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Boat License Requirements: Learn How to Apply for Your Boat License

Date posted: 06/13/2012

by Cara Hopkins on
in Boat Registration and Licenses

819 Boat License Requirements: Learn How to Apply for Your Boat License

Summer is here and you’re ready to get in the water, but first, you need to register your boat and check your state’s boat license requirements.

Up until recently, boating has been far less regulated than driving a car, and only a small handful of states currently require an official license to operate a waterbound vessel; however, nearly every state requires some type of boating safety course, particularly for teen operators.

For example, Illinois, Iowa, and Kentucky all require anyone between the ages of 12 and 17 who wants to operate a motorboat without direct adult supervision to complete a mandatory safety course.

Several states have passed legislation mandating that people born after a certain date must receive boating certification, meaning that the requirement will eventually apply to all operators (for example, Maryland, where you must have a certificate of boating safety education if you were born after June 30, 1972).

Make sure to double-check your state’s rules before hitting the waves, and be safe out there!

States that Require a Boating License

The following states require a boating license:

  • Alabama: If you were at least 40 by April 28, 1994, you can skip the licensing requirement.
  • Delaware: The state requires a license if you were born after January 1, 1978.
  • Georgia: Only operators between 12 and 15 years old are required to have a license.
  • Mississippi: If you were born after June 29, 1980, you must have a license.

States that Don’t Require a Boating License

The following states don’t require a boating license:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas: Those born after December 31, 1985 must complete a safety course.
  • California
  • Colorado: 14- and 15-year-olds must pass a safety course.
  • Connecticut: You must obtain a Safe Boating Certificate (SBC) for motorized boats or sailboats longer than 19 1/2 feet.
  • Florida: Those younger than 22 need a Boating Safety Education ID Card.
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois: Operators aged 12 to 17 must take a safety course.
  • Indiana: The minimum age is 15 and operators under 17 years old are required to take a safety course.
  • Iowa: Operators aged 12 to 17 must take a safety course.
  • Kansas: Those born after January 1, 1989, need to have a boater education card.
  • Kentucky: Operators aged 12 to 17 must take a safety course.
  • Louisiana: Those born after January 1, 1988 need a boater education card.
  • Maine
  • Maryland: Those born after June 30, 1972 must have a certificate of boating safety education.
  • Massachusetts: Teen operators must have a boating safety certificate.
  • Michigan: Those born after December 31, 1978 must have a boating safety certificate.
  • Minnesota: Operators aged 12 to 17 must take a safety course.
  • Missouri: Those born after January 1, 1984 must have a boater certification card.
  • Montana: 13- and 14-year-olds need a safety certificate.
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada: Those born after January 1, 1983 must complete a boating education course.
  • New Hampshire: Anyone over age 16 who drives a boat with 25 horsepower or more must complete the Department of Safety’s Boating Education Course.
  • New Jersey: Anyone 13 years old or older must have a Boating Safety Certificate.
  • New Mexico: Anyone born on or after January 1, 1989 must complete a boat safety course.
  • New York: Teen operators must pass a safety course.
  • North Carolina: 14- to 16-year-olds must complete a safety course.
  • North Dakota: Operators aged 12 to 15 must take a safety course.
  • Ohio: Anyone born after January 1, 1982 must take a safety course.
  • Oklahoma: Kids aged 12 to 16 must take a safety course.
  • Oregon: Teenagers (older than 12) and anyone operating a boat over 10 horsepower must pass a safety course.
  • Pennsylvania: Anyone riding a personal watercraft (Jet Ski) or anyone born after January 1, 1982 who wants to operate a motorboat over 25 horsepower must pass a safety course.
  • Rhode Island: Anyone riding a personal watercraft (Jet Ski) or anyone born after January 1, 1986 must pass a safety course.
  • South Carolina: Boaters younger than 16 must pass a safety course.
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee: Anyone born after January 1, 1989 must pass a safety course.
  • Texas: Those born after September 1, 1984 and those under 18 must pass a safety course.
  • Utah: Boaters between 12 and 17 must pass Utah’s Personal Watercraft Education Course.
  • Vermont: Those born after January 1, 1974 must pass a safety course.
  • Virginia: Boaters under age 21 must pass a course until 2016, when all boaters must pass the course.
  • Washington: Operators under 25 must have a Washington Boater Education card.
  • West Virginia: Those born after December 31, 1986 must complete a boater education course.
  • Wisconsin: Those born on or after January 1, 1989 must pass a course.
  • Wyoming: Operators must be at least 16 years old.
  • Washington D.C.: All operators must have a boating safety certificate.

Are you ready to hit the water, or do you have to take a safety course and get a boat license, first?

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About Cara Hopkins

Cara Hopkins has been a journalist and technical writer for more than 10 years. Cara is a member of the National Writers Union and has written extensively about the arts, restaurant culture, business, and education for both print and online publications. Cara loves to travel and maintains a personal Wordpress blog named Advice From a Real Live Woman. More articles by Cara Hopkins

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