Is Boat Insurance Required in Pennsylvania?

If you are considering buying a boat or have just purchased one, one question that has likely crossed your mind is insurance. In this article, I’m going to discuss Pennsylvania laws. If you happen to be living in Pennsylvania or are thinking of moving there, you might just be wondering, “Is boat insurance required in Pennsylvania?”

Boat insurance is not required in Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, only three states require boat owners to get insurance – these are Arkansas, Hawaii, and Utah. However, it is a good idea to get boat insurance, as some marinas require it. It gives you greater peace of mind as well.

Pennsylvania, being the 33rd largest (in terms of area) and the 6th most populated state in the US, is like the majority of the other states (remaining 46 of them) that do not require boat insurance.

More than any other state, PA is also home to a number of deep and beautiful rivers and has over 325,000 registered boat owners to date.

What Exactly Is Boat Insurance?

Similar to car insurance, in its basic form, boat insurance provides the owner financial protection in case there is damage or loss of the vessel. It also protects from damage to another boat or property in the course of using the insured vessel. More importantly, it provides protection should an accident happen that would cause an injury to another person.

In the latter case, boat insurance acts as your liability coverage. Unless you have all the resources necessary to pay for any damages or loss at any one time and anywhere (self-insurance), then for a certain premium payment, you can obtain suitable coverage to avoid any inconvenience.

If Boat Insurance Isn’t Required, Why and When Do You Need It?

Even if the state of Pennsylvania does not mandate you to insure your boat, it is still in your best interest to secure insurance coverage. Certain cases will require you to get boat insurance, and these are:

  • Marinas normally require proof that you have a liability insurance policy before entering into any mooring contract.
  • If you apply for a loan from a bank to purchase a boat, it will likely require you to submit proof of insurance. This insurance makes the bank a lienholder should any claim be paid. Such insurance takes care of the total value of the vessel in case of a loss.

What Does Typical Boat Insurance Cover?

More often than not, boat insurance is an “All Risk” coverage, providing protection against a variety of calamities that could happen to your vessel – such as fire, theft, vandalism, grounding, or sinking.

What’s most important about the insurance is its capability to cover any liability (damage to another boat/property, injury) that might arise from the use of your boat. This is in addition to the coverage for any physical damage or loss sustained by the vessel of the other party because of an accident.

Hence, it becomes even more important to protect you from financial loss when you regularly use your boat and/or when it is worth a lot of money.

Typically, boat insurance covers the following:

  • Damage to property – your boat insurance will give you protection if an accident causes damage to another vessel or property. Specifically, the policy will cover the boat’s hull and its fixtures and basic paraphernalia like the motor, anchor, and safety equipment.
  • Bodily injury – in case a person gets injured while on your boat, this coverage will assist in footing the medical bill and legal expenses in line with the accident.
  • Collision – should your boat collide with another boat or property, this feature will take care of the cost of boat repairs or replacement. Usually, this is an optional feature, but if you’re renting a boat, the lessor might require that you buy a coverage.
  • Comprehensive coverage – this feature allows your insurer to cover repair costs if your craft sustains damage from perils outside collision – such as acts of nature (e.g., storms), fire, floods, theft, and even vandalism.
  • Medical Bills – should you get into an accident, this coverage will handle the medical expenses whether you, the boat owner, or another party is found to be at fault. There are insurance policies that can extend the financial protection to the cost of funeral expenses.
  • No insurance/Under-insured third party – if a third party involved in an accident causes damage to your boat or injury to you and they have no insurance or are “underinsured,” this particular coverage will take over to protect you.

Below is a attorney’s advice n the case you get injured on your boat:

After knowing or confirming how important it is to get yourself boat insurance (even if you now know that boat insurance is not required in most states like Pennsylvania), at this point, let’s take note of some essential information about owning and operating a boat in this particular US state, the Keystone State.

You just don’t go off buying a boat (with or without insurance) and hit the water! You need to be knowledgeable about Pennsylvania’s laws and requirements when it comes to boating.

