Although it’s tempting to just plop your jet ski in the water and take off cruising, it’s important to remember that it’s like a car in a lot of ways: you’ll first need your licence and registration – and if you’re wise, you’ll want insurance too. Jet ski insurance covers you and your mates against injuries and has your back if your jet ski gets damaged or you damage someone else's property.
Want cover for your jet ski?
What is jet ski insurance?
Jet ski insurance is a type of boat insurance called personal watercraft insurance (PWC). It’s mainly there to protect you if you injure someone or damage something with your jet ski or WaveRunner, but you can also take out a policy that protects the jet ski itself from damage or loss. Your jet ski’s trailer is usually included in all levels of cover.
What does jet ski insurance cover you for?
Some jet ski insurers only offer one cover option – comprehensive – while others offer three different levels. Here’s how the cover types break down:
Third-party property + liability (TPP). This covers you if you injure someone or damage their property. It won’t cover any of your injuries or any damage to your jet ski. Since there is no such thing as CTP for boat insurance, liability is almost always thrown in to cover the injuries and damage to others.
Third-party fire and theft (TPFT). This covers all of what TPP does, plus covers your jet ski from fire damage and theft. It won’t cover your injuries or any damage to your jet ski unless it’s caused by fire or theft.
Comprehensive. This covers all of the above, plus your injuries and damage to your jet ski from accidents, natural disasters and vandalism. It usually also includes a few additional perks like setting you up with a temporary replacement jet ski while yours is being repaired or replaced. If you want to be covered in case you’re injured on your jet ski, this is your only option.
Depending on the level of cover you get, your insurer may also throw in a few other benefits like emergency towing or having your mooring fees covered if you have to cancel your booking while your jet ski is out of service.
The following table shows how the three levels of cover typically compare:
Third party fire and theft
Third party property only
Storm or flood
Emergency accommodation, transport and repairs
Legal liability: general
Legal liability: water sports
Towing, salvage and loss prevention
Locks and keys
Immediate replacement watercraft
Personal injury and death
What additional cover options are there?
Besides the standard levels of cover mentioned above, there are also several additional forms of cover you can get for your jet ski as add-ons. Here are a few of the most common:
Cover for any belongings you keep inside the jet ski. This is called contents insurance. Some TPFT and comprehensive policies will offer a small amount of protection for contents automatically, but if that’s not enough or if it’s not included in your policy, you can usually purchase it as an add-on.
Cover while your jet ski is in storage. This is called lay-up cover, and it lets you choose a set period of time when you get to pay a lower premium while your jet ski is in storage. During this time, you will only be covered for damage related to storing the jet ski and only if it is stored in a place your insurer has agreed to.
Water skiing protection. Not all standard policies will cover you for damages related to water skiing, but you can usually include this as an add-on. It’s sometimes called watersports protection.
What won’t jet ski insurance cover?
When you take out a jet ski insurance policy, it is important to pay attention to those situations where your insurer won’t cover you – otherwise known as exclusions. Here are a few of the most common exclusions that would keep you from claiming:
You claim too soon for natural disaster damage. Most insurers won’t cover you for storm, flood or bushfire if it happens within 72 hours of you buying the policy. This keeps people from buying cover at the last minute after hearing about an approaching disaster.
Someone drives it without your permission and you don’t report it stolen. You won’t be covered if the person doesn't have your permission and you don’t report it stolen. However, you will be covered if you give a licensed driver permission to drive your jet ski and they get in an accident.
You’re breaking the law or other regulations. This can include driving without a licence, leaving the scene of an accident, driving drunk, transporting dangerous materials, operating the jet ski when it’s not in seaworthy condition or operating it while it’s overloaded beyond its capacity.
You drive it beyond the geographical limits of your policy. If you’re using the jet ski at sea, your policy will most likely only cover you so far from shore. If the damage happens beyond that point, you’ll be out of luck.
