Is Boat Insurance Required in South Carolina?

If you’re a boater in South Carolina, boat insurance may have crossed your mind, including whether you need it or not. So, is boat insurance required in South Carolina? 

Boat insurance is not required in South Carolina. For boat owners who would need financing for their boats, the bank may require some boat insurance. However, there’s no law that requires owners to obtain boat insurance in South Carolina.

Nevertheless, having insurance for your boat would assure you that you can have some source of funding, in case you get in an accident or similar circumstance. You will have something to fall back on with regards to financing mishaps that may happen. There are various types of insurance policies that are affordable, so this won’t bore a hole in your pocket.

If you do decide to get boat insurance, you should consider what policy you want. You can get insurance for specific coverage or get a comprehensive insurance policy that covers everything.

Is Boat Insurance Required in South Carolina?

States don’t often require boaters to have an insurance policy for their boat, and South Carolina is the same. There are many marinas in South Carolina that require some form of liability coverage. Also, if you are financing your boat through a bank, they often require you to have insurance. So is boat insurance required in South Carolina?

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Agency who oversees the Marine Patrol does NOT require boat insurance.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t get insurance. There are many types of insurance that are affordable and will give you peace of mind when out on the water.

Types of Boating Insurance You May Want to Consider

1. Underinsured/Uninsured Coverage 

This type of insurance would cover you, in cases when the person who injured you does not have insurance or has inadequate insurance to cover you. It would be smart to make sure you are covered on all fronts. Don’t assume that the person who has caused you harm would be able to shoulder all the costs of your injury. 

2. Liability Insurance 

If you have injured a person or damaged property while boating, this insurance covers that person and the damages that you have caused to his property. The financial coverage would depend on the cost of the coverage you have chosen. You may want to pick the insurance that gives more coverage to guarantee that you would have a substantial amount to fall back on, in case a big accident happens.

3. Towing Insurance

This covers payment for the towing company in the event that your boat needs to be towed from the water. Towing services can be expensive in South Carolina.

4. Comprehensive Collision Insurance

In instances that you are responsible for damaging your own boat, you can use this insurance to cover its repairs and overhauling. Naturally, there may be clauses that specify when this insurance can be applied. So, read the insurance policy carefully, and clarify statements – if necessary. 

5. Boat Contents Insurance

You may want to obtain insurance for the content of your boat as well. These can include appliances, personal paraphernalia, and fishing gear. Include essential items that you bring along whenever you go boating. But keep in mind that the more items you include, the more expensive the cost would be. 

6. Salvage Insurance

You can use this insurance to cover the expenses of salvaging your boat that has sunk due to your own fault. It is expensive to salvage a boat on your own – without any insurance. So, this is one item that you should include when purchasing your boat insurance. 

Also, take note that there are certain rules involving the use of recreational boats in South Carolina. It’s wise to learn about them so that you would know what type of insurance you should choose.

There are 14 major lakes in South Carolina and you are welcome to boat these beautiful spots. However, you have to comply with the boating requirements. Here are some of them. 

See the below video for some insight on different boat insurance policies:

Requirements in South Carolina for Recreational Boats

The person operating the boat must have completed a boater safety course duly approved by the authorized body. If the person did not, he or she must be accompanied by a person 18-years older and above, who has a boating license, especially if the boat has a 15 or more horsepower motor. You may not be required to undergo a boater safety education course if you are 16 years old and above.

However, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources offers free boating safety lessons for people of all ages. So, why don’t you ensure your safety by enlisting in these boating courses? You can do this online, through videos, or learn from licensed instructors.

Boat operators in South Carolina who are under the age of 16 have to successfully complete a DNR-approved and administered boating course. There are also boating requirements that you have to comply with. Your boat must have the following:

  • The boat’s recent registration number and validation sticker that must be displayed on both sides of the bow – at least 3 inches high.
  • The person’s title of ownership.
  • Life jackets or Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs).
  • Those 12-year old and younger must wear appropriate PFDs at all times
  • All passengers on board must have a quickly accessible and suitable PFD duly approved by the U.S. coast guard 
  • All PFDs have to be properly suited to each person on board the boat
  • If the boat is 16 feet or longer, it should carry a Type IV effectively working throwable device.
  • Proper Lighting Devices
  • A green right starboard sidelight
  • Sidelights that could be visible from a mile away
  • A red left port sidelight
  • A masthead light that could be visible from 2 miles away
  • When anchored, there should be anchor lights always, from sunset to sunrise
  • A working fire extinguisher duly approved by the U.S. coast guard
  • A “Kill Switch”, or a cutoff switch than can stop the boat quickly
  • A marine sanitation device must be installed when the boat has a toilet. You’re not allowed to dispose of this liquid into the water, but this should be dumped into a dump station that is provided specifically for that purpose
  • Flares
  • A sound-producing device that can be loud enough to catch attention, such as a whistle, a horn or a bell. For small paddle boats, a whistle will do, but for motorized boats and bigger ones, a whistle and a bell must be ready and easily accessible.

Additionally, there are rules in place when boating in the waters of South Carolina.  

See the below video for some good insight into boating requirements for South Carolina:

Rules When Boating in South Carolina Waters

You have to observe these rules or you can be penalized and held criminally liable. Many of these rules are actually common sense that a rational person would do in certain circumstances. Here are some of the rules you have to observe.

  1. Maintain a safe and proper speed to prevent accidents or collisions.
  2. Avoid obstructing access to public areas or facilities on the pier or on board.
  3. When you are within 100 yards of the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, don’t move in excess of idle speed.
  4. When you are within 50 feet from a structure (dock, pier, or another vessel), or a person, don’t move in excess of idle speed.
  5. When another vessel puts up a red flag with diagonal stripes, it indicates the “diver down flag”, so, don’t go within 50 feet from it. In instances that you have to pass, you can only do so at no-wake speed and stay as far away as you can.
  6. When the Coast Guard or any law enforcement officer signals you to stop, you must do so, and allow them to board.
  7. In instances when two vessels are crossing paths, you have to yield, if you have the other vessel in your starboard (right).
  8. Never exceed the boat’s limitations with regards to the boat’s capacity for the number of people and proper weight. Take note to indicate these values in the hull of the boat.
  9. Never allow someone unauthorized or unlicensed to drive your boat.
  10. Don’t drink, or take in other substances of abuse, such as recreational drugs or other intoxicants while operating the boat. 

In cases of violations of these rules, you may be fined and jailed depending on the severity of your violation.

Here are violations considered as criminal offenses in South Carolina. You must be aware of them to prevent incarceration and exorbitant fines.

Reckless Boating

Reckless Boating is much the same way as reckless driving; weaving through congested areas in the water, crossing another vessel’s path, speeding, sailing in a wanton manner, and similar acts that display recklessness.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

This constitutes driving under the influence of alcohol, or intoxicants, or drugs. If you damage property or injure a person during this occurrence, you can suffer stiffer penalties (longer time in jail) and higher fines.

Negligent Operation of a Boat

Be sure you follow all the rules when you’re driving your boat, or you will be charged with negligent operation. This includes not maintaining a proper lookout for other vessels, racing through a designated swimming area, speeding in a no-wake zone, and other negligent behaviors.

Conclusion – Is Boat Insurance Required in South Carolina?

So, is boat insurance required in South Carolina? Boat Insurance is not required by law in South Carolina; however, for your safety and welfare, it is a good idea to obtain a comprehensive insurance policy. This would ensure that you and your boat are covered in the event that accidents happen.

There are many requirements that boaters must follow South Carolina such as required equipment, legal age, and the boat license and registration. It’s always smart to play safe while having fun!