Boating

Boating Laws & License Requirements for All 50 States

This list of boating laws and license requirements for all 50 states will help you find the relevant legal information you need to determine whether a license is a requirement in the state you’re hoping to drive a boat.

Each state has different laws regarding boating licenses and boater safety education. Not only that, there are waters in some states that fall under federal jurisdiction rather than state jurisdiction — which means that the laws governing those waters may differ. 

In some states, a one-time boater safety course or certification is required in lieu of ongoing licensure for recreational boating. We have also taken the liberty to include general information on boat registration requirements for each state. 

Commercial Boating License Requirements

In most states, you must obtain a captain’s license from the US Coast Guard for commercial boating. This is a federal license that typically requires the completion of a USCG-approved boating safety and education course

The USCG requirements for a commercial captain’s license vary based on whether you will be operating inland or in what the Coast Guard calls “near coastal” waters. Click here to see the full list of licensing requirements for various types of captain’s licenses. 

Some states may also require additional state licenses or local permits, so your requirements will depend on your location and the nature of your intended business activity. Commercial boat charters of up to six passengers, for example, require an OUPV license, also called a “six-pack” license.

Furthermore, conducting fishing charters usually requires a state-issued fishing license and permits for the fish varieties your group will be fishing for. This is in addition to other licenses that may be required.

For more detailed information on commercial boating laws and restrictions in your state, please visit the website for the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and select ‘Commercial Vessels’. 

Boating Laws & License Requirements for all 50 States

Below, you’ll find links and information regarding laws on licensing for commercial and recreational boating. Additionally, the state of North Dakota posted this article with guidance for anyone interested in a career as a charter boat captain.

Boating License Requirements in Alabama

Yes, a boating license is required in the state of Alabama. You must be at least 12 years old to operate a motorized vessel and a written examination is required for new applicants, excluding those who were over the age of 40 on April 28th, 1994.

There are also exclusions for those that have completed a boating course administered by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, the US Power Squadron, or the Alabama Marine Police. See the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency website for more information.

Boat Registration Laws in Alabama

All mechanically propelled vessels, sailboats, and boats for hire must be registered to operate legally in the state. This also includes boats that have previously been documented with the US Coast Guard and new boats must be registered within 72 hours of purchase. 

Go here to find the application form to register your boat in Alabama. 

Boating License Requirements in Alaska

According to NASBLA, Alaska does not require a boating safety course or license to operate a motorized recreational boat on its waters. They also do not regulate commercial vessels on sole state waters. 

However, boater education courses are available for those who want to gain confidence that they have the skills necessary to operate a boat safely within the state. Acceptable course providers include state agencies, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, and select private companies. 

Boat Registration Laws in Alaska

All boats that are not specifically exempted under Alaska Statute 05.25.055 must be registered with the state to operate legally. This includes documented boats, barges, sport fishing guide boats, and tenders. 

For more information on Alaska’s process for registering recreational vessels, click here

Boating License Requirements in Arizona

There is no mandate for boating safety education and licensing in Arizona for the general public looking to operate a recreational boat. Only volunteer boating safety education instructors must complete a course in order to teach others. 

Arizona also doesn’t regulate commercial vessels on sole state waters. The Arizona Boater’s Handbook has a detailed list of all the other requirements for safe, legal boating in the state of Arizona.

Boat Registration Laws in Arizona

All motorboats must be registered in Arizona, regardless of length, construction, type, and motor size. This includes personal watercraft, canoes, kayaks, and inflatable rafts if they are equipped with electric, gas, or diesel motors. The only exceptions are watercrafts used solely as lifeboats and those already documented by the US Coast Guard. 

For a complete synopsis of boat registration laws in Arizona, please visit the Arizona Game & Fish Department (AZGFD) website

Boating License Requirements in Arkansas

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1986 must complete a boating safety course to legally operate a recreational vessel in the state of Arkansas. Minors under the age of 12 must have an adult on board in order to operate a motorized vessel. 

Approved education courses are available from state agencies, US Power Squadrons, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, and in some public schools. When you pass an approved course, you’ll be issued a boater education card, which must be kept on board when you operate a boat in Arkansas waters. 

For more information, consult the Handbook of Arkansas Boating Laws and Responsibilities.

Boat Registration Laws in Arkansas

All boats propelled by sail or motor (including electric trolling motors) must be registered to operate legally on Arkansas public waters. Validation decals must be clearly displayed on your vessel and your Arkansas Certificate of Number must be present when operating. 

To learn more about boat registration fees and regulations in Arkansas, click here.  

Boating License Requirements in California

A boater card is required for all persons over the age of 16 to operate a recreational boat in the state of California. This includes a personal watercraft (PWC) and any motorized vessels with more than 15 horsepower. 

Minors between the ages of 12 and 15 can operate motorized vessels with more than 15 horsepower in California. However, they must be supervised by an adult over the age of 18 that possesses a current California boater card. 

