For years, boaters didn’t much worry about obtaining insurance on their boats, they were mainly concerned with who gave them a better quote. The tables have turned. Prices for coverage have gone up and insurance carriers are pickier about what they will insure. The main reason is the number of “catastrophic losses” over recent years, primarily hurricanes. For example, one company lost over 100 million dollars in 2017 on one hurricane a few years ago, and they are still cleaning up after last year’s storm.
There are fewer companies offering coverage and those that do want to make sure your boat is an insurable risk. The companies really taking the risk are often not the ones whose names are on your policy, but a larger company behind it (reinsurance), and there are fewer of them today.
It is standard procedure these days for insurers to require a marine survey on used boats before writing coverage, especially if the boat is 10 years old or more. The same goes for maintaining insurance that you already have—they want to see that the boat is still in sound condition. The message for owners is to maintain your boat properly, so you can keep it insured, and when it is time to sell, a buyer can obtain insurance on it. We field a lot of questions on this subject, and we often find ourselves assisting customers with finding coverage.
We have learned that insurers want to see prior ownership—not just experience—for customers buying a boat. You may assume that because you have crewed for years, or chartered, that your experience would be enough to qualify you, but sometimes it is not. If the vessel is large or expensive it may require putting together a program with training or having a captain on board for a period. You may also have to build a sailing/boating resume. These are all areas where we can become involved to help. Don’t expect things to become easier so long as we keep having hurricanes.