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A Florida boating license is not required to operate vessels in the state. However, boaters may be required to take certain educational courses to operate motorized watercrafts. Once a course has been completed, applicants are issued with a Boating Safety Education Identification Card. Your age and residency status may affect your eligibility.

Methods on how to get a boating license are varied. Education fees may apply. Depending on the type of vessel, you may be required to register and title the boat with the FL DMV. Vessel registrations must be completed in person. Fees may vary.

Do you need a license to drive a boat in Florida?

While a license is not required in Florida to operate a boat, an education card must be obtained. Florida’s Boating Safety Education Identification Card provides proof that the applicant has completed all of the state’s mandatory educational requirements.

Florida Boat License Requirements

Depending on the type and size of the vessel, boating license age limits may apply. Typically, a boat card is only required for motorized vehicles and must be held by applicants who were born on or after January 1, 1988. Furthermore, boaters must pass educational courses if they are operating a vessel of 10 or more horsepower.

In addition to the above boating license requirements, residents must be at least 14 years old to operate a personal motorized vessel on Florida waterways, regardless of whether a course has been taken. Furthermore, boaters must be at least 18 years old to rent a vessel.

Residents must carry a boater education card and a photo ID or official Florida driver’s license with them at all times when operating a motorized vessel over 10 horsepower. Non-residents of the state are not required to take one of Florida’s boating safety courses if they can prove they have passed equivalent requirements in other jurisdictions. Not all applicants are required to hold an education ID card. The following applicants are exempt.

  • A member of the United States Coast Guard.
  • A boater operating a vessel on a private lake or pond.
  • A boater who is accompanied by a licensed adult who holds a license or is exempt from holding a card.
  • A non-resident boater who can show proof that they have passed an equivalent boaters safety course.
  • A boater who has bought a vessel within the last 90 days.
  • A boater who has completed a course in the past 90 days and does not yet have the ID card. Additional proof must be provided.

Getting a Boat License in Florida

A boating license ID card may be applied for by residents of the state. Alternatively, a temporary boat safety certificate may be issued to eligible applicants visiting the state and wishing to operate a vessel on Florida waterways.

The temporary certificate is only valid for one year. To apply for a permanent card, you must first complete an approved education course. Once you have received your certificate, follow the below steps to apply for an ID card:

  • Submit a letter to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with the following information:
    • Your full name
    • Your date of birth
    • A return address
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  • Include proof that you have completed the required boating educational courses, such as the certificate.
  • Send the above items to the below address.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Division of Law Enforcement
Boating Safety Section
620 South Meridian Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600

A certificate is valid for 90 days after the course has been completed.

Florida Boater Safety Courses

Applicants born on or after January 1, 1988 must complete courses approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). Residents have the option to take approved online boating courses, a classroom course or an outdoor course. See below for a breakdown of each method.

  • Online Boater Safety Courses – There are 12 different online companies that offer boating classes over the internet. Prices and course lengths may vary.
  • Classroom Boater Safety Courses – There are three main companies that offer classroom courses for eligible applicants. While the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadron offer courses statewide, the Best Boat Club courses are only available in Broward County.
  • Outdoor Boater Safety Courses – Florida offers its residents the choice to take a Virtual Outdoor Education Course. These courses are free to applicants between the ages of 12 and 18. While the above two options only cover boating, the Virtual Outdoor Course offers a combination of hunting and boating education.

Renewing and Replacing a Florida Boating License

Do Florida boating licenses expire? No. Once issued, a safety education card is valid for life. The course certificate and ID card may be used while you wait for your permanent card to be issued.

Florida Boat Registration Basics

A boat registration certificate must be purchased from a local tax collector’s office or license plate agent in Florida. Boat titles and registration certificates are not required for all vessels. The following boats are exempt.

A DMV boat registration must be applied for within 30 days of purchasing a vessel. Once obtained, the registration certificate must be kept on board the vessel at all times during operation. Registrations must be renewed annually. Stickers must be visible and placed in specific locations on the vessel.

Florida Boating Rules and Regulations

Florida boating regulations state that any applicant convicted of a criminal violation or non-criminal infraction must complete educational courses before an ID card can be issued. Exceptions may apply. Violations of boating laws may result in a first or second-degree misdemeanor. The following rules and regulations apply to all eligible boaters.

  • You must notify the authorities if you are involved in a boating accident and stay at the scene.
  • You will be issued with a first-degree misdemeanor if found operating a vessel recklessly.
  • You must adhere to posted speeding signs when applicable.
  • You must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when operating a vessel. Florida boating rules state that a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is considered under the influence.
  • You must wear a non-inflatable flotation device when operating a personal watercraft or when riding as a passenger.
  • You must wear an engine cut-off switch lanyard when operating a vessel.
  • You cannot operate a watercraft half an hour after sunset or before sunrise.
  • You must use navigational lights when operating watercraft at night.

A full list of the state’s boating requirements may be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. Additional rules and regulations apply.

Florida Boating License Fees

The fee for a boating license varies depending on the type of course taken. Educational courses may range from $0 to $30. While an education course may incur a fee and is required to receive a boating ID card, the ID card itself is free.

Last updated on Thursday, March 7 2019.

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