Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat

Many people in the United States wish to own boats, or when on vacation, they consider taking a boat out for a family trip.

This sounds good in theory. However, possessing or using a boat or PWC (Personal Watercraft) isn’t a matter of purchasing one and using it on your local lake or at sea.

This can cause problems when people are away from their home country, and especially Americans visiting Canada or other countries. There is a requirement to have proof or a boating license. In the United States, things may appear different.

License to Drive a Boat

The federal government has made it the responsibility of each state to regulate and issue recreational boat licensing.

When you are on international waters, boating laws are different in most cases, and anyone who holds a boating license from their home country will find this is sufficient for short term boating in another country.

Because there are various types of vessels, age restrictions, and other variables from each state, we will go a bit deeper to find out; do you need a license to drive a boat?

Boater Safety Education Programs

A large number of US states have taken some critical steps to mandate a set of approved boating safety requirements for individuals who wish to operate a boat or a PWC on state waters.

In short, anyone who has completed and passed a recognized online boating license course will satisfy the educational boat license requirements for their state.

A recognized issuing company is boat-ed.com. Their ‘Boater Safety Education Programs’ are recognized across these states, and comply with boating laws.

  • Who Needs a Card? These boating safety education certificates will vary from state to state like a driver’s license. With this online course, you can select your state before you take the test. It is worth knowing, anyone who has one of these cards always needs to carry it with them while on a vessel.
  • Use in Other States? Every state that now has mandatory boater education requirements and boating laws will accept a boater education card from another state. This is reciprocity, and your home state will do the same for any cardholder from another state. This works for any state card where the state meets the requirements of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).
  • Age Restrictions: Although these cards can cover a large number of states, some will have restrictions on the age a person has to be before operating a boat or PWC. When taking the course for your state, it will indicate any age limits. If you need more clarification, you can find this from the National Association of State Boating.

States that Require a Boating License

What States Require a Boating License?

Below, you should find the answer to do I need a license to drive a boat. Here is some information on states, which have laws and regulations, and who needs a boating license to operate a vessel. What safety courses requirements they need, and if there are any restrictions.

Alabama

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12-14

Alaska

  • Boating Education: NASBLA recommended but no boats license required

Arizona

  • Boating Education/ License: Boat driving license not required, but recommended

Arkansas

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Yes
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1986. Born after this date must take boating safety courses

California

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: California Boater card

Colorado

  • Boating Education: During education courses for boaters license
  • Boating License: None required
  • Minimum Age: 16
  • Learning Age: 14 – 15

Connecticut

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Yes

Delaware

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 16
  • Learning Age: 14 – 16
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1978. Course approved by Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife

Florida

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Yes, state and NASBLA approved to operate 10HP or over
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1988.

Georgia

  • Boating Education: In learning period
  • Boating License: No
  • Minimum Age: 16
  • Learning Age: 12 – 15. Under 12, no vessel longer than 16ft and less than 30HP when accompanied by an adult.

Hawaii

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 15

Idaho

  • Boating Education: Only PWC and no boat license required

Illinois

  • Boating Education: Only for learning
  • Minimum Age: 10
  • Learning Age: 10 – 18
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1998. Need Illinois Boating Safety Certificate

Indiana

  • Boating License: No need a vehicle driver’s license
  • Minimum Age: 15 if they pass Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Iowa

  • Boating Education: Iowa requires boaters to attend and complete a boating safety course
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12-17

Kansas

  • Boating Education: Under 21
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 -20
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1989 – NASBLA

Kentucky

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Kentucky Safe Boating Certificate Card
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 – 17 Kentucky Safe Boating Certificate Card

Louisiana

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Learning Age: under 16
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1984

Maine

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 -16

Maryland

  • Boating Education: Yes, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Minimum Age: 16
  • DOB limitations: July 1, 1972

Massachusetts

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 – 16

Michigan

  • Boating Education: Under 21
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 – 15

Minnesota

  • Boating Education: Learning age and engine over 25 horsepower. PWC Watercraft operators permit
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 – 17

Mississippi

  • Boating Education: Yes, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks
  • DOB limitations: June 30, 1980

