Boating Safety Education FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions for the Boating Safety Education Requirements


I was born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, and want to operate a boat in Florida.  Do I need a license?

In order to operate a motorboat of ten (10) horsepower or greater, Florida law requires anyone who was born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the FWC.

Florida does not have a "boating license." The Boating Safety Education Identification Card is proof of successful completion of the educational requirements and is valid for life.

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I've heard there were some changes in the law regarding the requirements to operate a boat in Florida. What were the changes?

Effective Jan. 1, 2010, boat operators who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, must have a Florida Boating Safety Education Identification Card to operate a motorboat with 10 horsepower or more. The requirement to take an approved boating safety course and to obtain an FWC-issued identification card did not change, but the age threshold for the educational requirements is now be based on whether or not you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988.

  • The new law also created an exemption from the educational requirements for an operator if he or she is operating  a vessel within 90 days after the purchase of that vessel and has available for inspection aboard that vessel a bill of sale meeting all the requirements as established in Chapter 328.46(1), Florida Statutes.

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Are some people who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 exempt from these boating safety educational requirements?

Yes, there are some exemptions. Below is a list of those exemptions.

  • A person licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a master of a vessel.
  • A person operating on a private lake or pond.
  • An operator who is accompanied onboard by a person who is least 18 years old and possesses the required Boating Safety Education Identification Card, provided that person is attendant to and responsible for the safe operation of the vessel.
  • An operator who is accompanied onboard by a person who is exempt from the educational requirements, provided that person is attendant to and responsible for the safe operation of the vessel.
  • A nonresident who has in his or her possession proof that he or she has completed a NASBLA-approved boater safety course or equivalency examination from another state.
  • A person is operating a vessel within 90 days after the purchase of that vessel and has available for inspection aboard that vessel a bill of sale meeting all the requirements as established in Chapter 328.46(1), Florida Statutes.
  • A person operating a vessel within 90 days after completing an approved boating safety course, as required in Chapter 327.395(1), and has a photographic I.D. and a boater education course completion certificate showing proof of having completed the required boating safety education course. The course completion certificate must provide the student's first and last name, date of birth, and the date the course was successfully completed.  (Effective Oct. 1, 2011.)

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I will be visiting Florida from another state and I want to rent a personal watercraft. How will these boating safety educational requirements apply to me?

As a nonresident, you must comply with the boating safety education requirements.  However, if you have proof in your possession that you have completed a boater safety course or equivalency exam that meets or exceeds Florida's requirements (usually in the form of a certificate or card), you would not need to have a Florida Boating Safety Education Identification Card. In addition, you would also be exempt if you met any of the other conditions for exemptions listed in the previous question.

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I am an 18-year-old boater who just passed an approved online boating safety course and received a printed certificate of course completion. Do I still need to get a boating safety card?

Yes. In addition to the requirement to successfully complete an approved boating safety course, you must also have an FWC-issued Boating Safety Education Identification Card - along with a photo ID - in your possession to operate a motorboat of 10 horsepower or more. Effective Oct. 1, 2011, a course completion certificate for an approved course - along with a photo ID - can be used for up to 90 days from date of issue to operate a motorboat of 10 horsepower or more. (See the last frequently asked question for more details on requirements for certificate.)

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I am 26 years of age and will be visiting Florida for a few days, but I don't have a Boating Safety Education Identification Card. How can I rent a boat?

If you are visiting from another state and you do not meet any of the conditions to be exempt from the boating safety education requirements, you can get a temporary certificate in order to rent a boat. These certificates are issued by vendors around the state. A list of vendors is available. The temporary certificate is valid for one year and is not intended to be a permanent replacement for the Boating Safety Education Identification Card.

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I received a temporary certificate from an FWC contractor. Can I send my Temporary Certificate to your office and exchange it for a Boating Safety Education Identification Card?

No. The Temporary Certificate is a certificate that allows an individual to temporarily meet Florida's boating education requirements. It is not a substitute for a Boating Safety Education Identification Card and is only valid for one year from the date it is issued.

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If I am required to have a boating safety ID card to operate my boat and I just completed an approved boating safety course, can I operate my boat while I am waiting to receive my card?

Yes. If you are required to have an FWC-issued Boating Safety Education ID card in order to operate a boat and you have completed an approved boating safety course, the course completion certificate (along with a photo ID) can be used as proof of meeting the educational requirement.

To meet the legal requirement, the course completion certificate must have your first and last name, your date of birth and the date you successfully completed the course. You must have the certificate with you (along with a photo ID) while operating the boat. The course completion certificate can be used for up to 90 days and it is not a permanent replacement for the Boating Safety Education ID Card.

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FWC Facts:
A violation of federal navigation rules is also a violation of Florida law.

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