Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: May 17, 2022

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The Lowdown

  • The U.S. Coast Guard requires airboats to have life vests, fire extinguishers, navigation lights, and air horns
  • Only Hawaii, Utah, and Arkansas require airboat insurance
  • If you own an airboat tour or hunting business, you must buy a commercial boating policy

Whether you own a tour company or drive an airboat for fun, you need to be aware of the marine safety requirements designated by the U.S. Coast Guard. To operate an airboat, you are required to have lights, sound equipment, fire extinguishers, and enough life vests on board for each of your passengers. 

State law may also require you to have proper boat licensing, registration, and insurance to operate an airboat. Buying boat insurance is the best way to protect yourself from mechanical breakdowns, accidents with other boats, animal encounters, and more. 

Only a few states require liability insurance, but you may have to meet other requirements to operate an airboat where you live. Read our guide to learn what is required to operate an airboat and where you can find the best marine insurance companies to insure your water vessel.

What are the airboat operation requirements?

You cannot legally operate an airboat without a proper boating license or registration. There may also be additional age and safety requirements, depending on where you live. 

BlockQuote: To operate an airboat, you must complete the Airboat Operator Course, and your airboat must also pass a state safety inspection before registering and driving it.

The Airboat Operator Course is usually offered online through your state’s parks and recreation department. The course covers common airboat terminology, how to operate a boat ramp, how to drive airboats in different water types, preventative maintenance techniques, and more.

You can take the operator course before buying an airboat, but you will need a boating license to operate one.

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What are the airboat safety equipment requirements?

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) determines the safety equipment required on every boat, including airboats. To legally operate an airboat, you must have the following on board:

    • Life jackets. There should be USCG-approved life jackets and personal flotation devices on board for every passenger.
  • Fire extinguishers. If the airboat has permanently installed fuel tanks, the USCG requires at least one handheld fire extinguisher if the airboat is longer than 26 feet.
  • Distress signals and navigation lights. Port and starboard lights allow a boat to operate in the dark and alert other boaters to your location.
  • Whistle or air horn. The USCG requires sound-producing equipment like horns or whistles on any boat less than 40 feet.
  • Backfire flame arrestor. All boat engines installed after 1940 must have a backfire flame arrestor to prevent engine backfire from igniting the boat fuel.

Your airboat also must have flags, but flag ordinances vary by state. For example, in Florida, orange safety flags must be installed on airboats and stand at least 10 feet above the waterline.

Beyond the USCG boating requirements, state laws also determine what other safety equipment you need to operate an airboat. Research your state laws carefully before hitting the water to ensure you have everything you need, including any additional mirrors, lights, ventilation, or GPS systems.

What kind of insurance do you need to operate an airboat?

Not every state requires marine insurance to operate an airboat, but if you live in the following four states, you must carry certain boat insurance policies:

  • Arkansas. Arkansas requires $50,000 in liability coverage for all boats with more than 50 horsepower.
  • Hawaii. Hawaii requires $50,000 in liability coverage for all boats parked in harbors or facilities owned by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.
  • Utah. Utah requires 25/50/15 liability coverage for all boats with engines of more than 50 horsepower.

However, if you own an airboat tour or hunting business, you must buy a commercial boating policy. This insurance type offers additional coverage for business owners, including medical coverage for passengers.

What does boat insurance cover? A typical airboat insurance policy provides personal liability, collision, and comprehensive coverages. Most insurance companies also offer underinsured/uninsured motorist and medical payments coverage in a standard marine policy.

Even if your state doesn’t require marine insurance for personal airboats, it’s in your best interest to carry at least a minimum liability policy. Airboats are susceptible to capsizing and sinking and cannot go in reverse like other boats, making it harder to avoid potentially dangerous situations on the water. Without proper marine insurance coverage, you could be paying out of pocket for damages after an accident.

How much does airboat insurance cost?

What is the average cost of boat insurance? Airboat insurance rates vary based on the airboat’s size and the coverage level you want. Minimum liability coverage will come with the cheapest rates, while commercial airboat insurance will be the most expensive.

BQ: On average, boat insurance costs between $25 – $40 per month.

Where you live plays a big role in how much you pay for airboat insurance. For example, states on the southern coast pay as much as $50 per month for boat coverage compared to northern states with rates as low as $20 per month.

You may also choose to buy boat insurance add-ons, including towing and personal effects coverage, which will increase your rates.

Fortunately, most insurance companies offer discounts to customers who buy boat insurance. For example, bundling your airboat insurance with a car insurance policy from the same company can earn you a 5% discount or more with some companies. 

Shop for multiple boat insurance companies to find one that offers the best rates, discounts, and coverage options. We recommend comparing boat insurance quotes from at least three companies before buying so you know you’re getting the best deal.

Which company is best for airboat insurance?

Most major insurance companies offer boat insurance policies for airboats, including GEICO and Progressive. However, your boat insurance rates with these companies vary based on your coverage needs and location. 

However, there is more to your boat insurance policy than the price tag. If you’re looking for the best company for marine insurance, research your local companies’ financial ratings and customer service reviews. 

You want an insurer that can pay claims out promptly, so take a look at the table below to see how the top boat insurance companies rank in financial strength and customer claims service:

 

Insurance CompanyA.M. Best RatingBBB Rating
AllstateA+N/A
GEICOA++A+
MarkelAA-
ProgressiveA+N/A
State FarmA++A+
NationwideA+A+
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The best companies for airboat insurance are State Farm and GEICO, but you may find a local insurer provides better coverage for you. Use this table to compare other boat insurance companies in your state to find the policy that fits your airboat and budget.

Airboat Operation Requirements: What You Need to Know

The U.S. Coast Guard requires all personal watercraft to have fire extinguishers, life vests, and navigation lights. You must also have sound-producing equipment and distress signals to operate an airboat.

Depending on where you live, you’ll need to take the Airboat Operator Course and apply for an airboat license and registration. Research your state laws to ensure you have everything required to operate an airboat in your state.

Only Arkansas, Hawaii, and Utah require airboat insurance. However, if you own an airboat tour or hunting business, you’ll need to buy commercial boat insurance to legally operate your airboat business in any state. If you own a personal airboat, you don’t need to buy boat insurance, but you’ll pay for damages out of pocket without marine coverage. 

Don’t forget about our comparison tool, which will help you to compare quotes from a wide variety of companies.

References:

  1. https://www.nasbla.org/nasblamain/training/courses/airboat
  2. https://uscgboating.org/regulations/federal-regulations.php