Nothing compares to the thrill of driving a boat. The joy of cruising along the water without a care in the world is the best, but you must make sure you meet all the requirements. So, do you need a license to drive a boat?
You don’t need a license to drive a boat, but most states require you to get a boating safety certificate. To get a safety certificate, you must take a class and pass a test that covers basic boating safety and guidelines. Without a safety certificate, you can get fined and even arrested in states where they are required depending on the circumstances.
States like Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, and Maine are among the handful of states that don’t require a certificate to drive a boat. Follow along as we explore everything you need to know about the requirements to legally drive a boat.
Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat?
You typically need a driver’s license to drive a boat. Most states don’t require you to get a special boat driving license. However, many states, such as Nebraska and Georgia, require you to take boating safety classes before you can legally drive a boat.
Alabama is currently the only state that requires you to get a special license to drive a boat. Residents must apply for a boating license through the Department of Public Safety Driver’s License Examining Office. It only costs $5 to apply and take the test to get a license to drive a boat in Alabama.
Otherwise, you can drive a boat with a standard driver’s license or boating certificate in every other state. Boating certificates aren’t the same as driving licenses. They simply show that you have taken and passed a boating safety course.
What is a Boating Safety Certificate?
A boating safety certificate is a document that shows you completed a boating safety course. This is required to drive a boat in public waters throughout most of the United States. Currently, Maine, Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Arkansas, and South Dakota are the only states that don’t require boating safety certificates.
Children between the ages of 10 and 17 years old can drive a boat without a safety certificate if an adult with a certificate is with them. Boating safety certificates are ultimately equivalent to the registration for a car. If you get pulled over by law enforcement officials or the Coast Guard without a certificate, you will face fines and may even get arrested.
How Long Does a Boat Safety Certificate Last?
Boat safety certificates last for life. You will never need to take the classes or pass the boating safety exam once you have a certificate. That said, the state can revoke your boating safety certificate if you get caught breaking any laws or violating boating regulations.
This includes everything from exceeding maritime speed limits and driving while intoxicated to possession of narcotics and firearms. Not only can the state revoke your certificate, but you can also face fines and even incarceration.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Drive a Boat?
You can drive a boat as young as 10 years old in many states. However, you must be accompanied by an adult with a boating safety certificate when you drive a boat as a minor under 18 years old. Once you turn 18 years old, you must take a boating safety course and pass the exam to get a certificate in most states.
However, laws vary between states, so it’s important to check the minimum age requirement before you drive a boat as a minor.
Does a Boating Certificate Work in All States?
Your boating certificate is valid in all states. Make sure to bring your boating safety certificate with you when you go on vacation. The state you visit may have different laws and regulations, but your boating certificate will at least let you legally drive a boat.
You must still comply with the local boating regulations in the state you visit. Otherwise, you will be subject to fines and incarceration. They can also revoke your boating safety certificate if you fail to follow the regulations when you drive a boat in another state.
If you’re from a state that doesn’t require a safety certificate, you must get one to drive a boat in a state that requires them. This can be frustrating, but it’s worthwhile if you want to drive a boat while on vacation. Most boating safety courses total under 8 hours of class time with a quick and easy exam at the end.
So, Do You Need a Boating License?
You don’t need a license to drive a boat, but you need a boating safety certificate in most states. Arkansas, Wyoming, Idaho, and South Dakota are among the few states that don’t require a certificate to drive a boat. Boating safety certificates never expire, but they can be taken away if you break the law and get caught while driving a boat.
My name is Ruben. I love fishing like most guys I know. Fishing is so much more than just an outdoor activity- its an escape, its therapy and so much more. I put together a team of other professional anglers in order to create the most inclusive fishing resource.