Florida Boat Insurance & Boating Laws

Florida Boat Insurance & Boating Laws

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Florida boat owners aren't required to buy insurance or obtain licenses in order to operate their boats. However, you will typically be required to obtain a boating safety identification card, register and title your boat with the state of Florida, and carry certain safety equipment onboard your vessel. Though boat insurance isn't mandated by Florida law, you may still be required to purchase a policy if you have a lien against the boat. We also recommend you consider coverage, given Florida's busy waterways, the state's hurricane and storm risk, and the high potential cost of damages.

Boat insurance in Florida

Boat insurance isn't mandatory in Florida, meaning it's not required by law to own or operate a vessel. However, if you took out a loan using your boat as collateral, the lender will typically require that you have insurance to cover damages to the boat. And Florida marinas often have boat insurance requirements, so you'll need to provide proof of liability coverage in case of injury or damages to others.

Even when it's not required, if you own a motorized boat in Florida or one that costs over $1,000, we recommend you consider boat insurance. Many homeowners insurance policies offer limited coverage for boats and watercraft:

  • Coverage for damages to the vessel is generally limited to around $1,000 and only applies to certain causes of damage.
  • Your homeowners liability insurance may offer some assistance if you caused bodily injury or property damage to others, but there are often restrictions depending on the type of boat.
  • Personal property that you bring on the boat may be covered if it's lost or damaged, but not if its use is exclusive to the boat.

A boat insurance policy can provide coverage for:

  • Damages to the vessel or your personal property, which are subject to a deductible. Coverage is in place whether damage was sustained on the water or in a trailer.
  • Liability coverage in case of damages to others.
  • Medical payments coverage in case you, or a guest, sustain any injuries.
  • Uninsured boat owners coverage, in case you're injured or your boat is damaged by another vessel that is not insured.
  • Towing coverage in case you're stranded and need to be towed to a port.
While boat insurance policies will often cover a dinghy as part of your boat, you would need to purchase a separate personal watercraft (PWC) or jet ski insurance policy if you'd like coverage for one of these. In addition, every boat insurance policy is limited to a particular navigational territory, outside of which you would not be covered. So, for example, if you took your yacht from Florida to the Bahamas, your yacht insurance policy may not provide coverage unless you had already obtained an endorsement to extend your navigational territory.

Keep in mind that the boat insurance policies in Florida can either be for "named perils" or "all perils." An all-perils policy is more comprehensive, as it provides coverage if your boat is damaged due to any cause, except for those explicitly excluded in the policy. And you may be required to provide evidence of risk mitigation measures if you want a broader set of perils included in your coverage. For example, since Florida is prone to hurricanes, you may need to provide your insurer with a "hurricane plan" before they'll include wind coverage in your boat insurance policy.

Florida boat insurance deductibles

Every policy has a physical damage deductible, which may be a percentage of your boat's value or a certain dollar value, such as $500. There may also be a separate deductible depending the type of boat you have. Sailboat insurance, for example, often has a separate deductible for the boat's mast.

As a boat owner in Florida, you'll also want to note if your boat insurance policy contains a hurricane or named-storm deductible. Due to Florida's hurricane and tropical storm risk, insurers often include a second named-storm deductible, which can be as high as 10% of your boat's value.

Cost of boat insurance in Florida

The quotes you'll receive for boat insurance depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Your boat's value
  • Where your boat is stored and its navigational territory
  • The size of your boat and what type of marine vessel it is
  • How often your boat is used and for what purposes

The cost of boat insurance in Florida is typically higher, as many boat owners use their boats year-round, as opposed to just certain seasons in colder climates. In addition, many boats are operated off the coast, as opposed to inland areas, which means boat insurance rates are higher. These areas are also more prone to hurricanes, so Florida insurers will typically offer higher quotes or policies with larger deductibles given the increased risk of storm damages.

How much you pay for boat insurance may also be impacted by whether you're a full-time resident of Florida or only spend a portion of the year in the state. Theft is more common in certain regions, such as South Florida, and owners that don't regularly use or monitor their boats can be considered to be higher-risk. And if there is an event, such as a hurricane or other cause of damage, boat insurance companies want to make sure you're available to move your vessel to a safer area or address the issue quickly.

In order to get cheaper boat insurance in Florida, there are a variety of methods you can consider to get the best quotes:

  • You may want to consider a higher hull deductible, so long as it's an amount you can afford, as this will lower your rates.
  • Adding an auxiliary motor to your sailboat for emergencies can often get you a discount on your boat insurance.
  • If you're in the process of buying a boat, you may want to consider a newer vessel, as older boats often come with higher boat insurance rates.
  • You can often get a discount on the cost of boat insurance by taking a boating safety course.
  • If you don't intend to use your boat for several months of the year, letting your insurer know may mean cheaper boat insurance rates, as stored boats are often considered lower risk.