The boater card requirement went into effect in California in 2015, but it is still being phased in based on applicant ages. Review the upcoming dates to see if you need to apply for a CA boater card: 

  • January 1, 2022: Persons 45 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2023: Persons 50 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2024: Persons 60 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2025: All persons regardless of age

Commercial boating in California’s lakes and other non-navigable waters requires a For-Hire Vessel Operator’s license. Captains who do commercial charters in California’s coastal waters are required to obtain a captain’s license issued by the US Coast Guard.

Boat Registration Laws in California

All motorboats, regardless of size, and sailboats over eight feet in length must be registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Boats purchased from out-of-state dealers must be registered within 120 days of entering the state. 

Click here to learn what you need to register your boat in California and which vessels are exempt from California boat registration. 

Boating License Requirements in Colorado

All persons over the age of 16 may operate a motorized vessel on public waters in Colorado, regardless of the completion of a boating education course (even if it is recommended). With the passing of an approved boating safety course, those ages plus 14 and 15 may also operate a boat legally in the state as long they maintain their course certification onboard. 

Courses for those aged 14 and 15 years must take a proctored exam for their course in a classroom setting, but those over the age of 16 may complete the exam online to receive a boater education card. 

Also, be aware that some Colorado waterways may require additional permits for legal boating activity. You can find a more detailed list of Colorado’s boating regulations here.

Boat Registration Laws in Colorado

All motorboats and sailboats operating in Colorado public waters must be registered before launching. In addition, boaters must purchase an Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Stamp to legally operate in the state. Ideally, you can do this at the time of registration, but stamps can also be purchased online or at any Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) office. 

For more resources to help you register your boat in Colorado, click here

Boating License Requirements in Connecticut

Instead of a boating license, the state of Connecticut requires boaters to obtain a certificate to operate a vessel. To obtain a certificate, you must pass an approved basic boating safety course and an equivalency examination administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). 

This certificate is required to operate motorized boats of any length or sailboats measuring 19.5 feet or longer. It applies to CT residents, property owners, and anyone with a boat registered in the state. After you obtain this document, you must carry it onboard your boat when you take it out. 

Connecticut also recognizes certificates from Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. For more information on exceptions, age restrictions, and non-resident requirements, click here.

Boat Registration Laws in Connecticut

Before launching, motorboats of all sizes and sailboats over 19.5 feet in length powered by sail alone must be registered and numbered. Registration must be obtained from the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles and evidence of boat ownership must be presented to complete your registration.  

Visit the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) website to view more details on boat registrations laws in Connecticut. 

Boating License Requirements in Delaware

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1978 is required to pass a boater safety course before driving a personal watercraft or other motorized boats in the state of Delaware. Once an approved course is passed, those over the age of 16 can operate vessels without restrictions.  

Youth ages 14 and 15 may operate a motorized vessel with the supervision of a parent or guardian once a safety course is completed. Exemptions include boaters with a valid US Coast Guard license or valid Delaware River Captain and Bay Pilot’s license (or the equivalent)

For more information, please consult the Handbook of Delaware Boating Laws and Responsibilities

Boat Registration Laws in Delaware

Delaware requires all motorboats, including any powered by electric motors, to be registered if they are principally used in the state. Additionally, all boats launching from tidal access areas regulated by the Division of Fish and Wildlife must be registered in the state or possess a valid Tidal Access Boat Ramp Certificate

Go here to make sure you follow all applicable requirements for Delaware boat registration. 

Boating License Requirements in Florida

Boaters born on or after January 1, 1988 must pass a boating education course or pass a temporary certificate examination. Operating a motorized vessel with 10 horsepower or greater requires a photo ID card and a boating education ID card.

You must also be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft (PWC) in Florida. It is also illegal to lease, hire, or rent a PWC to anyone under the age of 18. For more information on exemptions and other regulations, visit the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Boat Registration Laws in Florida

According to Florida Statutes, all motorized vessels operating on the state’s public waterways must be titled and registered. Owners have the option of registering for one or two years and all titles and registrations are issued by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) department. 

Click here to learn more about laws and fees governing boat registration in Florida.  

Boating License Requirements in Georgia

Boater education is required in the state of Georgia. Operators born after January 1, 1998 must pass an approved boater education course and keep the card on board when operating a motorized vessel. 

With a boater safety card in hand, persons over the age of 16 may operate a boat in Georgia. There are additional restrictions for those under the age of 16. Click here for more information on Georgia boating license requirements. 

Boat Registration Laws in Georgia

All motorboats and personal watercraft must have a Georgia Certificate of Boat Registration and a validation decal to operate legally on public waters. There are a few exceptions, such as boats operated only on private waters, sailboats less than 12 feet long, and canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and rafts with no mechanical propulsion. 

Please visit the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website to learn more about registering your boat or personal watercraft. 

Boating License Requirements in Hawaii

To operate a motorized boat or personal watercraft with more than 10 horsepower in Hawaii, you’ll need to successfully complete a boating safety course. After you pass the course, you’ll be issued a certificate that you must keep with you when you go boating in Hawaii. 

