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Owning a boat is a dream come true for many people, but accidents can happen on the water—and off. The right boat insurance policy can protect you financially against liability claims from other people, costly repairs if your boat is damaged and even theft. Read our guide to learn about who needs boat insurance, what it covers, where to get a quote and typical boat insurance costs.

What is Boat Insurance?

Boat insurance, like car insurance, can be purchased to suit your needs—from basic boat liability cover (which is required by many waterway authorities and marinas) to fully comprehensive plans that include loss and damage to the boat and personal accident cover.

What's Covered

You can choose different types of boat insurance to customise cover to suit your needs. For example, the owner of an inexpensive boat might only want to pay for the third party liability cover that's required to use most inland waterways. On the other hand, the owner of an expensive yacht or motorboat will probably expand their coverage to include loss and damage cover. While features vary from insurer to insurer, here's what's typically covered by the different types of boat insurance.

Basic Third Party Boat Liability

At a bare minimum, basic boat liability insurance (aka 3rd party liability insurance or public liability insurance) covers injury or damage caused to other people and their property by your boat. Most marinas and waterway authorities in the UK require a minimum amount of boat liability insurance (e.g., £1 million, £2 million or £3 million).

Boat liability will cover boats, piers, docks, wharves, jetties or pontoons that are damaged by your boat, as well as people—including other people travelling on or getting on and off your boat. Your marina contract might also require cover for raising or attempted raising, removing or destroying the wreck of your boat if it sinks (not all basic policies will include this, so check this detail before you buy).

Boat Liability Insurance Examples

  • Damage example: Your boat breaks loose from its mooring and crashes into another boat and a pier. Third party liability insurance would cover damage to the other boat and the pier (but not the damage to your boat).
  • Bodily injury example: A passenger is injured slipping between your boat and the pier in windy conditions whilst boarding.
  • Salvage example: A boat sinks in the marina and is abandoned, and the wreck needs to be removed by the marina.

Loss or Damage Boat Insurance

You can also buy insurance to protect against financial loss if your boat is damaged or stolen. Those with very inexpensive boats might decide they don't need to pay for loss or damage cover; but owners of more valuable boats typically buy loss and damage boat insurance coverage.

Boat Loss and Damage Insurance Examples

  • Damage example: Your boat is damaged while being loaded onto a trailer for overland transport.
  • Damage example: During a heavy windstorm your boat sustains damage while tied to a pier.
  • Theft example: A personal watercraft is stolen from locked storage on land.

While coverage will vary from policy to policy, here are some typical coverages that you'll find in the UK under the loss and damage section of a boat insurance policy—some of these features will be included as standard while others might be optional add ons.

  • Loss of or damage to your boat from an accident, including fire, theft, malicious damage and vandalism
  • Loss of or damage to your boat during transportation by road, rail, air or ferry
  • Loss of or damage to your boat from hauling out, launching and lifting by crane
  • Loss of or damage to your rudder, propeller, shaft, machinery and electrical equipment if your boat hits a submerged object
  • Theft of gear, equipment or machinery from your boat or locked storage on shore
  • Inspecting the underwater part of the hull of your boat after a stranding
  • Damage to the contents of your boat (e.g., china, bedding, electronics, etc.)
  • Personal possessions theft or accidental damage (but valuables like money, jewellery, watches, bankcards, etc. are usually not covered)

Whether or not you have loss and damage boat insurance, no boat owner wants to be a victim of marine crime. Read The Met's tips for avoiding marine crime here.

Personal Accident Cover

Boating can be dangerous, especially in treacherous conditions. Personal accident cover can provide a fixed sum or cover limited medical expenses for you and your passengers in case of accidental death or injury while on your boat, boarding or disembarking.

For example, a policy might pay £15,000 for the loss of a limb or eye or £500 for medical expenses.

Comprehensive Boat Insurance

Fully comprehensive policies should provide cover for both third party liability and any accidental or malicious damage to your boat— as cover for your personal possessions.

Do I Need Boat Insurance?

It depends. Most boat owners will want third party liability cover to protect against liability claims from other people (even if not required by most waterways authorities and marinas, which it is). If your boat is valuable you may also decide you need comprehensive cover that includes protection against loss, damage and theft.

