Buying Boat Insurance: A Brief Guide

Isn’t it always the way – that you buy insurance, and then the very thing that happens doesn’t seem to be covered? Or even if it’s covered, you still end up having to contribute to the costs. So just what is in the small print that you need to be careful of? This brief guide to insurance by Pantaenius seeks to give you an overview of what to consider and what questions to ask when seeking insurance for your boat.

Published 3 years ago

Hull Cover

Hull insurance covers you for damage to your own boat and is one of the main types of marine insurance policies available. It covers a broad range of damage to a yacht’s hull, machinery and equipment. The cover needed depends on your intended use of the vessel, for example; Charter? Racing? Period in-commission? Cruising area? Explaining the intended use of the vessel to insurers enables the provision of the right coverage. All these factors will influence the premium, cover and conditions an insurance provider will offer.

The cover offered can also vary depending on whether you are insuring a sail or motor yacht. For motor yachts it is important to consider what cover is available for the engines and/or whether there are any limitations on the speed of your vessel.

It is also likely that once a boat reaches a ‘certain age’ the insurance provider may ask for a survey report. This is because no two boats will be used or looked after in exactly the same way, and the general condition of two boats of the same type and age may be vastly different. As getting a survey is a costly business, it’s worth checking at what age a survey is first required and also the intervals at which further ones may be requested, since this procedure can vary between insurance providers.

You should also consider whether you want to have cover for Personal Effects, Trailers and/or Cradles.

Third Party Liability

Liability insurance covers your legal liabilities due to your negligence should you cause damage to third party property or cause injury to, or death of another person. The majority of, but by no means all, policies include liability to third parties with the hull insurance. There are a handful of insurance providers that will offer Third Party Liability insurance on its own. If separate from the Hull Insurance, claims on the one policy should not affect the premium or conditions on the other. Almost all marinas require yachts to have Third Party Liability insurance.

Personal Accident

Personal Accident Insurance pays a sum for a permanent disability or death. Some policies include additional cover such as Emergency Medical Expenses, Search & Rescue costs and some cover you ashore for short periods. Fewer of us carry Personal Accident Insurance these days, and if we do, it may exclude sailing accidents. So a Personal Accident Insurance that specifically covers boating accidents can be quite attractive. Personal Accident cover tends to either be free under a comprehensive yacht insurance policy, or as a stand alone policy for which a separate premium is charged. Either way, check the limits offered. If it’s included within a comprehensive policy are the benefits lower or more restricted?

Employing Crew

If you plan to employ crew, you may wish to consider an insurance provider who is able to offer dedicated crew products, tailored to cover your liabilities as an employer and the crew’s accident and medical risks.


You should familiarise yourself with any policy exclusions before purchasing a policy. Insurance is to protect you against the unexpected, so policies generally exclude things that can be anticipated or prevented. Significant exclusions often include (but are not limited to) wear and tear, gradual deterioration, faulty parts or lack of maintenance. If something is likely to fail due to its age or condition, replacement should be considered.

An important question to ask is, if a part fails due to wear and tear or fault, is the resulting damage excluded, or only the part that failed? Is that clear in the wording? Consider the consequences.

New for Old v Betterment

The general accepted principle of insurance is to put you back in the same position after the event as you were in before the event, not to improve that position by providing new sails or covers.

The term New for Old is used by insurers when they are replacing old items with new items. Most policies will make it clear what items may be subject to a deduction on the replacement costs if you make a claim. This deduction is a common feature in many insurance policies, but when and how does this operate? Does it apply when the boat or equipment reaches a certain age, or can it be applied at any time? It’s worth checking the wording here – if a deduction is made, does the deduction apply to parts and materials only, or to the entire claim including labour costs? Can you buy yourself out of this deduction entirely?

Betterment is applied when the insurers consider that, having repaired the damage, your boat is better than it was before. This may be the case, for example, when paintwork is required following damage to a small area of hull. Repainting the whole hull is not necessarily the insurer’s responsibility, and will provide overall betterment, so the insurers may expect a contribution from you and may deduct an amount by way of betterment.

One thing to definitely watch out for in the policy wording is that some insurers reserve the right to replace the damaged part – or even the entire yacht – with another of a similar age and condition. If this isn’t what you want from an insurance provider, don’t sign up to the policy.


Most of us understand the term ‘excess’ to be what we have to pay ourselves when we have a claim. The excess may also, sometimes, be referred to as the ‘deductible’ – the amount that insurers deduct from the claim payment. The excess can vary from insurer to insurer – not just in the amount, but also in the way it is applied – so if you are comparing two policies, one possibly with a higher excess than the other, look also to see what type of claims it does or does not apply to. Some insurers will apply it to all claims except total loss; other insurers don’t apply it to some types of partial loss claims (for example fire or theft).

