Trip Ideas - 14 min read

Do You Need A Boating License to Rent a Boat? (Facts & Stipulations!)

Shaldon Roberts-Lemus

Shaldon Roberts-Lemus, Updated October 8, 2022

Getting out on the water with the spray of water, warm sunshine, and beautiful views is a one of a kind experience. However, doing so safely and legally is a must to ensure everyone has a good time. Luckily, doing so does not have to be difficult.

Whether you’ve been a regular boating passenger, or this is your first time out on the water, there is a process to follow. Following all the steps will keep you and everyone on your boat safe and having a good time.

Usually, you do not need a boating license to rent a boat; however, this depends on what state you’re visiting. Most states will at least require that you complete a state-approved boating education course or some other type of short test. You will then receive a boater certificate or education card, which you will be expected to present when renting a boat.

In this article, we will discuss more about what’s needed to rent a boat, that way you’re not stuck in between a rock and a hard place. Let’s get to it!

What Do You Need to Rent a Boat?

Credit: photopavel / Flickr

As stated above, the exact needs and requirements to rent a boat will vary by state. However, the most common requirements will be a boaters safety course, a boaters education card, or a boater certificate. These prove that you have the minimum required knowledge to safely boat.

Boaters Education Card

Credit: Debbie Hanson / Twitter

A boaters education card is what most states will require you have before allowing you to pilot a boat. These serve as proof that you have the minimum required knowledge to safely operate a boat in whatever state you live.

To get a boaters education card you will need to complete an official, approved boaters education course. Luckily getting your boaters education card isn’t too difficult. In our modern age there are plenty of options for in person and online courses to take.

Once you have your boaters education card, you will need to carry it at all times while on the boat. On the plus side, as long as your boater’s education card meets the NASBLA requirements, your card will work in other states too.

Your boater’s education course will cover everything from boat parts to state law, to casting off, and beyond. By the end of it, you should feel comfortable setting off safely for your boat trip.

Boating Safety Classes

Credit: Allan DeWall / Flickr

Boating safety classes are what you’ll need to take in order to get your boaters education card. These courses cover a huge range of topics to help you operate a boat safely.

Expect to learn everything from how to read the weather to using technology to navigate. You will need to make sure that whatever class you take is state approved, and ideally NASBLA approved as well

You can choose to take more advanced classes, but the basic ones required are typically spread throughout 6 to 13 lessons. These will provide a foundation on which you can build your knowledge and love of boating.

Age Requirements

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The exact age requirements for being allowed to pilot a boat vary by state, just like most other boating laws. However, it seems the youngest most states allow is 12 years old. Others require you to be several years older, while some have no age requirements at all.

The states with age requirements also often require that kids of the minimum age be accompanied by a 21 year old licensed adult.  Depending on the state, the age requirements might also limit the horsepower a boat is allowed to have. It’s always best to check the state’s laws for the minimum required age, to be on the safe side.

Once that age requirement is met, kids can also go through the boaters education course and receive their card or certificate. While some of you may worry about having a young child piloting a boat, it’s still a good idea to have them learn officially about boat safety.

Boating License Laws By State

Below is a list that should help you get on the right track with age requirements and license acquisition. It’s always a good idea to double check your state’s laws as they may have changed.

