Do I Need A Boat License? Rules per State (With Examples)

Boating rules can differ state by state. One thing that you might be wondering before you hit the open water in any form is whether or not you need a boating license.

Well, you’re in luck!

We have compiled a list below that outlines the boating regulations in each state.

Let’s get started!

Here Are The Rules Per State

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Below are the boating rules, regulations, and age restrictions for each state:

Alabama

In Alabama, all operators must pass a state proficiency exam or boater safety course that has been approved by the Alabama Marine Patrol Division if they intend to operate a motorboat.

All boaters must carry their license as proof of their boating education.

Anyone under the age of 12 may not operate a motorized watercraft under any circumstances. Individuals aged 12-13 may operate a vessel with a licensed operator’s proper license and supervision over 21 years old.  Anyone over 14 years of age may operate a motorboat unsupervised if they have completed the education requirements.

Alaska

In Alaska, boating education is not a requirement.

Boating education is offered in Alaska and can help you save on insurance or help if you decide to go to a state that requires a license.

Alaska also does not have a minimum age requirement for vessel operators.

They do recommend that boating education is completed for the safety of yourself and others.

Arizona

In Arizona, boating education is not a requirement.

Like in Alaska, boating education is offered in Arizona and can help you save on insurance, or can be helpful if you decide to go to a state that requires a license.

Arizona does not allow anyone under the age of 12 to operate a motorized watercraft with greater than 8 horsepower unless there is an emergency or there is someone over 18 years of age supervising.

Arkansas

To operate a boat in Arkansas, you need to have an Arkansas Boater Education Card.

You must be at least 12 years old or be under the supervision of someone 18 years old to operate a motorized watercraft with 10 or more horsepower.

You must be 16 years old for personal watercraft to be unsupervised and must be supervised by a 21-year-old if you are under 12 years old.  For 12 to 15-year-olds, you must be supervised by someone over 18 years old on a personal watercraft.  You cannot operate a personal watercraft independently until you reach the age of 16. If you are younger than 16 years old, you will need to have adult supervision.

California

As of January 1, 2021, California requires all boaters under 40 years of age to carry the California Boater Card.

Because this law is new, it will go through a “phase-in” process through 2025.  On January 1, 2025, all boaters will be required to have a boater card.

This card is required for powered sailboats and paddle crafts.

California requires a person to be 16 years old and have a California Boater Card to operate a vessel with 15hp, including personal watercraft.  For 12 to 15-year-olds, you must be supervised by a person 18 years old who has their boater card to operate a boat with more than 15hp.  There is no age restriction for sailboats under 30ft or dinghies between two moored vessels or from shore to a moored vessel.

Colorado

In Colorado, whether or not you need a boater’s education is age-dependent.

Anyone under the age of 14 cannot operate a motorized vessel on Colorado’s public waters.

Anyone who falls under the age of 14 or 15 may complete a motorized boater course to operate a motorized vessel in Colorado legally. This will be required in a classroom setting. You must be 16 or older to take the online course.

Boaters under the age of 16 are required to have a boater’s education card and produce it upon request.

Boaters who are age 16 or older are not required to have a boater’s education.

Connecticut

All boaters are required to have a boating certificate in Connecticut.

The type of certificate that you need will depend on what type of watercraft you intend to operate.

A Safe Boating Certificate will allow you only to operate boats.

A Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation will allow you to operate either a boat or personal watercraft.

You may only have one certificate. This means that if you already have a Safe Boating Certificate, you must return it to get the Personal Watercraft Operation Certificate.

Adult supervision by someone over 18 is required of anyone less than 12 to operate a boat.  For personal watercraft, you must be supervised if you are under 16.  Also, anyone under 16 years old may not tow a skier.

Delaware

In Delaware, you need boating education if you were born after December 31, 1977, and intend to operate a motorized watercraft.

If you are 14 or 15 years old, you must have a valid boating safety certificate and be supervised by a parent or legal guardian to operate a personal watercraft.

If you are 16 or older, you can independently operate a motor vessel with the proper boating safety certificate.

Florida

In Florida, you need boater education if you were born after January 1, 1988, and intend to operate a vehicle of 10 horsepower or more.

You must carry a Florida Fish, Wildlife Conservation Commission issued Boating Safety Education Card and photo identification while operating a Florida Waterways motorized vessel.

There is no age requirement to take the Boating Safety course in Florida. For personal watercraft, you must be at least 14 years old.

Georgia

Georgia requires boating education if you were born after January 1, 1998, and will be operating a motorized water vessel in Georgia.

Anyone under the age of 12 may not legally operate a vessel 16 feet or longer but can operate a less than 16 feet long vessel and has 30 horsepower or less if accompanied by an adult.

Anyone between the ages of 12 to 15 may not legally operate a vessel 16 feet or longer but may operate a personal watercraft less than 16 feet if they have their boater safety course complete or accompanied by an adult.

