according to the environment they operate in. For
example, a hovercraft operating over land is considered an off-road
Over water, your craft will be
considered to be a boat.
vehicles are required to be insured (whether as a boat or an off-road
vehicle, or both). Here, we will briefly address these three issues.
Usually off-road vehicles cannot be
operated on public roadways. In certain municipalities, some
regulations for ATVs apply.
ATV operating restrictions and equipment requirements may also apply to
hovercraft depending on local area legislation. You
may need headlights (and sometimes tail lights) to operate near public
roadways (or after dark).
There may be plate or other licensing requirements too. In order to be
sure, check with the “Motor Vehicles” and “Parks and Recreation”
Departments for your location.
For marine operation, a hovercraft
typically must be registered as a boat. It must comply with the U.S.
Coast Guard regulations for boating:
of the onboard arrangement of engine(s), and other power equipment, for
hovercraft, the safe powering standards are among the regulations not
usually applied to hovercraft. Note: you will also find
“Surface Effect Vehicles” listed in the “excepted” category.
- A life preserver must be
available on board for each occupant of the craft.
- The hovercraft must have enough
positive buoyancy to remain afloat even if it becomes totally
- Night time lighting equipment is required for craft
operating at night or more than one mile from shore during the day in
enclosed waterways (bays, rivers, etc.)
- In open waterways, night time lighting is
required regardless of the distance from shore.
- An approved fire extinguisher
should be on board.
- Fuel system requirements for the engine and fuel tank(s) must be
- A Hull Identification Number (HIN) must
be visibly in place.
- Maximum weight ratings must be posted in sight on the
Additional Coast Guard information is available on the Coast
Insurance is a
major issue for the operation of any motorized vehicle.
It is not recommended to use a hovercraft (or any kind of motor
vehicle) without it because it only represents your own best interests
to have coverage.
It is extremely difficult to find insurance policies specifically
covering hovercraft. Insurance companies consider the accident and
injury statistics for hovercraft inaccurate or unreliable. There are
also very few hovercraft around (compared to cars), making most
insurers reluctant to provide policies that may not be very profitable
To insure a hovercraft, you may be able to obtain marine insurance (for
boats) or off-road vehicle insurance (for ATVs). It is not advised to
get both (for financial reasons) unless you use your craft in both
environments equally. Currently, it is generally acceptable to insure a
hovercraft as either a boat or an ATV (but even this has its
There are disadvantages to only having insurance for land or water
operation. For example, if your hovercraft is only insured as a marine
vehicle, you will have to transport it to the water before operating
it. Operation of a marine vehicle on land is not covered by standard
If your hovercraft is insured as an ATV, you are not covered for marine
operation in most cases (even though the craft has marine
capabilities). The purpose of having a hovercraft is defeated if you
cannot take advantage of the full abilities of the craft.
You might consider insuring your hovercraft as a boat under a Home
Owner’s policy. This is usually cheaper than a separate policy covering
only the vehicle. Also consider that, although you could insure your
craft as an ATV, hovercraft are legally classified as boats.
hovercrafting is a relatively new recreational activity, there
is no legislative body governing hovercraft. For the most part,
hovercraft are self-regulated by the Hoverclub of America.
In many ways, the Hoverclub of America is self-reliant in order to
prevent regulations from a legislative body that may know very little
about hovercraft. They are constantly updating their own standards to
remain current on these issues.
For more information about hovercraft regulations, visit the Hoverclub
of America website or write to them directly.
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