New York is popular for its skyscrapers and billboards, but it also features an abundance of beautiful waterways, including the Long Island Sound, St. Lawrence Rivers, Atlantic Ocean, and Hudson.
There are also hundreds of lakes to enjoy in the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks, Great Lakes, and Barge Canal, including a plethora of other rivers, streams, and lakes. Boat owners can relax and unwind over the weekend by cruising over the water, releasing the tension and stresses of the week.
The NY Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation wants to give its citizens an opportunity to go away when they need to, providing a safe and comfortable environment for recreational boating. However, the question remains, “Do you need a license to drive a boat in NY?”
If the boat has a motor, a boat license is required in New York. If you’re going to be using a kayak, standup paddleboard, sailboat, canoe, rowboat, or other watercraft without a motor, you won’t need a boating safety license or certificate.
Let’s look at the answer, as well as some other key considerations if you wish to enjoy the state’s numerous rivers by boat.
Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in NY?
New York Boating Safety Certificate
A NY Boating Safety Certificate is required by the New York State for certain boat drivers and operators. However, if you want to use your personal boat for recreational purposes, the state, like most others, does not require a license.
Do you need a license to drive a boat in NY? If you want to operate a boat professionally, such as for tourist tours, commercial workboats like tugboats and ferries, or commissioned fishing, several licenses have strict requirements.
The US Power Squadrons, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, and US Powerboating all provide safety certificates that are recognized by the New York State. Residents of New York State are permitted to obtain Boating Safety Certificates from various certified online sources.
This certificate, which is frequently misunderstood for a license, certifies that the holder has completed an approved New York Safe Boating course. If you are operating a powered watercraft, also known as a PWC, you must carry the Boating Safety Certificate with you; otherwise, you will be subject to hefty fines.
Those born on or after May 1, 1996, must finish a state-approved boating safety course and obtain the New York Boating Safety Certificate before operating a vehicle for water travel. Before operating a personal watercraft on New York State waterways, everyone, regardless of age, must pass a Boating Safety Education Course.
Going to AceBoater.com is one of the most convenient ways to obtain a New York boater education card. You may study on your own schedule with AceBoater and only pay when you pass the exam. After that, you can print your lifetime certificate and begin boating on New York’s beautiful waters.
BoaterExam.com is another option for obtaining a New York boating license.
On May 1, 2014, the New York Boating Safety course was established to accommodate people who were unable to attend the course in person. All people born on or after May 1, 1996, must complete this safety course in order to operate personal watercraft or motorboats in New York.
How to Obtain a License to Drive a Boat in New York?
You can obtain a New York Boater Education Card with these three simple steps:
- Paying a one-time payment of $29.95, which entitles the payor to unlimited free retakes of the final test (if necessary).
- Studying and passing the final exam of the New York Boating Safety Course.
- Immediately printing a temporary card after passing the final exam. Within 3-5 weeks, you should receive your permanent card in the mail.
Individuals below 18 years old who have not completed a boating safety course may only operate a boat under the direct supervision of someone 18 years of age or older. A minimum of 14 years of age is required for potential operators. Before someone can operate a personal watercraft in NY state, they must first complete and pass a Boating Safety Education Course.
The boater safety course must be completed with a score of 76 percent or higher to pass. Within 90 days of payment, courses must be completed, and the final exam passed. After the 90-day period has passed, your access to the course will expire.
You should take the quizzes at the end of each chapter to check your understanding and test your ability to retain information. These quizzes are brief boater exam practice tests, which cover the same topics as that of the actual course exam.
Below are individuals who do not need to accomplish the PWC Educational qualifications:
- Commercially licensed vessel operators in the United States and Canada
- Instructors who received state certification
- Instructors who received certification from the United States Coast Guard and the United States Power Squadrons
- Officers of the law, firefighters, and lifeguards who follow their assignments and fulfill their duties.
Learn more about obtaining a boat license by watching this video:
Boat License – Motorboats vs Personal Watercrafts
A boating safety certificate is needed for those who wish to operate the following boats:
If you have a boat and were born on or after May 1, 1996, you will be required a boating safety certificate.
Individuals born on January 1, 1993, or later, will be required a boating safety certificate starting in 2020, according to Brianna’s Law, a newly enacted law.
Individuals born on January 1, 1988, or later, will be required a boating safety certificate starting in 2022.
Individuals born on January 1, 1983, or later, will be required a boating safety certificate starting in 2023.
Individuals born on January 1, 1978, or later, will be required a boating safety certificate starting in 2024.
Beginning in 2025, all motorboat operators, regardless of age, will be required to obtain a boating safety certificate.
Boats Without a Motor
If you plan on operating a sailboat, kayak, standup paddleboard, rowboat, canoe, or other watercraft without a motor, you won’t need a boating safety certificate.
It’s usually a great idea to take a boating course and obtain a boating safety certificate, even if it’s not required. You can take advantage of both classroom and online classes. After all, your enjoyment of being on the water may lead you to eventually upgrade to a motorized boat.
Personal Watercraft (PWC)
If you’re 14 years old or older, you’ll need a boating safety certificate.
If you live in New York, you’ll need a boating safety certificate. And if you are from out of state and want to operate a PWC in NY, the state will accept certifications issued by other states.
The state’s waterways are patrolled by law enforcers to guarantee that your boating experience is safe and enjoyable. To avoid injury, make sure you cooperate with them and follow the laws and good manners at all times.
If you’re operating a vessel, you must have your Boater Education Card with you all the time. If an officer asks about it, make sure it’s ready for inspection.
If you are found on the water in a watercraft without your card, you will be issued a penalty.
NY State Parks Adventure License Program
After successfully completing the course, you can have your certification shown as an anchor icon on your New York driver’s license, learner’s permit, or non-driver ID issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
And if you choose this option, you won’t be required to carry your Boater Education Card with you always, as long as you have your driver’s license. The DMV will keep a record of your completion of the boating safety course and add an icon to your license every time you renew it.
To know more, you can check out New York’s Adventure License site here.
The video below has other wonderful suggestions and insight into boating laws, including tips on NY waters:
Conclusion – Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in NY?
So to answer the question: “Do you need a license to drive a boat in NY?” The answer usually depends on the purpose of the watercraft.
If you’re doing it for fun and leisure, you’ll need a boating safety certificate, which you must have with you at all times when on the water.
If you’re running a watercraft for sightseeing tours, commercial workboats like and ferries and tugboats, or commissioned fishing, you’ll need a license to operate.
If you’ll be using a kayak, standup paddleboard, sailboat, canoe, rowboat, canoe, or other watercraft without a motor, you won’t require a boating safety certificate.
However, as the saying goes, it’s always better to err on the side of caution as there’s no harm in learning more. Therefore, you might want to get yourself a boating safety certificate.
Being on the water can be liberating, and getting away from the city for a day to explore New York’s many waterways with family or friends is always a terrific way to rest and recuperate. But it’s always a great idea to consider other people’s safety as well as your own.
Do the right thing and work toward obtaining your own Boating Safety Certificate. It’ll all be worth it in the end while having safe and fun times on the water.