Anyone over the age of 16 can operate any boat in Georgia with the proper photo identification and boater’s safety certificate.

Hawaii

Hawaii requires all persons operating a power-driven vessel with more than 10 horsepower to have a NASBLA-approved boater safety education and carry their certificate onboard the vessel.

To take the course, you must be at least 15 years of age.  Operators under 16 must be supervised by an adult who is over 21 and has the proper certification.

If you do not have a copy of your certificate on board, this can result in a fine.

Idaho

Idaho does not require boating education to operate a watercraft.

They do, however, require you to be competent and familiar when it comes to navigation rules.

There are also age restrictions that vary depending on the county that you are in.

Illinois

In Illinois, you need boater’s safety if you were born on or after January 1, 1998, and will be operating a vessel equipped with over 10 horsepower.

Anyone under the age of 10 may not operate any motorized vessel. If you fall between the ages of 10 and 12, you are required to have supervision by a parent or guardian or a person that is 18 years or older designated by a parent or guardian.  12 to 18-year-olds must complete a boating safety course and possess a Boating Safety Certificate.

If you are over 18 years old, you can operate a vessel with no restrictions other than the Boating Safety Certificate.

Indiana

Indiana requires boater’s safety for anyone 15 years old or older who do not have an Indiana driver’s license.

Anyone under the age of 15 may not legally operate a vessel powered by over 10 horsepower or personal watercraft.

Iowa

In Iowa, you need a boater’s education if you are 12 to 17 years old and intend to operate a motorized vessel of over 10 horsepower or personal watercraft.

Anyone under the age of 12 may operate a vessel if the motor has more than 10 horsepower but only with adult supervision who has experience operating a vessel.

Anyone over 18 can operate a vessel or personal watercraft with no restrictions.

Kansas

Anyone who would like to operate a water vessel born on or after January 1, 1989, will need to complete a boater’s safety course until they reach the age of 21.

Anyone under the age of 12 is not allowed to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft.

Direct supervision means that you have them on the same vessel, not riding next to it.

A direct supervisor must be at least 21 years old or be 18 and have completed a boater education course.

Kentucky

A 12 to 17 years old may operate a motorized watercraft without supervision if they have completed a boater’s safety course.

Persons under 12 years of age are not allowed to operate a motor-driven boat, including personal watercraft.  If you are required to have a boater’s safety card, make sure you carry it onboard. If you do not, you could be fined.

Louisiana

In Louisiana, you need to have completed boater’s safety if you were born after January 1, 1984, and intend to operate a vehicle with over 10 horsepower.

You may also operate a motorboat if you are supervised by someone over 18 years old who has completed an approved boater safety course.  It is illegal in Louisiana for anyone under 16 years of age to operate a personal watercraft.

Maine

Maine requires anyone under 12 years of age to have direct supervision of someone at least 16 years old for motorboats over 10hp.

No one under 16 years old may operate a personal watercraft.  In Maine, boaters who are 16 and 17 years old who operate a personal watercraft must have a boater education class certificate and proof of age on board.  If not, a person between 16 and 17 will need adult supervision to operate a personal watercraft.

Maryland

You need a boater’s education to operate a boat or personal watercraft in Maryland and are born after July 1, 1972.

If you are under 16 years old and do not have a boaters safety certificate, you must be supervised by someone over 18 who has a valid certificate.  Anyone under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft even with a boating safety certificate.

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, anyone between the age of 12 and 15 must complete a state-approved basic boating course to operate a boat without adult supervision.

People between the age of 16 or 17 must also complete this course if they intend to operate a personal watercraft.

The boater’s safety certificate must be present on the vessel while under operation.

No person under the age of 12 may operate a motorized boat unless accompanied by an adult who is at least 18 and is competent.

Anyone under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft under any circumstances.

Michigan

In Michigan, you need boater education if you were born after June 30, 1996, and intend to operate a water vehicle.

All operators born before July 1, 1996, may operate a vessel legally without any restrictions.

All operators under the age of 12 May:

  • Operate a vessel under 6 horsepower with no restrictions.
  • Operate a vessel between 6 and 35 horsepower with a valid boater’s certificate and supervision of someone at least 16 years old.
  • May not legally operate a boat over 35hp.

Anyone under the age of 14 may not legally operate a personal watercraft.  Those 14 and 15 years old must have a parent or legal guardian, or a designee over 21 years old, onboard or within 100 feet.

Personal watercraft operators over 16 years old would need a boater’s education unless they were born on or before December 31, 1978.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, you need a boater’s education if you are between the ages of 12 to 17 and intend to operate a vessel unsupervised that has over 25 horsepower.

You also need it if you plan to operate a personal watercraft unsupervised and are between the ages of 14 to 17.

