Savvy Britain


Boat Insurance

This superb Boat Insurance Guide should help UK citizens understand polices more easily and provide useful hints, tricks and tips.

As we all know Britain is a ‘sea fairing’ nation, we’re not only surrounded by the sea, we have many rivers and canals which can be used for business and leisure. Increasingly it’s also becoming more common for people to live on riverboats, particularly in major cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester.

This boat guide has been created to enable you with a thorough and detailed view of the insurance options available in the United Kingdom. After all, boats can range in all different sizes and prices. From small kayaks to canal boats, yachts and sea going vessels.

Typically, the cost of Boat insurance will vary depending on a number of factors. These can include the type of boat, the size of the craft, it’s usage and it’s power.

Read on further to see what level of cover you need and find superb money saving tips along the way.

Did you know? The UK has over 2,000 miles of networked canals and rivers!

What Boat Insurance Do I Need?

Getting the right level of insurance for your boat can be slightly confusing.

Generally, you’ll need to have third party insurance if you have a powered boat of a houseboat. This means you won’t be allowed to access UK rivers, canals, boatyards and marinas without this level of protection.

Third party cover will safeguard you if a claim is made against you for an injury or damage to another boat in the event of an accident. Most responsible boat owners tend to opt for ‘Comprehensive Boat Insurance’ as these policies also cover your own boat and crew.

If you don’t have the correct level of insurance you could be prosecuted or fined, however this depends on each navigation authority.

As with most insurance agreements you need to read all of the documentation before signing / agreeing to any policy.

A good point to consider is that most providers will not include ‘salvage’ costs as standard. This means should the unthinkable happen and your boat sinks, the recovery costs can easily be thousands of pounds. Always attempt to get a policy, which has salvage costs included at no extra charge to you.
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Types of Cover

Just like car insurance, there are different levels of cover available. Take a look at the explanations for each cover level below:
  • Third Party – This is the most ‘basic’ form of insurance you can have for your vessel. Typically it will only cover any injuries or damage to another boat, including any crew’s medical bills. It will not replace or repair your own boat, and it will typically not compensate you or any member of your crew if they’re hurt in an accident. The Canal and River Trust issue all the licences for the vast majority of the UK’s waterways. They require that all boats and vessels that are using these waterways are required to have third-party cover for at least £2 million pounds. The environment Agency, who issues all the boat licences for the River Thames, River Medway and the rivers of East Anglia. They require for third party cover with at least £1 million pounds. Remember, it’s not just the waterways themselves that require this level of cover, you will also find that moorings, marinas and boatyards also state that third party policies are required for the use of their facilities.
  • Third Party Fire and Theft – The mid-range option, this covers all of the basic features of third-party only cover, however it will also insure your vessel in case it’s stolen, damaged or catches fire. If you’re budget can allow, it’s better to try and get fully comprehensive insurance as this gives you a higher level of protection with more benefits.
  • Comprehensive – This level of cover is the best you can get. It will give you the highest level of protection for both your own losses and any injury or damage you may cause to others. Comprehensive boat cover will typically include accidental damage, fire, theft, vandalism and all elements that are included in third party cover. Equally you should also include the value of any equipment inside of your boat, which may need to be replaced if needed.

Purchasing Boat Insurance - Getting the Right Boat Quote

Finding the correct insurance quote for a boat can be tricky, just like a car, there are many factors, which insurers use to calculate your premiums.

Here are some of the factors in which insurance providers may taken into consideration:
  • Vessel Value – As you would expect the value of your boat could have a big affect on your overall insurance price. This is because expensive vessels such as cruisers and yachts can be costly to repair or replace. Equally more unusual and older vessels could also increase premiums. You will find that it’s quite common for insurers to ask a ‘marine surveyor’ to come out and value your boat. This isn’t always the case, however it’s increasingly becoming the norm. This enables insurance providers to work out the most competitive quote possible.
  • Type of Boat – The type of craft you own can also have a big affect on your insurance price. Generally in the UK most people will either have a houseboat, yacht, motorboat or narrowboat. As you can see a motorboat will travel much quicker than a narrowboat; thus it could more likely be involved in an accident. This could mean the premiums may be higher. Typically most insurance companies due a vessel by its overall length and engine power.
  • Use – Most providers will rank the use of a craft as having a significant impact on how much you may have to pay for insurance. After all, if your boat is only used every other weekend, insurers will typically regard the use as a leisure vessel. On the contrary you may find it more difficult to obtain insurance for a houseboat, which is used as a main residence. Obviously each insurance provider is different and they have different rules and requirements. It’s always best to shop around so you can get the best quote possible.
  • Mooring – It’s becoming more common for insurers to request mooring and storage information. After all boats can be kept anywhere from harbours, to moorings, marinas, canal banks or even out of the water and onto a trailer. Generally speaking, the more secure your boat is when not in use, the more likely premiums will be lower. This is obviously because there’s less ‘chance’ of damage or theft occurring. If you use your craft continuously throughout the year, some providers may not want to provide you with cover. Typically if this is the case, there’s usually dedicated specialist companies who will cater for these requirements.

