Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat? All You Need to Know

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat? All You Need to Know

Do you have any questions about whether a driver’s license is required to operate a boat? So, do you need a license to drive a boat? 

It depends. The laws governing recreational vessels are unique to each nation and can change from state to state. A certificate of competency is required in some nations in order to operate any vessel, while in others it is possible to operate a small motorboat or sailboat without a license.

To thoroughly address the query, let’s examine specific local regulations. The USA is discussed below.

What Exactly is a Boating License?

That’s a good question, and this is where many people actually get perplexed. To be clear, the proper term is “boater education certificate,” which is often referred to as — you guessed it — a “boating license.” A boater education certificate merely shows that you have finished and passed a recognized boating safety course and are prepared to navigate the seas.

A boater education card (also known as a certificate) is *technically* not regarded as a boating license because it never expires and never needs to be renewed.

You see, all you actually need to operate safely and legally on both state and federal waters is a boater education. This makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider how different operating a boat on the water is from operating other motor vehicles like your car. Additionally, having completed a boater education course can typically result in fantastic insurance discounts.

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat? All You Need to Know
Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat? All You Need to Know

Do You Need a Boat License in the United States?

Things are pretty complex in the United States. Depending on the age of the person driving the boat, each state has very specific regulations. The prerequisites for each state are compiled below.

The following states require a Boater Education Card or license for:

Alabama: any boater older than 12

American Samoa: PWC operators 18 and under

Arkansas: anyone born on or after January 1st, 1986

California: anyone will need one by 2025

Connecticut: any resident who uses a boat more than 60 days a year

Delaware: anyone born on or after January 1, 1978

Florida: anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, to drive a vessel over 10 hp

Georgia: anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 to operate a motorboat

Hawaii: everyone

Idaho: anyone renting a PWC

Illinois: anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 to drive a vessel over 10 hp

Indiana: anyone over 15 who don’t have an Indiana driver’s license

Iowa: people 12-17 who operate a boat over 10 horsepower or a PWC

Kansas: anyone under 21

Kentucky: children 12-17 years old to operate a vessel over 10 hp unsupervised

Lousiana: anyone born on or after January 1, 1984 to drive a boat over 10 horsepower

Maine: people over 12 who drive a boat with over 10 hp unsupervised

Massachusetts: anyone 12-16 years old under no supervision

Michigan: people born after June 30, 1996

Minnesota: teens 12-17 to operate a motorboat over 25 horsepower

Mississippi: people born on or after June 30, 1980

Missouri: anyone born on or after January 1, 1984

Montana: teens who are 13 and 14 must be accompanied or pass a course

Nebraska: anyone born after December 31, 1985

Nevada: people born on or after January 1, 1983, to drive motorboats over 15 hp

New Hampshire: people 16 and over to drive a boat over 25 horsepower

New Jersey: all power vessel operators

New Mexico: people born on or after January 1, 1989

New York: anyone born on or after May 1, 1996

North Carolina: anyone born on or after Januay 1, 1988 to drive vessels over 10 hp

North Dakota: anyone accompanying teens 12-15 on a vessel with more than 10 hp

Northern Marian Islands: everyone

Ohio: people born on or after January 1, 1982 to operate a boat with more than 10 hp

Oklahoma: anyone 12-15 years old to drive a vessel over 10 hp

Oregon: anyone over 16 operating a powerboat with more than 10 hp

Pennsylvania: boaters born after January 1, 1982, to operate boats over 25 hp

Puerto Rico: anyone born after July 1, 1972

Rhode Island: anyone born after January 1, 1986 to operate a vessel over 10 hp

South Carolina: people younger than 16, to operate a 15hp vessel unsupervised

Tennessee: residents born after January 1, 1989

Texas: anyone born on or after September 1, 1993 to drive a motorboat over 15 hp or a sailboat over 14ft

Utah: people 12-17

Vermont: anyone born on or after January 1, 1974

Virginia: everyone

Washington: anyone to operate a vessel 15 hp or more

West Virginia: anyone born after December 31, 1986

Wisconsin: people born on or after those older than 16 on January 1, 1989.

