Just because your business has commercial property insurance coverage doesn’t mean that all your risks have been addressed. If your business ships or transports goods, moves its property or equipment frequently, or deals with certain types of specialty property, you may need additional coverage. Inland marine insurance is the term for specific coverage and policies that deal with these sorts of risks, but the category can be broad and somewhat difficult to understand. This guide will clear up your questions by explaining what inland marine insurance is and does, what it covers, the factors that affect the cost of policies, what to consider when shopping for coverage, and our favorite picks for inland marine insurance, including the three options listed below.
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Understanding Inland Marine Insurance
Any business that deals in physical goods and products knows that a lot can go wrong in the process of moving materials from point A to point B. Damage, theft, and other losses in the shipping and transit process can create business disruptions and leave business owners paying the costs to repair or replace property.
Insurance coverage can help put business managers’ minds at ease. For many businesses, a standard commercial coverage like a business owners’ policy will provide adequate property coverage for inventory and equipment stored at a covered location—and occasionally even for goods in transit or used away from the business’s premises.
But for businesses that frequently ship or transport products or equipment, particularly specialty goods, additional coverage known as inland marine insurance is needed to protect against the risks to property that may occur while material is on the move. This is especially important in fields like construction—where materials and equipment must be moved from location to location for different jobs—and any other industry that requires transport of high-value materials.
What Is Inland Marine Insurance?
Inland marine insurance is the form of property insurance coverage that covers materials and equipment when they are transported over land. Some of the common risks that might occur in the transport process include collisions or accidents involving the vehicle carrying the cargo, theft of materials, loss or damage from mishandling or misplacement, and many other typical property risks like fire or storm damage.
Inland marine insurance is more narrowly tailored to a specific purpose than most other forms of coverage, with the focus specifically on goods in transit over land. Businesses with particular risks associated with the types of goods or equipment they deal in—for instance, fine art dealers—may be able to obtain inland marine coverages that are even more targeted.
However, because some of the risks covered under inland marine insurance look similar to other forms of property insurance, it is helpful to distinguish between inland marine insurance and other types of coverage. We will detail some of these differences below.
Inland Marine vs. Ocean Marine Insurance
One of the most common points of confusion about inland marine insurance is the word “marine.” For most people, “marine” brings to mind water—which seems irrelevant for insurance coverage meant for trucks, trains, and warehouses.
The background is that inland marine insurance was created as a complement to an older form of coverage, ocean marine insurance. Ocean marine insurance is one of the oldest forms of insurance, dating to a time when goods were frequently being shipped over the seas, and risks like shipwrecks or piracy were more common. During the Industrial Revolution, as new forms of transportation like rail and later motor vehicles made it easier to move goods over land, inland marine insurance was created to account for the difference in risks between transport over water and over land.
That difference remains the primary distinguishing characteristic between inland marine and ocean marine insurance. Both forms cover losses, theft, and other damage that occurs to cargo in transit or to the vessel being used to transport it. But because the specific risks differ—for instance, there is a greater likelihood of water damage with ocean marine and more risk of collisions with inland marine—different policies are designed accordingly.
Inland Marine vs. Personal Property Insurance
Property insurance policies frequently include coverage for two types of property: “real property,” or structures and permanent fixtures, and “personal property,” which refers to any movable items like furniture, supplies, or equipment held within a covered structure. This is true for both commercial coverage and homeowners’ insurance.
The main limitation of personal property insurance is that coverage is typically tied only to addresses listed in the property insurance policy. For businesses that rarely move property or equipment—for instance, a retail store—that coverage will usually be enough. But for businesses that frequently have property in transit, inland marine insurance is a useful coverage for minimizing financial risks associated with shipping and logistics.
One special case to consider if you are comparing inland marine coverage and personal property is warehousing and storage. Some companies will list warehouses that they own as covered structures in their commercial property policies, which means that personal property receives coverage. But if you store materials with a third party or your own storage facility does not have adequate coverage, you may want to obtain a commercial inland marine policy to ensure that your needs are met. And if you are storing or shipping materials for others, you likely need a special form of inland marine insurance called bailee’s coverage, which protects customers’ property and minimizes your liability for damage while property is in your care, or motor truck cargo coverage, which protects customers’ goods while you transport them.
Inland Marine vs. Builders Risk Insurance
For contractors and construction businesses, it can be somewhat difficult to parse out the differences between inland marine insurance and builders risk insurance. And many insurers advertise builders risk as a type of inland marine policy and write builders risk policies on inland marine forms rather than a commercial property form, which adds to the confusion.
