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To insure or not? We all make mistakes occasionally, but having to pick up the bill after an accident or, worse still, a total loss can be a painful and expensive lesson. Insuring your pride and joy isn't such a bad idea.

The marine insurance market is awash with providers and unless you're familiar with a particular supplier, going to a specialist marine insurance provider who understands boats isn't a bad idea.

The main type of insurance cover available in NZ is comprehensive which includes third party. Comprehensive cover covers you against accidental loss or damage to your boat; liability cover is for both damage done to someone else's property and injury or death to other people.

Most marina's insist that you hold third party insurance (sometimes upto 5mill) as bare minimum or comprehensive cover before entering or using there facilities. You might also want to consider additions, for instance racing extensions or fishing gear. Your broker or provider can advise on what extras they will cover when getting a quote.

Back to basics

Here's a common sense checklist for you to start off with. Do you have the following?

• A lifejacket for every passenger that you take on board
• A good working VHF radio
• Flares and fire extinguisher (not expired!) as part of your safety pack
• Fully working navigation lights

Change in seasons

As winter approaches, you may need to give some thought to those all-important, outstanding pre-winter jobs. Remember to drain fluids and water pipes that may freeze, remove any parts that are liable to corrode and also remove the battery and store it in a dry place.

Now is also a good time to review where your boat will see out the winter. A boat that's exposed to the elements will be at greater risk of potential damage than one that has been tucked up for the chill winds. There are several options to consider: put her on a trailer and take her home if the wife's not the jealous type; consider boat storage yards and dry stack options. Whichever you choose, if you've moved your boat to a safer, less risky location, be sure to let your insurer know.

For boats being left in the marina, Mariner Marine reminded us to check furlers are secure, handheld VHF radios are removed, ensure there is a good latch on the hatch and finally, check life rafts are secure, as there have been the occasional instances of them spontaneously deploying themselves.

The small print

So, you think you have found a quote that you like. Before committing to a policy, we have drawn up a list of things to consider and check off against your policy. It's a case of working out which things are important to you as one policy does not fit all.

• Credit card charge: Check what payment methods are accepted. Most insurers will charge an extra two percent for credit card payments.

• Direct debit (monthly or quarterly): These can be an easy way to pay but you will pay slightly more for this than paying for a whole year up front.

• Money back guarantee: Some policies offer a period, usually up to 30 days, after the start of the policy, in which you can cancel the policy and claim your money back.

• Third party cover: If you have taken out comprehensive cover, this will be included. It's always worth checking the conditions and amount of cover should you collide with something/someone.

• Unattended cover: Should you leave your boat moored offshore, even for a short period and an accident occurs, check you still have cover.

• Auxiliary cover: Ensure outboard or auxiliary motors are covered.

• Terrorism cover: Thankfully, this is highly unlikely in our coastal waters but it is something to consider if you're planning a big trip and may be passing through more risky territory.

• Emergency towing: Self-explanatory really. If you need to be towed, are you covered?

• Salvage/wreck removal: A really key one. Check you are covered as the costs here can be substantial.

• Search and rescue: Are you covered for the cost of any search and rescue that might be incurred?

• Friends and family cover: Check how your guests on board are protected.

• Delegated skippers: If your mate takes over for a while, are they covered under your policy for your boat?

Know your stuff

Here is an idea of some of the information that most providers will want to know before they can give you a quote. Of course, it is not an absolute list, and some insurers will vary; insurance is, after all, a law unto itself.

• Details of the boat: What's generally required here is make, model, engine (inboard/outboard, make), boat condition and value at the time you take out the policy.

• Where the boat is moored/stored?

• Type of trailer

• How much of an excess you want (none is not an option!)

• How many years boating experience do you have?

• Any boating qualifications: Day Skipper and Boatmaster qualifications will prove you know both the theory and practical aspects and help to show that you are less of a risk than others.

• Intended use: Will you be racing is really the question here.

• Do you have any previous boating claims?

• Do you have a criminal record?

Trade A Boat top tips

1. Find a policy that is written in clear, plain English.

2. When making your claim it's really important to be honest and give as detailed an account of what happened as possible.

3. Have pictures/serial numbers of your most valuable assets that might be on board. Keep receipts of recently purchased items for at least a year as it proves you bought the items rather than invented them

4. Keep a copy of your claim form together with paper/electronic correspondence between everyone involved.

5. Tell the truth. If you say you have your boat stored on the trailer, at home on the driveway, make sure that is actually where you keep it rather than the 'driveway' that also doubles as the road outside!