Do You Have to Have Boat Insurance in Georgia?

Do You Have to Have Boat Insurance in Georgia

While boat insurance isn’t mandated by law in Georgia, it’s a worthwhile investment for boat owners. Boat insurance can serve as a safety net for unpredictable scenarios, providing a sense of security in the event of an accident or theft. Whether you own a powerboat or a sailboat, there are some tips you can follow to customize your insurance and keep costs affordable.

Understanding Georgia Boating Laws

Understanding Georgia boating laws helps protect yourself and others while out on the water. Following these regulations is also critical to ensure compliance and avoid penalties.

Registration and Titling

By law, the state of Georgia requires boat owners to register all engine-powered vessels and sailboats over 12 feet in length used on the “waters of the state.” This refers to:

Registration Requirements

  • Any waters within the territorial limits of the state.
  • Any marginal sea adjacent to the state.
  • High seas when navigated during a journey or ride from the shore of the state.

Therefore, the definition doesn’t apply to privately owned ponds or lakes. You can register your vessel online, in person at a participating location or by phone. Registration is valid for three years.

Boating Education

Georgia law also requires boat operators born after January 1, 1998, to complete a boater education course approved by the Department of Natural Resources. Operators must carry their education cards when operating a vessel. Individuals 16 years and older can operate any boat if they have proper identification onboard and passed a boater education course, if required. Proper identification means a driver’s license or another government-issued identification card.

Safety Regulations

Georgia law also includes the following safety regulations for boat operators and passengers:

Life Jacket Laws

  • Life jackets: All vessels must have wearable flotation devices (PFDs) for each person aboard. Life vests should be readily accessible, in good condition, appropriately sized and legibly marked with the U.S. Coast Guard-approved number. Children under age 13 must wear a life vest when the vessel is underway, and everyone aboard a vessel must wear one in an area marked as a “hazardous area.” You must also have a throwable device or life preserver on board.
  • Prohibiting boating under the influence (BUI): The risk of boating accidents significantly increases when an individual operates a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Penalties are similar to driving under the influence (DUI) laws.
  • Regulated speeds: It is not permitted to operate any vessel over idle speed within 100 feet of any other vessel. This also applies to boating near people in the water next to the shoreline of public spaces.

Liability and Insurance

Boat owners in Georgia can be held responsible for accidents or injuries involving their vessels. This typically includes accidents resulting from negligence, even if the person was not operating the vessel at the time. For this reason, it is often advisable for boat owners to obtain liability insurance to protect themselves in the case of accidents.

Boat Insurance Requirement in Georgia

Boat insurance is not required in Georgia by law, so you do not need to insure your motorboat or sailboat. However, there are exceptions and specific scenarios where insurance might be required, such as:

  • Loan or marina requirements: Many marinas and lenders might require you to have some type of coverage. If you have a loan on your boat, the lender may require you to get insurance to protect their investment. Marina clubs where you dock your vessel may also require proof of insurance as part of their terms and conditions.
  • Boat travel: Other states may require you to get insurance when transporting your boat on a trailer on the road.
  • Charter or rental operations: If you plan to use your boat for rental or charter purposes, insurance may be required to cover liability risks associated with commercial operations.
  • Events or races: Certain boating events or races might require you to have insurance to participate. This coverage helps protect against damage or accidents that occur during the event.

Additionally, you might consider insurance to protect against the financial losses of accidents or theft, especially if you have a high-value or high-risk boat. Even if not legally required, having insurance can protect you from lawsuits due to accidents, injuries or damage. Having peace of mind that your repairs or replacement costs are covered is one of the many reasons boat owners obtain insurance.

Types of Boat Insurance Coverage

There are various types of boat insurance coverage options to consider — each with its own benefits to protect you, your passengers, your boat and your financial assets. Understanding these options can help you customize the policies to suit your specific needs and risks.

Liability Coverage

Liability insurance is a common insurance for boat owners, often containing two types of coverage:

  • Boat bodily injury: This insurance may help you avoid paying out of pocket for medical bills and associated costs when someone is injured in an accident you caused with your boat.
  • Property damage: This may help you cover the costs of repairing or replacing another person’s boat or other property when damaged by your boat in an accident. While often used for a collision, it can also help in other property damage scenarios, such as an accidental fuel spill that damages someone’s property.

For example, suppose someone crashes their boat into a pier when trying to dock it. In that case, liability insurance will pay for pier damage and any injuries sustained by people on the pier up to the specific policy’s limits.

Physical Damage Coverage

Physical damage coverage pays for any damages to your boat due to a collision with another vessel or object. It may also cover damage from non-collision incidents like vandalism, theft, fire or weather-related events.

Uninsured or Underinsured Boater Coverage

This type of insurance protects you in an accident with someone who is uninsured or has insufficient coverage.

Medical Payments Coverage

This coverage protects you and your passengers from medical expenses in a boat accident, regardless of fault.

Personal Property Coverage

You can get personal property coverage to protect items like fishing equipment or electronics on your boat from damage or loss.

Towing and Assistance Coverage

Choosing this coverage option is good for emergency services, as it covers towing, fuel delivery and assistance if your boat becomes disabled on the water. For example, say you’re hauling your boat to the lake, and your vehicle breaks down or runs out of gas. Insurance will cover the costs of towing your vehicle and boat to the nearest repair shop.