The short explanation is that both can be written to provide coverage for a business’s tools, equipment, materials, and supplies, but they may do so under different circumstances. Builders risk policies can be written to cover only structures and not tools and equipment, but it is safer for contractors to include coverage for materials. Builders risk policies usually cover property damage or loss to materials being used and stored at a particular job site or when the materials are awaiting transportation to that job site. These policies are also typically written for short-term coverage that lasts only as long as the construction project does. In contrast, other forms of inland marine like floater policies are not linked to a particular job, site, or project timeframe, so they can provide more general protection for your tools and equipment when they are being moved from job location to job location.
How Does Inland Marine Insurance Work?
When your business purchases inland marine insurance, you are paying an insurer to take on the financial risk of damage or losses that may come to your property when it is in transit.
Say one of your employees is using a company truck to transport a piece of equipment and is involved in a wreck that causes $5,000 of damage to the equipment. Without inland marine insurance, your business would be on the hook for the cost of that $5,000. With the right inland marine coverage, however, an insurer would cover the cost of the property damage as long as the incident qualified for coverage under your policy. For the insurer to do this, you must pay to retain a policy and likely need to cover some portion of the cost yourself.
Like other forms of insurance coverage, inland marine insurance policies typically have common elements including coverage definitions, premiums, deductibles, and policy limits. Here’s what those elements mean for your policy:
- Coverage – The types of damage, incidents, and expenses that will be covered under the policy. Inland marine insurance is focused on property in transit or kept at a temporary location, which is one of the main ways that coverage is limited compared to other forms of property insurance. But policies may also be limited only to certain types of incidents or events, or to certain types of property.
- Premium – The amount of money that the policyholder must pay to retain the policy. Usually, if you pay more in premiums, you will receive more comprehensive coverage, with higher policy limits and fewer exclusions.
- Deductible – The amount of money a covered company must pay toward a claim before insurance coverage will compensate the company for a loss. Usually, a higher deductible results in lower premiums, but it also means that the policyholder retains more risk in the event of a loss.
- Coinsurance – Inland marine insurance policies sometimes contain a coinsurance clause, which requires a policyholder to insure property for a certain percentage of the property’s value, usually 80%. If the policyholder does not meet this requirement, the insurer may penalize the policyholder by only paying a proportion of a claim.
- Policy limit – The defined maximum that the insurer is required to pay toward claims filed on the policy. If your property is high value and expensive to replace, like fine art or heavy equipment, you may need to purchase coverage with higher limits to account for the associated risks.
What Does Inland Marine Insurance Cover?
Coverage under inland marine insurance has evolved over time to account for different types of risks and different types of goods or property that may need to be transported. Based on policyholders’ needs and what insurers offer, the specific terms of coverage may also vary substantially from one policy to another. At a baseline, however, inland marine insurance will define coverage both in terms of items that are eligible for coverage and the types of risks or perils that can cause coverage to kick in:
- Items Covered – The main point of inland marine coverage is property that can be moved or transported, including shipments of material or categories like computers and technology, medical or scientific equipment, or cameras and photography equipment. Inland marine policies may also cover special items that frequently move from place to place, like construction equipment and art exhibitions. It may also cover property that a business is temporarily holding for a customer and certain types of fixed property used for transportation or communication, like bridges or radio towers.
- Risks Covered – Like many other insurance policies, inland marine insurance can be written for “named perils” or “all risks.” A named perils policy will only cover damage or loss that occurs due to incidents that are specifically listed in the policy, like fire, theft, and vandalism. An all risks or open perils policy is the inverse, covering all risks except those that the policy explicitly excludes—a list that usually includes rare events like war and nuclear disasters or conditions around the use of defective materials, faulty design, and similar issues.
Additionally, inland marine insurance can also encompass several more specialized forms or types of coverage. These can frequently come in the form of add-on floaters or endorsements that extend inland marine insurance according to specific needs that the policyholder may have. Some of the most common of these coverages are explained below.
A bailee is a business that takes temporary possession of property belonging to others, and bailee’s insurance, also known as bailee’s customer insurance or bailee’s coverage, protects a bailee for damages that occur to customer property while on the bailee’s premises or in transit.
When customers leave property with a business—for instance, to be cleaned, serviced, repaired, or stored—they expect their items to be returned to them without damage. In instances when property is damaged, lost, or stolen while in a bailee’s care, bailee’s insurance will cover the cost of the loss if the cause of damage is eligible under the policy. This form of insurance is common with businesses like dry cleaners, repair shops, and auto mechanics.
Cargo insurance, also known as motor truck cargo insurance, insures goods and property when they are being transported by a motor carrier. This is valuable for freight and logistics companies, towing companies, or moving companies who frequently transport material for others. If your company is transporting goods for others, this form of inland marine insurance may even be required, whether by law or by your customers. Even if not, cargo insurance will give you financial protection from damage that happens while property is in your care.
Cargo insurance policies can be written either as named perils or all-risk policies. However, there are usually exclusions for certain types of incidents, and some insurers may require you to obtain a different form of coverage for high-value cargo like works of art or jewelry.
