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What Are Florida's Requirements for Operating a Boat?

December 23, 2023
Boat Accident

What to Know Before Operating a Boat in Florida

Whether you are a Florida resident or a seasonal tourist, you will want to know the requirements for operating a boat. Failure to follow the rules can result in severe consequences and may cause devastating injuries. Operator inexperience is one of the leading causes of boat accidents in the state. 

License Requirements for Florida Boat Operators

Unlike some states, Florida does not require boat operators to obtain a license. However, individuals operating a motorboat that goes 10 horsepower or greater born on or after January 1, 1988, are required to complete an approved boating safety course. 

Chapter 327.395(1) of the Florida Statutes mandates that boat operators born on or after that date carry a boating safety education identification card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The card is generally issued upon successful completion of an approved boating safety course or equivalent program.

Age Requirements for Florida Boat Operators

While there is no minimum age requirement to operate a non-PWC (Personal Watercraft) vessel in Florida, you must have photo identification and complete an approved boating safety course if you were born on or after January 1, 1988. 

As explained by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, state law requires that you must be at least 14 years of age to operate a PWC. Furthermore, it is unlawful for you to rent a PWC unless you are at least 18 years of age. 

Requirements for Non-Resident Boat Operators 

If you are a tourist or a non-resident of Florida and have not completed an approved boating safety course, you may still be able to operate a vessel in the state. 

You may lawfully operate a boat in Florida if you have in your possession proof that you completed a boater safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) or an equivalent examination from another state. You may also be able to obtain a temporary certificate from a certified vendor. 

Bill of Sale Required for Operation

In addition to a boater safety education class, the operator of a vessel that is required to be registered must be able to show a bill of sale. The bill of sale must have identifying information such as the make and length of the vessel. It must also list the type of propulsion the vessel uses and a hull identification number. 

If you are operating a vessel within 90 days of the purchase and have a bill of sale to serve as proof of the date of purchase, you will be exempt from the boater safety education requirement during that period.

Contact Our Office to Learn More

To learn more about the boat operator requirements in Florida, contact Mase Seitz Briggs to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys can help you understand the law and help provide legal solutions if you were involved in an accident with a boat operator that was not in compliance with the Florida Statutes. Call our office today at (844) 627-3529 to get started.

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