Boat Safety Certificate (MOT)

If you’re using the waterways that are under the authority of the Canal and River Trust , all boats need to have a Boat Safety Certificate. This is the equivalent of an MOT and is issued by the Boat Safety Scheme.

All boat owners are responsible for ‘making sure’ that their vessel is maintained to the correct levels and it complies with the required standards.

Generally the boat safety certificate applies to all vessels that carry gas, fuel, have electrical circuits, domestic cooking, heating, refrigeration or lighting appliances.

Sometimes if your boat has none of these onboard, then it may be exempt. However you will need to see your local examiner as this can vary depending on multiple factors such as the boats age, size and type. You should never assume your boat would be except as you could face fines and legal prosecution.

Points to Consider

A part from the basic necessities of boat insurance, there’s other things you need to consider too:
  • Personal Belongings – It’s always a good idea to get cover that includes all of your and your crew’s personal belongings. Sometimes standard cover can exclude items, which are not part of the vessel itself. Equally you should also check your home insurance policy as this may cover your personal belongings.
  • Trailer Insurance – Typically if you use a trailer to transport your craft then you should check you have public liability insurance, in case the trailer causes damage or injury to other people. You should also check your car insurance, to make sure it covers the use of a trailer and towing a boat. You may find that if you have an accident and you cause damage, you may not be covered.
  • Foreign Cover – If you want to take your vessel outside of UK waters then you need to make sure you have the right level of protection covering you. Typically this will not be including as standard, however you may find that in certain locations (such as the south of England), you may be already covered. This is because a yacht or sea going craft will typically use the English Channel and your policy may have protection in place outside of UK territorial regions. It’ always best to read through all of your policies to 100% make sure you’re covered if you do plan to take your boat abroad.
  • Licences – Unfortunately in the UK we don’t have one agency that controls all of our waterways. The main authority is the River and Canal Trust who control most waterways a part from the rivers Thames, Medway and East Anglia. This means boat owners need two different licences if they want to eventually navigate on all of Britain’s major waterways. The charges of obtaining a licence vary depending on the boat size and power. You should be aware that a licence isn’t just required for ‘powered’ vessels, it’s also needed for houseboats, rowing skiffs and canoes.

Boat Insurance Money Saving Tricks

There’s a few different ways to try and keep premiums low, as all policy providers are different, some of these money saving tricks could be useful to you.
  • Qualifications – Just like going for a job interview, your qualifications can really impress potential insurance companies. To obtain any qualification means a person has put time and effort into their quest, they will have gained skills and experience that can be translated into a more competent boat owner. In basic terms this means providers may see you as a ‘lower risk’ compared to other owners.
  • Boat MOT – Having your vessel passed for the Canals and River Trust Boat Safety Certificate, also known as an MOT. Proves to insurers that your craft is ‘water worthy’ and in good condition. Thus, it may even bring the cost of your cover down and save you money.
  • Security– You may find that some companies will offer discounts for security features such as alarms and certain locks.
  • No Claims Discount – Having a good history of clean sailing means your premiums could be lower year on year. Just like a car, no claims discounts can also apply for boats. If you navigate the waterways with care and build up your no claims, then you should be in pole position to sail away with a good no claims discount.
  • Excess – Equally just like other forms of cover, stating a higher level of excess could bring your costs down. If your budget allows for it.
  • Storage – Increasingly insurers are becoming ‘hot’ on where your vessel will be stored or moored. After all, a part from collisions in the waterways, the biggest danger is from theft and vandalism. If your boat is moored at the side of a canal for example, the chances of something occurring is a lot higher than a boat that is towed away on a trailer and taken home. You will have to work out if higher and more secure storage is going to be beneficially when attempting to gain lower insurance. Sometimes you may find that any potential cover savings you could make, may be wiped out by increased storage costs.

Original Publication: 31 May 2017
Last Updated: 23 July 2017

Boat Insurance

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