An equipment floater is a form of coverage used to protect against loss or damage for equipment that is frequently transported to different locations. Most commonly, equipment floaters are used to cover construction equipment like excavators or bulldozers. Because these pieces of equipment are transported to different job sites, they have greater risk of damage in transit or theft from a site. These items can also be very expensive to fix or replace, which makes having adequate insurance coverage important: an uninsured loss could be an enormous financial burden for many construction businesses.
Insurers offer standalone, individual equipment floaters for particular pieces of equipment, or you can add a floater policy onto your existing property coverage. Either way, policies will typically provide, at a minimum, coverage for risks like fire, theft, vandalism, and certain types of weather or natural disaster events.
Installation floaters are a form of inland marine coverage that cover property that is not yet installed or is in the process of installation, along with other tools and materials used for the installation. For instance, say your contracting business is installing new cabinetry and countertops in a customer’s home and the countertops are damaged on the way to the site. The customer will not want to pay for damaged counters and you will not want to take the loss on the project, but if you have an installation floater, the cost of damage will be paid by the insurer instead. Typically, these policies are written to cover tools and materials from when the job begins until the point when installation is complete.
Exhibition & Fine Art Coverage
Museums, galleries, art dealers and collectors, and others who may need to transport or loan out works of art or larger exhibitions are especially attuned to the risks that come with moving property from location to location. The material these entities may need to transport often possess high value and carry special concerns around property damage or theft because they are difficult—if not impossible—to restore or replace in the event of a loss.
Exhibition and fine art coverage can be obtained as a form of inland marine insurance that protects items when they are on exhibition, loaned to another institution, or being transported. These policies are typically “all-risk” policies, meaning that they cover any incident except those specifically excluded from the policy, and policy limits can be structured for an overall blanket amount or based on the value of individual covered items.
Jewelers Block Coverage
Jewelers block insurance is the form of inland marine insurance that covers jewelry, precious stones and metals, and other valuables. This can include both a business’s own inventory or customer property that has been left with the business for maintenance or repairs. Jewelers block insurance is usually written as an “all-risk” policy and bundled with other property and liability coverages.
Accounts Receivable Coverage
Accounts receivable insurance covers losses that result when a business is unable to collect from customers who owe money, most commonly due to the loss or damage of the company’s accounts receivable records. If you have physical records or digital records that are damaged from an event like a fire or theft, making it impossible to collect from a customer, the insurer will reimburse you some amount based on past receivables. While this may seem different from the types of risks covered under other inland marine policies, accounts receivable coverage is nonetheless written as an inland marine policy and usually offered as an endorsement to other property policies.
What Doesn’t Inland Marine Insurance Cover?
While inland marine insurance encompasses many different types of property and risks within its coverage, you should not expect it to cover everything. For many situations, it may be beneficial for you to hold some form of insurance but will find that inland marine insurance is not the right coverage. Here are a few examples of what inland marine insurance will not usually cover:
- Property on your premises – If property is kept permanently on your premises, it would not fall under inland marine because it is not transported. Instead, a more general property insurance policy will cover this type of personal property.
- Property shipped over water – Ocean marine insurance will provide coverage for different risks that businesses face when transporting goods by water.
- Vehicles – While automobiles, boats, aircraft, and other vehicles do face some of the same risks as property in transit, they have their own forms of insurance. This is important to note because the vehicles that are transporting property may need different coverage than the property itself.
- Defective materials and faulty design – When the items you transport were not well-made to begin with, insurers will usually not cover them, as poor quality materials or design make damage from any source more likely. However, other forms of insurance like general liability, product liability, or errors and omissions may provide you with some coverage depending on the exact situation.
Even if inland marine insurance is appropriate for your property, insurers may present other limitations based on the type of property you need insured or the types of risk covered.
In addition to the examples above, inland marine policies typically will not cover items like money and securities or contraband. Insurers may also require you to purchase specific types of coverage or higher levels of coverage for some types of property, so you should check with your insurer to be sure you have adequate coverage for your needs.
Inland marine insurance is commonly written as an all-risks policy instead of named perils, but regardless of which type of coverage you have, there will be many types of incidents that insurers decline to cover because it is difficult for them to accurately predict the risk level. Exclusions that fall under this category may include damage or loss from flood, earthquake, acts of employee dishonesty, war, government seizure of property, nuclear hazard, and mysterious disappearances. You should review your policy for a full list of exclusions.
Inland Marine Insurance Requirements
Like most other forms of property insurance, inland marine insurance is generally not required but is advisable to hold in most cases. Businesses often cannot avoid having to move inventory or equipment around, especially in industries like construction or fine arts. This means that businesses who want to protect their assets typically elect to maintain their own forms of inland marine coverage, seek out shipping and logistics partners who carry coverage that will protect their property while in another business’s care, or both.
