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Do You Need A License To Drive A Boat?

Boating is one of the most exhilarating outdoor activities, and if you get a chance to do it, you should definitely use it.

But before you hop onto any water-bound vessel, you might be wondering: Do I need a license to drive a boat?

Well, you have come to the right place! In this article, I explain everything you need to know about getting a license to drive a boat. As you will find out, the requirements vary from state to state.

Do You Need A License To Drive A Boat?

1.  Check The Boater Requirements In Your State

Whether or not you need a license to drive a boat depends on your state laws. Some states have age restrictions, requiring boaters of a certain age to acquire a boating safety certificate.

In most, before you drive a boat for the first time, you need to take a ON boating license that qualifies as a boat license.

Each state has varying boating safety and education course and certification requirements. A good resource to check your state’s specific laws and requirements are the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). Their website lists the boating education requirements for each state.

In many other states, boaters must take a safety course and pass the corresponding exam before obtaining a boating card or license. If this is a requirement in your state, you should comply with it to avoid running afoul with coast guard authorities for driving a boat without a license.

2.  Age Limits Are Applicable

In states where you need a license to drive a boat, age limits generally outline who needs to take a boating course and obtain a license.

Each state has its age requirements for the basic boating course and licensure. You should check with your state whether you are exempt or you need to obtain a license to operate a boat.

In Connecticut, anyone who owns a boat or water-bound vessel must have a license to operate the vessel. Tourists and anyone who is just renting a boat for a while do not need a license to drive a boat in the state.

In California, it used to be that only those convicted of a boating violation were required to complete a boating safety course. Starting 2018, anyone who owns and operates a boat should complete a boating safety examination and obtain a state-approved California Boater Card.

3.  Boat Licenses Can Be Used In Different States

A big advantage of getting a boat license in your state is that you can use this same license to operate a boat anywhere else.

Most states accept a boater education card or license issued in another state and will allow you to operate your vessel legally without interstate penalties.

As long as you take a NASBLA-approved education and safety course and obtain a license upon completion, you are recognized as a licensed boater everywhere you go.

Having a valid boating license in most states is super convenient and will save you a lot of trouble. For example, if you plan to explore the waters of another state, you can do it without worrying about legal penalties.

Summary: Do You Need A License To Drive A Boat?

Hitting the water on a boat is an exciting experience. But, you should always prioritize your safety and that of anyone else on the vessel. Obtaining boating education and acquiring a license is a good place to start.

Always follow state regulations on the operation of a boat. In states that require you to have a license, be sure to get one before operating a boat to avoid potentially costly legal problems.


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