Do I Need Insurance Against Ice or Freezing Damage?

Insurers want proof of proper winter maintenance and storage

If you live in the northern part of the world, cold winter weather puts special demands on your PWC – and your insurance.

The reality is that many insurance companies will simply refuse to honor claims against damage caused by ice and freezing during the winter lay-up period, unless you can prove that your PWC was professionally winterized and prepared for storage by a qualified marine technician.

“If the engine is not properly winterized then any water remaining inside its internal passages will freeze and can cause cracks,” says broker Andrew Robertson, with Skippers Plan Insurance in Toronto, Canada. “Unfortunately, the insurance company has no way of knowing whether a person who winterized their unit themselves did the job properly, and that’s why they typically demand a receipt to prove the work was conducted by a professional mechanic. While it may be tempting to save a few bucks and do the work yourself, going that route could leave you out in the cold if something goes wrong.”

Demanding proof that the machine was professionally prepped for winter also guards against insurance fraud, says Robertson.

“In the event of a claim, the insurer wants to make certain that any damage actually did result from an accident and not through negligence,” he says. “It protects insurers from fraudulent claims made by those who might think they can just put their watercraft away without winterizing it properly, hoping something will crack and they get a new machine out of it.”

So what happens if you do everything as you’re asked and come spring, you discover evidence of ice or freezing damage?

“Normally that’s a pretty short conversation between the owner and the marina that performed the work for them,” says Jared Chartrand, president of Northstar Marine Insurance. “The insurance company would go after them to sue against the value of the damages, but usually that communication is direct between the customer and the marina. If you take your car in to the shop and they damage something, you don’t normally call the insurance company first – you call the garage and get them to straighten it out. And that’s how it is with PWCs. The insurance company will get involved if it has to, but any reputable marina will look after the customer straight away.”

Both Robertson and Chartrand advise PWC owners to call their broker and ensure that they clearly understand how their insurance coverage relates to ice and freezing damage. It’s just a phone call, and it could save you thousands.