One exception is motor carriers, who must maintain cargo insurance and have a policy on file with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration if they carry household goods. The FMCSA used to require cargo insurance for all motor carriers, but ended that requirement in 2011. And in addition to the FMCSA’s policies, many states also carry their own requirements for carriers to maintain cargo insurance. However, many other types of businesses will not contract with a carrier who does not maintain a cargo insurance policy because the financial risks of damage to a shipment are higher, so even carriers who may not be subject to state or federal requirements may want to obtain motor carrier coverage regardless.
Considerations for Certain Businesses
Inland marine insurance coverage can take many different forms, and the specific parameters of these policies are highly adaptable to unique industry needs. Businesses should work closely with potential insurers to identify the most appropriate forms of coverage, but below are a few examples of the types of policies different business owners should seek out.
Construction & Contractors
For professionals working in the construction industry, inland marine insurance is a vital coverage. Because most work happens in the field at different job sites, these businesses must protect their materials and equipment in transit and when they are stored at a job location.
Two important coverages for contractors to consider specifically are equipment floaters and installation floaters. An equipment floater will protect tools and equipment in case of theft or damage on the way to or at a job site. An installation floater, meanwhile, will cover businesses if damages occur to materials that have yet to be completely installed.
Construction businesses should also weigh the benefits and drawbacks of coverage with builders risk policies. Builders risk covers structures under construction and can be written to provide protections for materials and equipment at a job site. For subcontractors working only on parts of a larger job, an installation floater and equipment floater may be sufficient, but property owners, general contractors, and others who work on a larger job from start to finish should have builders risk coverage.
Home Inspectors & Photographers
If you rely on specialized equipment to do your work in the field, having an equipment floater is an important form of coverage. Professionals who benefit from such coverage include home inspectors and photographers. Valuable tools and equipment could be stolen from an unattended vehicle or damaged by a collision, pothole, or other risk on the road. And with inspectors and photographers using increasingly sophisticated technological equipment, like drones, the cost of repairing or replacing their tools can be high. An equipment floater will help minimize this financial risk.
Transportation & Logistics
Many businesses obtain inland marine insurance coverage for their own property, materials, and equipment, but inland marine coverage also benefits those in industries like transportation, shipping, logistics, and warehousing, where businesses are often entrusted with the care of others’ property. Moreover, some clients and customers may not only prefer but require that businesses they hire in the logistics industry have good inland marine coverage to minimize financial risks.
One kind of coverage that offers protection for logistics businesses is bailee’s coverage. This form of insurance offers legal and financial protection for businesses when damage comes to a client’s property while in that business’s care. For businesses like warehouses, having bailee’s coverage helps minimize risk exposure to liability for damaging another’s property. Similarly, cargo insurance provides coverage for freight, logistics, shipping, and moving companies who may be hired to transport cargo for others. This coverage offers protection for damage that occurs while that cargo is in transit.
Fine Art & Museums
Some insurers offer a specific form of inland marine insurance coverage called exhibition and fine art coverage. These policies are designed with the realities of museums and galleries in mind: the property that they are transporting may be difficult to restore or replace in the event of damage or other loss, like theft. When exhibitions or works of art are loaned out or transported to a new location, exhibition and fine art coverage will account for these risks and offer compensation in the event that a damage or loss occurs. And given that some works of art have extremely high value, these policies can be written either for a blanket coverage up to a certain amount or with individual pieces in mind, based on appraisals and valuation.
The Benefits & Drawbacks of Inland Marine Insurance
Inland marine insurance is not for every business. Most commercial property insurance policies, whether as a standalone or as part of a more comprehensive business owners’ policy or commercial package policy, will provide enough coverage for businesses who rarely have to move inventory, equipment, materials, or other property from their main location. In those cases, inland marine insurance may not be worth the trouble.
The main benefit of inland marine insurance is how it fills in gaps or addresses exceptions for typical property coverage. One clear example of this is how inland marine policies are designed to provide coverage for businesses that do their work at multiple sites. But even for businesses who are not constantly moving their property to different locations, inland marine insurance policies can be written narrowly enough to cover just one or two items or unique situations for which a business might want reassurance.
One downside is that policies can be somewhat challenging to navigate. Part of the reason for this is that many different types of coverage fall under the classification of inland marine, so for businesses who do not know exactly what they need, shopping for the right type and level of inland marine coverage is difficult. To address this, businesses who are seeking inland marine insurance should work with an insurance agent or broker to understand their options.
Inland Marine Insurance Rates & Premiums
Like most other forms of commercial insurance, the exact costs associated with inland marine insurance will vary depending on factors that are unique to your business. For some companies, the need for inland marine coverage will be low and they can manage with a cheap policy for a couple hundred dollars a year or without a policy altogether. For others, the cost of insuring high-value property that is transported often could be in the thousands of dollars annually.
