Do I Need a License to Drive a Boat in California?

March 16, 2018 8:33 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

You need a license to drive a car, and you need a license to fish, but what about boat rentals in Lewiston, CA? Can you launch your vessel onto the waters of the Golden State without an official card that says you’re qualified to do so? Here’s the scoop.


In California, you do not need a license to drive a boat. What you need is a California Boater Card. As of January 1, 2018, a new law went into effect that requires boaters to carry a lifetime card that signifies they are qualified to operate a boat. To obtain this card, you must pass an approved boating safety examination. The cost of obtaining the lifetime card is $10. This law will be phased in by age. As of 2018, persons under the age of 20 are required to obtain a California Boater Card. By 2025, persons of all ages will be required to hold a card.


In addition to the card-carrying regulation, the state places some age restrictions on boat operations. California law states:

  • You must be 16 years or older to operate a boat that is powered by 15 horsepower or more.
  • You must be 16 years or older to operate a sailboat that is over 30 feet long.
  • If you are between 12 and 15 years old, you may operate a boat with 15 or more horsepower or a sailboat over 30 feet long only under the supervision of someone who is at least 18 years old.
  • If you are between 12 and 15 years old, you can operate a sailboat that is less than 30 feet long or a dinghy between two moored vessels without supervision.

Boater Education Courses

These courses are available to anyone who would like to take them. They will allow you to obtain a boater card. They can also increase the safety of your boating operation. Statistics show that those who have passed boating courses are less likely to suffer accidents and fatalities.

Passing the course exam may also help reduce your boat insurance premium. Additionally, if you are convicted of a moving violation while operating your vessel, you must complete boater education. If you are looking into taking a course, make sure it is a DMV-approved course.


Liability insurance is not required to drive a boat. However, if you purchase a boat or are considering a boat rental in Lewiston, CA, it is recommended that you have this coverage. If you are involved in a boating accident, property damage and personal injury can prove costly. The premium for a liability policy is typically minimal compared to potential repairs or lawsuit payouts.

Find Out More

Are you interested in purchasing a boat or trying one out with a boat rental in Lewiston, CA? There’s no better place to start than with the boating experts at Trinity Alps Marina. Our family owned and operated company offers a full line of quality marine services and products. Contact us today to find out more about boating and what opportunities are in store for you.

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