Do I Need a License to Drive a Boat? (Clear Info for 50 States)

Written by Shawn Buckles in Resources

If you're thinking of getting your boating license, but aren't sure whether you need to get it, this article is for you. Here, I'll go over the requirements for each state.

I'll also show how to get your license and link to where you can get your boating license.

Click on your state below to learn what you need and how to get it:

Why I recommend getting your license

Whether getting your license is required or not (for some states it's not), I recommend getting it anyway. It's cheap and a good way to learn the basics of boating safety. Once you have it, you are licensed for life.

Advantages to getting your license:

  • Gaining the confidence of knowing the rules of the road
  • Making the waterways safer for everyone
  • You may get a discount on your boat insurance
  • You can boat in any state that requires a boating license

So let's quickly go over each state and find out how to go about getting your license. You can probably have it today.

Alabama

All persons who operate a motorized boat on Alabama waters need to obtain an Alabama Vessel License. You must be at least 12 years old to get your license.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. You'll have to visit a DPS Driver's License Office to pick up your license.

I recommend to get your license here.

Alaska

In Alaska, you are not required to get a license to drive a boat.

However, I still recommend getting your basic safety course certification. You should get a license approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Arizona

In Arizona, you are not required to get a license to drive a boat.

However, I still recommend getting your basic safety course certification. You should get a license approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Arkansas

You are required to carry a boater education card in Arkansas if you're born after January 1, 1986 and operate a sailboat.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

California

If you operate a motorized vessel on California waterways you will be required to have a California Boater Card. The law will be phased-in for all boaters over the next 8 years.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. You'll have to apply on the state's website for your card afterwards (click here).

I recommend to get your license here.

Colorado

If you're operating a motorized boat in Colorado, you are required to pass a boater safety course and have boater's card.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online.

I recommend to get your license here.

Connecticut

In Connecticut, you are required to carry a Boating Certificate for any boat with an engine, or a sailboat 19.5' or longer. The certificate is called Safe Boating Certificate or Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online.

I recommend to get your license here.

Delaware

All operators born after December 31, 1977 must have a Delaware Boating Safety Education Certificate to operate any motorized watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

District of Columbia

Anyone operating a vessel on District of Columbia waterways is required to have a Boating Safety Certificate.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. You'll have to visit a DPS Driver's License Office to pick up your license.

I recommend to get your license here.

Florida

All boaters born on or after January 1, 1988 who operate any motorized watercraft of 10 HP or more need a Florida Boater Education I.D. Card.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

Georgia

License name: the Georgia Boater Education Card

Anyone born on or after Jan 1, 1998, must have a Georgia Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

Hawaii

License name: Hawaii Boater Education Card

As of November 10th, 2014, anyone who wishes to operate a motorized boat over 10 horsepower or a PWC is required to obtain a Boater Education Card.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Idaho

Regular boat operators are not required to carry a boater's card in Idaho. However, if you rent a PWC, you do need an official education card.

Still, I recommend getting your safety certification regardless. It takes 3 hours and will help you know the rules, making the waterways safer for everyone.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

Illinois

License name: Illinois Boating Safety Certificate

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 who operates a powered watercraft of 10hp or more needs a Boater Safety Certificate.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Indiana

License name: Indiana Boater Card

In Indiana, you need a license if you're at least 15 years old and will be operating a motorboat or PWC, but don't have an Indiana driver's license.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Iowa

All boaters between the ages of 12 and 18 must have an Iowa Watercraft Safety Certificate to operate any motorized watercraft over 10 HP.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Kansas

License name: Kansas Boater Education Card

All boaters between the ages of 12 and 20 years must have a Kansas Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft or sailboat.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

Kentucky

License name: Kentucky Boater Education Card

All boaters between the ages of 12 and 17 years must have a Kentucky Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft over 10 HP.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

Louisiana

If you're born after January 1, 1984, and you're operating a motorized vessel over 10 hp, you will need a Louisiana Boating License.

So even sailboats with an engine of 10 hp and up require a license.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I've found an official and FREE online course for Louisiana:

I recommend to get your license here.

Maine

If you're between 16 and 18 years old, you'll need a boating license (NASBLA approved), unless someone 18 years of age or older is with you in the boat.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online.

I've found an official and FREE online course for Maine:

I recommend to get your license here.

Maryland

All boaters born on or after July 1, 1972 must have a Maryland Boater Education Card to operate any numbered or documented motorized watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Massachusetts

License name: Massachusetts Boating Safety Certificate

If you're between 12 and 15 years old, you must complete a boating safety course to operate a motorboat without adult supervision. If you're 16-17 years old and want to operate a personal watercraft, you also need a license.

Adults are not required to carry a Boating Safety Certificate. However, I do recommend getting your safety license, simply because it will make the waterways safer for everyone.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Michigan

Any motorized boat operator born after June 30, 1996, is required by law to pass a boater safety course and to carry a boater education card. In addition, boater education is also required for all PWC operators born after December 31, 1978.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, you'll need a boat license if you're between 12 and 17 years old, and want to operate a motorboat over 25 hp.

