Insurance expert Steve Risk has some useful advice for project boat owners who may be thinking of foregoing cover…

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Here’s my advice for people looking to buy older/project boats and asking themselves: ‘Do I need boat insurance?’ Before buying any boat, old or new, owners should engage the support of a specialist insurance broker to understand the cover they’ll need.

Insuring older boats can often be more complex. For a boat over 20 years old – or over 10-15 years if made of wood – insurers would expect a condition survey to be carried out to check it is in good working order. This ensures the owner can secure insurance cover – it doesn’t have any effect on premium.

When buying an old boat it’s advisable for potential owners to ensure that a survey has been carried out over the last three to five years, and they should ask the seller if they can see a copy of it for the avoidance of doubt.

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Do I need third-party boat insurance?

As well as standard boat insurance, owners should consider if they need third party insurance.

There’s no legal requirement, but it’s highly advisable as it provides financial protection if they have an accident involving another vessel, and it covers them for any damage or injury incurred by a third party.

If owners want to use a public slipway, pontoon or quay, or if they plan to keep their boat in a marina, they have to be able to demonstrate they have third party cover.

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Yards should have their own third party insurance

Am I covered by the boat yard’s insurance?

If the boat is going to be in a yard for a long time, can you get lower insurance to just cover things such as accidental damage, storms, fire, etc?

Yards would always be expected to have third party liability insurance in place in the event of damage being caused to boats in their care, custody or control.

However, if that damage is caused to a boat by an incident such as an act of God, for example a flood or storm, the vessel may not be covered by the yard’s policy.

Owners should ensure they have suitable insurance in place for their vessel when it’s in a yard for a prolonged period of time. That way, they know exactly what they’re covered for.

Do I need to tell my insurer when I lift out my boat?

Although it may not impact the premium, owners should notify their broker if their boat will be going into a yard to have work carried out, as this would be viewed as a ‘material change’ that affects the risk involved with insuring the vessel.

Failure to report a material change could have implications on cover, such as restrictions being added, or the policy being voided altogether.

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If you have work done on the boat be sure to tell your insurer

Do I need to tell my insurer if I make changes to my boat?

If an owner is making changes that increase a boat’s value it’s important they notify their broker so adjustments can be made. Owners can then be confident their insurance will pay out the full amount should the worst happen.

Over-insurance can also be an issue. Boats inevitably decrease in value the older they get, but owners who don’t review their cover may find their boat is still being insured for the same value as when they bought it, meaning their premium may be higher than it needs to be.

With the help of a specialist broker, who can take the time to review their insurance, owners can ensure their cover reflects their current situation, providing them with confidence that their cover is right for their needs.

do-i-need-boat-insurance-steven-riskAbout the author

Steve Risk is the MD of Coleman Marine Insurance, a Gallagher Company, providing bespoke solutions for all aspects of yacht, motorboat, superyacht, commercial craft and trade insurance.


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This feature appeared in the October 2021 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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