Recreational boaters need a Boating Safety Certificate in:

District Of Columbia

Colorado (14 and 15-year-olds only)

Maryland (anyone born on or after January 1, 1972).

Recreational boaters don’t need a license or Boater Education Card in:




South Dakota

Virgin Islands


Other States will recognize a Boater Education Card, license, or Boating Safety Certificate that you receive from the State in which you currently reside. Consequently, you can use a single card to rent boats wherever you are and travel the entire country. Cards for boater education are valid forever.

This is just a brief summary – remember to check the up- to-date full list of requirements on your state’s official website for transport.

Carry It With You

Like a driver’s license, it’s required that you carry your Boater Education Card with you while operating your vessel, just in case an enforcement officer needs to inspect it. Don’t be caught cruising without your card, I assure you!

What You Need to Learn to Get Your Boating License

Though specific details can vary from state to state, overall, you’ll need to learn three main categories when testing for your boating license (certificate):

Boat Safety

It should go without saying that safety is paramount whenever operating any kind of vehicle, be it a car or a boat. The boating safety category will put an emphasis on being ready for mishaps and emergencies, understanding when to perform maintenance on your watercraft, and following the right operating procedures when using it regularly.

Personal Safety

You need to learn how to take care of yourself and others in emergency situations in addition to knowing how to keep a safe environment on your watercraft.

You will gain a basic understanding of how to handle conditions like hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other potentially fatal health risks that may arise while out on the water in personal safety.

Best Boating Practices

You must research “best practices” in addition to knowledge pertaining to safety.’ This topic can include a variety of topics, such as common boat terminology, the meaning of buoy indicators, how to handle boat-to-boat contact, and more. Simply put, these safety precautions and boating regulations aid in avoiding needless mishaps.

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat? All You Need to Know
Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat? All You Need to Know

Boats You Can Drive Without a License

A boating license is impossible to obtain. Never fear! Here are a couple of “boats” you can drive without a license:

Yacht Pool Float

No problem if you lack a license! With the recognizable FUNBOY Yacht Pool Float, set sail. On the sexiest and most streamlined float of the season, put your feet up and unwind. You won’t want to miss this ride because it has a ridiculously comfortable daybed for two people, two drink holders, and a double-reinforced front cooler that you can fill with ice and all of your favorite summertime drinks.

Mega Yacht Pool Float

This summer, you can actually float your Mega Yacht pool float and moor it to your very own Dayclub while your Private Jet waits to take off from the pool.

The FUNBOY X Bark Yacht Dog Float, which has been designed to give you and your dog the best poolside experience, is a great addition, but don’t forget about your best furry friend. Never again go out on the water without your furry friend!

Inflatable FUNSKI Pool Float

The FUNBOY’s Inflatable FUN SKI Pool Float, the hottest float of the summer, will let you ride the waves! You wouldn’t believe you were riding in a stationary PWC because this life-size float makes it look so fast. The FUN SKI is a one-of-a-kind float that is guaranteed to make you smile from ear to ear. It is completely stable, whether you are lying down to enjoy the sun or straddling for the ultimate selfie. Grab a friend and two, and race the seas! Loser buys drinks. 😉

Be Responsible

If you’re found to be boating recklessly, your privileges can be revoked in the same way that your driver’s license can be suspended. Some boating offenses include failure to report an accident and boating while intoxicated. Check the laws in your area before you hit the water.


Do You Need a Boating License?

You might need to obtain a boat driving card for the region in which you will be operating, depending on where you will be boating.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Drive a Boat?

There is no set age requirement for operating a boat, and many states have minimum learning age requirements as low as 10.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Rent a Boat?

Another query whose significance is greatly influenced by where you are is this one. Many locations will have boat driving regulations that might not apply to renting, which might have entirely different restrictions.

Do You Need a Boating License to Rent a Boat?

If the state requires one, you will need a license to operate a boat, and it’s a safe bet that they will check that before completing the rental if they do.

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