How Much is Boat Insurance?

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Did you know that Canada has the longest shoreline in the world at over 240,000 km? Suppose you add to that the 8,500 named waterways. Is it any wonder that boating is a national pastime that continues to grow in popularity?

Statistics show that 4 out of 10 shoppers are buying their first boat. However, so many new drivers can lead to problems: the Canadian government cites an average of 6,000 injuries a year in boating accidents making it very important to find the right insurance for your and your passengers’ protection.

This guide will explore what boat insurance is, the different types, what it covers, and how to pick the best boat insurance policy for you.

What is boat insurance?

Canadian boat insurance protects you in the event of property damage or bodily injury. The insurance provider will help investigate a loss and pay up to the limit of your policy if you are found to be at fault.

Medical insurance payments will provide coverage of medical expenses resulting from an accident on your boat.

It is worth remembering that settlements for personal injuries can run as high as $1 million, without having to prove negligence. If you are uninsured and have an accident in which someone is injured you could end up with a life-altering bill.

According to Red Cross Canada, the vast majority of boating accidents (more than four out of five) involve pleasure crafts. However, careful you are, you cannot control for other drivers being uninsured or even inebriated. The best you can do is have a comprehensive insurance policy to protect yourself, your boat and your passengers.

Good to know

Compare and purchase boat insurance at the top of this page.

Do I need boat insurance?

Do you need boat insurance? If you are a recreational boater then technically, no. Though Canada requires all boat drivers to carry their Pleasure Craft Operator card with them, marine insurance is not mandatory. However, not being insured could leave you vulnerable to punitive costs if something goes wrong. The cost of boat insurance will definitely be less than paying out for an accident without protection!

Watch out!

Settlements can run as high as $500,000 for property damage and $1 million for personal injury.

Additionally, many marinas will insist on you having insurance before allowing you to dock there.

In contrast, since 2019, all commercial boats carrying passengers are obligated to have insurance.

How much is insurance on a boat?

The cost of boat insurance can be estimated using this general rule:

Good to know

Average boat insurance will cost around 1.5% of the value of your boat.

For example, if your boat is worth roughly $25,000, you will likely pay around $375 a year to keep it insured.

Of course, prices will vary with region. Boat insurance in Ontario is likely to be more expensive than boat insurance in BC!

What are the different types of boat insurance?

Boat insurance in Canada divides into three main types: liability insurance, risk coverage and Hull and Machinery.

Boat insurance policyHow does boat insurance work?
Liability boat insurance
Similar to auto insurance, this policy protects you if you injure someone or damage their property.
Risk boat insurance
This policy covers you in case of theft, fire, collision and capsizing.
Hull and Machinery insurance
This policy is more comprehensive. This policy fully protects you even in the case of the total loss of your boat and all attached equipment (e.g. if you sink).
Types of boat insurance

What does boat insurance cover?

Boat insurance will typically cover a variety of threats, including:

  • Theft, vandalism, fire and explosion
  • Weather, such as lightning, wind and hail damage
  • Damage from collision
  • Damage by vermin (for example raccoons)

In the event of a serious accident, boating insurance can also provide:

  • Medical coverage
  • Emergency towing of a damaged boat
  • Compensation for loss of use
  • Pollution and wreck removal

Does boat insurance cover a blown engine?

Yes, a blown engine and other mechanical failures will be covered by your insurer if it is caused by an accident. If a blown engine results from negligence or normal wear-and-tear, your policy may not cover you.

Can boat insurance cover winterization?

Most insurers will only cover winterization if a certified mechanic or marina has prepared your boat for freezing and can provide receipts.

How many drivers does boat insurance cover?

An insurance policy does not need to list the drivers. Anyone who is of age and is permitted to drive can operate your boat, insured, with your permission.

What is commercial boat insurance?

Since January 11th, 2019 all boats must have passenger insurance if they carry passengers on board a commercial or public purpose ship in Canada.

In 2000, an uninsured tour boat carrying thirteen schoolchildren sank in rain and gale-force winds in Georgian Bay. The eighteen survivors, none of whom were wearing life jackets, managed to swim some 200 metres to shore through 30-knot winds.

The subsequent investigation lead to Transport Canada passing new regulations with regards to life-jacket provision and mandatory insurance. Under the new regulations, commercial boat operators must: be covered by at least $250,000 of liability insurance, multiplied by the passenger capacity of the ship.

Good to know

For example, if a vessel can carry up to 4 passengers, it needs to maintain at least $1 million of insurance as well as proof of insurance.

The law applies to:

  • ferries
  • cruise ships
  • water taxis
  • commercial fishing boats
  • offshore supply ships
  • sightseeing vessels.