Service, Claims, Other Costs?

When choosing an insurance provider you may wish to consider the customer service offered. Will you receive the service you need in the administration of your policy? Will you be able to talk to a ‘person’ rather than a ‘call centre’? How knowledgeable are the employees who will handle my policy?

You only really test insurance when you claim. As we all know sailing isn’t a 9-5 pastime and should an emergency happen, you will want to have 24/7 support on hand to ensure immediate and relevant advice day or night and whilst most insurance providers offer such assistance, it is not always provided in-house or on a 24/7 basis. It is also worth checking whether the claims management can access the right support internationally.

The only way you will know how good your insurance is, is if you need to make a claim. The vast majority of insurers will settle valid claims without any argument. However, if the premium charged wasn’t equitable could this lead to less generous claims handling? Choosing an insurance provider with an excellent claims reputation is therefore an important consideration.

Has the insurance provider disclosed all the costs associated with the insurance, or are there hidden ones? These ‘hidden costs’ can include documentation fees; cancellation fees; instalment charges and credit card charges. What may, on the face of it, appear to be a cheap quote may actually turn out to be more expensive due to such fees. Don’t get caught out!


How are premiums calculated? Insurers set what are called ‘equitable’ premiums – which means they should be fair to both the insurer and policyholder. There are two factors which determine premiums. One is the risk element and the other is the probable cost of settling a claim.

Premiums need to cover the insurers’ administration costs, any commissions they pay to intermediaries, and the claims of the small percentage who will suffer an accident – and then generally return a small profit.

In some years insurers will, indeed, make a profit, and at those times – particularly if you are one the lucky ones who haven’t needed to claim you may be inclined to think insurance is just a big rip off. But almost all insurers of boats will also experience years in which they suffer losses and sometimes those losses can be pretty significant, particularly with changing weather patterns and increasing cost of repairs.

Insurers will assess what they believe to be the degree of risk each policy brings to the overall portfolio of business. So they will assess the experience of the owner or skipper, the type and age of the boat, the use to which it will be put, and the location in which it will be sailing and wintering.

Why is location a risk? Well there are many reasons. A boat kept in a marina is subject to different risks than a boat on a tidal estuary mooring. With people sailing further afield, insurers have to consider the risks posed i.e. geographical features such as reefs and storm patterns. But another factor is the cost to insurers of handling claims and the cost of actual repairs in locations that are further away from home territory – sometimes involving repair facilities whose expertise is an unknown quantity, and sometimes having to arrange to move the boat to another location for repair. If the boat can be repaired locally, the claim may include the cost of transporting, for example, a replacement mast from the supplier to some far flung island.

Once the insurers have assessed all the factors, they decide on a premium rate, which is then usually applied to the sum insured (value of insured property) to determine the annual premium.

The only way you will know how good your insurance is, is if you need to make a claim. The vast majority of insurers will settle valid claims without any argument. However, if the premium charged wasn’t equitable could this lead to less generous claims handling? Choosing an insurance provider with an excellent claims reputation is therefore an important consideration. Overall is the cover wide enough to meet you requirements? If comparing two policies and the premium differs, does this mean cover is compromised if offered for less premium? What risk does this present?

Finding the correct insurance provider should be the start of a long relationship, with an ever-ready supportive team ashore.


Pantaenius has over 100,000 boat owners worldwide who enjoy the peace of mind our unique and comprehensive policy provides. If you would like more information on the products available please visit or if wish to discuss your insurance requirements please call +44(0)1752 223656.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.

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  1. September 30, 2020 at 2:35 PM
    Jackchadowitz says:

    I have had Pantaenius since November 2017 after a grounding where Boat US tried to catch me on depreciation for a rudder on my 1984 boat. Paying 10%. Pantaenius attraction was that they covered the full cost of repair if a new rudder was needed. I just got a notice of non-renewal from Pantaenius because they are leaving the US market. Looks like the only player left is Boat US/Geico who require a new survey because the last survey is 3 years old and they are not willing to take into account that the boat has been safely on stands for the last 2 years. In addition no option for liability only and anything required for a repair apart from labor is covered at 10% of cost. So insurance companies are fleeing the US or only interested in boats which are young and valued over $150k and then they charge high premiums.
    As for Pantaenius, I have had no claims but dealing with their underwriters and billing folks has not been a pleasant experience. And no discount with the boat safely on stands. And now because of the non renewal I have the expense of another survey.
    In my opinion the insurance companies got greedy and insured boats at high premiums and allowed the boats to be in areas of high risks where Hurricanes are likely.
    They gambled and boaters lost.