You don’t have the appropriate add-on. If you want to race your jet ski, you’ll need special racing cover if you can find it through a specialist insurer. To tow water skiers, you’ll need the watersports add-on. Without them, you won’t be covered if something happens while you’re engaged in these activities.
You’re using it when it should be stored. If you have the lay-up cover add-on and you’re paying a lower premium while your jet ski is stored, you won’t be covered for any damage if you end up taking it out of storage and using it during that time.
Is it mandatory for jet ski owners to have insurance?
Most states do not require you to have insurance to operate a jet ski, although going without insurance can be disastrous if you injure someone or destroy their property. If you crash into someone’s boat and a fire breaks out, it could cause tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. If you injure someone, the fallout could be even worse. That’s why it is important to have at least third-party property insurance to cover any damage you might cause to someone else.
Do you need to have a licence to operate a jet ski?
Most states require you to have a personal watercraft licence to operate a jet ski or to supervise an unlicensed driver. Usually only licensed adults can supervise an unlicensed driver, and no other passengers can be on board.
With the exception of the Northern Territory, it’s also mandatory to register your jet ski with the department of transport for whatever state you are operating it in.
How much does jet ski insurance cost?
Insurers consider many different factors when coming up with your costs, meaning it will vary from person to person and from jet ski to jet ski. Insurers will usually take the following factors into consideration:
Your personal details like age and gender
Your driving record in both a car and a boat/jet ski
The jet ski’s specs including make, model, year, horsepower, engine type, max speed and modifications
Where you store the jet ski
Safety precautions you’ve taken, including safety courses for you and security features for the jet ski (such as a security alarm or GPS)
Whether you will be in saltwater, freshwater or both
Who offers jet ski insurance in Australia?
Insurers know Aussies love their water, so there is no shortage of insurers offering jet ski insurance in Australia. Here is a list of some insurers who offer it:
How to compare jet ski insurance
It’s not hard to find the right insurance if you know what you are looking for and compare wisely. Here are some things you need to keep in mind when comparing.
What level of cover do you need?
At the very least, you should have enough cover to help pay for any medical bills or property claims that you could end up owing to others. Otherwise, one mistake could cost you tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Beyond that, you need to decide whether it is worth insuring your jet ski. If it’s brand new, or you have a loan out on it, it’s probably worth taking out a higher level of cover like third-party fire and theft or comprehensive. On the other hand, if the jet ski is a few years old and already paid off, you might decide it’s worth the risk to leave it uninsured.
But if you insure it for an agreed value and can get the insurer to agree it’s worth $10,000, you’ll get the full $10,000 even if the jet ski has gone down in value.
How much public liability do you need?
Public liability is the section of your policy that covers damages and injuries to others. Since the sky’s the limit for how much damage one person could do, most policies will offer $5-$10 million worth of cover. It makes sense to have several million dollars in protection: just imagine if you have to cover someone’s hospital and rehab fees for the rest of their life.
If you race your jet ski or take people waterboarding or water skiing, you’ll need to have the racing or watersports add-ons because standard cover usually won’t cover you for those activities – even on comprehensive policies.
What exclusions does the policy have?
Make sure you look over your insurer’s exclusions as described earlier in the article. Most exclusions are fairly similar across the board, but there may be minor differences between insurers that could end up making a huge impact. For example, some insurers may allow any licensed driver to operate the jet ski with your permission, while others may require you to have each driver listed on your policy.
How to buy jet ski insurance
Buying jet ski insurance is pretty easy. Just visit a few websites from the insurers listed above and select personal watercraft insurance. If the only option is boat insurance, choose that and select the style of watercraft you want to insure from the dropdown menu.
It will ask you for details about you, your jet ski and your claims history. Fill out all that information and click submit. In many cases, you’ll receive a quote immediately and have the option to buy the policy on the spot. Other insurers might want time to review your information and will call you with your quote. Picture: Unsplash
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