While the best way to know the cost of inland marine insurance is to get a quote, this section of the guide will walk you through what to expect in terms of cost and the factors that will affect what you pay in inland marine insurance premiums.
How Much Does Inland Marine Insurance Cost?
Given the different types of inland marine insurance policies available and their customizability to different business needs, it’s hard to say with certainty what any business will pay, but some ranges and estimates can be found through online research.
Entry-level, general inland marine insurance policies that offer lower coverage limits ($10,000 or less) can be had for between $200 and $300 per year, and many small businesses will pay no more than $1,000 per year. Naturally, costs will scale up with increased coverage: the more property you have to cover and the more risk exposure you have, the greater your costs will be. Some larger businesses or those working with high-value equipment may pay thousands of dollars per year.
It’s also worth noting that these policies are often written as an extension of commercial property insurance, though some are offered as standalones. This is important because the cost of inland marine insurance may only be one portion of what your business will need to spend overall to secure comprehensive insurance coverage for all your business’s risks.
Factors That Affect Inland Marine Insurance Rates
The exact rate your business will pay for inland marine insurance depends on a number of factors, including the amount and type of property to be insured and the industry in which you operate. Costs can also vary based on how the policy is written with regard to the property valuation method and covered risks. These factors are all explained in more detail below.
- Amount of property to be insured – The factor that will affect premiums for inland marine insurance the most is how much property you need covered. You can obtain inexpensive policies with policy limits as low as a few thousand dollars, and for some small businesses, that may be sufficient. But if you own or transport greater amounts of property, you will pay more as your coverage limits increase.
- Type of property to be insured – Because inland marine coverage can entail many different types of material, from construction equipment to cameras to fine art, insurers will want to know exactly what they are insuring, not just how much coverage you want. Property with higher replacement costs may require higher premiums, as will property that comes with greater risk of damage or loss.
- Business industry – Property in some particular industries may be more expensive to insure than property in others, for a couple reasons. One reason relates to the point above about the type of property being covered: your coverage needs will look different depending on the type of property you deal with, and insurers will adjust their pricing accordingly. Another is the different risk exposure faced in different industries. For instance, a motor carrier may present higher risks of loss under an inland marine policy—and accordingly pay more—because they are constantly moving property.
- Property valuation method – Insurers typically offer compensation based on either the actual cash value or the replacement value of the covered property, and each comes with slightly different costs in the policy. Replacement value is calculated as the cost to repair or replace property at current costs, while actual cash value is calculated as the replacement cost minus depreciation. Policies with replacement value coverage typically have higher premiums because the payouts are greater.
- Covered risks – Inland marine insurance policies are most commonly written to provide all-risk coverage, meaning that coverage can be triggered by any cause of damage or loss except any specifically excluded in the policy. However, insurers do offer named peril coverage, which only covers types of risks that are named in the policy. Named peril policies tend to be less expensive because they are narrower in scope and less likely to have claims occur.
Finding a Cheap Inland Marine Insurance Quote
Business owners recognize that having the right insurance coverage is important for minimizing risks, but the costs of all the different types of coverage they need can quickly eat into their bottom line. This means that for inland marine insurance and other types of coverage, business owners are looking for insurance that meets their needs at the lowest possible cost.
To find inexpensive options for inland marine insurance, one good starting point is whatever existing property insurance you have for your business. You can work with your insurer to review your policy and evaluate whether your business actually needs additional inland marine coverage. If you do, your insurer may be able to offer bundles or packages that add inland marine policies to your existing coverage at a discount.
If you are just starting out or looking to transition away from your current insurer, comparison shopping is the best way to find good value. Most insurers have simple forms online to get a quote that you can use to compare options and will typically have an insurance agent follow up to provide additional information. Alternatively, you can work with an insurance broker who is familiar with offerings across different providers and can help you find the best deal on inland marine insurance.
Finding the Best Inland Marine Insurance
Inland marine insurance has a long history, having evolved over time to provide financial protection for a variety of different industries and types of property. Where inland marine insurance initially covered goods shipped by river, it grew to encompass rails, roads, and other methods of shipping and transporting property. And the field continues to evolve, with insurers today thinking about how best to protect emerging high-tech specialty equipment like computers and medical devices.
You can now find targeted inland marine coverages for property as diverse as construction equipment, jewelry, dry cleaning, networking equipment, and accounts receivable records. This means that in all likelihood, there is inland marine coverage out there that fits a need for your business when shipping or transporting goods. But with many different types of coverage available, it can be a challenge to navigate offerings across insurance providers. If you are shopping for inland marine insurance, this section of the guide will help you understand some of the key factors that distinguish providers and their policies as you evaluate your options.