Operators under the age of 16 must complete the course and be supervised by an adult over the age of 21 who also maintains a boating safety certification. You can find more information here. Commercial boaters in Hawaii are required to obtain a permit.

Boat Registration Laws in Hawaii

All commercial and recreational vessels in Hawaii must be registered, with the exclusion of these exemptions. As of July 1, 2021, the Hawaii Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) instituted a new regulation for all undocumented vessels principally used in Hawaii, and not already titled, to be titled before the expiration of their current registration. 

Under this new law, a vessel cannot be registered unless it is already titled. For more information on vessel registration and titling fees and requirements, click here

Boating License Requirements in Idaho

There is no mandatory boating safety education or licensing requirement in Idaho. However, PWC renters and others may be required to take a course before operating a boat. Boating in Idaho is governed by a complex combination of federal, state, and local laws. 

For mobile device users, the state’s boating app is the easiest way to find out about requirements in the specific area of Idaho where you plan to go boating. The Idaho Safe Boating Act governs boating activities within the state on state-governed waters. 

This law specifies that commercial boaters must be licensed. These FAQs are helpful in understanding the recreational boating laws and requirements. In Idaho, local law is sometimes stricter than state law. Be aware that Idaho is a state where some of the waterways fall under federal jurisdiction.

Boat Registration Laws in Idaho

All vessels with any type of motor (including electric trolling motors) that are primarily used on Idaho public waters must be registered with the Idaho Departments of Parks and Recreation. Once you receive them, your registration number and expiration decals must be properly affixed to your vessel.

For more information on exemptions and requirements for boat registration in Idaho, click here

Boating License Requirements in Illinois

Boaters born on or after January 1, 1998 must obtain a boating safety certificate. This requirement applies to boaters driving vessels powered by engines with greater than 10 horsepower. 

The minimum age for operating a boat or personal watercraft in Illinois is 10 years. For more info on minors operating boats and the requirements necessary to do so lawfully, please consult the Handbook of Illinois Boating Laws and Responsibilities. Commercial boating activities in the state of Illinois require a license.

Boat Registration Laws in Illinois

In Illinois, you must possess a valid Certificate of Number (registration), expiration decals, and Certificate of Title to operate legally on public waters. Boat registrations are good for three years and always expire on September 30th, regardless of your original registration date. 

To learn more about how to register your boat in Illinois, click here

Boating License Requirements in Indiana

In Indiana, you must have a valid driver’s license to legally drive a personal watercraft or a boat with more than 10 horsepower. There are a couple of exceptions. The minimum age to operate a boat or PWC is 15, but those without a valid driver’s license must complete a boater education course and obtain a state-issued ID card. 

Anyone over the age of 15 that has never obtained a valid driver’s license or can’t produce one must also complete a boater education course and keep an ID card on hand to operate a boat legally. Learn more about boating in Indiana here.

Boat Registration Laws in Indiana

Unless they meet a qualifying exemption, all vessels operating on Indiana public waterways must be registered with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) and display valid watercraft decals.

Visit the official Indiana government website to learn more about exemptions, registration fees, and more.  

Boating License Requirements in Iowa

In Iowa, boater education is a requirement for boaters of ages 12 to 17 years old who plan to drive personal watercraft or motorized boats with engines greater than 10 horsepower. Minors between these ages are also permitted to operate motorized vessels and personal watercraft without boater education if they are supervised by an adult. 

Boat Registration Laws in Iowa

Registration with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is required for all boat owners. Registration decals must be current and clearly displayed on your vessel and your registration certificate must be kept on board when operating. 

Click here to learn more about the fees and requirements to register a boat in Iowa. 

Boating License Requirements in Kansas

In the state of Kansas, a boat license is not required for recreational boaters over the age of 21. Boaters under the age of 21, as well as anyone born after January 1, 1989, must pass a boater education course

The minimum age to operate a boat without supervision in Kansas is 12. From 12 to 21, persons can legally operate a boat or personal watercraft with direct and audible adult supervision. Find out more about boating in the state of Kansas here.

Boat Registration Laws in Kansas

All vessels powered by a motor in Kansas must be registered and numbered. That includes vessels with gasoline, diesel, and electric engines. The state does not issue titles for boats or motors, however. 

For more information on how to register your boat in Kansas, click here

Boating License Requirements in Kentucky

Recreational boaters ages 12 to 17 are required to obtain either a Kentucky Safe Boating Certificate card or a NASBLA boater education certificate. The minimum age to operate a boat or personal watercraft with more than 10 horsepower on Kentucky public waters is 12 years old. 

Commercial boating in Kentucky requires a license. Find more information in Kentucky’s Fishing and Boating Guide.

Boat Registration Laws in Kentucky

All mechanical vessels used primarily in the state must possess a current Kentucky registration. Registrations expire annually on April 30th and owners may register in their county of residence or the county of primary boat use. 

Registration must be completed at the county clerk’s office and proof of registration must be kept on board. For more information about Kentucky boat registration fees and rules, click here.  

