We've created a guide to help you navigate the waters of insurance for boats of all shapes and sizes, from dinghies and ribs to canal boats or yachts with a crew.
You can get quotes from UK boat insurers on GoCompare.
Click on the links to jump to sections on:
- What does boat insurance cover?
- Which companies offer boat insurance?
- What does boat insurance cost?
- How to get cheaper boat insurance
- Jet Ski and personal water craft insurance
- Insurance for chartering
- Insurance for boat racing
- Insurance for storing your boat in a harbour or marina
- Applying for an inland waterways licence
- Marine insurance for war-risk regions
- Things to remember when buying boat insurance
What boat Insurance covers
Companies that cover boats generally offer third party and comprehensive insurance.
Third party insurance can cover costs incurred if you damage someone else’s boat or property. As with car insurance, some companies offer third party fire and theft cover.
You may need proof of third party insurance if you wish to use the inland waterways network or launch from your local slipway. You may also need to be licensed with the appropriate authority.
Comprehensive insurance offers cover for your boat and usually includes third party fire and theft along with accidental damage and vandalism.
The best insurance for your boat will depend on your circumstances, such as the size and value of your vessel, how often and where you use it and whether you can afford to repair or replace it.
Boat insurance is not a legal requirement in the UK, but there are many cases in which you need to prove you have it. If you're planning on:
- Leasing (chartering) or racing your boat
- Leaving your boat in a harbour or marina
- Buying your boat with marine finance
- Sailing in or to other countries
- Applying for a licence to boat on inland waterways
Make sure you check any policy documents before you buy so that you can be sure activities you want to take part in are not excluded and that the places you want to travel to are covered.
Common boat insurance exclusions include:
- Damage caused while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Claims for theft if your boat is left unlocked or unattended
- Repairs due to general wear and tear
Remember that if you’re planning on sailing to other countries, it’s best to find an insurer with a 24-hour telephone line. This means if something happens, you can claim whatever the time zone.
Companies that offer boat insurance
There are a number of companies that offer insurance for different types of boats and seafaring vessels: Noble Marine, GJW, Craftinsure, E&L, Towergate, Saga, Insure My Boat, Pantaenius and Admiral.
You can compare quotes from some of these insurers on GoCompare.
Some companies specialise in certain types of crafts, with limits on what they will cover. Shop around to find the exact cover you need.
Noble Marine and GJW are popular insurers for boat owners. We got a quote from both for a Laser 3000 worth £1,000, a popular make of dinghy, in February 2017. We opted for Noble Marine’s fully comprehensive and GJW’s all-inclusive policies because they offer comparable levels of cover: racing, new for old on all items, personal belongings and £5m of third party liability.
Noble Marine’s policy was £66.86 a year with a £50 excess, whereas GJW’s was £50.18, although it was not clear what the excess was.
Noble Marine has good reviews on TrustPilot, a customer reviews website, where it has been awarded 9.6 out of 10 based on 487 customer reviews. GJW is not listed on TrustPilot.
You shouldn’t just consider price when you’re looking at insurance for your boat. Delve into what the policy covers and whether the company has good reviews. Sometimes a good customer service experience can make all the difference.
How much does boat insurance cost?
The cost of insuring your boat will depend on factors including:
- The boat itself (for example, its type, size, age and value)
- Whether you have claimed in the past
- If you want equipment insured along with the boat
- If you want cover for boat trailers and transportation
- Where and how you intend to use the vessel
- Your qualifications and experience
Dinghies and row boats can cost less than £100 a year to cover but yachts or speedboats will have much higher premiums.
Make sure you give your insurer accurate information about your boat; if you don't it may affect your ability to claim. If your details change, make sure you call the insurance company to update them as soon as possible.
How to get cheaper boat insurance
There are a few tips that might help you save money on your insurance policy:
- Get a qualification Your experience as a boat owner can affect the cost of your insurance. If you have relevant safety and technical qualifications, it may bring the cost of your premium down.
- Shop around It’s worth trying a few companies to find the cover and price that’s right for you. Use a website like GoCompare to compare UK boat insurance quotes. But remember the cheapest insurance isn’t necessarily the best.
- Security Some insurers offer a discount if you have particular alarms or locks fitted to your boat.
- No claims discount As with car insurance, you can build up a discount if you have not made a claim.
- Include a lay-up period Insurance companies will sometimes lower your premiums for a time if there are months your boat isn’t being used in. This is called the lay-up period. If you extend this period, you might be able to save some money.
- Set the kind of payout you want Some boat insurers will offer an agreed value or a market value insurance policy. The former means that you agree to a fixed payout if your boat is written off. The latter means the insurance company will pay the market value of your boat when you claim.
Opting for a market value policy may bring your insurance premium down – but remember, if you've owned your boat for a while, it will inevitably depreciate, and a payout may not be enough to buy a new boat.
Jet Ski and personal water craft insurance
Insurance for personal water crafts (PWC), commonly known as Jet Skis, is very similar to boat cover.
A popular company for Jet Ski insurance is Insure4Boats. Insure4Boats has a rating of 9.3 on TrustPilot, based on 130 reviews.
If you store your Jet Ski at home, you may be able to cover it under your home insurance. This is also possible for smaller boats. However, don't assume that it is covered under house insurance; it will often depend on where and how it is stored and whether its value falls within your limits. And if you do make a claim it may result in your home insurance premiums rising.
