Boating Laws and Regulations by State

Maggie Overholt
Maggie Overholt
Senior Editor

What to Know Before your Maiden Voyage

You just bought a boat. The open water beckons, and long days of sun, surf, and exploration are on the horizon. But don’t haul up anchor just yet — there are a few important things to know before setting sail for the first time. For a rapid rundown of boating laws where you live, take a look at our state-by-state maps. We’ve also included more detail on common regulations and answers to frequently asked boating questions below.

Who can drive a boat: Certification requirements and age limits by state — Boat Licensing and Education

What you need to drive a boat: Registration, insurance, and (of course) life jackets — PDF Laws for Boating

Don’t drink and steer: State laws on boating and alcohol

The Bottom Line: Boating Laws Checklist

Before getting out on the water, you’ll want to make sure that you’re following your state’s rules for safe and legal boating. Anyone with a motor-powered boat will need to register their vessel. In some states, you may also need to pass a safety course, obtain a boater’s license, or purchase insurance to drive legally. Use the list below as a starting point, and check our state-by-state maps above for more information on specific regulations where you live.

  • Register your boat with the appropriate state agency
  • Make sure all drivers are safety certified by a NASBLA approved course
  • Cover your assets with purchase insurance
  • Stock your boat with USCG approved life jackets for all passengers