Boating License Requirements in Louisiana

Louisiana requires the completion of a mandatory boater education course for boaters operating motorboats with engines of greater than 10 horsepower. This regulation applies to boaters who were born after January 1, 1984.

The certification of course completion must be kept on a motorboat or personal watercraft while operating it. Those born after the above date may operate a boat with the supervision of someone over the age of 18 who has completed an approved boater education course. 

Commercial fishing charters require a license. For a full synopsis of Louisiana boating requirements and regulations, click here. This link also has useful information about the required equipment for legal boating in Louisiana.

Boat Registration Laws in Louisiana

All watercraft more than 12 feet in length used in Louisiana waters must be registered with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. For information on boat registrations fees and requirements in Louisiana, click here

Boating License Requirements in Maine

Boaters ages 16 and 17 must pass a boating safety course in order to legally operate a motorized vessel in Maine. When operating a vessel, they must also carry a valid form of personal identification and the certificate or card issued to them as a result of passing their course. 

The course taken must be approved by NASBLA, but minors may operate a personal watercraft without certification if accompanied by an adult over the age of 18. Minors under the age of 12 may operate a boat with more than 10 horsepower if accompanied by a person at least 16 years of age. 

Find out more about fishing and boating in Maine here.

Boat Registration Laws in Maine

While there are a few exceptions, all boats of any size must be registered in Maine to be operated on state waters. Paying excise tax in your county of residence is required before registering a boat at any Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). 

For information on those exceptions and the requirements for registering boats used on Maine’s coastal waters, click here

Boating License Requirements in Maryland

Most recreational boaters in Maryland must obtain a certificate of boater safety education. This requirement applies to the operators of numbered or documented vessels who were born on or after July 1, 1972.

Personal watercraft may only be operated by persons 16 years of age or older. If under the age of 16, you may operate boats more than 11 feet in length if supervised by someone born before July 1, 1972, or an individual 18 years of age or older who is also in possession of a valid boating safety certificate. 

Go here for information about becoming a charter boat guide in Maryland.

Boat Registration Laws in Maryland

Commercial and recreational boats must be registered if (a) used primarily in Maryland throughout a calendar year and (b) equipped with primary or auxiliary mechanical propulsion of any kind. 

Click here to find more information on what to do and where to go to register your boat in Maryland. 

Boating License Requirements in Massachusetts

Motor boaters between the ages of 12 and 15 are required to complete a state-approved boating safety course if they wish to drive a boat without adult supervision. The reward for successful completion of the course is a boating safety certificate. A certificate is also a requirement for 16 and 17-year old personal watercraft operators.

Without the direct supervision of a competent adult over the age of 18, minors under the age of 12 may not operate a motorboat. There are no exceptions to the rule that states those under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft. For more information on boating laws here, visit the official Massachusetts state website

Boat Registration Laws in Massachusetts

Massachusetts state law requires valid registration for any boat operated on a state public waterway. Non-motorized boats or those that have already been issued documented registration from the US Coast Guard do not need to be registered. 

For more information on registration fees and required documentation, click here.

Boating License Requirements in Michigan

In Michigan, boaters who were born on or after July 1, 1996 may operate a boat after obtaining a boating safety certificate. Those born before that date may operate a motorboat without restrictions. 

This is also a requirement for most personal watercraft users in Michigan. Minors under the age of 12 may operate a boat with six to 35 horsepower in Michigan with a boating safety certificate and supervision by someone at least 16 years of age. 

Charter boats require a license if the onboard activities include trout fishing in Michigan. You can go here to learn more about boating in the state of Michigan.

Boat Registration Laws in Michigan

All watercraft, excluding exemptions, must display a valid registration decal from the Michigan Department of State. Registration decals may not be transferred and registrations expire on March 31st in the third year of issuance. 

For more information on registration exemptions, fees, and documentation, click here

Boating License Requirements in Minnesota

Recreational boaters of ages 12 to 17 must pass a boating safety course to obtain a Minnesota watercraft operator’s permit and operate boats with more than 25 horsepower. For boats over 25 horsepower, those between those ages who do not possess a permit must have someone over the age of 21 onboard and within reach of the controls. 

There are varying requirements for those under the age of 12, but anyone can operate a motorboat with less than 25 horsepower without restrictions. For minors under 12, the operation of a boat with 25 to 75 horsepower is permitted with the supervision of someone at least 21 years of age within reach of the controls, but operating a boat with more than 75 horsepower is illegal under all conditions. 

A captain who wishes to pilot commercial charters carrying more than six people in the state of Minnesota must obtain a Boat Master License. Find more information about commercial boating here and view Minnesota’s Boating Guide here.

Boat Registration Laws in Minnesota

Boat registration is required in Minnesota and is good for three calendar years from the date of issuance. In-person registrations are currently limited in the state. So click here to explore options for online registration and information about registration requirements. 

Boating License Requirements in Mississippi

Boaters born after June 30, 1980 are required to take a boating safety course. Those under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a person over the age of 21 to operate a boat legally in Mississippi. 

