Do You Need a Drivers License to Drive a Boat? A State by State Guide


Boating is a blast, but it’s important to always keep safety first. For that reason, you should always be aware of the boating laws in whatever state you’re in, as they vary from state to state. One of these boating rules to be aware of is whether or not you need a driver’s license to drive a boat. 

A driver’s license is not required to drive or operate a boat. However, every state has different rules in regards to boating. While no states require you to have a driver’s license to drive a boat, some of them have other requirements such as a boating license, age restrictions, and certifications. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the boating requirements for each state. We’ll look at each of their age restrictions, certification requirements, and licensing requirements. 

State Requirements for Boating Licenses

Alabama 

Alabama requires you to have a boating license and to undergo a mandatory boating course. You can get your learner license at the age of 12 but will be unable to drive a boat unsupervised until you’re 14. 

Alaska 

The state of Alaska is the wild west of boating. There are no licensing requirements, age restrictions, or educational requirements to operate a boat in Alaska. 

Arizona 

Much like the state of Alaska, Arizona currently has no boating restrictions or licensing requirements. 

Arkansas 

According to Arkansas law, anyone born on or after the date of January 1, 1986, is required to have a boating license and perform a course in boating. This can be done online or in person. 

California 

California has one of the most unique boating systems in the U.S. According to their rules, only those who have been convicted of a boating violation have to receive their licensing. However, all boaters under the current age of 23 are required to receive a California Boater Card. The only way to get this is to sit through a boating education course and pass an exam. By the year 2025, all boaters will be required to receive the California Boater Card. 

Colorado 

Anyone under the age of 16 is required to complete a state-approved safety training course for boating. After 16, however, no licensing or certification is required. 

Connecticut 

Connecticut requires everyone to have a boating license and to receive a boating education. There are special stipulations, however, for non-residents such as tourists who are not required to receive any licensing or education. 

Delaware 

Delaware requires anyone born after January 1, 1978, to receive a boating licensing and education. You can’t receive these certifications until you’re 16, but you can start driving a boat with adult supervision once you’re 14. 

Florida 

Anyone born after January 1, 1988, is required to have a boating license and to pass a certification course. The course has to be both state and nationally approved and applies to any boats with a 10-horsepower engine or stronger. 

Georgia 

Georgia is another state with some unique boating requirements. 

  • Under the age of 12 

Cannot operate a boat longer than 16 feet in length or stronger than 30-horsepower and must be accompanied by an adult. They also cannot operate a PWC or personal watercraft. 

  • 12-15 years old 

Cannot operate a boat longer than 16 feet in length, and must be accompanied by an adult. They can, however, operate a PWC if they have passed a training course. 

  • 16 and over 

Can operate any type of boat or PWC as long as they have an ID card with them. This can be a driver’s license, passport, or any other form of government-issued ID with their photograph. 

Hawaii 

Hawaii requires anyone operating a boat to have a boating license and safety training, and to have their documents with them at all times. Anyone under the age of 15 cannot drive a PWC. There are also special licensing and safety certification requirements for PWCs and you’ll have to receive special certification separate from your boating license. 

Idaho 

Idaho doesn’t require boating or education requirements for boaters unless they have been convicted of a boating violation. 

Illinois 

Illinois doesn’t have boating license requirements but there are restrictions in regards to age. Those under the age of 18 are required to have a boating certificate. 

Indiana 

Indiana is one of the few states that require boaters to have a valid driver’s license with them at all times. 

Iowa 

There are no licensing requirements, but boaters between the ages of 12 and 17 must receive certification. 

Kansas 

Anyone born prior to 1989 must receive training and a safety certificate to operate a boat. 

Kentucky 

Kentucky has a minimum boating age of 12 and requires all boaters to receive a Kentucky Safe Boating Certificate Card to operate a boat. 

Louisiana 

Louisiana requires all boaters born after January 1, 1984, to receive safety certification and to have their document with them while boating. 

Maine 

Maine requires anyone under the age of 18 to receive a boating certificate to drive a boat. 

Maryland 

Maryland requires anyone born after January 1, 1972, to have a boating certificate. 

Other States with Only Certification Requirements 

Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. 

Other States With Licensing and Certification Requirements 

New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Utah, and Texas.

Other States With No Licensing or Certification Requirements

Wyoming

As you can see, nearly all states outside of Wyoming, Alaska, Indiana, and Arizona require some form of boating license or certification to operate a boat. Only the states of New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Hawaii, Florida, Delaware, Connecticut, Arkansas, and Alabama. 

These laws are ever-changing so make sure you double-check whatever state you’re going to to make sure that their boating laws haven’t changed or been updated. Also, make sure to check the minimum age requirements for receiving a boating certificate, as they change from state to state. While Georgia and Indiana are the only states that require you to carry a driver’s license with you while boating, you should carry one with you at all times so that you can prove your age. 

Eric

I have been an avid boater / jet ski fanatic since I was a kid.

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