The law does not apply to:

  • adventure tourism
  • sail trainees
  • guests travelling on a pleasure boat

Good to know

Crew and other workers on board a ship are not passengers, however, friends or family brought aboard a commercial ship are considered passengers.

Which is the best boating insurance?

If you are searching for the best boating insurance, you can have a look at our aggregation of best boat insurance quotes or use the table below to see the difference in what some of the biggest insurance companies offer:

Boat insurance companyOffer a specific boat insurance policyLiability & RiskEmergency towingVerminTemporary replacementAgreed value
Aviva boat insurance
CAA boat insurance
No, but may be covered under residential policyYes, limitedNoNoNoNo
ICBC boat insurance
No, but may be covered under auto policyYes, limitedNoNoNoNo
MD Marine insurance
RBC boat insurance
TD boat insurance
No, but may be covered under residential policyYes, limitedNoNoNoNo
Traditional and online boat insurance providers

What type of boats are covered?

Can you insure your boat? Almost certainly! Most boat insurers are able to deal with most kinds of boats. The list below shows gives the most common categories used in boat insurance.

  • fibreglass boats
  • wooden boats
  • runabouts
  • utilities
  • launches
  • cruisers and cuddy cabins
  • sailboats
  • houseboats
  • bass boat
  • PWC
  • jet boat
  • pontoon
  • deck boat
  • older boats

For older boat insurance it may be worth researching specific companies who can cater to the particular needs (for a breakdown of what "older boats" means and the categories within that see our handy info box below).

What is the best boat insurance for older boats?

Older boats fall into four categories based on when they were constructed:

Good to know

Historic - before 1918

Antique - between 1919 and 1942

Classic - between 1943 and 1975

Late-classic - from 1976 to 1997

Any boat built within the last 25 years is considered Contemporary.

Specialty insurance providers offer policies tailored to older boats. These policies differ from standard boat insurance policies, they may limit the number of times a boat can be taken out during peak season and they will typically offer restoration coverage that will protect older boats while being worked on.

Does my home insurance cover my boat?

Some of the best home insurance policies cover your boat for loss and liability. However, home insurance policies are unlikely to cover more specific needs, that specialized boat insurance policies will, such as pollution, wreck removal and rescue.

You are likely to find cheaper boat insurance deals if you are able to bundle insuring your boat with existing home or auto policies.

How to find cheap boat insurance?

The best way to find cheap boat insurance is to shop around using online comparison tools like the one at the top of this page.

It is worth considering how comprehensive the boat insurance you need is. For basic insurance against accident or liability, you may find it cheaper to add your boat to an existing home or auto policy.

Watch out!

If you are exposed to a higher level of risk, you may want stand-alone, comprehensive boat insurance that will cover you if you sink. Compare and purchase boat insurance now at the top of this page.

Are there age restrictions on boat insurance?

There are no specific age restrictions on insurance, however:

  • If you are under 12 years of age and are not directly supervised by a person 16 years of age or older, you may only operate a pleasure boat propelled by a motor of a maximum of 10 hp (7.5 kW).
  • If you are over 12 years but under 16 years of age and are not directly supervised by a person of 16 years of age or older, you may only operate a pleasure boat propelled by a motor of a maximum 40 hp (30 kW).

From age 16 you may drive a boat unsupervised.

It is worth noting that age restrictions do not apply in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Is my boat covered by the marina’s insurance when in storage?

Your boat will only be covered against damage or accident that can be proved to be the fault of the marina. To avoid nasty surprises it is worth having your own protection in place too! Again, it is worth remembering that most marinas will require you to have boat insurance to dock there.

Do you need a boat survey for insurance?

As a general rule, no. However, if your boat is more than 15 years old your insurer may request a survey.

Sailboats over 26 feet with cabin facilities and cruisers with enclosed cabins will also typically require an out-of-water survey.

When you buy boat insurance you will need to give certain information to your insurer. To provide you with an accurate insurance quote, they will need to know the boat’s length, type and value. You should also provide details of your experience and claim history.

Good to know

If you are a member of Sail Canada or Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, you may be entitled to a discount.

Can I get boat trailer insurance?

Boat trailer insurance can be built into auto insurance or can be purchased as a specific policy for a specialist item. As built-in coverage is likely to be limited, it is worth looking into a separate policy that will provide comprehensive coverage.

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Alexandre Desoutter

Alexandre Desoutter has been working as editor-in-chief and head of press relations at HelloSafe since June 2020. A graduate of Sciences Po Grenoble, he worked as a journalist for several years in French media, and continues to collaborate as a as a contributor to several publications.