You may also see the option to get cheap boat insurance quotes by purchasing an actual cash value policy, as opposed to an agreed value policy, but we recommend you exercise caution before choosing this coverage. Actual cash value boat insurance policies offer some of the best boat insurance rates, but you'll receive a smaller payout in the event of a claim because there's a deduction for depreciation.

So, for example, if you have owned a $100,000 boat for three years that was totaled in an accident, the insurer wouldn't pay you the entire cost of replacing the boat. If the insurer applied a deduction for depreciation, such as 20%, you may only receive $80,000 in return.

Florida boating laws and requirements

While insurance isn't required for boat owners in Florida, state law does include regulations with regard to operating and registering a vessel. If you intend to dock and use your boat in Florida, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the state's rules, as you will not only avoid fines but also comply with a number of requirements that improve your boat's safety.

Do you need a boating license in Florida?

You don't need a boating license to operate a boat in Florida. But the state law does require anyone born after 1988 to complete an approved boating safety course and have a boating safety education identification card if they want to operate a boat with 10 or more horsepower. The boating safety ID card can be obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and is valid for life, so you won't need to get recertified.

There are certain exceptions to Florida's boater safety card requirement, such as if you're operating the boat on a private lake or can provide proof you just purchased the vessel. However, you'll need to pass the safety course and receive an ID card in most cases.

In order to operate a PWC or jet ski in Florida, you also don't need a license, and you would only need to have a boater safety card if you’re under the age of 22 according to state law. And you're not allowed to operate a PWC or jet ski if you're under the age of 14.

Florida boat safety equipment laws

Florida's boat safety equipment requirements may vary based upon your boat's size and use, but the law typically requires:

  • Fire extinguishers and backfire flame control
  • Visual distress signals if you operate the boat on the ocean or in coastal waters
  • A device that produces sound, to signal to other boats or in cases of distress, such as a horn
  • A ventilation system
  • Vessel lighting equipment

Florida boating law also requires you to carry at least one personal flotation device, such as a life jacket, per person on the boat. And if your boat is over 16 feet or longer, you will also need to have a throwable flotation device on hand.

If you have children under the age of 13 on your boat, and it's being operated on open waters, they must wear their life jackets at all times unless inside a cabin or below deck. And children age five or younger need to wear a life jacket at all times if your boat is less than 26 feet long. Personal flotation devices must meet the requirements set by the U.S. Coast Guard.

In order to ride a PWC or jet ski, Florida law requires that you wear an approved life jacket at all times. The same applies to anyone being towed behind a boat.

Florida boat registration requirements & fees

In order to operate a boat in Florida's public waters, it must be titled and registered with the state, which you have 30 days to do after you've purchased a boat. You can apply for a boat title and registration at a county tax collector or license plate agent office, and you have the option of applying for either a one-year or two-year registration. Once you've received your registration, Florida boating regulations require it to be kept on-board the boat during operation. You will also be provided with boat numbers and decals, which need to be affixed to your boat.

The only boats that don't have to be registered are those that have no motor and are under 16 feet in length, or those that will be exclusively used in private waters, such as lakes or ponds. Kayaks, rowing sculls and canoes also don't have to be registered in Florida.

To apply for a boat title in Florida, you simply need to complete an application and provide proof of ownership. For a new boat, proof of ownership can include the manufacturer's certificate of origin, an official statement of the boat's builder and the bill of sale from the dealer where you purchased the boat. If you bought a used boat, its existing title just needs to be signed by you, the buyer, and the previous owner that sold it to you. You'll also need to pay Florida's boat titling fees:

  • $5.25 for an electronic title or $7.75 for a paper title. You may also have the option of receiving an expedited title, which is $11.
  • $1 per existing lien on the boat to record these on the title.
  • $4 if your boat was previously registered in another state.

Once a title has been issued, you can apply to register your vessel in Florida. You'll similarly need to submit an application with proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale or manufacturer's statement of origin. Florida's boat registration fees vary depending on its length, whether the boat is equipped with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), and the county you register the boat in. The following Florida counties charge an additional boat registration fee: Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Dade, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Volusia.

Boat Length
Registration Fee
Registration Fee (with EPIRB or PLB)
County Fee (if applicable)
Less than 12 feet$8.25$5.70$4.13
12 to 16 feet$19.00$13.75$7.63
16 to 26 feet$31.50$23.15$11.63
26 to 40 feet$81.00$60.25$27.63
40 to 65 feet$130.50$97.70$43.63
65 to 110 feet$155.50$116.15$51.63
110+ feet$192.50$143.90$63.63

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