Does my auto insurance cover towing a boat?

Your car insurance may cover damages caused by your boat to other vehicles, but you may need boat insurance for towing to recover damages on itself.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jun 10, 2022

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Things to remember...

  • If your boat causes damages to third parties while being towed, your auto liability insurance coverage should pay the claims
  • A vehicle insurance policy will not cover damages to your boat, but you can get boat insurance to protect your investment
  • You want to shop for coverage options and discounts to get the best value for your boat insurance policy

Your auto insurance policy may cover incidents where your boat damages another person’s vehicle. The boat must be attached to your car at the time of the accident for this coverage to apply. However, if your vessel is damaged, your car insurance generally will not pay for claims to fix it.

A boat insurance policy will pay your claims for damages to your boat. To get the best rates available, you want to explore different options with insurers, including deductible and discount options.

Will your car insurance cover damages caused by your boat?

You must have a liability policy on any car you own and drive in most states. Liability insurance pays for claims of third parties when you are at fault in an accident. State requirements for liability coverage are relatively low and may not be enough to compensate injured parties fully. Therefore, you must understand how much coverage you need to protect your assets adequately. You may need full coverage auto insurance, or a standard policy might suit you and your vehicles better. 

If an accident occurs and your boat was attached correctly to your vehicle, your car insurance would usually pay claims for those damages under your liability coverage.

If your boat becomes separated from your vehicle or is dislodged during an accident, your car insurance company may refuse to pay claims for any damage caused by the vessel. 

You may start your trip thinking your boat is secured. However, if it comes loose at any time during your travels, you will be personally liable for any injuries to the person or property the boat causes.

You should follow best practices to secure your boat to your vehicle to avoid problems. When attaching the boat, inspect the connection before driving. Ensure that your car and the parts used to tow your boat undergo regular maintenance to stay in proper working order.

Your risk for an incident can be greater if you are traveling long distances with your boat or if the watercraft is larger. You should review your liability coverage to see if you need to increase the amounts available for payout. Any payouts from your auto insurer will be based on the policy limits and type of coverage you have.

If you have a liability policy, it may be set at the minimum levels for payouts according to your state’s requirements. These amounts are not likely to fully cover damages caused by a boat in an accident. You could be liable for any amounts not covered by insurance.

Information about what your insurance covers is available in your policy documents. Specifically, you can refer to the declaration page to see the maximum payouts for each type of coverage. You should know what your policy protects against and what you need to do if you have to file a claim.

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Will you get paid by your car insurance for damages to your boat?

Any car insurance claims on your auto insurance policy will probably not pay you for damages incurred to your watercraft. For that, you would need to purchase separate boat insurance for towing, a policy that would help the boat itself. Your current car insurer may offer boat insurance, and you may qualify for a discount for having multiple policies with one company.

Other discounts may be available, such as the following:

  • Automatic payment discount for having your payment debited from your bank account
  • Pay-in-advance discount for paying the premium in full at the beginning of the policy term
  • Discount for completing a boating safety course, according to the US Coast Guard

Shop around to get the best rates. You may need to pay a higher deductible to get lower rates. In reviewing deductible options, understand that that is what you will pay out of pocket in the event of an accident. Check your financial situation to ensure you have sufficient money to cover your chosen deductible amount.

Coverage options can vary as well. First, you want to verify if the policy covers the boat while towed, stored, and used. You should also check if the trailer or other hauling equipment is included in the policy coverage. Having adequate coverage amounts is critical. If you are at fault in an accident, you may have to pay injured parties for any expenses not covered by insurance.

Key Takeaways on Insuring Your Boat

Your car insurance may reimburse damages to other vehicles while towing your boat under your policy’s liability coverage. However, your auto policy will not pay your claim if something happens to your boat.

If you use your boat regularly, you should get an insurance policy that covers any damages to your vessel separate from your car insurance policy. Boat insurance coverage may be available through your current car insurance company, and you may qualify for a multi-policy discount.

You can try to find other reductions in rates by shopping around to compare coverage options and available discounts. Boat insurance rates can range widely based on the amount of coverage, discounts, and deductible.

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