StateAge RequirementsBoating license required to rent a boat?
AlabamaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat. Kids 12-13 must be accompanied by a licensed 21 year old who stays within reaching distance of the controls.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Alabama. However, there are other requirements.
AlaskaThere are no minimum age requirements.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Alaska. However, there are other requirements.
ArizonaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat with over 8 hp. Kids 12-13 must be accompanied by a licensed 21 year old who stays within reaching distance of the controls.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Arizona. However, there are other requirements.
ArkansasBoaters must be at least 14 years old to pilot a boat with over 10 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Arkansas. However, there are other requirements.
CaliforniaBoaters must be at least 16 years old to pilot a boat with more than 15 hp. Kids 12-15 must be accompanied by a licensed 18 year old who stays within reaching distance of the controls.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in California. However, there are other requirements.
ColoradoBoaters must be at least 14 years old and must pass a boating safety course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Colorado. However, there are other requirements.
ConnecticutBoaters must be at least 16 years old to pilot a boat on their own. Children under 12 can pilot a boat under 10 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Connecticut. However, there are other requirements.
DelawareBoaters must be at least 14 years old and must pass a boating safety course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Delaware. However, there are other requirements.
FloridaBoaters must be at least 14 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Florida. However, there are other requirements.
GeorgiaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Georgia. However, there are other requirements.
HawaiiBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Hawaii. You do need adequate boating experience. Boat ownership in another location or 100 hours of water time with 10 in control
IdahoThere are no minimum age requirements. No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Idaho. However, there are other requirements.
IllinoisThere are no minimum age requirements. No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Illinois. However, there are other requirements.
IndianaBoaters must be at least 15 years old and must pass a boating safety course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Indiana. However, there are other requirements.
IowaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat over 10 hp. Kids under 12 must be accompanied by a licensed 21 year old who stays within reaching distance of the controls.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Iowa. However, there are other requirements.
KansasBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Kansas. However, there are other requirements.
KentuckyBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat over 10 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Kentucky. However, there are other requirements.
LouisianaBoaters must be at least 16 years old and must pass a boating safety course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Louisiana. However, there are other requirements.
MaineBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Maine. However, there are other requirements.
MarylandBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Maryland. However, there are other requirements.
MassachusettsThere are no minimum age requirements. No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Massachusetts. However, there are other requirements.
MichiganBoaters must be at least 14 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Michigan. However, there are other requirements.
MinnesotaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Minnesota. However, there are other requirements. Also, if the motor exceeds 25 hp, you might need one.
MississippiBoaters must be at least 12 years old and must pass a boating safety course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Mississippi. However, there are other requirements.
MissouriBoaters must be at least 14 years old and must be accompanied by someone 16 or older.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Missouri. However, there are other requirements.
MontanaBoaters must be at least 13 years old to pilot a boat with over 10 hp. Kids 12 and under can pilot one if they are accompanied by someone 18 or older.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Montana. However, there are other requirements.
NebraskaBoaters must be at least 14 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Nebraska. However, there are other requirements.
NevadaBoaters must be at least 14 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Nevada. However, there are other requirements.
New HampshireBoaters must be at least 16 to pilot a boat with over 25 hp and must pass a boating education course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in New Hampshire. However, there are other requirements.
New JerseyBoaters must be at least 16 to pilot a boat and must pass a boating safety course. Kids 13-15 may pilot a boat with under 10 hp after completing a boating safety course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Alabama. However, a certificate is required
New MexicoBoaters must be at least 13 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in New Mexico. However, there are other requirements.
New YorkBoaters must be at least 10 years old and must complete a boating safety course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in New York. However, there are other requirements.
North CarolinaBoaters must be at least 14 years old and must be accompanied by an adult.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in North Carolina. However, a boaters education card is required.
North DakotaBoaters must be at least 10 years old to pilot a boat with over 10 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in North Dakota. However, there are other requirements.
OhioBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Ohio. However, there are other requirements.
OklahomaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat with over 10 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Alabama. However, a boater education card is required.
OregonBoaters must be at least 16 years old to pilot a boat individually. Children under 16 may pilot with adult accompaniment No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Oregon. However, there are other requirements.
PennsylvaniaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat with over 25 hp.No.A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Pennsylvania. However, a certificate is required.
Rhode IslandThere are no minimum age requirements.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Alabama. There is no official RI boating license. However, a boating education certificate is required.
South CarolinaThere are no minimum age requirements. No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in South Carolina. However, there are other requirements.
South DakotaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat with over 6 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in South Dakota. However, there are other requirements.
TennesseeBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat with over 8.5 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Alabama. However, you will need a TWRA-issued certificate if you were born after Jan 1, 1989.
TexasBoaters must be at least 15 years old to pilot a boat with over 15 hp.Yes. A boating license is required to rent a boat if you were born after September 1, 1993 and are operating a boat with over 15 hp.
UtahBoaters must be at least 16 years old to pilot a boat. Children under 16 may pilot with adult accompaniment No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Utah. However, there are other requirements.
VermontBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat with over 6 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Vermont. However, there are other requirements.
VirginiaBoaters must be at least 15 years old and must pass a boating safety course.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Virginia. However, there are other requirements.
WashingtonBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat with over 15 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Washington. However, there are other requirements.
West VirginiaBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat with over 10 hp.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in West Virginia. However, there are other requirements.
WisconsinBoaters must be at least 12 years old to pilot a boat.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Wisconsin. However, there are other requirements.
WyomingBoaters must be at least 16 years old and must be accompanied by an adult.No. A boating license is not required to rent a boat in Wyoming. However, there are other requirements.

What Are the Basic Rules of Boating?

Credit: Community Boats / Flickr

While it’s essential to have any necessary documents needed to rent a boat, it’s also vital for you to know the basic rules of boating. Seasoned boaters will most likely know all of this, but for all people who are new to this, it’s important for you to know:

  • Don’t go too fast. This one is common sense, especially when on busy waterways. Making sure you’re not going too fast will give you time to think. Having a few extra seconds to come to a stop or move out of the way could save someone’s life.
  • Avoid restricted areas. It can be easy to lose track of your surroundings when out on the open water. However, it’s essential to keep an eye out for restricted areas. These areas can be restricted for a variety of reasons, such as swimming areas, conservation efforts, and more. For everyone’s safety, stay out of these zones.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. This one is an expanded version of the last rule. Being aware of your surroundings doesn’t just mean watching out for restricted areas. It means watching out for other boaters, your passengers, potential obstructions, and other water crafts. As captain of the boat, it’s your job to avoid collisions and keep everyone safe. The best way to do this is to stay aware.

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