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What I Learn From Getting My Jet Ski License

No one discusses the process, the steps you take when getting a jet ski license. I find it freaks people out when they learn they need a license to drive their new watercraft. They think DMV, and it really puts them off buying that new jet ski.

It’s honestly not that bad.

That is why in this post I want to go over my process of getting my license and sprinkling in the few people I’ve helped get their license, too. I’m hoping to put your mind at ease, answer common questions I get about the process, and get you on the water as soon as possible.

Key Points:

A jet ski license is a boating license required by many states to demonstrate your knowledge of operating a watercraft safely.

Most states require people to take a test, often online, to show that you know the rules of the water and what to do in an emergency situation. You’ll learn proper lingo, safety tips and more to make you and everyone safer on the water.

The license is not free and does require a test. A few states require in-person tests for anyone under 18. Many grandfather people in if you’re born before a certain date.

So, Do I need One?

Most states require you to have a license to operate a jet ski.

This is also true if you’re renting a jet ski, but many states have a 90-day license for these types of situations. Please keep in mind that a license from one state is not good in others.

I know a boating license can feel like a money-grabbing attempt, but as someone who’s been in far too many jet ski accidents and seen the aftermath of others, I think it’s a good idea. The tests are not hard and you learn useful tips about being smart on the water.

State-By-State

Check my chart for areas with and without jet ski license requirements, sourced from the US Coast Guard.

StateRequire A License
AlabamaYes
AlaskaNo
American SamoaYes
ArizonaNo
ArkansasYes
AustraliaYes
CaliforniaYes
ColoradoYes
ConnecticutYes
DelawareYes
District of ColumbiaYes
FloridaYes
GeorgiaYes
GuamNo
HawaiiYes
IdahoNo
IllinoisYes
IndianaYes
IowaYes
KansasYes
KentuckyYes
LouisianaYes
MaineYes
MarylandYes
MassachusettsYes
MichiganYes
MinnesotaYes
MississippiYes
MissouriYes
MontanaYes
NebraskaYes
NevadaYes
New HampshireYes
New JerseyYes
New MexicoYes
New YorkYes
North CarolinaYes
North DakotaYes
Northern Mariana IslandsNo
OhioYes
OklahomaYes
OregonYes
PennsylvaniaYes
Puerto RicoYes
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaYes
South DakotaNo
TennesseeYes
TexasYes
UtahYes
VermontYes
VirginiaYes
WashingtonYes
West VirginiaYes
WisconsinYes
WyomingNo

Interestingly, more than 80% of places listed in the chart above require one.

What Are The Age Requirements?

Each state and country has its own rules for the minimum driving age.

In a few states, you can ride a jet ski alone at 18, while others allow 12-year-olds with an adult present.

Usually, you need to be at least 16 and complete a boating safety course to ride alone.

The age requirements vary, but the US Coast Guard has a helpful chart with more details, including information about “grandfathered” individuals in place (those exempt from licensing based on birthdates).

Rentals

You will find many watercraft rentals mandate a license per state law, and ones from other states are NOT be accepted.

The Steps:

Sea-Doo Spark tied up to the dock before ride

Getting a jet ski license is easy. Just visit Boat-ed.com, watch videos, and take a test. I did it in 2010 in North Carolina.

You pay after passing the test and can print the proof right away.

Keep in mind, permits may not work in all states. If you’re in NC and vacation in FL, you might need permits for both states.

Also, states can require anyone under 18 to go to physical classes and pass the tests.

Here’s A Few things You’ll Learn

When getting your jet ski license, they will teach you many things about driving and owning a boat. Here are just a few things I learned when I took it, and you’ll learn too.

  1. Boating Safety: Learn water navigation, collision avoidance, and accident prevention.
  2. Rules of the Water: Understand local boating regulations like speed limits, navigation rules, and right-of-way.
  3. Navigation: Cover buoys, no wake-zones, beacons, and other navigation essentials.
  4. Boat Maintenance: Know basic maintenance and eco-friendly oil disposal to keep waters clean.
  5. Emergency Procedures: Learn how to respond to emergencies, use safety gear, like life jackets and distress signals.
  6. Pull Sports: You learn about pull sports safety.
  7. Environmental Awareness: Discover marine ecosystem protection and minimize your impact while boating.

Forcing People?

They’re relatively new because as boating and watercraft activities grew, accidents increased due to more powerful vessels and people unfamiliar with water rules. So, a response was needed.

Two Sea-Doo GTX one was crashed into the other and one is missing it's top half

I’ve seen far too many accidents from “young riders”, and even older riders not knowing the rules… I’m a big fan of getting one at any age!

Author

Steven

I started working at a power sports dealership in 2007, I worked in parts, service counter, and as a technician before moving to sales in 2013. I created StevenInSales.com in 2014 to answer common watercraft questions I would get from people. Now managing the site full-time, I continue to provide advice and web tools for my readers about watercraft. I've owned several watercraft, with a Sea-Doo Spark as my current main PWC.

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