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Do You Need A License To Drive A Boat?

October 14, 2021 6 min read

With the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, there’s arguably nothing better than a boat ride in the summer, but what if you want to drive the boat - do you need a license? We’ll just cut to the chase - no, you don’t need one, *unless* you happen to live in a state that requires one.

But even if you live in a state that doesn’t call for a license, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other rules and requirements you need to follow! Interested in learning more? We can help. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know if your goal is to get your hands behind the wheel of a boat this summer. Let’s go!


Boat Licensing 101: What You Need To Know 

When you head out for a day of fun on the water at any time, safety and legality should be at the top of your concerns. In the US, each state has its own laws and regulations concerning boating requirements and safety. So, when you’re getting ready to purchase or rent a boat and take it for a spin on the water, you need to take that into consideration.

For example, in the Lone Star state, you must be at least 13 years old and successfully pass a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department-approved boater education course. In the Sunshine State, it’s the same deal; however, Florida requires you to be at least 14 years of age.


What Exactly Is a Boating License?

Good question - and this is actually where a lot of people tend to get confused. To be clear, the proper term is “boater education certificate,” which is often referred to as -- you guessed it -- a “boating license.” A boater education certificate simply serves as proof that you have successfully completed - and passed - an approved boating safety course and are ready to take on the seas!

Since a boater education card (aka certificate) never expires and never needs to be renewed, it’s *technically* not considered to be a boating license. 

You see, all you really need to operate safely and legally on both state and federal waters is a boater education --which makes quite a bit of sense, especially when you consider how different handling a vessel on the water is compared to other motor vehicles such as your car. Plus, it can generally give you awesome insurance discounts to have taken a boater education course.


Hold Up -- Boat Insurance? 

Yep, you read that right. While most states don’t require boaters to purchase insurance for their watercraft, many marinas do require some kind of insurance if you wish to use a slip or mooring.

Plus, if your financing the purchase of your boat, don’t be surprised if your bank requires insurance. That said, even if these requirements don’t necessarily apply to your specific situation, it’s still not a bad idea to get insured. 


The Importance of Boater Education

In the US alone, more than 40 states require educational requirements that must be completed prior to operating a watercraft on state waters. State law enforcement officers enforce education requirements to make sure everyone’s nautical experience is both a pleasant and safe one. 

Cooperate with them by following the specific boating laws and regulations in your state, and carry your boater education certificate onboard your vessel in case an enforcement officer asks you for it. 

Even if the state you live in doesn’t require you to complete a boating license safety course (like California) before hitting the water, boating safety can save lives and reduce accidents on the water. What kind of accidents can happen on the water, you ask?

Oh, you know, just collisions, capsizing, explosions, flooding, carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, and sinking -- all of which you learn about in - drum roll, please - boater education. 


Let’s Say I Don’t Get a License-- What Happens?

Other than putting yourself and others in danger, if you get caught driving a boat in a state that requires a boating certificate acknowledging the fact that you’ve taken and successfully completed a boater education course, you’ll get hit with a hefty fine.

For subsequent offenses, you can expect the fines and penalties to increase, and eventually, jail time - not good!


What You Need To Learn To Get Your Boating License

Though specific details can vary from state to state, overall, you’ll need to learn three main categories when testing for your boating license (certificate):


1. Boat Safety

It goes without saying that safety is essential when operating any kind of vehicle; whether that be a car or a boat, safety is of the utmost importance. The boating safety category will focus on preparing for accidents and emergencies, knowing how to check when your watercraft needs maintenance, and correct operation practices for regular use. 


2. Personal Safety

Aside from understanding how to maintain a safe environment on your watercraft, you also need to learn to take care of yourself -- as well as others -- when it comes to emergency situations.

In personal safety, you will learn basic knowledge about dealing with things like hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other potentially fatal health risks that can happen on the water.


3. Best Boating Practices

In addition to safety geared knowledge, you will also need to study ‘best practices.’ This area can cover anything from common boat terminology and what buoy indicators mean to how to handle crossing paths with different boats and more. Simply put, these rules of boating and safety practices help to prevent any unnecessary accidents. 


Boats You Can Drive Without A License

Can’t get your hands on a boating license? Never fear! Here are a couple of “boats” you can drive without a license: 


Yacht Pool Float

No license? No problem! Set sail with the iconic FUNBOY Yacht Pool Float. Kick your feet up and relax on the sleekest and sexiest float of the summer. Featuring an unbelievably comfortable daybed for two, dual drink holders, and a double reinforced front cooler to fill with ice and all of your favorite summer refreshments, this ride is one you’re not going to want to miss! 


Yacht Pool Float

This summer, you can literally float your Yacht pool float and tie-up to your very own Dayclub while your Private Jet awaits ready to take-off from the pool.

Just don’t forget your best furry pal with the FUNBOY X Bark Yacht Dog Float, which has been engineered to deliver you and your pup the ultimate poolside experience. Never float without your furbaby ever again! 


Inflatable FUNSKI Pool Float

Ride the waves on the hottest float of the summer season; the FUNBOY’s Inflatable FUN SKI Pool Float! This life-size personal watercraft float looks so fast; you’ll never know you’re riding stationary. Completely stable, whether laying down to soak up the sun’s rays or straddling for the ultimate selfie, the FUN SKI is a one-of-a-kind float and is sure to leave you smiling from ear to ear. Get two and race the seas with a buddy! Loser buys drinks. ;)  


The GOAT Boat

While it might be tempting to hop on a boat and get your hands on the wheel to experience the rush of driving a watercraft through the waves, whatever you do, don’t drive without a license. 

Sure, there are a handful of states that don’t necessarily require one, but at the end of the day, having a license (aka certificate) simply shows that you understand boat safety. And if you ask us, we’d feel much more comfortable riding on a boat with a driver who has completed some sort of boaters education course than someone who hasn’t -- wouldn’t you?

Stay safe, have fun, and until you get your license, FUNBOY’s got your back with a ton of awesome pool floats. Whether you want to race your bestie on a FUN SKI or kick your feet up on a Mega Yacht, we have what you need for your best summer yet- no license required. 


Boating Rules and Regulations | Boat Setter

Hypothermia | Mayo Clinic

2019 Recreational Boating Statistics | US Coast Guard

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