But are you required by law to have boat insurance? Here are three situations in which you could be required to hold some level of boat insurance: by the authority that ensures the safety of the water where you're going, by the marina you use and/or a marine finance company if you've borrowed money via a loan/mortgage to buy your boat or you have a lease.

  • Waterways authority (e.g., Inland waterways): Third party liability requirements
  • Marina requirements: Third party liability requirements
  • Marine finance: Third party liability and loss/damage requirements

Waterway authorities and marinas typically only require third party liability insurance; but marine finance companies are likely to require comprehensive cover that also protects the asset itself (i.e., protecting against theft of the boat or damage to it).

In summary, if you have a low value boat you may decide that the minimum 3rd party liability cover required by waterways authorities or your marina is enough; boat owners with a higher value boat or using marine finance probably need comprehensive cover to protect against loss, damage or theft of the vessel.

Waterways authority

Most waterways authorities, which ensure the safety of the waters, require boat owners to hold a minimum level of third party liability insurance. For example, Lake Windermere in the Lake Disctrict includes having public liability insurance as part of the Code of Conduct for using the lake. Here are minimum third party liability insurance requirements from the navigation authority responsible for different UK waterways.

Requirements for third party boat insurance
Canal & River Trust (e.g., most canals and some rivers, like the Severn, Trent and Ouse)£2,000,000
Environment Agency (e.g., River Thames)£1,000,000
Medway River£2,000,000
Anglian Waterways£1,000,000


If you keep your boat in a marina or use public slipways, pontoons or quays, or visit other marinas, then these also usually require a minimum amount of third party liability insurance—a number of marinas we spoke with stipulate a £3 million minimum amount of 3rd party liability in their berthing contracts, but requirements at your marina may differ.

Some marinas might also require wreck removal and salvage insurance as well. For example, if a boat sinks and is abandoned this would cover the cost to dismantle and remove the wreck, which can cost thousands of pounds. Marinas might insist upon this to protect themselves against a boat owner abandoning their boat after it sinks, leaving the marina to deal with the expense.

Marine Finance

If you've used marine finance to buy a boat, your contract likely requires you to hold 3rd party liability as well as comprehensive boat insurance to protect the asset against damage or theft.

What to look out for

When buying a policy, there are a few features to be sure to ask about:

  • Excess: the amount you pay towards a claim
  • Level of cover: these are the maximum amounts the insurer will pay; be sure they satisfy any minimum requirements for cover imposed by your marina, waterway or finance company
  • Cruising range: the waters where you're covered
  • Restrictions/conditions/exclusions: a boat insurance policy can include a range of restrictions, so be sure to check these as you can invalidate your policy if you don't comply (e.g., dingys may need to be taken ashore when nobody is on board and between sunset and sunrise)

What's Not Covered

Every boat insurance policy will include a long list of restrictions and exclusions, which will depend in part on how you use your boat. While these will vary from policy to policy, here are examples of some common restrictions and common exclusions that you might find on a boat insurance policy:

  • Wear and tear
  • Deliberate acts of recklessness or negligence
  • Operating a boat under the influence (e.g., drugs or alcohol)
  • Maintenance
  • Individuals who don't wear a kill cords where there’s potential to fall overboard (e.g., jet skis)
  • Liability for water-skiing, towing of water toys, aquaplaning, etc. unless agreed
  • Using your boat for hire or as a houseboat unless agreed by endorsement or in your insurance schedule
  • Racing, unless noted on your certificate
  • Gradual incursion of water
  • Barnacle or fungal growth
  • Sails being split by the wind or blown away
  • Cover for theft of items unless there's evidence of forced break in
  • Operating outside of the cruising range shown on the Certificate of Insurance

Plus, there will be a wide range of other conditions of your policy, so be sure to read the fine print. For example, if you leave your boat on a swinging mooring in a river or estuary in the summer, you may be required to move your craft to a protected pontoon or mooring for the winter, e.g., between 30th September and 1st May.