So most sailors aren't required to get a boating safety license. However, I do recommend getting yours, just to be safe.

I recommend to get your license here.

Mississippi

License name: Mississippi Boater Education Card

All boaters born after June 30, 1980 who operate any motorized watercraft must have a Mississippi Boater Education Card.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

Missouri

If you're born after January 1, 1984, you need a boater education card for operating any motorized boat or personal watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Montana

License name: Montana Boater Education Card

All boaters 13 or 14 years old must have a Montana Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft over 10 HP.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Nebraska

License name: Nebraska Boater Education Card

All boaters born after December 31, 1985 are required to obtain a Boating Course Certificate to operate a boat or personal watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Nevada

License name: Nevada Boater Education Card

All boaters Born after January 1, 1983 must have a Nevada Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft over 15 HP.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, you'll need a boating license if you operate a motorboat over 25 horsepower.

If your boat has less, I still recommend getting your safety license.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

New Jersey

License name: New Jersey Boat Safety Certificate

All boaters who operate a motorized watercraft in New Jersey must have a New Jersey Boat Safety Certificate.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the proctored exam.

I recommend to get your license here.

New Mexico

License name: New Mexico Boater Education Card

All boaters born after January 1, 1989 must have a New Mexico Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

New York

License name: NYS Boater Education Course

All boaters born on or after May 1st, 1996 are required to successfully complete an approved boater education course in order to operate a motorboat.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

North Carolina

License name: North Carolina Boater Education Card

All boaters born on or after January 1, 1988 must have a North Carolina Boater Education Card to operate a motorized watercraft of 10 HP or more.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

North Dakota

License name: North Dakota Boater Education Card

All boaters between 12 and 15 years of age must have a North Dakota Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft of 10 HP or more.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Ohio

License name: Ohio Boater Education Card

All boaters born after December 31, 1981 must have an Ohio Boater Education Certificate to operate any motorized watercraft over 10 HP.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you'll get your official card from Ohio State Parks and Watercraft.

I recommend to get your license here.

Oklahoma

License name: Oklahoma Boater Education Card

All boaters between 12 and 15 years of age must have an Oklahoma Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft over 10 HP or sailboat 16 feet or longer.

So if you're an adult you don't need a boater's card. However, I still recommend getting one. It will give you the necessary safety knowledge to operate safely and responsibly.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

Oregon

License name: Oregon Boater Education Card

All operators of motorized watercraft over 10HP must have an Oregon Boater Education Card.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Pennsylvania

License name: Pennsylvania Boater Education Card

All boaters born on or after January 1st, 1982 to operate a motorboat greater than 25HP or who operate a personal watercraft, regardless of age must have a Pennsylvania Boating Safety Certificate.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Rhode Island

If you're born on or after January 1, 1986, you will need a boating license if you operate a motorized vessel over 10 hp.

This also goes for sailboats with an engine over 10 hp.

I recommend to get your license here.

South Carolina

License name: South Carolina Boater Education Card

All boaters under 16 years of age must have a Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft without adult supervision.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

South Dakota

License name: South Dakota Boater Card

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Tennessee

License name: Tennessee Boater Education Card

All boaters born after January 1, 1989 must have a Tennessee Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Texas

License name: Texas Boater Education Card

All boaters born after January 1, 1989 must have a Tennessee Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 2 weeks from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

I recommend to get your license here.

Utah

License name: Utah Boater Education Card

All boaters between 12 and 17 years of age must have a Utah Boater Education Certificate to operate a personal watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Vermont

If you're born after January 1, 1974, you are required to carry a boater education card in Vermont.

So sailors born in or after 1974 will need to pass a boating safety course, regardless of engine size (or lack of engine altogether).

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Virginia

License name: Virginia Boater Safety Course

All PWC operators age 14 and older and all motorboat operators regardless of age need to take the boating safety course.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Virgin Islands

License name: Virgin Islands Safe Boater Card

All boaters who operate a personal watercraft in the Virgin Islands and all boaters between the ages of 14 to 18 are required to complete the safe boating course.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Washington

License name: Washington State Boater Education Card

All boaters must have a Washington State Boater Education Card to operate a motorized watercraft of 15 HP or more.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you have to apply at Washington State Parks. You'll get your official card in the mail within 6 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

West Virginia

License name: West Virginia Boater Education Card

All boaters born after December 30, 1986 must have a West Virginia Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your temporary license yourself. You'll get your official card in the mail in about 4 weeks.

I recommend to get your license here.

Wisconsin

License name: Wisconsin Boater Card

All boaters born on or after January 1, 1989 must have a Wisconsin Boating Safety Certificate to operate any motorized watercraft.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

Wyoming

License name: Wyoming Boater Card

Wyoming does not require you to carry a boating license. However, it is still recommended that you take a boating safety course that is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

Knowing how to sail safely and responsibly will help keep the waterways safe for everyone. But it might also get you a discount on insurance.

You can get your license by doing an online course and taking the exam online. After passing the exam, you can immediately print out your license yourself.

I recommend to get your license here.

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