Getting Your Boat in the Water

trailer-boatOkay, you bought it. Now, what do you do?


Whether the boat is new or used, make sure your insurance is in force before you accept legal responsibility for the boat. If you’re not financing with the boat seller, this is especially important since the seller has no legal responsibility for the boat at the moment of sale.

Tips on getting adequate insurance: Boating Insurance—Protect your investment with the right coverage by Suzanne Finne of


If you’re buying from a registered boat dealer, the dealer may handle all registration issues with your state. Ask them specifically what registration items they do not handle.

Each state has different laws and requirements for various things about boats including age of operator, required safety equipment and trailer restrictions. In addition, the federal government has a minimum set of safety requirements for boats.

  • The following site details federal requirements: USCG: Regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard

Additional things to consider:

  • Your boat trailer will need registering before you can use the trailer. Ask the seller if they can handle this registration/transfer.
  • If your rig or any options on it are new, you will generally be responsible for registering individual items on your boat like radios and other “add-ons.”
  • Boat Theft, a brochure (pdf) from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, gives tips to prevent theft.
  • Make a detailed list of each item on your boat covered by insurance, and take snapshots of each item, from the hull to the engine to the radio. Put this information in a safe place away from your boat.

On-the-Water Boat Towing Insurance

If you are planning to boat on any body of water bigger than a farm pond—lake, river, ocean—a boat towing insurance policy can be a boat owner's smartest purchase. These plans function like a highway service club for the water. Just like autos, boats do break down or experience difficulty. When that happens, marine towing or assistance can cost well over $100 per hour, and the clock starts ticking when the service boat leaves its dock. In addition to paying for towing, most insurance plans also offer other benefits. Here are two major insurance plans.

  • Sea Tow is a marine assistance organization that provides unlimited service area towing, covered ungroundings, fuel delivery (doesn't include cost of fuel), jump starts, prop disentanglements, navigation assistance, sea condition reports, radio checks, and more. Gold Card Membership costs $179 per year for both fresh and salt water and includes nationwide coverage, a lake card membership is also available for $119 per year.
  • BoatU.S. provides towing services through TowBoatU.S and Vessel Assist. BoatU.S. basic membership costs $24 per year and pays first $50 of towing bill. Unlimited towing service costs $85 per year for freshwater and $159 for saltwater. Unlimited gold is $175 per year. The towing service includes on-the-water towing, battery jumps, fuel deliveries, and soft ungroundings.

Trailer Towing

Have the appropriate towing kit installed on your towing vehicle. Make sure the kit is rated for a boat the size and weight of your vessel.

For tips on towing your boat safely, check out the following sites:

Next: Safe Boating

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