Comparing Inland Marine Insurance Companies
There are a few important factors to look out for when choosing an insurance provider, whether for inland marine coverage or any other policy. Below we will detail five of the most important: the insurer’s coverage options and policy limits, company reputation, financial strength, the claims reporting process, and premiums and deductibles.
Coverage Options & Policy Limits
The type of coverages available through a potential insurer is probably the most important factor in selecting a policy. You want to be assured that your particular industry or the type of property you need covered will be adequately insured by your provider. Most major insurers provide a variety of inland marine coverages, but the exact specifics will vary from provider to provider. You may also want to discuss with a potential insurer whether policies are written as all risk or named perils and if they pay on a replacement cost or actual cash value basis.
The other major consideration for a property insurance policy like inland marine is the policy’s payment limits. If you don’t have enough insurance to cover the value of your property, you could find yourself paying large out-of-pocket costs above the policy limit to repair or replace property in the event of a loss. To avoid this situation, insurers will often work with you to value your property and purchase the right amount of insurance.
When choosing an insurer, it is also important to know what others think of that provider and what their experiences have been with them. If an insurance provider has a well-established track record and has many satisfied customers, you will avoid a lot of headaches. In contrast, some providers who nickel and dime their customers or cut corners on service will not be worth the trouble.
Two sources to consult for insurance reviews are J.D. Power and the Better Business Bureau. J.D. Power is known for compiling customer ratings and reviews to evaluate customer satisfaction across a variety of industries, including commercial insurance. The Better Business Bureau rates businesses based on how trustworthy they are in their business practices. All of the inland marine insurance companies that we review below receive strong marks from both.
If you are paying for insurance coverage and encounter a loss, you want to know that your insurance provider has the financial resources to pay out claims. If an insurer is overleveraged or lacking in financial resources, their ability to pay claims if something goes wrong with your business may be in question.
One of the best sources of information on financial strength is an insurer’s rating from major credit rating agencies like AM Best, Moody’s, or Standard and Poor’s. These organizations evaluate financial strength for insurers and many other businesses as a reference for investors and customers, each using a proprietary formula. Because the rating systems are different, it is helpful to compare ratings to get a comprehensive picture of an insurer’s financial strength. The best inland marine insurance companies listed in this guide receive excellent financial ratings.
If you are dealing with a claim, you will be looking for high quality customer service and an easy claims process from your insurer. Especially with regard to inland marine insurance, the financial losses and disruption of an incident can cost you a lot of time, money, and stress. Say, for example, you are a contractor working on a large construction project and your tools are stolen from your work truck. Being able to quickly file a claim and recuperate the losses is imperative to your business. Insurers who are easy to work with and resolve claims quickly and successfully will help you reduce the burden of these incidents.
You should review policies to understand any particular rules or procedures required for claims and look for processes that are easy to navigate. Additionally, you should research the support that insurers offer for customer service and claims management. Many insurers have developed more convenient tech-based tools to make claim management and tracking more convenient for policyholders, including 24/7 support lines, web portals, and mobile apps.
Premiums & Deductibles
Many insurance shoppers are concerned about how the cost of insurance will affect their bottom line, which means they look closely at an insurer’s premiums and deductibles. Premiums and deductibles are the policyholder’s out-of-pocket costs: premiums are the recurring cost of retaining a policy, while the deductible is what you will contribute toward a claim before coverage kicks in. These figures change with the amount of coverage you obtain, with the general trend being that you pay more in premiums if your coverage levels are higher and your deductibles are lower.
One important note: minimizing your regular costs of insurance could still cost you in the long run. Cheaper policies often have worse coverage, so in the event of a loss, you could find yourself paying most of the cost out of pocket. As you look for policies, you want to assess your own tolerance for risk and search for good value based on both costs and the likelihood that your business will face incidents leading to a claim.
Best Inland Marine Insurance Companies Overall
The Hartford (Best Overall)
Coverage Options & Policy Limits
The Hartford offers a strong array of coverages across a variety of industries for inland marine insurance, and its variety of options is broader than many other competitors in the market. These coverages include many common options like equipment and installation floaters, motor truck cargo, warehouse liability, bailee’s customer, and fine arts coverage, but The Hartford distinguishes itself by offering specific coverages for many other different types of equipment and miscellaneous property. The Hartford offers these policies as both standalone options or as part of a bundle or package of commercial insurance policies, which is not true of all providers. Additionally, The Hartford has highly customizable policy limits across these different coverages, which means that policyholders can have coverage narrowly tailored to their specific needs.
The Hartford has a solid reputation after more than 200 years in business as an insurer and is considered a reliable option for most businesses seeking commercial insurance. The Better Business Bureau gives The Hartford an A+ rating, which means that the BBB considers The Hartford to be a trustworthy and fair business in its dealings with customers.
