at a prmium for what type of coverage for a particular size, type, and material of an older boat for insuring, so you may want to shop around but keep in mind price, while important, isn't everything. Claims processing record, customer service and again, the knowledge of a marine speicialist and/or a referral from another boater with an older vessel, can make a big difference should there be a future claim of more than a trifling occurence. A person may be able to find a lower price, but at what cost? It's something to think about.

Joan Wenner, J.D. is a longtime boating and boating safety writer with a law degree and published in numerous publications in the U.S. and Canada. She is also a lifelong boater. Questions or comments are welcomed at

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