Although well-known for its skyscrapers and billboards, New York also has a myriad of breathtaking waterways, which include the Long Island Sound, Atlantic Ocean, St. Lawrence Rivers, and the Hudson.
The city also has a plethora of lakes in the Finger Lakes, Great Lakes, Adirondacks, and the Barge Canal, along with hundreds of other streams, lakes, and rivers to take pleasure in. Boat owners can enjoy a weekend spent cruising along the water to shake off the pressures and stresses of the past week.
While wanting to provide its citizens with a means to get away when they need to, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation provides a safe and enjoyable environment for recreational boating. But this leaves the question, “Do you need a license to drive a boat in NY?”
A boat license is required to drive a boat in NY if the boat has a motor. You will not need a boating safety license or certificate if you will be operating a kayak, sailboat, standup paddleboard, canoe, rowboat, or other watercraft without a motor.
Let’s explore the answer along with other important things you should not miss if you want to enjoy the state’s many waterways on your boat.
Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in NY?
The New York Boating Safety Certificate
The New York State requires particular boat drivers and operators to have a NY Boating Safety Certificate. The state, however, along with most others, does not require a license if you are looking to operate your personal boat for recreational purposes.
So, do you need a license to drive a boat in NY? Some licenses have strict requirements if you are looking into operating a boat on a professional level like sightseeing tours, commercial boats used for work like tugboats and ferries, as well as commissioned fishing.
New York State also acknowledges those safety certificates issued by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, the US Power Squadrons, and US Powerboating. Boating Safety Certificates from a number of available online courses from recognized providers are sanctioned for New York State residents.
This certificate, often mistaken for a license, proves that its bearer has successfully completed an approved New York Safe Boating course. You are required to have the Boating Safety Certificate on you anytime you are operating a powered watercraft (also known as a PWC); otherwise, you will be obligated to pay costly fines.
You are required to complete a state-approved course on boating safety and acquire the New York Boating Safety Certificate before you can operate a vehicle for water travel if you were born on or after May 1, 1996. However, regardless of age, all people must complete a Boating Safety Education Course before they can operate a personal watercraft on New York State waterways.
One of the easiest ways to get a New York boater education card is on AceBoater.com. With AceBoater, you can study at your own pace and pay only when you pass the exam. You can then print your lifetime certificate and start boating the beautiful waters of New York.
Another option for getting a New York boating license is BoaterExam.com.
The New York Boating Safety course was put in place on May 1, 2014, to cater to those who cannot take the course in person. This safety course meets all NY mandatory education requirements for operating personal watercraft or motorboats for all people born on May 1, 1996, and later.
How to Get a License to Drive a Boat in NY?
The New York Boater Education Card can be obtained in 3 easy steps:
1. Paying the one-time fee of $29.95 that affords the payor with free unlimited retries of the final exam, if needed.
2. Studying the New York Boating Safety Course and passing the final exam.
3. Printing a temporary card immediately after passing the final. You can expect to receive your permanent card in the mail within 3-5 weeks.
Those who are under 18 years of age who have not yet completed the boating safety course may only operate a vessel under the close supervision of an individual who is 18 years of age or older. Potential operators need to be at least 14 years of age or older. And they must successfully complete and pass a Boating Safety Education Course before they are allowed to operate a personal watercraft in the state of New York.
To pass the course, you will need a score of 76% or higher on the boater safety course. Courses must be finished, and the final exam passed within 90 days of payment. Your access to the course will expire after the 90 days have elapsed.
To check your knowledge and test your capacity to retain information, you can take the quizzes available at the end of each chapter. These quizzes are considered short boater exam practice tests that cover the same topics as those that can be anticipated in the actual course test.
The following individuals do not need to complete the PWC Educational requirements:
1. US and Canadian vessel operators who are licensed to operate commercially
2. Instructors that are certified by the state
3. Instructors that are certified by the US Coast Guard and the US Power Squadrons
4. Police or peace officers, fire and rescue personnel, as well as lifeguards who are following their assignments and fulfilling their duties
You can also learn more about getting a boat license here:
Boat License for Motorboats vs Personal Watercrafts
If you have a motorboat, you will need a boating safety certificate if you were born on or after May 1, 1996.
Beginning 2020, you will need a boating safety certificate if you were born on or after January 1, 1993, under the newly-formed law recognized as Brianna’s Law.
Beginning in 2022, you will need a boating safety certificate if you were born on or after January 1, 1988.
Beginning in 2023, you will need a boating safety certificate if you were born on or after January 1, 1983.
Beginning in 2024, you will need a boating safety certificate if you were born on or after January 1, 1978.
Beginning in 2025, all motorboat operators will need a boating safety certificate regardless of age.
Personal Watercraft (PWC)
You will need a boating safety certificate if you are 14 years of age or older.
You will need a boating safety certificate if you are a resident of New York. The state also recognizes certificates issued by other states if you are from out of state wishing to operate a PWC in New York.
Boats Without a Motor
Although it is not a requirement, it’s always a good idea to take a boating course and get a boating safety certificate. There are classroom and online courses that you can take advantage of. After all, your love of being on the water might inspire you to upgrade to a motorized watercraft over time.
Law enforcers patrol the state’s waterways to ensure that your boating experience is safe and pleasant. Be sure to cooperate with them and observe the laws and proper etiquette at all times to avoid injury.
If you are operating a vessel, you are required to always have the Boater Education Card at all times. Be sure to have it ready for inspection in the event that an officer inquires about it.
You will be given a penalty to pay in case you’re on the water in a watercraft without your card.
New York State Parks Adventure License Program
You can have your certification represented as an anchor icon on your New York driver’s license, non-driver ID, or learner’s permit issued by the Department of Motor vehicles or the DMV after successful completion of the course.
The advantage in opting for this is that you will not be required to carry your Boater Education card around as long as you have your driver’s license with you at all times. DMV will keep a record of you having completed the boating safety course and will place the icon on your license every time you have it renewed.
To know more, visit New York’s Adventure License site here.
See the below video for some other great tips and insight into boating laws and tips on the waters of New York:
Conclusion – Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in NY?
To recap, do you need a license to drive a boat in NY? The answer is: it depends on what you’re operating the watercraft for.
If it’s for recreation purposes, you will need a boating safety certificate, and you need to bring it with you at all times you’re on the water.
A license to operate is also required if you are operating a watercraft for sightseeing tours, commercial boats used for work like tugboats and ferries, as well as commissioned fishing.
You will not need a boating safety certificate if you will be operating a kayak, sailboat, standup paddleboard, canoe, rowboat, or other watercraft without a motor.
However, as they say, it is better to err on the side of caution, and there’s no harm in accumulating additional learning, after all. You might want to secure a boating safety certificate for yourself.
Being on the water can be freeing, and it’s always a good means of rest and recuperation to get away from the city in favor of exploring NY’s many waterways for a day with family or friends. But it’s always good to pay attention to the safety of other people as well as yours.
Do the responsible thing and aim to get your own Boating Safety Certificate. It will all be worth it in the end and make fun, safe times as well.