We met some nice folks from England a few weeks ago while we were at Sombrero Beach here in Marathon. They had been living in The Bahamas for several years and are on an extended stay here in the U.S. on their boat. We had invited them to come out for the day on Swing Set and the subject of boat insurance came up.
Now, Swing Set had been insured with World Wide Marine through a broker for many years until we decided to bring the boat south. One criteria I wanted to meet when searching for a new insurer was that I wanted no restrictions during "hurricane season" as to where we kept the boat. (Many companies require that a vessel be north of the Florida/Georgia border once hurricane season starts.) We were willing to pay extra for the convenience of having the boat wherever we wanted to have it. Lots of boaters move north when hurricane season starts in order to "save money" on their insurance, but when you consider the cost of fuel, etc., you may find that a higher insurance premium is a bargain in comparison.
We wound up with a policy issued through Boat U.S. We are happy with our dealing with Boat U.S. in the sense of our ease of communication with them, and the fact that premium payments are made on an automatic withdrawal basis. We also wanted an "agreed value" policy because we have made more improvements to Swing Set than the boat is really worth, and in the event of a major loss, we don't want to be saddled with a replacement vessel that does not compare with the fine condition our boat is currently in. We aren't necessarily endorsing Boat U.S., there are many insurers out there, and they are only show their worth when you have a loss. I may sing another tune when that happens.
But in the course of our conversation with our English friends, Charles and Margaret, it occurred to me that since it had been a few years since we have had our Boat U.S. policy, perhaps it was time to review it and compare our premium and coverage with another provider. One thing that I was not sure about was whether or not Boat U.S. would provide a "rider" to insure us once normal relations began with Cuba, somewhere we want to visit in time. I also wanted to see if we could save a few bucks.
We took the name of the insurance broker that Charles and Margaret used and I gave him a call. He took our information after I revealed to him, that in fairness, I was shopping around to compare our policy to any others, but I was serious about this comparison. I wasn't just "tire kicking". I was, in turn, schooled from him on what to look for in certain boat coverages, and to avoid some common pitfalls that the average boat owner makes when shopping for insurance coverage.
Charles and Margaret have their boat insured with Lloyds of London, but the quote we received was issued through a subsidiary of theirs, a Seawave policy, as the worth of Swing Set was below the level at which Lloyd's issues policies. SORRY.
It's easy to compare the major points of an insurance policy, such as coverage amounts, deductibles, cruising areas, etc., but it's the fine print in the policies that is difficult to absorb unless you have been to law school. I haven't.
Nonetheless, I studied our policy and compared it to the Seawave policy. First, I found that for similar coverage on the same agreed value, the premium for the new policy was going to be $300 more annually than our Boat U.S. policy, and better personal item coverage was going to be extra. Also, one specific item that we were warned about not being covered in our current policy was also not covered in the new policy. If it was worth mentioning, why would the new broker suggest a policy that did not include an item that he warned us about?
I called Boat U.S. and asked some questions about adding endorsements for travel to other countries. I was informed that once normal relations with Cuba are established, Boat U.S. would be able to issue a rider to allow us to travel to not only Cuba, but also to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and also to Mexico. (For a boat with our range, I feel that getting fuel in Cuba is critical in order to safely travel to areas south of there.) We already knew about The Bahamas as we were issued a rider on our policy when we went there two years ago.
I also discussed with Boat U.S. some coverage that a lot of policies don't cover, and that is what is called a "Consequential Damage Endorsement". Look it up on your own, but in essence, even though no policy will cover rot or rust, per se, the CDE covers a loss as result of rot or rust etc., that is not detected in the course of normal everyday boat maintenance. (This explanation is simplistic, don't email me with details.)
Our current policy also has diminishing deductibles, which means that for every year that goes by without a claim, our deductible is reduced by 25% until it goes to nothing. We are at nothing.
I called the broker for the Seawave policy that he sent for us to compare and he was not aware of the Consequential Damage Endorsement. Hmmm. He also was impressed with the diminishing deductible aspect of our current policy, and he informed us that using our credit card to make premium payments was not an option with his company. Did I mention the $300 difference?
I thanked him for his time, told him I'd keep his contact information, but said that we would keep our current policy for the time being. He was totally understanding. I feel like the time spent, by us anyway, was worth it, even though we aren't 100% sure we actually have better coverage with Boat U.S. than we could have with another provider. But like I said, we won't really know that until we have a claim.
We left St. Louis three years ago with no automobile insurance, as we had no car, but we had auto insurance. Sounds simple, but it's not. Try getting auto insurance without owning a car.
We obtained what is called a "Non-owner Auto Policy" through State Farm. What that covers is our liability in case we rented a car, or borrowed one. (Be aware that a non-owner policy doesn't cover collision on the vehicle you are renting or borrowing.) We began paying around $600 per year to cover our "assets" in case of an accident. Each year the premium kept going down, but we recently received our insurance premium and it had gone up to a level higher than we were originally paying. It was time to make a call.
For the Loopers out there, you should be aware of the common practice of marinas allowing the use of a "loaner car" when staying at a marina. We did this on occasion while traveling along the inland river systems as we made our way to Florida. Mention a free loaner car at a marina in Southern Florida, or the Keys, and be prepared to be laughed out of the place. Hence, we haven't borrowed a vehicle in over two years. Maybe we didn't need the non-owned auto policy any longer, especially now that we have our scooter. (Which is insured entirely separately than a car.)
We called our State Farm agent that we found once we became Florida residents and she immediately suggested that we cancel the non-owner policy, as we weren't even renting, or borrowing, a car. The price increase was due to an overall increase across the board at State Farm, it had nothing to do with us. But we did some research anyway.
Rosie called a local auto leasing company to get some prices on their insurance coverage. Now, if you have an automobile, your policy may cover any loss of the vehicle you are renting, but if you have no car, like us, it is prudent to buy collision coverage when you rent the car. It's not cheap. For example, Rosie was quoted a cost of $37 per day for insurance coverage if we wanted to lease a car from the local outfit. $25 of that coverage is for collision, which in our case, we'd have to get anyway. The extra $17 is to cover our liability. So the math equation goes like this; how many days would we have to rent a car and pay that extra $17 (remember, we have to buy the collision insurance anyway) before it comes to the amount we pay to State Farm annually, which is over $600?
Let's see; divide 600 by 17 and we get a tad over 35. So we'd have to rent a car for over 35 days a year before we would save any money by having a non-owner State Farm policy. (I'm not mixing borrowing a car from anyone in the equation here, we're just not going to do it.)
Since we haven't had the urge to travel in a car anywhere in the last three years, and no one has been clamoring for us to come visit St. Louis lately, requiring us to rent a car, per the advice of our State Farm agent, we're not renewing the policy at the end of the month.
"Wait just a cotton pickin' minute," you are saying. "What's this business of nude beaches in Florida?" Well...finding a nude beach anywhere is easy; you drive around in your boat until you see naked people on the shore, then you drop anchor and join them.
How else was I going to get you to read an article about insurance?