Pennsylvania’s Licensing and Registration Requirements

Boat Registration

Any watercraft or boat running on fuel, diesel, or electric motor used for transport and leisure purposes as documented by the U.S. Coast Guard, including sailboats that operate on gas, diesel, or electric engines, must be registered.

The exceptions are commercial vessels subject to Federal regulations and requirements on manning and inspection as well as unpowered boats and water devices like surfboards, for instance.

The only time that these unpowered boats need to be registered is when they are utilized at a Fish & Boat Commission access lake or area or Pennsylvania state forests or parks.

Boat Title

A vessel that is bought, transferred to another owner, or sold must have a title if it is powered by either an inboard motor (personal watercraft included) or outboard motor (at least 14-foot long) of 1997 model and onwards, and is either currently titled in Pennsylvania or another state but primarily used in Pennsylvania.

A boat that has been titled should stay titled by its succeeding owners. Titling a boat guarantees that the seller has authentic ownership of a vessel being offered for sale, and it also prevents boat theft. A certificate of title costs $15, plus $5 for lien recording, and another $5 if you want a duplicate.

Where to Secure Your Registration or Title

You can obtain your boat registration and title from the Fish and Boat Commission. More often than not, new owners will want to use their vessel while their documents are being processed. For this reason, they can get a temporary registration from the Commission through its authorized boat registration agents.

All they need to do is to fill out and file an Application Form that is made available at the Commission’s regional offices, county treasurer’s offices, and various marine dealers.

Cost and Validity of Registration

Registration fees fluctuate based on the type of boat, ranging from $22 to $50. The registration is valid for two years, ending on the last day of March of the second of the registration. Thereafter, boat owners have the option to renew their registration electronically by visiting this site.

The Validity of Out-of-state Registration in Pennsylvania

You can operate your boat in Pennsylvania even if it’s registered in another state. Vessels must always be registered in the state of primary operation or where it is on the water most of the time. This is irrespective of where the boat owner resides.

For instance, if you use your boat more often in Pennsylvania than in the state where you live, then Pennsylvania is considered your “primary state of use.”

Boats registered in another state are given reciprocal privileges to operate in PA for a maximum of 60 days. Otherwise, those that will exceed this limit are required to be registered in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s Boating Safety Requirements You Need to Know

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Personal Flotation Devices like Life Jackets are required by the Fish & Boat Commission on all recreational vessels that are at least 16-foot long. These devices (specifically Type IV: seat cushion or ring buoy) have to be U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Type IV PFDs are apart from the PFD that each person on board all vessels should have.

Boats exempted from the Type IV requirement are kayaks, canoes, and personal watercraft. However, each person on board any boat must wear a PFD while underway, and any person should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD while being towed behind a boat.

See the below video on boating safety: what all Pennsylvania boaters need to know:

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Much like the motor vehicle ruling against Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol, boating has a BUI as far as alcohol intake is concerned. Any boater shall be considered to be boating under the influence of alcohol if his/her blood-alcohol level reaches 0.08% or higher.

BUI is a grave offense under the Pennsylvania state. It is punishable by a maximum of two years of imprisonment, including temporary suspension from operating a boat and/or being slapped by fines for as much as $7,500.

Conclusion – Is Boat Insurance Required in Pennsylvania?

So, to recap, is boat insurance required in Pennsylvania? Boat insurance is not a requirement in Pennsylvania. Only three states require boat owners to get insurance – these are Arkansas, Hawaii, and Utah. It is in your best interest to get boat insurance as some marinas require it. Also, with boat insurance, each time you go out, you will have greater peace of mind from potential damage or accidents.

Of course, there are many other details about Pennsylvania’s boating regulations, which you can check out further here. But the important part to remember is that boat insurance is not required in PA. It’s your choice if you want to secure coverage for your financial protection and peace of mind.

Also, we cannot overemphasize the fact that getting your boat registered and titled is a way of protecting yourself from possible legal problems and hassles in the course of using your boat or when you’re ready to let go of it.

Related reading:

Is Boat Insurance Required in Iowa? Plus Important Tips

Is Boat Insurance Required in Missouri?

Is Boat Insurance Required in South Carolina?

How Long Can You Finance a Boat?