For motorboats under 25hp, there are no restrictions.  For children less than 12 years old on a vessel with 25 to 75hp, a 21-year-old must be on board within immediate reach of the controls.  Anyone under 12 years old is not permitted to operate a vessel with over 75hp.

Anyone under the age of 13 may not legally operate a personal watercraft. 13-year-olds must have a 21-year-old supervisor on board or have a valid watercraft operator’s permit and be in visual supervision of a 21-year-old.

For 14 to 17-year-olds, you must have a watercraft operator’s permit or have a 21-year-old on board.

Anyone who is 18 or older may operate a motorized vessel or personal watercraft without any restrictions.

Mississippi

You need a boater’s education in Mississippi if you were born after June 30, 1980, and will be operating a boat or personalized watercraft in Mississippi.

Anyone under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a 21 or older person to operate a vessel, even with a boater’s education.

Missouri

You need a boater’s education in Missouri if you were born after January 1, 1984, and will be operating a vessel or personal watercraft.

You must be 14 years of age or older or be under the supervision of someone who is at least 16 years old to operate a watercraft.

Montana

You need a boater’s education if you are between 13 or 14 years old and will be operating a vehicle over 10 horsepower.

Anyone under the age of 12 may not legally operate any vessel powered by a motor of more than 10 horsepower unless accompanied by an 18 or older person.

Nebraska

Anyone born after December 31, 1985, who operates any motorboat or personal watercraft must complete an in-person Boater’s Safety Course and carry a valid certificate on their vessel.

You must be at least 14 years of age to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft.

Nevada

In Nevada, anyone born after January 1, 1983, and intends to operate a vessel of over 15 horsepower, will need to take a boater’s safety course.

Anyone under the age of 14 may not legally operate a personal watercraft.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, you need a boater education course if you are at least 16 years old and intend to operate a motorboat over 25 horsepower.

Anyone under the age of 16 may operate a vessel with more than 25 horsepower only if accompanied by a person who is 18 or older who has a valid safe boater education certificate.

You must be at least 15 years old to take the boater’s safety course online.

New Jersey

You need a boater’s education if you intend to operate a motorized vessel in New Jersey. You might also be required to get a non-tidal boat license also.

Anyone under the age of 13 may not legally operate a motorized vessel in New Jersey.

Anyone between the ages of 13 and 16 may operate a 12 feet or longer vessel and is powered by less than 10 horsepower only if they have completed the boater’s safety and possess a certificate.

Anyone over the age of 16 must have a boater’s safety course completed to operate a personal watercraft.

New Mexico

You need a boater education certificate if you were born after January 1, 1989, and will be operating a motorboat in New Mexico.

Anyone under the age of 13 must have a boater education card and adult supervision to operate a sailboat, motorized vessel, or personal watercraft.

New York

All boaters in New York will need a boater’s education certificate starting in 2025.

New York slowly requires all boaters to get a boater’s education certificate.

You will need one by:

  • 2020 if you were born after January 1, 1993.
  • 2022 if you were born after January 1, 1988.
  • 2023 if you were born after January 1, 1983.
  • 2024 if you were born after January 1, 1978.

You must be at least 14 or older and have a boating certificate to operate a personal watercraft.

North Carolina

You need a boater education card in North Carolina if you were born after January 1, 1988, and plan to operate a vessel with 10hp or more.

A person who is under the age of 14 may not operate a personal watercraft.

A person who is 14 or 15 may operate a personal watercraft if they are accompanied by someone 18 or older, has a personal ID and a boating certification card from a NASBLA approved source, or other proof of boater’s safety certification.

Anyone who is 16 years old or older can operate a personal watercraft if they comply with the boater’s education requirement listed above.

North Dakota

You need boating education in North Dakota if you are 12 to 15 years old and intend to operate a power-driven vessel or personal watercraft with over 10 horsepower without an adult who is over the age of 18.

Anyone under the age of 12 may not operate a personal watercraft or power-driven vessel with over 10 horsepower unless accompanied by a person who is 18 years or older.

Ohio

All boaters born after December 31, 1981, must have an Ohio Boater Education Certificate if they intend to operate a vessel with over 10 horsepower.

Children under the age of 12 may not operate a personal watercraft under any circumstances.

Children aged 12 to 15 may operate with a boater’s education card and an adult over the age of 18.

Operators over the age of 16 may operate a vessel if they have an education certificate.

Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, you are required to have a boater’s safety if you are 12 to 15 years old and will be operating a boat or personal watercraft that has more than 10 horsepower or a sailboat that is 16 feet or longer.

Anyone under the age of 12 may not operate a vessel or personal watercraft powered by a motor of more than 10 horsepower or a sailboat that is 16 feet or longer.

Oregon

Anyone in Oregon who is operating a vessel with more than 10 horsepower will need boater education.