Remember, this cover will only protect a Jet Ski on land and probably only while it is stored at your home. You'll have to purchase a separate policy for use on the water.
Insurance for chartering
If you allow your boat to be chartered it's likely you'll need some level of insurance.
Bareboat chartering is when you hire your vessel to a group or individual without a crew or any provisions. They take control of the ship for a set period of time – usually a week or two – and must skipper it themselves.
You can also choose to lease your boat with a full crew, which you provide. This is called crewed chartering. If you charter with a crew, your insurance policy should extend to cover anything that may happen to the crew, as well as your boat.
Some insurers, such as Towergate, will offer extensions to their policies which will cover bareboat chartering.
To be eligible for Towergate's cover you must be a qualified RYA Coastal Skipper, and not take cash payments. Towergate says that taking card payments will give you security in case somebody steals your boat.
It's also worth setting ground rules, particularly regarding whether the passengers can drink alcohol aboard. These rules should be enforced through a charter agreement.
Bear in mind that your vessel will have to comply with legal safety standards in order for it be used for commercial gain. There are six categories that dictate the distance out to sea your vessel is allowed to travel. You can find out more about these rules on Gov.uk.
If you're the one paying to charter a boat, you may want to check you have some form of cover. Companies that offer charter services may be able to provide it or you can check whether your travel insurance includes chartering or skippering a boat. Check out our guide to the best travel insurers.
Insurance for boat racing
Racing can be a high-octane sport and puts your boat at risk. Collisions make up a third of boat insurance claims and over 10% of these are for racing collisions, according to Bishop Skinner Marine.
Race organisers are likely to require you to have cover for racing.
Different kinds of boats have different insurance policies, some include race cover as standard while others may require an add-on or specialist cover.
The RYA says dinghies should get full racing cover as standard, but yacht owners will need to check their policy wording. Racing cover for yachts usually only protects against damage to the hull and your legal liabilities to third parties. Some providers may let you extend the cover to the mast, spars, sails and rigging.
If you have a requirement that isn’t listed on an insurer’s website, you might still be able to get cover if you call them directly.
Some policies allow you to race abroad. Make sure you check where you can go and how long you are allowed to go for.
If you race regularly throughout the season it may be worth thinking about your insurance excess. If you believe you're at risk of crashing you could consider lowering your excess, which will increase your premiums but cost you less if you have to make a claim. Less frequent or lower risk racers can look into increasing their excess to decrease premiums.
If you increase your excess, be sure you can afford to pay it if you do make a claim.
Insurance for storing your boat in a harbour or marina
Many boat policies cover, or can be extended to cover, your vessel while it is moored in a harbour or a marina. Companies such as Global Marine Insurance Agency offer insurance specifically for this purpose.
Harbours and marinas will require you to have insurance before you enter them.
You might be able to save money if you can store your boat at home. However, it may not be practical to do this if you use your boat a lot.
Applying for an inland waterways licence
To use your boat on inland waterways in the UK, you usually have to hold a licence obtained from the appropriate organisation for your usage, for example, the Canal & River Trust or British Canoeing.
The money you pay for your licence goes towards the costs of maintaining canals and rivers.
To be eligible for a licence, your boat must be insured and must have passed its Boat Safety Certificate, which is a sort of MOT for boats.
The Canal & River Trust, which offers advice for canal boat and barge owners, says your insurance must include at least £2m of third party cover.
The Inland Waterways Association offers its own insurance policy that includes £3m in third party cover and automatic membership of River Canal Rescue, a marine breakdown company that works across the UK inland waterways.
It’s important that you get a licence before you start boating on inland waterways, because if you don’t and you get caught, your boat can be taken away from you. The Canal River Trust have the option of either selling it or scrapping it and taking any money made to pay for the cost of enforcing licencing laws.
Marine insurance for regions at risk of war
If you’re travelling to a dangerous area, it may be worth getting insurance that covers the risk of war. War, terrorism and piracy are often excluded from insurance policies.
War risk cover usually comes in two types – waterborne and extended. The former offers cover for when you are at sea and the latter includes transport over land during your trip.
War risk insurance generally covers damage or loss to your hull or machinery due to civil war, terrorism, piracy, strike action, and international war. There is usually an option to cover your crew and the items on board your ship.
Most policies will be invalidated if you breach any quarantine, customs or tax regulations, if your equipment is confiscated by the government under which your ship is registered, or if damage is a result of atomic or nuclear power.
Some countries, such as Somalia, are excluded from war risk policies and you will not be able to travel through their coastal waters or a certain distance offshore (generally 12 nautical miles). However, if you speak to the insurance company directly, they may be able to offer you cover for excluded countries, usually at an increased premium.
Pantaenius offers war risk insurance, as do other marine insurance companies. Some even specialise in it, such as UK War Risks.
It's also worth checking that any travel insurance policies you hold cover the region you're travelling to. We've written a guide to travel cover that includes terrorism and dangerous areas.
Things to remember when buying boat insurance
There are lots of options when it comes to buying insurance for your boat. It’s important to shop around, don’t get insurance for things you don’t need, and read the policy documents carefully. If you’re not sure about anything, it’s best to ask the insurance company.