  2. June 30, 2020 at 2:39 PM
    detroitjack says:

    I plan to purchase a sailboat next year, and inquired about insurance coverage through Pantaenius, but was quite disappointed that I didn’t even rate as a high premium candidate, or, offered a policy under certain conditions and requirements, or, jump through hoops A, B and C. Put me off the company really, and after Pantaenius was recommended by a friend . . . , here’s their response:

    Good Morning Mr. Waldron:

    We have received your request for assistance with finding a quote for insurance coverage for your vessel. We have reviewed your submission but at this time, we are unable to offer a quote based on the navigation requested and the hull value. Sorry we could not be of further assistance.

    Gregory Hibbard

    Oversea Insurance Agency


    [email protected]


    From: Pantaenius Quotation Form [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: Saturday, June 13, 2020 4:01 PM
    To: Inquiries, USA (Pantaenius)
    Subject: Quote Request US Website

    Owner Information

    First Name


    Last Name


    1. July 14, 2020 at 9:26 AM
      kipper59 says:

      We’re sorry to hear that your experience of dealing with Pantaenius has been unsatisfactory. Pantaenius UK has not, as far as we can see, ever dealt with you as a client. Pantaenius has several offices worldwide. Each office has to comply with its own insurance regulator. Regulators monitor the activities of insurers and intermediaries whom they have authorised. Such regulation means that we are not always able to offer cover on every risk, which appears to have been the case in this instance. If we can be of further help please email [email protected]

  3. May 30, 2020 at 8:42 AM
    dedanann says:

    I held insurance with Panteanius for a couple of years on my boat DeDanann, it seemed like a good policy to have, that is, until I had a small claim for some storm damage in Greece in 2014. Dealing with Panreanius (mallorca) was the worst experience that I have had with getting my claim settled in forty years of business and thirty years of keeping boats. They eventually wore medown until I settled for about half the cost of my loss.

    1. June 4, 2020 at 2:32 PM
      kipper59 says:

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’re sorry to hear that you had such a frustrating experience. Pantaenius has several offices worldwide. Pantaenius UK has not, as far as we can see, ever dealt with you as a client. If we can help with putting you in touch with the relevant office please email [email protected] so we can investigate your feedback further.

    2. July 30, 2020 at 7:28 PM
      dedanann says:

      Please be advised that I had a motor boat Calypso and a sail boat DeDanann insured with your Palma de Mallorca office during the period 2012/13/14.
      How convenient for you to say I was not a client of your office, it is after all the same company is it not?
      Pantaenius is not a good company to deal with in the event of a claim.

  4. May 24, 2020 at 9:54 AM
    eldadhadani says:

    I would like to see some comments/clarifications on the issue of damages (body or property) inflicted on non-paying guests onboard (e.g. friends who joined a sailing holiday or a non-paying/non paid crew for delivery))

    1. May 29, 2020 at 5:29 PM
      kipper59 says:


      Under a Pantaenius Marine Third Party Liability Insurance your legal liabilities as an owner are comprehensively covered, with the policy extending to cover the liabilities of anyone else on board your yacht with your permission either as a guest or as your unpaid crew.

      This means the legal liabilities of both you and your crew are covered for accidents arising out of your, or your crew’s negligence which result in injury to any other party, or damage to someone else’s yacht or other property.

      In marine insurance, liability is not always easily determined. It is necessary to demonstrate negligence to the extent that a court of law would be able to attribute legal liability. Of course, this does not mean that all claims for liability would or should get to court! But it does mean that, even though someone else’s boat or property may have been damaged, or someone may have been injured, in an accident involving your boat, it may not legally be your liability.

      In some jurisdictions liability is ‘strict’ i.e. it does not depend on the policy holder/yacht owner being at fault in the cause of the loss or injury.

      As your associated marine liability policy will only cover those amounts for which you are legally liable to pay, some yacht owners may also take out Personal Accident insurance.

      If a fellow crew member, on board, is a casualty of a boating accident for which you are not to blame and sustains a permanent disability, he will be unable to claim under your Third Party Liability insurance. So a marine Personal Accident Insurance which specifically covers boating accidents can be quite attractive. A Personal Accident policy simply pays a sum as compensation for a permanent disability or death.

      If you would like further information please contact Pantaenius on [email protected]