No one under the age of 12 may operate a powered vessel in Oregon.  Youth, 12-15, can operate a boat of 10hp or less without an adult if they have a boater education card.  For craft over 10hp, someone 16 or older must be present, except for personal watercraft.

You must be 16 years old and have a boater education card to operate a personal watercraft alone.  Otherwise, for 12 to 15-year-olds, a person over 18 with a valid boater education card must be onboard.

Pennsylvania

All personal watercraft operators will need boater education. You also need boater education if you were born after January 1, 1982, and will be operating a boat over 25 horsepower.

Like all other states, you need to carry your boater education card on the vessel with you, or you will be fined.

Rhode Island

You need boater education if you are operating a personal watercraft or were born after January 1, 1986, and are operating a motorized vessel over 10 horsepower in Rhode Island.

All operators of personal watercraft must have a boater education course completed.

South Carolina

In South Carolina, you need boater education if you are less than 16 years old and intend to operate a boat or personal watercraft with more than 15 horsepower unaccompanied.

If you are under 16 years old, you can also operate a vessel or personal watercraft of more than 15 horsepower if you do not have a boater safety certificate but are accompanied by an adult who is at least 18 and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Anyone over the age of 16 may operate a vessel or personalize watercraft without any restrictions.

South Dakota

South Dakota does not require boating education.

Anyone under the age of 12 may operate a vessel powered by a motor of over 6 horsepower if accompanied by someone 18 or older.

Anyone under the age of 14 may operate a personal watercraft if accompanied by a person who is 18 years or older.

Tennessee

In Tennessee, anyone born after January 1, 1989, must have a boater education certificate issued by the TWRA to operate a boat with more than 8.5hp.

Those who are less than 12 years old must be supervised by an adult 18 or older who has completed boater education to operate a vessel.

Anyone older than 12 must have boater education to operate alone.

Texas

Texas requires anyone born after September 1, 1993, to complete boater education if they intend to operate a vessel over 15hp, or a windblown vessel over 14ft, without supervision.

A less than 13 years old may only operate if they are supervised by someone 18 or older who can lawfully operate the watercraft.

Utah

Boater education is required in Utah if you are 12 to 17 years old and will be operating a personal watercraft.

Anyone under the age of 16 may operate a motorized vessel or sailboat if they are under the supervision of a person who is 18 years of age or older.

Anyone 16 years of age or older may operate a motorized vessel for a sailboat without any restrictions.

Anyone who is 18 years of age or older may operate a personal watercraft without any restrictions.

Vermont

In Vermont, you will need boater education if you were born after January 1, 1974, and will be operating a motorized vessel or personal watercraft.

Anyone under the age of 12 may not legally operate any vessel that has over 6 horsepower.

Anyone under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft.

Virginia

Since July 1, 2016, all motorboat operators of 10 horsepower or more, regardless of age, and all personal watercraft operators that are 14 or older must take a boater safety course.

No one under the age of 14 may operate a personal watercraft.

Washington

If you were born after January 1, 1955, you would need boater education in the state of Washington.

Anyone under the age of 12 may not operate a power-driven vessel with 15 or more horsepower.

Anyone 12 or older may operate a power-driven vessel with 15 or more horsepower with a boater education card.

Anyone 14 or older may operate a personal watercraft with a boater education card.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, you need boater education if you were born on or after December 31, 1986, and will be operating a motorboat.

Anyone between the ages of 12 and 14 may legally operate a vessel under 10hp if they have completed a boater safety education course.  They may operate any vessel if they are supervised by someone 18 or older.

Wisconsin

You need boaters’ education in Wisconsin if you are at least 16 years old and are born on or after January 1, 1989, and intend to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft.

Motorized Vessels:

  • If you are under 10 years old, you cannot legally operate a motorized vessel.
  • If you are between the ages of 10 and 11, you can operate a motorized vessel under the supervision of a parent or guardian over the age of 18.
  • If you are between the ages of 12 and 15, you can operate a motorized vessel if a parent or guardian accompanies you over the age of 18, or you have completed the approved boater safety course.

Personal Watercraft:

  • Anyone under the age of 12 may not legally operate a personal watercraft.
  • Anyone who is between 12 to 15 years old can operate a personal watercraft with the successful completion of a boater education class.

Wyoming

Wyoming does not require boating education.

Even though it is not required, it is highly recommended.

Anyone under the age of 16 may not legally operate a motorized vehicle or personal watercraft unless accompanied by a person who is 18 years old or older.

Final Thoughts:

No matter what state you are in, you will want to make sure you know the boating rules and regulations in your area.

Even if you are not required to have a boater education card or training, you should still know navigation rules.

It is also beneficial to take the boater’s safety even if you are not required to. This can help reduce accidents as well as your insurance rates.

If you are required to have a boater education card or certificate, make sure you are carrying it on your operating vessel.

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