Chartering and other commercial boating activities require a license. Find out more about boating in Mississippi here.

Boat Registration Laws in Mississippi

Motorboats and sailboats operated on public waters in Mississippi must possess a valid certificate number and validation decals. Decals must be visible on both sides of the vessel and the certificate of number must be on board and available for inspection when the boat is operated. 

For more information about Mississippi boat registration and fees, click here

Boating License Requirements in Missouri

Boaters born after January 1, 1984 must obtain a boating safety identification card from the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Water Patrol Division and possess a current photo ID. As an alternative, you must possess a Missouri driver’s license or a non-driver’s license with a boating safety endorsement. 

Additionally, all persons 14 and 15 years of age may operate a boat or personal watercraft with the direct supervision of someone at least 16 years of age. The relevant legislation is Motor Vehicles, Watercraft and Aviation Statute 306.127 and you can find more details about boating regulations in Missouri here.

Boat Registration Laws in Missouri

Title and registration are required for all boats and sailboats more than 12 feet in length in Missouri. A list of exemptions can be found here. In addition, all outboard motors, except trolling motors and electric outboard motors, must be titled and registered. 

For more information about boat registration in Missouri, click here.   

Boating License Requirements in Montana

Boaters ages 13 and 14 must obtain a motorboat operator’s safety certificate or be accompanied by an adult to drive a personal watercraft or a boat powered by an engine of greater than 10 horsepower in Montana. 

Children 12 years of age or younger may not operate a boat or PWC with more than 10 horsepower unless supervised by an adult over the age of 18. You can find a list of approved boating safety courses here and read through all Montana boating regulations

Boat Registration Laws in Montana

All motorboats, sailboats, and personal watercraft greater than 12 feet in length must be registered in the state of Montana. Registration is not required for motorized sailboats less than 12 feet long and manually propelled watercraft of all lengths. 

For a more detailed synopsis of Montana boat registration requirements, please view this complete pamphlet of Montana Boating Laws

Boating License Requirements in Nebraska

In Nebraska, no recreational boating license is required. However, boaters who were born after December 31, 1985 must pass a boating safety course and carry the resulting certificate with them when they take their boat or personal watercraft out on the water.

Minors must be at least 14 years of age to operate a boat or PWC of any class in the state and owners will be held responsible for violating this rule. You can find more information about boating regulations in Nebraska here

Boat Registration Laws in Nebraska

Nebraska’s State Boat Act states that all vessels with any sort of mechanical device for propulsion must be registered with the county treasurer. Boaters must have a valid title for their vessel from the county clerk in order to complete registration. 

Click here to see more information about exemptions and registration requirements. 

Boating License Requirements in Nevada

Boaters who reside in Nevada and were born on or after January 1, 1983 must pass a boater education course to be allowed to drive a boat faster than 15 miles per hour within the state. There is no minimum age for completion of an education course, but the state specifies that the individual must simply demonstrate “competence to participate.”

Minors must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft on their own in Nevada and non-residents must meet the boating education and licensing requirements for their home state to operate a vessel on Nevada waters.

You can find more information about Nevada’s boating regulations here.

Boat Registration Laws in Nevada

All boats and personal watercraft must be registered in the state of Nevada. New residents have 60 days to register their boat once they enter the state. Exemptions include all non-motorized sailboats, canoes, kayaks, and other vessels. 

For more information on boat registration fees and requirements in Nevada, click here.

Boating License Requirements in New Hampshire

Boating education is a requirement in the state of New Hampshire for anyone aged 16 or over who drives a boat with a motor of 25 horsepower or greater. 

Exceptions include people who have completed a NASBLA-approved course with another state agency, a course administered by the US Power Squadrons or Coast Guard Auxiliary, and individuals with an unexpired commercial boating license from the US Coast Guard or the state of New Hampshire.

Find more information at the New Hampshire Department of Safety website. The relevant legislation governing commercial boater licensing is RSA 270-E:22-23; you can find details here.

Boat Registration Laws in New Hampshire

Any vessel operated on New Hampshire public waters must be registered and display the bow number issued by the DMV during registration. Boats can be registered year-round, but all registrations expire on December 31st of the year it was issued. 

For information on registration exemptions, click here, and to find out more about how to register your boat in New Hampshire, click here

Boating License Requirements in New Jersey

Yes, the state of New Jersey requires boaters and personal watercraft operators to be licensed. This requirement applies to anyone operating a powerboat or personal watercraft on all non-tidal waters in the state. 

Different requirements apply to waters affected by tidal conditions, but a license is not required to operate a non-motorized vessel. Completing a boating safety certification course is a prerequisite to receiving a boating license in New Jersey. 

To stay up-to-date on all New Jersey boating regulations, check out the state’s Boating Safety Manual

Boat Registration Laws in New Jersey

All boats operating in the state must be titled and registered, with a few exceptions. To read through those exceptions and get more information on registration fees and required documentation, click here

Boating License Requirements in New Mexico

Boaters in New Mexico who were born on or after January 1, 1989 must pass a state-certified boating education course and carry proof of certification when operating a motorized vessel. This requirement applies to both powerboats and sailboats.

