Will you have a recreational boat located in hurricane country as of June 1? According to recently released predictions by experts at Colorado State University, the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season could be a doozy. If your boat may be in the crosshairs of one of the 14 tropical storms or seven hurricanes predicted, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) recommends that boat owners check their boat insurance policy now for these six most important things to know.
- Who pays for salvage? When a hurricane throws your boat across the boatyard into a big pile, sinks it in the slip, or carries it into a football field end zone, you end up with a salvage situation. If the boat is not a total loss and needs to be recovered and brought to a repair facility, salvage costs can escalate quickly. Most boaters assume that the cost of raising or moving a damaged boat to a safe location – salvage coverage – is included in their insurance policy. And with better policies that’s true: They offer salvage coverage that is separate but equal to the boat’s hull coverage limit. This means a boat that’s insured for $40,000 (hull coverage) has another separate $40,000 available to raise or move the boat (salvage coverage) to a repair facility. Lesser policies limit salvage coverage to either a small percentage of the boat’s insured hull value, perhaps just 5 to 10 percent, or they may subtract salvage costs from the insured value of the boat, reducing the funds available to repair the boat or the amount paid in the event of a total loss.
- You can lower your “named storm deductible” by preparing. “Storm deductibles,” which increase your deductible for boat damages incurred in a named storm, are common with recreational boat insurance policies today. One way to reduce the deductible is to make active preparations when a storm approaches, such as hauling the boat, lashing the boat to the ground, and removing any windage items such as enclosures, canvas and/or sails. Take pictures because some insurers will reward you for the effort and lower your deductible if you have a claim. BoatUS also has free storm preparation information at BoatUS.com/Hurricane.
- Know your hurricane haulout coverage, and use it if you have to. For boats in hurricane zones, “hurricane haulout coverage,” also sometimes known as “named storm haulout reimbursements,” is a must. This coverage helps pay boat owners a portion of the labor costs to have a boat hauled, prepared and tied-down by professionals, which include marina or boat club staff, or to have the boat moved by a licensed captain. While a hurricane haulout does cost the boater some money, it’s potentially far less than if the boat sustained damage or became a total loss. The BoatUS Marine Insurance Program pays 50 percent of the cost of labor, up to $1,000, to have the boat hauled or moved to the safety of a hurricane hole, and the haulout does not penalize the policyholder.
- Is your boat trailer insured? Not all boat insurance policies cover boat trailers as a separate item, so if a hurricane topples a tree onto your boat trailer breaking it in half, ensure it’s covered. Your insurance company should know the cost of the trailer separate from the boat’s value.
- A heads up if you have a liability-only boat policy. Some boaters choose liability-only insurance. That can meet their needs just fine, but ensure that it also includes coverage for salvage and wreck removal, and that separate coverage is available for fuel-spill incidents. Liability-only policies are generally very affordable and especially valuable to boaters when an expensive recovery effort is needed to salvage a boat.
- How much will be dumped in your lap? BoatUS estimates that more than 63,000 recreational boats were damaged or destroyed as a result of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, meaning tens of thousands of vessels required salvage. Not all insurers provide the same level of service, so ask around. Some insurance companies leave the difficult task of arranging salvage in the owner’s hands.
Boat owners not happy with their current coverage can get a free quote from BoatUS at BoatUS.com/Insurance or by calling 800-283-2883.