One mark against The Hartford, however, is its slightly below-average score on J.D. Power’s overall ratings of small business insurers. The Hartford received a score of 827 out of 1,000 on a recent survey, which was slightly below the industry average and the lowest of the insurers selected for this guide. However, The Hartford makes up for that by scoring above average on the J.D. Power survey specific to property insurance.
The Hartford’s financial strength evaluations from the major credit ratings agencies are all sound, indicating that the company is in good position to pay out claims and meet their obligations. The Hatrford’s ratings are an A+ with S&P, an A+ with A.M. Best, and an A1 with Moody’s.
One of the Hartford’s best attributes is its property claims filing process, which is convenient and quite helpful for customers. Claims can be initiated and tracked 24/7 through a phone line or a convenient online portal. The Hartford also has a dedicated group of claims agents with specialized expertise in industries like shipping and logistics to help guide your claim to a fair resolution. This expertise also factors into other services like risk engineering, which can help your business minimize the likelihood of reporting a claim in the first place.
Premiums & Deductibles
Many businesses will find that The Hartford’s rates are fairly affordable, especially given the customizability of their inland marine insurance policy limits. However, some inland marine insurance policies with The Hartford—notably builders risk and contractor’s equipment—have a minimum premium of $1,500 per year. This is reasonable for many midsize or larger businesses given what they are likely to spend on inland marine insurance, but it is a drawback for smaller businesses whose coverage needs may not justify a policy with that kind of expense.
The Hartford has good tools to quickly generate quotes and help you determine how much your business would pay for inland marine coverage. Some product lines, including builders risk, contractor’s equipment, installation floaters, and motor truck cargo, can get quick online quotes; for others, you will need to work directly with an agent to understand your options.
The Hartford’s minimum premiums on certain policies may make it less desirable for the smallest businesses and its customer satisfaction ratings for certain policies are lower than the competition, but in general, The Hartford offers an impressive variety of customizable coverages, reasonable rates, and a good claims process. These qualities together make The Hartford our top overall recommendation.
Chubb (Best for Contractors and Construction)
Coverage Options & Policy Limits
Many of Chubb’s options in the inland marine insurance category are oriented toward professionals in building and construction. These coverages include civil engineering projects (e.g. bridges), builders risk for both commercial and residential projects, construction equipment, and more. Chubb advertises that they offer 40+ inland marine products, but most of the information available about Chubb’s policies suggests a focus on contractors and construction professionals. This is a benefit for businesses in those industries, but companies looking for broader types of inland marine coverage may prefer a different provider. In terms of policy limits, Chubb is one of the largest insurers in the world, so they are capable of providing high-limit coverage for large clients with major projects or property to be insured.
Chubb is considered an industry leader in terms of customer service and satisfaction, with industry-leading tools and support. Recently, Chubb received a rating of 853 out of 1,000 in J.D. Power’s survey of customer satisfaction with small business providers—the highest-rated provider in the survey. The Better Business Bureau reinforces this, with a rating of A+ for Chubb.
Chubb is the largest publicly-traded insurer in the world, and with those kinds of resources, Chubb’s financial picture is very strong. S&P rates Chubb at the AA level, A.M. Best gives it the highest rating of an A++, and Moody’s offers a high grade of Aa3. Policyholders working with Chubb can be assured that claims can be paid out successfully.
Chubb’s commitment to high-quality customer service is consistent before and during the claims process. Before you have an incident, one of Chubb’s strengths is the integration of risk management services using predictive technologies and industry expertise. Chubb will help you analyze your risk exposures and identify areas where you may be able to minimize the chances you will face an incident.
In the event you do have a claim, Chubb’s excellent customer service will get your claim resolved quickly. Chubb’s professionals are specially trained in particular industries or insurance products to provide the best possible customer experience. Their online tools allow you to track progress and provide documentation. And Chubb states a commitment to responding to initial claims within 24 hours and paying out successful claims within 48 hours of being resolved.
Premiums & Deductibles
Chubb has a lot to recommend it in terms of customer service, industry expertise, and other positive attributes, but these often come at a cost. Chubb’s insurance products are frequently more expensive than peers in the commercial insurance market.
To know exactly what you will be paying, Chubb easily allows you to get a quote online. Their online tools will ask some basic questions about your business’s characteristics, including industry, location, revenues, and risk factors. From there, you will get a quote tailored to your situation and be referred to an agent to learn more.
Many of Chubb’s top inland marine options are designed for contractors and construction professionals. This is a positive attribute for those in the construction industry, but the downside is that Chubb’s offerings may not be as suitable for all inland marine insurance types—especially given that Chubb is frequently more expensive. For that reason, we recommend Chubb as the best inland marine insurance company for construction and contractors.
Liberty Mutual (Best for Small Business)
Coverage Options & Policy Limits
Liberty Mutual’s inland marine offerings include coverage for bailee’s customer coverage, installation floaters, motor truck cargo and transportation coverage, warehouse liability, and a miscellaneous property floater that covers other property not usually covered under inland marine policies, among other options. The miscellaneous floater can include items like food trucks and catering equipment, athletics equipment, scientific instruments, and more.