Boat Registration Laws in New Mexico

All motorized vessels of any length must be registered with the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division. Once obtained, the registration number must be secured on both sides of the bow and clearly visible in three-inch block lettering. 

For more details on New Mexico boat registration, click here

Boating License Requirements in New York

New York does not require a license for recreational boating, but there are boater education requirements. Anyone operating a personal watercraft must have a boating safety certificate and be 14 years of age or older. 

New York is phasing in the requirement for boater education based on birth dates under a new law known as Brianna’s law. To see when you will be required to obtain a certificate to operate a boat legally in the state, click here.

Commercial boating activity in New York requires the appropriate charter boat license. See Also: Public Vessel Operator’s License Guide.

Boat Registration Laws in New York

Boats of all sizes with any type of motor (electric or fuel-driven) must be registered in the state of New York. Non-motorized vessels do not need to be registered. There are several exemptions and documentation requirements for boat registration that you can view here.

Boating License Requirements in North Carolina

Boaters born on or after January 1, 1988 will need to pass a boating education course to be allowed to drive a boat with an engine of 10 horsepower or greater. The relevant legislation is Session Law 2009-282 Senate Bill 43.

You must also be at least 14 years of age and have completed a NASBLA-approved boating safety education course in order to operate a personal watercraft in North Carolina. 

Boat Registration Laws in North Carolina

All motorized vessels, including jet skis and other personal watercraft, must be registered to operate on North Carolina public waters. That includes sailboats over 14 feet in length and boats residing in the state for more than 90 days of the year. 

For more information on registration requirements and fees, click here.

Boating License Requirements in North Dakota

Boaters of ages 12 to 15 who wish to drive a personal watercraft or a boat with an engine of greater than 10 horsepower must pass the Boat North Dakota safety course. The minimum age for the course is 11.5 years and there are both online and home study versions available. 

Minors under 12 years of age may not operate a motorboat or personal watercraft unless accompanied by someone at least 18 years of age. You can find North Dakota’s boating safety regulations here and more information on boating in North Dakota here.

Boat Registration Laws in North Dakota

Owners of all types of motorized vessels must register them with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Upon successful registration, you will receive a Watercraft Registration certificate that must remain onboard when the boat is being operated. 

For more information on boat registration fees and documentation in North Dakota, click here.

Boating License Requirements in Ohio

There is no recreational boating license requirement in the state of Ohio, but there is a boater education requirement. Boaters born on or after January 1, 1982 who wish to operate a boat with an engine of greater than 10 horsepower must pass a boating education course

The course must be approved by NASBLA or the Ohio Division of Watercraft. Proof of certification must be presented if stopped by a law enforcement officer, or proof must be shown within 72 hours of being stopped.

Find more information about boating and paddling in Ohio here. You might also wish to read Ohio’s online Boat Operator’s Guide. Commercial fishing charters on Lake Erie require both a US Coast Guard license and an Ohio Lake Erie Fishing Guide License and decal.

Boat Registration Laws in Ohio

Registration is required for all recreational boats in Ohio. Registration is good for three years and all tags expire on March 1st. Registration can be renewed after March 1st with no late fees. 

To view more information on Ohio requirements for registering a new boat, click here

Boating License Requirements in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has a boating safety education requirement. Minors 12 to 15 years of age can only operate sailboats more than 16 feet long, personal watercraft, or motorized vessels more than 10 horsepower with a valid boater education certificate and the supervision of someone over the age of 18. 

Children under 12 years of age may not operate any sort of watercraft under any circumstances. Boating permits are also a requirement for most boats in certain areas of Oklahoma City and for the Chickasaw Recreation Area

Permits may be required for boating in other areas of Oklahoma as well. You can view the Handbook of Oklahoma Boating Laws and Responsibilities to find out more about Oklahoma’s boating and water safety laws.

Boat Registration Laws in Oklahoma

Boat registration is required for all watercraft in Oklahoma, excluding kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats. Registration stickers must be affixed to both sides of your boat at the stern and a paper copy of the registration should be kept on board at all times. 

Click here to see more information about fees and steps to register a boat in Oklahoma. 

Boating License Requirements in Oregon

Oregon requires a boater education card for boaters of any age who plan to drive a boat powered by a motor of greater than 10 horsepower. This requirement also applies to minors of ages 12 to 15 driving motorboats of any size. You can find more information about boating in Oregon here.

Commercial boating in Oregon requires a license — either a Coast Guard issued captain’s license or OSMB Motorized Passenger Boat Operator’s Certification (MPBOC). You can visit the official Oregon government website to find more information about guiding and chartering in the state of Oregon.

Boat Registration Laws in Oregon

If it has a motor, it needs to be titled and registered in the state of Oregon. Some boats must be inspected in order to successfully apply for a new title and registration. Go here to learn more about the requirements to register your boat in Oregon. 