Additional Coverages

An additional type of boat insurance coverage is fuel spill liability, which covers the costs of fuel spills or other pollution incidents. This could occur from a sunken boat, a leaking tank or a mishap at the fueling station. Another type of insurance could include boat or salvage coverage, which covers the costs of salvaging your boat in the event of a wreck.

For example, say your docked boat sinks during a heavy storm, and the marina orders you to remove it or pay a fine. With this coverage, you would not have to pay for the removal of the boat since insurance will cover it.

Specialized Coverages

Specialized coverages might include:

  • Charter coverage: This would cover liability and physical damages for boats used for rental or charter purposes.
  • Racing coverage: This provides coverage for your boat for use in a racing event.

Factors Influencing Boat Insurance Cost in Georgia

Cost of Boat Insurance in Georgia

The cost of boat insurance in Georgia depends on the insurance provider you choose, with average costs around $344 per year or $29 per month. Numerous factors will influence the cost of your boat insurance, such as:

  • Boat type: Insurers typically have different rates depending on your watercraft type, whether it’s a fishing boat, motorboat, sailboat or pontoon boat. Often, the more expensive the boat, the more expensive the insurance. High-horsepower boats tend to have higher premiums than those with less horsepower.
  • Boat age: Newer boats are more valuable than older boats, so they will typically cost more to insure. Additionally, damages would be more expensive to repair or replace.
  • Boat history: Insurers will also likely ask how long you’ve been boating and whether you’ve had any accidents. The more experience you have, the lower your rates will likely be. The more accidents, the higher the premium.
  • Claims history: Insurers will likely consider your past claims history, both for boating and other insurance types, which can impact the cost of your insurance.
  • Your driving history: While insurers will look at your level of experience as a boat operator, they may also consider your car driving record when calculating your policy premium. People who drive safely tend to be safer boaters and generally pay less.
  • Whether you’ve taken safety measures: Insurers will likely consider whether you’ve completed any boating safety courses or taken safety measures, like installing an automatic fire suppression system on your boat. These can influence insurance costs.
  • Use and storing location: Where you store and use your boat can impact insurance rates. Insurers will examine the risks of theft, vandalism or natural disasters in the area.
  • Coverage limits: You’ll need to factor in the amount of coverage you choose for your policy, as this impacts the overall cost. Consider the optional coverages you might need, such as towing assistance, medical payments or specialized coverage.
  • Deductible amount: A higher deductible often results in lower premiums, but you’ll pay more out of pocket if you make a claim.

Choosing the Right Insurance for Your Boat

When choosing insurance for your boat, you’ll want to consider the following factors:

  • Your needs: Consider your boat’s value, how you use it and where you operate it to assess risks and determine the coverage you’ll need. Also, consider where you store your boat and whether you will need additional protection.
  • The provider: Always choose a reputable insurance company that specializes in boat insurance. Research the company and consider its customer reviews to get an idea of how it handles claims.
  • Coverage options: Review the different coverage types, such as physical damage, liability or specialized coverages, to make sure they align with your needs.
  • Deductibles and limits: Look into the various deductibles and coverage limits of each policy to ensure you have proper protection that suits your budget.
  • Exclusions: Be sure you understand the exclusions for each insurance policy. These could impact your coverage in specific scenarios, such as races, charters or boat age restrictions.
  • The fine print: Always review your policy documents carefully to ensure you understand the terms, conditions and other important features of your coverage.

You might also consult with experts for help navigating boat insurance coverage. Insurance agents can provide advice about:

  • The type of coverage you need based on your specific needs.
  • The boat insurance market, including industry trends, regulations and coverage options.
  • Assessing risk exposure and recommending appropriate coverage levels.
  • Navigating the claims process — understanding paperwork and documentation.

Leveraging the expertise of an insurance agent can help you choose the right insurance for your boat so you are protected on the water.

How to Manage Boat Insurance Costs Effectively

Manage your boat insurance costs more effectively by implementing these tips:

Shop Around

Be sure you’re getting the best coverage at the most competitive price by shopping around. Compare quotes from multiple insurance providers and consider prices and coverage options before making a decision.

Inquire About Discounts

Inquire about any discounts the provider offers, such as savings for boating safety courses, bundling policies or a claims-free history. For example, you might bundle your insurance with other policies, like home or author insurance, to potentially get a multi-policy discount.

Maintain a Good Boating Record

Avoid accidents to keep your boating record clean. This can help lower insurance premiums to save on monthly costs. It also helps to pay out of pocket for any minor damages to avoid potential premium increases from filing small claims.

Consider Private or Dry Docking

When you aren’t using your boat, you might opt to dry dock or privately dock it in a secure marina. This can sometimes lower your insurance premiums since your boat is at reduced risk of theft or damage. Installing security tools like alarms or anti-theft devices may also lower risks and reduce insurance costs.

Review and Adjust Coverage

Review your insurance coverage or work with an expert to check it periodically. They can ensure it still aligns with your current needs or adjust it as necessary to optimize costs.

EZ Dock: Your Partner in Boating Safety and Compliance

EZ Dock for Alabama

Understanding and complying with Georgia boating laws is important to stay safe while on the water. Obtaining boat insurance can give you even more peace of mind, protecting you, your passengers and your boat in case of an accident. EZ Dock is committed to your boating safety with durable products built to last. Many of our docks and accessories have withstood tropical storms and hurricanes.

Browse our products, from launches and docks to ports and accessories. We design everything to enhance safety and create a more enjoyable boating experience. Request a free quote today.