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When I travel to a seaport or lake, I always want to get out on the water. If I do not have a boating connection, I look for a charter boat or boat rental — but which one is best?

Charter Boat

If you charter, it may cost more for a family, but the advantages may outweigh the difference in cost over renting a boat. The first advantage is experience. A charter captain is required to pass rigid tests and obtain a license to operate his vessel.

In many areas, charter boats are inspected by the Coast Guard or State DNR. They are required to carry specific safety and navigational equipment. They also have knowledge of the area in which they operate. Charter boat captains share information with one another regarding fishing or safety while on the water, which enhances each charter experience.

If you hire a charter boat, look for the captain’s license displayed in a conspicuous area. Look for life jackets or their clearly-marked containers. Check out additional safety and navigational equipment. If you do not see a license or adequate safety equipment, look for a different charter.

When you charter, you do not have any insurance issues. The charter boat should have the necessary insurance so you do not open yourself up to liability exposures that exist when renting a boat.

Boat Rental

If you rent, be sure you have knowledge of the local area and are thoroughly instructed on handling and operating the vessel you rent. Insist on instructions for all safety equipment and inquire where it is stored aboard the vessel. Check its operation before heading out on the water. If you have doubts about the condition of any equipment, do not rent the boat.

As you leave the dock with a rental vessel, make mental notes of the shoreline, such as the location of lights, trees, radio towers, high buildings, etc. Keep looking back at the area from where you departed as you make these mental notes. By not taking into account wind and current or tide, boaters, although capable of operating a boat, may be totally confused as to what heading will take them back to their point of departure. A close watch of the compass, speed and time is also very helpful in determining your position and distance from shore.

It is wise to stay in an area where you can see other boats. Should you encounter a problem, they may assist you or relay a request for help on your behalf. If you become disoriented, you can get directions from them or follow them to shore. If you become lost, it could be a long wait for help to arrive without other boats around.

There are insurance considerations when you rent. It is not like renting a car. Most rental companies have liability insurance that protects them, but provide no insurance coverage to protect you.

Our Boater’s Assistance program does provide liability coverage if you rent a boat but there are limitations. If the boat is less than 27 feet in length, the only limitation is that it may not be capable of exceeding a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour. If the boat is greater than 26 feet, we only allow the length of the rental boat to be 5 feet greater than the boat we insure. So if we insure your 30 foot boat, we will provide insurance coverage for a boat up to 35 feet and a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour.

Consider all your options before you decide whether to charter or rent. Of utmost importance, keep safety in mind and have a great time on the water.

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Boats For Sale at BoatBrowser or our Lake Resource Guide at LakeBrowser or share your fishing stories and photos at True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away.

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2 Responses to Charter Boat or Boat Rental

  1. Captain JP says:

    20 bareboat charters is a great record Tom! I really like bareboat charters myself when they’re available. What are some of your favorite charter locations?

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Informative article on chartering. I see no mention of bareboat chartering, which I have done about 20 times in the last 23 years. Have missed this year, but, hopefully, next.

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