Boating License Requirements in Pennsylvania

The state of Pennsylvania has a boater education requirement. Boaters born on or after January 1, 1982 must obtain and carry a boating safety education certificate to be allowed to drive a boat with a motor of greater than 25 horsepower. 

This requirement also applies to all persons seeking to operate a personal watercraft. Commercial charters in Pennsylvania require a permit. You can visit Pennsylvania’s official website to find more information about the state’s boating regulations.

Boat Registration Laws in Pennsylvania

Registration is required for (a) motorboats with gas, electric, or diesel motors; (b) sailboats using gas, diesel, or electric motors for auxiliary power; and (c) vessels documented by the US Coast Guard for recreational purposes. 

For more information about boat registration requirements in Pennsylvania, click here.

Boating License Requirements in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has mandatory boater education requirements. Boaters of any age who wish to operate a personal watercraft must be certified. Boaters born after January 1, 1986 must be certified in order to lawfully drive a motorboat with an engine of greater than 10 horsepower. 

Out-of-state residents wishing to operate a vessel, excluding personal watercraft, must meet the requirements of their home state to operate on Rhode Island waters. Click here to learn how to get certified and read other general boating safety information for the state.

Boat Registration Laws in Rhode Island

All motorized vessels and all boats greater than 12 feet in length must be registered. Non-motorized canoes and kayaks under 12 feet in length are exempt under RIGL-44-5-25.1.

Click here to learn more about boating registration in Rhode Island.

Boating License Requirements in South Carolina

The state of South Carolina has a boater education requirement for boaters under the age of 16 who wish to drive a personal watercraft or a boat with a motor of 15 horsepower or more without supervision.

If the boater education requirement has not been met, persons 16 or younger may only operate a boat or PWC over 15 horsepower with the direct supervision of an adult over the age of 18 who is not under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Persons over 16 years of age may operate a motorized boat or personal watercraft without any restrictions. Those under 16 may also operate a motorized boat or personal watercraft with less than 15 horsepower without restrictions.

Piloting a charter boat in the state of South Carolina requires a commercial license.

Boat Registration Laws in South Carolina

All motorized boats and watercraft, as well as all outboard motors over five horsepower, must be titled and registered in South Carolina. There are certain exempted vessels and sailboats that may not require registration. 

For more answers to registration FAQs for South Carolina, click here.

Boating License Requirements in South Dakota

South Dakota does not have a requirement for a boater license or boating education. They do have certain safety reminders to be aware of when exploring the state’s miles of lakes and rivers. You can go here to find out more about boating in South Dakota.

Boat Registration Laws in South Dakota

Boats over 12 feet long and motorboats of all lengths must be registered to operate on public waters in South Dakota. This includes vessels using electric trolling motors. Registration decals must be clearly displayed on both sides of the bow of the boat.

Click here to learn more about registering a boat in South Dakota. 

Boating License Requirements in Tennessee

In the state of Tennessee, boater education is a requirement for boaters born on or after January 1, 1989. A boating safety exam administered by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) must be passed and proof of certification must be kept on board. 

No other certificate from other states or agencies will be accepted. The only exemption is if there is an adult onboard that is 18 years of age and, if born after 1/1/89, in possession of a state-issued certification, that can take immediate control of the vessel. 

The TWRA website has more information about boating in the state of Tennessee.

Boat Registration Laws in Tennessee

All mechanically powered vessels and all sailboats primarily used in Tennessee must be registered before operating on public waters. This includes federally documented recreational vessels and mechanical propulsion (including electric trolling motors). 

Please visit the TWRA website for more information on boat registration fees and requirements. 

Boating License Requirements in Texas

The Water Safety Act governs boating in the state of Texas. According to this act, boaters born on or after September 1, 1993 must obtain certification by taking a state-approved boater education course

This requirement applies to (a) recreational boaters driving motorized vessels with engines over 15 horsepower; (b) boaters sailing wind-powered vessels measuring longer than 14 feet; and (c)  anyone who wishes to operate a personal watercraft. 

If you’re interested in a commercial license for chartering more than 6 passengers, you’ll need a party boat license.

Boat Registration Laws in Texas

All boats are required to have current registration when operating on Texas public waters, including when docked, moored, or in storage. This includes (a) all motorized vessels regardless of length; (b) sailboats with an auxiliary engine; (c) non-motorized vessels and sailboats 14 feet and longer; (d) US Coast Guard documented vessels.

Click here to view more important boat registration information for the state of Texas. 

Boating License Requirements in Utah

The state of Utah requires personal watercraft certification for children ages 12 to 17 who wish to operate a personal watercraft in the state. This is mandatory for jet skis, wave runners, and Sea-Doos.

Commercial boating in Utah requires a captain’s or guide’s license. Check out some more in this informative handbook on Highlights From Utah’s Boating Laws & Rules.

Boat Registration Laws in Utah

All motorboats and sailboats must possess current registration and display valid decals to operate legally on Utah public waters. Canoes, kayaks, and other vessels not propelled by motor or sail are exempt. 