For builders risk or contractors’ equipment, Liberty Mutual will offer coverage up to $50,000,000 on standard policies, which means that it is an appropriate option for everyone ranging from the smallest businesses to larger contractors. Other inland marine policies are highly customizable based on your needs, including the miscellaneous property floater. You can work with an agent or broker to find the right type and level of coverage for your inland marine needs.
Liberty Mutual has one of the better reputations of any commercial insurer. The Better Business Bureau rates Liberty Mutual at an A+ level, and Liberty Mutual has also been accredited by the BBB for almost a century—meaning that they exhibit high standards of fairness and customer service. J.D. Power also gives Liberty Mutual high marks: a recent study of small business insurers finds a customer satisfaction score of 850 out of 1,000, which is good for 4th out of all insurers and the runner-up for options in this guide.
Liberty Mutual demonstrates good financial strength according to the major credit agencies. Moody’s rates Liberty Mutual at the A2 level, while both AM Best and Standard & Poor’s give Liberty Mutual a rating of A on their respective scales.
When reporting business insurance claims, Liberty Mutual is reachable by phone 24/7 for all customers. Large business customers (greater than 1,000 employees) also have the ability to report claims through an online portal, which may be a negative for smaller or midsize businesses who would like the convenience of online claim filing and tracking.
Once your claim is filed, Liberty Mutual will direct you to a team of trained claims professionals based on the type and severity of the claim. These claims handlers will work with you to gather information, analyze the claim and any state-specific requirements, and resolve the claim quickly.
Premiums & Deductibles
Liberty Mutual serves businesses of all sizes, with premiums that are affordable at all segments in the market. At the low end, businesses can obtain a policy for just a few hundred dollars per year, but some of Liberty Mutual’s more expensive policies can cost tens of thousands of dollars in premiums on major builders risk or contractor equipment policies for coverage up to $50,000,000.
To know exactly what you will pay, you should connect with Liberty Mutual for a quote. One minor drawback when getting started with Liberty Mutual is that potential customers can’t get quotes for coverage online, and instead have to speak with an agent or broker directly. However, Liberty Mutual’s agents can quickly answer questions, identify appropriate coverages, and give you quotes not only for inland marine but also for other business insurance lines like property, general liability, workers compensation and more.
While Liberty Mutual could have stronger online interfaces for customers seeking quotes or tracking claims, Liberty Mutual offers a variety of customizable coverages, including its miscellaneous property floater, with policy limits and premiums appropriate to businesses of all sizes. With these factors in mind, Liberty Mutual is our top choice for small businesses with inland marine coverage needs.
Coverage Options & Policy Limits
Travelers offers one of the strongest collections of inland marine coverage options of any commercial insurer. Travelers’ coverages include all of the major inland marine categories one would expect for industries like construction (builders risk, equipment, installation), fine art, and transportation and logistics (motor truck cargo, warehouse liability)—plus additional coverages for uses as diverse as civil engineering projects, cameras, musical instruments, computers, medical equipment, and more.
Travelers delivers a solid performance on measures of company reputation. The Better Business Bureau gives Travelers its top rating of A+ for fair business practices and dealings with customers. Meanwhile, J.D. Power’s customer survey for small business insurance gave Travelers a score of 835 out of 1,000—good for 6th out of all insurers in the category.
Travelers is America’s largest insurer for businesses, and with such a strong position in the market, it boasts deep financial resources and excellent ratings from the major credit agencies. AM Best gives Travelers an A++ (Superior) rating, while Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s rate Travelers with excellent Aa2 and AA grades, respectively.
Travelers has excellent tools for reporting and managing claims that are superior to many competitors in the market. Travelers has a 24/7 claims line, a mobile app, and an online self-service portal. The latter allows users to report claims and check on their status, in addition to managing other parts of your inland marine policy. In addition to these tools, Travelers advertises its strong expertise in construction, fine art and jewelry, renewable energy, transportation and logistics, and specialty and heavy equipment to help businesses in those industries resolve claims quickly and fairly.
Premiums & Deductibles
Little information is available online about Travelers’ rates for inland marine insurance policies, so the best way to confirm what your business might pay is to speak directly with a Travelers representative. On the Travelers website, you can enter your zip code to find agents in your area who will be able to share information about your inland marine insurance options.
Travelers has many desirable attributes in an inland marine insurance company, including a wide variety of coverages, good financial resources, and strong claims reporting systems. While it is difficult to find information about pricing, Travelers otherwise hits the sweet spot for many criteria and for that reason is our runner-up option.
Each company featured in our guides has been independently selected and reviewed by our research team. If you select one of these companies and click on a link, we may earn a commission.