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Do I Need a Boating License to Rent a Boat? (Depend on States)

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

do i need a boating license to rent a boat

Folks new to boating often ask, “Do I need a boating license to rent a boat?” We recognize the issue. Sadly, a clear-cut answer is non-existent.

To be clear, forty-eight US states DO NOT require a boaters license to rent a watercraft. However, in Tennessee and Texas, a boating license is a must-have for renting boats.

Although most states allow a boat rental without license, they have other requirements. For example, you will need a boating safety education certificate to rent a watercraft near Charlotte, NC.

Please keep reading to know the different boat rental requirements in your state or your next boating adventure’s location.

Boat Rentals Requirements


Can anyone rent a boat? As renting a watercraft differs from driving it, almost anyone can rent it in 48 US states. However, it’ll be an entirely different story when it comes to being legally allowed to drive a vessel.

When someone rents a boat, it’ll automatically be assumed that somebody else with a license or boater education card will be at the helm piloting the boat. So if you rent a pontoon or any other vessel, your name on the paper will simply be marked as “renter”.

Meanwhile, the skipper must have a safety certification for driving recreational boats. For bigger vessels or commercial boats, the operator may need a Master’s or Captain’s license.

1. How Boat Rentals Work


Boat rental outfits adhere to existing boating laws in their respective jurisdictions.

  • For instance, a company in Texas must abide by the state’s rules in leasing watercraft to individuals.

Anyone born after August 31st, 1993, must secure a boating license to rent a ship in the Lone Star state. However, this document is unnecessary if you hire a boat with less than 15 horsepower.

  • On the other hand, you are lucky to rent a boat in Philadelphia, PA, because the state does not require a boating license as long as the renter is over 18 years old.

However, the skipper must be at least 12 years old to operate watercraft with at least 25 horsepower. If born on or after January 1, 1982, they must have a Boating Safety Education Certificate as well.
The same rules also apply to boat renters in Florida.

  • Renting and using a boat near North Carolina is similar to Pennsylvania, although authorities expect you to present a boating safety education card upon inspection.Here in NC, the minimum age to rent a boat (and operate it) is 14 years. An adult must also be onboard.
  • Renting a boat in California and in Michigan is also interesting. A boating license is unnecessary for both the renter and the operator. The minimum age for renting is 16 for non-motorized boats and 18 for vessels with engines.

It is worth noting that most states do not require a “boating license” but expect operators to undergo and pass a boating safety education course. Most use these “documents” interchangeably.

The following table lists the states that DO NOT REQUIRE boat renters to have a boating license. However, these states have other requirements renters might want to know.

State Boating Safety Education Certificate Minimum Boat Renter’s Age (years)
Operator Supervised
Alabama Required 12 12-13 (supervised by 21 y.o.)
Alaska Not required None None
Arizona Not required 12 (>8 HP) 12-13 (supervised by 21 y.o.)
Arkansas Required 14 (>10 HP) None
California Required 16 (>15 HP) 12-15 (supervised by 18 y.o.)
Colorado Required 14 None
Connecticut Required 16 (>10 HP)

12 (<10 HP)

Delaware Required 14 None
Florida Required 14 None
Georgia Required 12 None
Hawaii Required 15 None
Idaho Required only for renters of PWCs None None
Illinois Required None None
Indiana Required 15 None
Iowa Required 12 (>10 HP) <12 supervised by adults
Kansas Required 12 None
Kentucky Required 12 (>10 HP) None
Louisiana Required 16 None
Maine Required 12 None
Maryland Required 12 None
Massachusetts Required None None
Michigan Required 14 None
Minnesota Required 12 None
Mississippi Required 12 None
Missouri Required 14 Supervised by at least 16 y.o.
Montana Required None None
Nebraska Required 14 None
Nevada Required 14 None
New Hampshire Required 16 Accompanied by an adult
New Jersey Required 12 (>12 feet, >10 HP) None
New Mexico Required 13 None
New York Required 10 None
North Carolina Required 14 Accompanied by an adult
North Dakota Required 12 (>10 HP) None
Ohio Required 12 None
Oklahoma Required 12 (>10 HP) None
Oregon Required 16 <16 must be accompanied by adults
Pennsylvania Required 12 (>25 HP) None
Rhode Island Required None None
South Carolina Required None None
South Dakota Not required 12 (>6 HP) None
Utah Required 16 <16 must be accompanied by at least 18 y.o.
Vermont Required 12 (>6 HP) None
Virginia Required 14 None
Washington Required 12 (>15 HP) None
West Virginia Required 12 (>10 HP) None
Wisconsin Required 12 None
Wyoming Not required 16 Accompanied by an adult

So, what states REQUIRE boat renters to have a boating license? Only two states have such requirements. Please note that these locations also have other expectations.

State Boating Safety Education Certificate Minimum Boat Renter’s Age (years)
Operator Supervised
Tennessee Required 12 (>8.5 HP) None
Texas Required 16 (>15 HP) None

2. Price to Rent a Boat


Boat rentals vary in cost. For example, a pontoon boat can set you back by $500 a day, while powerboats require an average daily rental of $2,000.

Some boat rental companies might charge you hourly. High-end versions can drain the bank at a staggering rate of $1,000 an hour. Budget watercraft can set you back by $90 an hour.

3. What Do You Need to Rent a Boat


As mentioned, states have varying requirements for renting watercraft. However, most rental outfits expect you to bring proof of knowledge or competency related to safe boating. It could be a boating education safety course certificate, a boater’s certificate, or a boater’s education card.

Can you rent a boat with no experience? Of course, you can always opt for a rental unit with a captain in the package. Or, you can offer proof of someone in your party with the correct skipper’s license.

Rental outfits also have varying requirements. For instance, how old to rent a boat is a matter of company policy and the type of rented vessel. Some put the minimum renter’s age at 18, while others consider 25 the best.

You must also have a valid government-issued ID (i.e., driver’s license or passport) and proof of zero driving infractions, boating insurance claims, and criminal convictions.

Read more: How Big Should My Boat Be Before I Need a Captain’s License?



Where can I rent a boat?

You can rent a jet ski, pontoon boat, wakeboard boat, or other watercraft from your boat rental facility at the local marina.

Alternatively, you can search online for the best boat rental deals. This method is more convenient and allows you to compare prices and offerings for better decision-making.

You might want to call or contact individual boat rental companies to learn more about their offers or negotiate a discount for your rental unit. They will also be more than willing to accommodate your needs (if you ask them nicely).

What do you wear to a boat rental?

Deciding what to wear to your first boat rental depends on the prevailing weather or climate condition. If it is warm and sunny, you should wear light-colored and loose clothing. Cool environmental conditions demand sweatshirts or jackets.

Footwear with nonslip soles is also necessary. If you must get off the boat to explore an island or frolic at the beach, a pair of water shoes is vital.

Wear polarized sunglasses to protect the eyes and wide-brimmed headwear to shade your face. Sunscreen products can also make your boating adventures more enjoyable. An insect repellent can also be handy.

And no matter what you do, always wear a personal flotation device.


Do I need a boating license to rent a boat? Texas and Tennessee are the only states that require renters to present a boating license when leasing watercraft from a company. Most jurisdictions only need a boating safety education certificate or card when renting a vessel.

Please note this requirement only applies to a skipper-less rental boat. Hence, you can still hire your dream vessel without these documents by opting for a plus-captain package. Alternatively, you can bring someone with a valid Captain’s or Master’s license to operate your rental boat.

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