4 ways boat insurance differs from auto insurance

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on September 27th, 2017

As the summer winds down, many people might be thinking of selling their boats and other watercraft vehicles. If you’ve always wanted to own your own boat, fall is a great time to look for deals from people who want to or need to give up their toys now that the season is over. However, before you buy, it’s important to recognize four ways in which boat insurance differs from auto insurance.

Although boat insurance and car insurance do have some similarities—premiums are based on the age and type of boat, a driver’s history is taken into account, you need to provide insurance companies with an estimate of how much you’ll use the vehicle, etc.—boat insurance is very much unique in a few particular regards.

1) Not mandatory—except when it is

If you’re mooring your boat on your property, or storing it in your garage, you probably aren’t legally required to have insurance. Boat insurance is still a good idea to protect your property and for liability reasons, but no one will take away your right to self-insure.

However, if you’re hauling your boat between your home and the water or are storing it at a marina, you’ll usually be required to have boat insurance. Auto insurance companies might allow you to haul a small boat, but many require additional coverage if your boat is over a certain length or is particularly powerful. Marinas will almost always require liability coverage.

2) Slightly cheaper than auto insurance

Although boats can be as expensive—or sometimes even more expensive—than cars, boat insurance is generally cheaper than auto insurance. This, of course, depends on the age and the value of the boat.

However, boat insurance is almost never year-round coverage. Insurance policies will often include a lay-up period during which time your insurance policy is not valid. So, while you could end up paying only $500 per year for boat insurance, that policy might only cover you for eight or nine months of the year.

3) Navigation limits

Boat insurance differs from auto insurance in terms of navigation limits. Although an auto insurance policy might not cover you if you drive to Mexico, a boat insurance policy is even more restrictive. When you apply for boat insurance, you request coverage for a certain area like a lake or off the shores of your hometown.

4) Animal problems

Some boat insurance companies will cover you if you decide to bring your dog aboard. Others will require an additional rider to your policy. If you’ve got a pet that you plan to bring on the water, check that coverage for him is included before you sign a policy.

Similarly, would-be boaters in areas with a lot of vermin, or those who are worried that vermin will damage their boats, can ask for additional coverage if it’s not included in the standard boat insurance policy.


Boat insurance differs from auto insurance in many ways. These four ways are the most frequent and important differences, although laws on boat insurance vary from province to province. The best way to find out what’s included in a boat insurance policy and what isn’t is to get a quote and discuss it with your broker.

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