Average Cost of Boat Insurance

Boat insurance can cost as little as £60 or many thousands of pounds, depending on factors like the value, type and usage of your boat—as well as the level of insurance coverage you want. To learn more about typical UK boat insurance costs, we gathered sample quotes from a brand underwritten by Zurich to see how prices vary according to different factors. You may pay more or less depending on your boat and situation and the insurance company you choose; here's what we found:

Chart showing average boat insurance costs for liability, damage, comprehensive cover for narrowboats, motor boats, sailboats, etc.
Boat insurance costs vary widely

Third Party Boat Insurance Costs

Third party liability boat insurance is the cheapest, costing in the rang of £60 to £90 a year, as it doesn't cover any loss or damage to the vessel or theft of or from the vessel. Not surprisingly, third party liability insurance costs depend on where you use your boat (e.g., inland waters, coastal waters) as well as the maximum speed of your boat.

Sample Costs for Third Party Boat Liability Insurance
UK Inland waters only, maximum speed less than 20 knots£62
UK Inland and Coastal waters, maximum speed less than 20 knots£69
UK Inland and Coastal waters, maximum speed 21 – 30knots£81
UK Inland and Coastal waters, maximum speed 31 – 45 knots£90

Fully Comprehensive Boat Insurance Costs

Comprehensive boat insurance costs start from around £100 for a £30,000 boat, but quotes can quickly rise for higher value boats and riskier use (e.g., racing). We gathered quotes for a range of boats, value and uses to show how much prices can vary. The amount you need to pay will depend on the characteristics of your boat and how you use it.

Sample Comprehensive Boat Insurance Costs
Narrow Boat£30,000£106
Motor Cruiser£30,000£133
Jeanneau 37£50,000£171
Local club racing£50,000£239
Beneteau 40.7Loal club racing£80,000£574
Regatta/Nationals racing£80,000£711

Why is boat insurance so expensive?

The average cost of boat insurance varies widely depending on the value of your boat, the type of craft, where and how you use it, among other factors.

  • Value of your boat
  • Size of your boat
  • Speed of your boat
  • Type of vessel
  • Type of waters you frequent (cruising limits)
  • Boat usage (e.g., cruising, racing, etc.)
  • Type of mooring (e.g., marina, dry sail, trott, swing, pile)
  • Year of manufacture
  • Previous claims history

Boat Insurance Discounts

Boat insurance can be expensive. To save money, be sure to compare boat insurance quotes from multiple companies before you commit to a policy. You may also be able to secure some of the following discounts:

  • No Claim Discount (e.g., up to 25%)
  • Qualifications (e.g., RYA Yachtmaster)
  • Club memberships

Types of Crafts

Boat insurance covers a wide range of vessels, including:

  • Canoe
  • Catamaran
  • Cruiser
  • Dinghy
  • Fishing boat
  • Jetski
  • Kayak
  • Motorboat
  • Narrowboat
  • Water scooter
  • RIB
  • River boat
  • Rowing boat
  • Sailboat
  • Speedboat
  • Yacht

List of UK Boat Insurance Companies

Here are some boat insurance brands you might come across in your research, listed in alphabetical order:

  • Assist Insurance Specialists
  • Brady Insurance
  • Haven Knox-Johnston
  • Insure4Boats
  • Navigators & General
  • Canopius
  • Topsail Insurance
  • Towergate Mardon


Third party liability boat insurance will usually insure anyone else who is navigating or in charge of your boat with your permission, except for shipyard, repair yard, slipway, yacht club, marina, sales agency operators or their employees, nor delivery skippers or their employees (they'd all need their own insurance).

Boat insurance is tied to the boat, not the operator.

Basic third party liability boat insurance is not usually expensive—you can find reliable cover in the range of £60 to £90 a year—but comprehensive cover costs are tied to the value of a boat so expensive boats can cost thousands of pounds to insure. As a very rough guide, boat insurance costs on average 0.5% of the value of the boat—but can cost more or less.

It depends on the insurer. Your insurer may ask for a survey when you first take out a policy with them—this is more likely for older boats. If you continue renewing your policy with the same insurer they may not require a new survey from year to year; or they may require a survey every few years. It's best to check with an insurer directly to learn their specific requirements.

In the UK, home insurance policies generally do not cover boats. Check your policy wording to see how "watercraft" and "boats" are defined, and if they're mentioned in the exclusions.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.