You can find more information on Utah boat registration here

Boating License Requirements in Vermont

Boating safety education is a requirement in the state of Vermont. This requirement applies to personal watercraft and motorized boat operators born after January 1, 1974. The boater education course must be passed and the issued certificate must be carried while operating a vessel. 

Visit the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website to learn more about boating laws in Vermont. 

Boat Registration Laws in Vermont

Any vessel propelled by a motor must have a Vermont Certificate of Registration and validation stickers to operate on the state’s public waters. Applications are completed through the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, which is also where you can find more info about registering your boat in the state.  

Boating License Requirements in Virginia

The state of Virginia requires all recreational boaters who operate motorboats and personal watercraft with engines of 10 horsepower or greater to complete a boater education course. This regulation has been phased in since 2009 but has applied to all boaters, regardless of age, since 2016. Lifetime Boater Cards are available.

Commercial charters in the Chesapeake Bay or coastal waters of Virginia require multiple licenses. You’ll need a captain’s license issued by the US Coast Guard. Additionally, there are two required licenses issued by the state of Virginia: a Virginia fishing guide license (either class A or class B) and a Virginia Charter / Head boat license.

Federal permits may be required for some fishing charters in Virginia’s waters that fall under federal jurisdiction. You can find more information about boating in Virginia at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.

Boat Registration Laws in Virginia

All motorboats principally used on public waters in Virginia must be titled and registered with the state. This applies to boats with gasoline, diesel, and electric motors. Sailboats with no motors and that are more than 18 feet in length need only be titled, not registered, in Virginia. 

For more details on the state’s registration, titling, and sales tax laws, click here

Boating License Requirements in Washington

Boaters born on or after January 1, 1955 must obtain a Washington State Boater Education Card to operate a boat with an engine of 15 horsepower or more. The minimum age to operate a personal watercraft is 14 years old and it is illegal to lease, rent, or hire a personal watercraft to minors under the age of 16.

You can visit the official Washington state government website to find more info about the boating requirements in Washington state. Commercial boating in Washington requires a license.

Boat Registration Laws in Washington

A Washington title, registration card, and registration decals are required to operate, employ, or moor your vessel in the state. Boat registration must be completed with the Washington State Department of Licensing and your registration card must be onboard when operating a vessel. 

Exceptions include (a) canoes, kayaks, and vessels not propelled by a motor or sail; (b) vessels less than 16 feet long, with motors less than 10 horsepower, and used only on non-federal waters; (c) vessels properly registered to another state or country and used in Washington waters less than 60 days in a calendar year. 

For more information on exemptions and registration rules in Washington, click here

Boating License Requirements in West Virginia

Boaters born after December 31, 1986 must pass a NASBLA-approved Boating Safety Education Course to lawfully operate a personal watercraft or motorboat in West Virginia. 

Approved courses are administered by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, US Power Squadron, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR), or any persons certified or authorized by the WVDNR or NASBLA.

You can visit West Virginia’s official website to learn more about the boating laws and regulations imposed in the state.

Boat Registration Laws in West Virginia

As of July 1, 1989, all boats must be titled and registered in West Virginia. Registration fees are required for all motorboats with motors that have a minimum of three horsepower or 70 pounds of thrust. Registration expires every three years and cannot be transferred to other vessels. 

For more information on boat registration fees and documentation requirements, click here.  

Boating License Requirements in Wisconsin

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), boaters born on or after January 1, 1989 must pass a boater safety course to obtain a safety certificate. In this state, they consider the certificate to be the equivalent of an operator’s license. 

This is a requirement for driving either a personal watercraft or a motorboat. You can visit the Wisconsin DNR’s official website to find more info starting on page seven of Wisconsin’s boater handbook.

Commercial charters in Wisconsin’s federally navigable waters require both a US Coast Guard captain’s license and a Wisconsin Guide License.

Boat Registration Laws in Wisconsin

To operate a vessel legally in Wisconsin, you must possess a Wisconsin Certificate of Number and expiration decals. Decals must be displayed clearly on each side of the bow and the certificate must be on board when operating your vessel. 

Consult the Handbook of Wisconsin Boating Laws and Responsibilities (starting on page five) for more information on boat registration requirements and exemptions in the state. 

Boating License Requirements in Wyoming

Boating education courses are available, but not required, for boaters in Wyoming. Minors under the age of 16 may not operate a motorboat or personal watercraft without being accompanied by an adult over the age of 18 who is responsible for the operation of the vessel. 

General links to Wyoming’s boating regulations are available online here and updated regulations for 2022 can be found here. More info on boating in Wyoming is here.

Boat Registration Laws in Wyoming

All motorized watercraft must have a current watercraft registration and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal issued by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Go here to find more information on registering your boat in Wyoming. 

Where Can I Find a License Holder for Keeping My Boater Education Card or License Dry?

Try the Boatmate document pouch available for sale at Gander Outdoors. Otherwise, check out paddlesports bags and cases from Camping World. 

As always, check with your local authorities for the latest information. Have fun out there!

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