Boating Laws and boating license requirements by state
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Boating Laws & License Requirements by State


Passing a boating safety course will give you a discount on boat insurance and will increase your water safety skills. Boat safety courses are an excellent investment of time and money, regardless of your state's boating law. Each state has unique boating education requirements, and the boating rules, laws and regulations vary from state to state for obtaining a boat license or safety certification. Be sure to review the full legal requirements for your particular state.


Laws By State Alaska Alabama Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming Rhode Island Pennsylvania
bullet Michigan
  Michigan Natural Resources and Environment
  Yes, state has mandatory boater education law that applies to some operators of boats and/or personal watercraft.

Those less than 12 years of age:

  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) legally without restrictions.
  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp but no more than 35 hp legally only if they:
    • Have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat and...
    • Are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age.
  • May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp legally under any conditions.

Those born on or after July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat.

Those born before July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally without restrictions.

Who May Operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC) (a.k.a. jet ski, wave runner)

Those less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC.

Those 14 and 15 years of age may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate and...

  • He or she is accompanied on board by his or her parent or legal guardian or by a person as least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian or...
  • He or she is operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from his or her parent or legal guardian or from a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian.

Those at least 16 years of age and born after December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate.

Those born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally without restrictions.

  View the official Michigan state web site here.

States with mandatory boating law require safety certification for some or all boaters. Only one state (Alabama) requires an actual boat license. However, many prospective students are not aware of state legal terminology, and search for information about a boat license or licence, or a captain or captains license. This page is an excellent resource for boating law for all fifty states.