Home TRAVEL What You Need to Get Your Boat License: A Checklist

What You Need to Get Your Boat License: A Checklist

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Nearly 70% of boating accidents are caused by operator error.

So whether you want to buy a boat or operate one during your summer vacation, it’s crucial to get a boat license. If you don’t, you could get fined by the state you’re boating in, or worse—endanger the lives of you and your passengers.

But how do you know what you need to get a boat license? That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this guide.

Keep reading for a handy checklist so you can get your boat license as soon as possible!


Look at Your State’s Laws

Boating laws have changed in recent years due to the higher number of boating accidents. So the first step in learning how to get a boat license is to check your state’s requirements.

For example, in Florida, boat operators born on or after January 1, 1988, must complete an approved boating safety course.

Enroll in a Boating Safety Course

Whether you’re buying a pre-owned boat or joining a club like Freedom Boat Club, you’ll need to take a boating safety course.

These are offered by various providers, but the best options are approved by the Coast Guard or state boat safety organizations. You can choose between classroom learning, online learning, or a mix of both.

For a free option, the Boat US Foundation has free courses for 35 states. If your state isn’t covered, expect to pay between $35 and $50 for the course and exam. Keep in mind that this may not include your boat license cost.

Pass Your Boating License Test

After you’ve completed a boating safety course, it’s time to take the boat license test. The format and number of questions will depend on your state, but you can expect a mix of multiple-choice and true or false questions.

Some providers might give you unlimited test retries for free, while others may only give you a few chances to pass.

Be sure to check a boat license document checklist so you can have everything on hand when you register.

Keep Your License With You

If a law enforcement officer stops your boat, you must be able to show your license to them immediately.

If you don’t, you’ll get fined. And in some states, repeated violations result in larger and larger fines.

Continue Your Education

While most boat safety certificates don’t expire, it’s still a smart (and safe) decision to re-take a safety course from time to time.

Not only will this refresh your knowledge of what to do in an emergency, but different instructors can teach you valuable boat driving tips.

Sail in Peace With a Boat License

Now that you know what you need to get a boat license, it’s time to hit the water!

Stay safe out there, and don’t hesitate to contact your state’s boat safety organization if you have any questions. And remember that boating is supposed to be relaxing, so the more prepared you are, the more fun you’ll have.

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