Missouri

  • Boating Education: Yes, Missouri Boating Safety, Certification Card.
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1984

Montana

  • Boating Education: Learning age
  • Learning Age: 13 – 14

Nebraska

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Learning Age: 14 – 18
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1986

Nevada

  • Boating Education: Yes, Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) approved boating course
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1983

New Hampshire

  • Boating Education: Yes, NASBLA approved
  • Minimum Age: 16

New Jersey

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Yes, New Jersey State Police (NJSP) approved boating safety and motorboat or Jet Ski license
  • Minimum Age: 16
  • Learning Age: 16 – 18

New Mexico

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Boating License: Yes
  • Learning Age: Under 13
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1989, Boater Education Card

New York

  • Boating Education: Yes, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic
  • Preservation, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the U.S. Power Squadron
  • Boating License: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 10
  • Learning Age: 10 – 14
  • DOB limitations: May 1, 1996

North Carolina

  • Boating Education: Yes, NASBLA approved for 10HP or above
  • Learning Age: 14 – 16
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1988

North Dakota

  • Boating Education: Yes,
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 -15

Ohio

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 – 16
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1982

Oklahoma

  • Boating Education: Learning age, NASBLA approved
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 -16

Oregon

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 -16

Pennsylvania

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 11
  • Learning Age: 11 – 16
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1982

Rhode Island

  • Boating Education: Yes
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1986

South Carolina

  • Boating Education: Learning age for powered 15 HP or above. All motorized boat operators by District of Columbia law need to pass a boater safety course.
  • Learning Age: Under 16

South Dakota

  • Boating Education: Learning age
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 – 14

Tennessee

  • Boating Education: Yes, Tennessee Boater Education Certificate.
  • Learning Age: Under 12
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1989

Texas

  • Boating Education: Yes, Texas Parks and Wildlife
  • Boating License: Yes
  • Learning Age: under 13
  • DOB limitations: September 1, 1993

Utah

  • Boating Education: Learning age
  • Boating License: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 16 – 17

Vermont

  • Boating Education: Yes, classroom course for boating safety to be issued by the board
  • Minimum Age: 10
  • Learning Age: 10 – 12
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1974

Virginia

  • Boating Education: Learning age
  • Minimum Age: 14
  • Learning Age: 14 – 15 online boating education courses for PWC required

Washington

  • Boating Education: Learning age, boating education requirements need completion for 15HP and over
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 – 20

West Virginia

  • Boating Education requirements: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 12
  • Learning Age: 12 – 14
  • DOB limitations: January 1, 1987

Wyoming

  • Learning Age: Under 16

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in Wisconsin?

Anyone who is born on or after January 1, 1989, and is aged 16 or over, do need to have completed recognized boating education safety courses from the National Association of State Boating.

If they don’t have this, they cannot legally take a vessel on the water. Boating laws and regulations need to be upheld, and any state, which says legal, may take a little more checking of requirements.

Do You Need a Boat License for 9.9HP?

Do you have to have a license to drive a boat with a motor of 9.9HP? The answer isn’t directly related to engine size and will be a restriction on age limits.

10HP is the threshold, so if you meet all the other requirements, then under 10HP and you won’t face any restrictions if you are over the given age.

Michigan is one that differs. With supervision, a younger person can operate a boat between 6HP and 35HP with supervision of someone older than 16.

boating license abroad

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat UK Sea?

Many people may want to go boating when abroad. One of the popular places being the UK, so it is a common question to ask, “Do I need a boating license abroad?”

The UK has different laws and regulations for operation, if you take a boat out to sea, there are no real certifications or an exam, although you will need common sense. Inland is different, and you may require permits.

The Royal Yachting Association is the governing body in the UK. Before boating in the UK, it is worth checking a little further to be sure.

If you are visiting Australia, then you will need to take all your documents and check. A NSW boating licence comes in two forms.

A general boat-driving license and a PWC driving license. A boat license NSW issue is for a vessel that goes over a speed of 10 knots.

It is a long way to go to find you can’t enjoy your favorite boating pastime especially when fishing, when an officer or a pleasure craft operator tells you, you can’t sail on the trip of a lifetime.

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat

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