If you are wondering how to get a boating license, Germaine Marine is here to help.
When you get your boat license, you learn the rules, regulations, and safety expectations you need to follow while operating a boat. It is vital to follow these rules to ensure you and others are safe while enjoying your fun in the sun. You’ll also need your boater’s license on hand if the Coast Guard or boat patrols stop you.
Read on to learn more about how to get a boat license in your area.
Check Your State’s Boat License Requirements
Boating education and licensing requirements vary from state to state (opens in new tab), so you’ll need to look at the specific rules for your area. Even if your state doesn’t require education courses or a boating license, we recommend that every boater know and understand basic safety rules to keep boating fun and safe for everyone.
While licensing requirements differ across the country, a few guidelines influence the rules, including:
- Age of driver
- Type of watercraft
- Year of birth
- Safety course requirements
- Rental crafts
- Certification mandates
- Speed/strength of watercraft
- Supervision rules
Currently, there are only three states without licensing requirements:
- South Dakota
If you own a boat or personal watercraft, anyone who drives your vessel is required to be properly licensed and trained to your state’s boat licensing requirements.
Passing the Boat Licensing Exam
If your state requires it, you’ll have to take an online boater safety course and exam or complete an in-person safety course and test before getting your boat license.
Depending on where you live, your safety course could take anywhere from three hours (online) to eight hours (in person). Most online courses give you the flexibility to complete a few sections at a time to go at your own pace. After each online section, you’ll have a small quiz to gauge your understanding of the information. If you do not pass this review quiz, you cannot move to the next section.
The boating course and test relay important safety and operating information for all boat drivers. You will learn about:
- Boating basics
- Safety guidelines
- Common terminology
- Navigation rules
- State regulations
- Emergency preparedness
- Boating fun
Once you’ve passed the test, you can apply for your boating license. When you receive it, you will need to keep it in your boat whenever you are on the water.
You can find boating courses by state here (opens in new tab).
How Much Does a Boating License Cost?
The cost of a boating license varies by state, just as the regulations do. You can expect to pay $25 to $55 for your license, but check your state’s pricing to find out specifics.
Learning How to Drive a Boat
A boating education and licensing course give you vital and practical information for boat operation. However, these courses do not provide hands-on experience for driving the boat. You could take an on-water training course (opens in new tab) if one is available in your area, but you may need to hit the water with an experienced boater who can show you the ropes.
If you are renting a boat, the facility can give you some basic instructions before you head out, but make sure you feel comfortable before driving the boat. Additionally, your boat dealer can walk you through the driving process when buying a new or new-to-you boat.
Remember that, just like any other vehicle, learning to drive a boat takes time. Be patient with yourself and take things slow to stay safe on the water.
Additional Things to Keep In Mind
After getting your boater’s license, there are other things you need to remember.
You will learn the parts of the boat during your educational course. You’ll frequently use these words during your boating adventures, so pay careful attention to these terms and commit them to memory.
- Bow — Front of the boat
- Stern — Back of the boat
- Hull — Bottom of the boat
- Port — Left side of the boat (when onboard and facing the bow)
- Starboard — Right side of the boat (when onboard and facing the bow)
If you are boating with children or family friends, keep in mind the license age requirements for your state. Some states require a boater’s license for anyone 12 or older who will be driving the boat, while other states have their age requirements set at 14, 16, or another age, depending on the type of watercraft. Don’t let anyone underage or unlicensed drive your boat.
Monitor when your boating license expires and renew it proactively to ensure that you’re always up to date when you want to take your boat out.
Prepare for Your Boating Adventure
To have more fun out on the water, make safety your top priority. When practicing proper boat safety, you protect yourself and others during your boating adventures. This is why you must know the regulations and requirements for your area as well as general boat safety tips.
Aside from safely operating your boat, ensure that you and your boating companions know about all the potential dangers on the water, including drowning, cuts, and activity injuries. To maximize the enjoyment and safety of your boating trip, keep the following equipment on board.
- Proper gear — You should have a VHF radio, GPS, boat bumpers, and other boating gear that keep you safe and connected to help when you need it.
- Life jackets — There should be a life jacket, or personal floatation device, for every person on your boat, regardless of age or swimming experience.
- First aid — Have a well-stocked first-aid kit with various supplies to address various injuries.
A safe boat is a fun boat, so make sure yours is equipped for safety before leaving the dock. You can learn more about boat safety, maintenance, and preparation on our blog.
Want Your Own Boat? We Can Help!
Sure, you can use your boater’s license when renting a boat, but wouldn’t it be more fun to drive your own? Whether you’re looking for a new or used boat, Germaine Marine has what you need. We can match you with the right boat for all your water adventures. Contact us today to put your boating license to good use in a boat of your own