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Making Sure You Have the Right Coverages


Ensure Happier Boating With The Right Boat Insurance

As the boating season begins, make sure your insurance coverage meets your needs. Here are some things to look out for, according to BoatUS, the nation's largest organization of recreational boaters, which insures over $6 billion worth of boats.

First, since most boating accidents occur on weekends, the company should offer a 24-hour emergency assistance service seven days a week, not just Monday - Friday. Next, look for a company that specializes in marine insurance. Third, understand what kind of coverage you have. Types of coverage available in a single policy include:

Hull insurance, which covers physical damage or loss to the boat, engine(s), boating equipment and gear essential to operation and maintenance. You want all risk coverage, meaning that it covers any type of damage not expressly excluded, not a named perils policy, which covers only losses from dangers specified in the policy. Be sure there is no deductible for any salvage claims (salvage is where your insurance company pays to rescue your boat from peril.)

With hull insurance, you should have a choice between an Agreed Value and Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy. Generally speaking, an agreed value policy is better since, if there's a total loss, an agreed value policy pays the specific amount stated in the policy. ACV, which is less expensive and provides less coverage, pays the current market value of the boat, which may have declined during the years since you first insured your boat.

Liability (P&I) protects and indemnifies you for claims against you for loss of life, personal injury and damage to the property of others for which you are legally liable. Marine liability coverage covers the unique responsibilities of boat owners, such as the removal of a wreck from navigable channels. Make sure you have at least $500,000 in coverage for liabilities resulting from an accidental fuel spill. Under the law, boat owners are responsible for the cost of containment, clean-up and environmental damages from fuel or oil discharge that might occur, for example, during a dockside sinking, a fire or by running aground.

Medical payments should cover medical expenses incurred by you or anyone on your boat, including yourself and guests. Some policies won't cover the owner.

Optional personal effects/sporting equipment coverage. While your hull coverage protects navigational gear and boating equipment, it doesn't cover sports equipment (like fishing or diving gear) or portable stereos, televisions, etc. You can usually add optional coverage for these items, but make sure they are not already covered in your homeowner's policy. Don't buy insurance for the same items twice - you can only collect once if you have a claim!

Uninsured boaters coverage covers damage for personal injury that you are legally entitled to recover from the uninsured owner or operator of another boat who collides with your boat, such as by a hit- and- run boater. (Hull insurance covers damage to your boat by an uninsured boater.)

In addition, check to see if the insurer provides any loss prevention and manufacturer's defects investigations programs that can help maintain your investment in your boat, or any coverage for faulty repairs that were not done correctly the first time.

The cost of marine insurance depends on a number of variables, including where you cruise and when. It costs more to insure a boat in coastal waters than inland lakes and rivers, especially in areas exposed to hurricanes, and more still if you are using the boat year-round. Some policies specify you must have your boat in winter storage by a certain date; the better ones give you a premium credit for storage but don't specify a date. Boaters in hurricane-exposed areas who have a written evacuation plan and a pre-arranged "hurricane hole" for the boat may be able to negotiate a better rate.

Boaters can save 10 to 20 percent on their boat insurance by following a few simple step, said Ann Hutchins, vice president of underwriting at BoatUS Marine Insurance:

Increase the deductible. The higher the deductible, the lower the premium.

Take a safe boating course. Boaters should receive a discount if they take a course that's been approved by the National Association of State Boating Law

Administrators (NASBLA). Call the BoatUS Foundation CourseLine at 1-800-336-2628 to find the course nearest you.

Install safety and security equipment such as automatic fire extinguishing systems and burglar alarms. Many insurers offer premium discounts.

Finally, and most important, tell the truth when you apply for coverage. Don't leave out information about your driving record, past boating or auto accidents or losses.

If you plan to charter your boat, even occasionally, tell your agent. Be sure to list all the areas you plan to cruise in this season. Otherwise, you may find the policy to be void and worthless.

For more information and a free quote from BoatUS Marine Insurance, visit the BoatUS Web site at or call 1-800-283-2883

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