Insuring Your Wooden Boat
Posted by Glen-L Marine on May 3rd 2023
We’ve had a few questions recently from people asking about where to find insurance for their classic wooden boat or owner-built boat. I know, such an exciting topic! But sometimes real life interferes with our time on the water.
I wondered if this was something to worry about—if it was a trend and insurance was going to be difficult to find—so I did a little poking around. Fortunately it appears there are plenty of insurance options still available around the country.
*Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive, these are just the companies I found that seemed to focus on our market. I did not try to determine which companies offer liability coverage and/or coverage for physical damage. You’ll need to do your own research.
HAGERTYOne of the first insurance companies I thought of—because I’ve seen their ads in wooden and boat building magazines—was Hagerty. As you can see from their site, they definitely focus on our market.
As for which boats qualify, here is their list:
Most collectible fiberglass boats that are older than 1990 will be considered. The most collectible fiberglass boats are early generation models, have unique design or had a limited production run.
Hagerty proudly offers an insurance program to protect most classic wooden boats. Whether your client owns an original Chris-Craft, Century, Gar Wood or a high-quality reproduction of a classic boat, we have a program for it. If it’s collectible, made of wood and in good to excellent condition, our program likely protects it.
Runabouts typically range in size from 14’ to 33’ and are characterized by a closed top deck with individual cockpits for seating. Examples include barrel back designs, larger triple cockpits and gentleman’s racers.
Utilities typically range in size from 12’ to 30’ and are characterized by a large open interior with only the top deck forward of the windshield. They are some of the most popular designs, as the open interior lends them to a wide range of activities.
These vessels range in length from 16’ to 30’. They are an open configuration usually with seating able to accommodate several passengers. The earliest versions were powered by steam with later versions having small single cylinder gas powered engines.
Typically range from 26' on up and include a head (bathroom), galley and can accommodate overnight stays. Cruisers made of fiberglass, wood, steel or aluminum are eligible, however eligibility may be restricted in certain coastal areas. A minimum $10,000 hull value is required. A professional, out of water marine survey less than three years old is required.
Wooden hulled sailboats range from 12’ open boats to much larger vessels with full cabin facilities. There are several specific design types: Yawl, Gaff rig, Cutter, Catboat, Sloop and many others. An Out-of-Water survey may be required for sailboats over 26ft. Club racing is permitted.
As for what boats are disqualified:
- Boats with exposed engines
- Commercial use
- Boats held for sale
- Corporate ownership
- Boats over 26ft with a metal hull
- Boats over 26ft kept in coastal regions from TX to NC
Hagerty also wants to know you’ve had at least 3 years experience with the type of boat you’re insuring.
GOWRIE GROUP This company offers something called Classic Yacht Insurance, but it’s not really for smaller boats or backyard types. Here are their qualifications:
Yachts must be:
- Wood or cold-molded wood construction
- Maintained by a marina/yard with expertise in wooden yachts
- Hull value greater than $75,000
- Length greater than 26 feet
We offer coverage for wood and fiberglass hulls of all ages. If you are restoring your vessel, we can offer insurance ashore during the restoration period.
Heritage Marine Insurance is another company I’ve seen advertise in boating magazines. They seem to target our kinds of vessels as well:
offer coverage for wood and fiberglass hulls of all ages. If you are
restoring your vessel, we can offer insurance ashore during the
Please contact us if you own an antique runabout or day sailor; canoe, skiff or launch. We also insure wood hulled and fiberglass trawlers and cruisers.
D’Agostino offers “Classic Boat Insurance,” and they were maybe the only company I saw that specifically identified “kit built boats” and “home built boats.” Very encouraging.
LYLE INSURANCEHere’s an insurer in Ohio who seems to have some knowledge of wooden boats. As you can see from their quote request, they cover a variety of small craft—from canoes to catamarans.
RV AMERICA INSURANCE RV Insurance identitifies Classic Boat Insurance and lists the various types of boats they cover, but they appear to work through other insurance companies—including Hagerty, highlighted above.
Grundy is another one I’ve heard suggested, and they do seem focused on boats. Their site says, “the best coverage and claims service for restored classic vessels from Chris Craft runabouts to Herreshoff schooners…”
BOAT US BoatUS is another popular insurer, and we’ve heard anecdotally they’ll even insure owner-designed boats with a passing survey, but we can’t confirm that and didn’t see any specific info on wooden or owner-built boats at their site. The underlying company providing Boat US coverage is Geico. (And by the way, joining Boat US is a good idea for camp-cruising boaters, since in addition to offering hull insurance, the company has Unlimited Towing coverage in case you have a trailer-failure misadventure.)
YOUR HOME OWNERS' POLICIES
Many folks have their boats insured under home-owners policies through popular insurance companies like State Farm, Farmers, Geico, etc. although it also sounds like some of the larger companies are passing on or declining wooden boats. We’ve also read that home owners policies often won’t offer enough coverage for more expensive boats. Ask your agent.
As I say, this is by no means an exhaustive list. It would be good to hear from boat owners below about their own insurance choices and how happy they are with various companies. Perhaps along with the comments below, this article can become a starting point for small-boat, classic-boat or wooden-boat owners seeking insurance coverage.