Boating license vs boat registration

The difference between a boating license and a boat registration is simple. A boating license is acquired when a person has successfully completed a course of study in which they learn how to properly operate a boat. A boat registration tracks ownership of a boat from the time it was made to the present day. Registrations are required by law.

Until recently, boating was not as regulated as driving a vehicle. In fact, few states officially require such an adult license. A course was required for children under 18 for young people to operate a boat. This relaxed attitude towards adults has changed in the past. Unlike before, despite its simplicity, it is important to understand the difference between a boating license and a boat registration.

And so a boating license teaches people along with the safety of boats. Students learn about road traffic rules, reading a nautical chart, using a marine radio, and the like. They are important skills in the field of water safety and as knowledge increases, the number of accidents decreases. Even if you are a seasoned boater, it makes sense for you to take the course with one of your children. In most cases, discounts on boat insurance are also offered.

The type of boat that requires registration varies by state. Check with them, but in most cases row boats, canoes, kayaks and even small sailing boats do not need to be registered. There are motor boats, merchant ships and larger sailing boats. Personal watercraft (like jet skis or wet bicycles) have long not required registration, but many states have changed their position and require that they be registered. Bring proof of ownership, sales contract, proof of payment for government sales, and applicable registration and title fees. To renew your registration, you can contact the license office. Or you can register your boat online.

It’s still early season so after your license and registration get yourself one. Then all you have to do is find out where to go boating and fishing. That’s the fun part.

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a contributing writer for Covey Rise magazine, a contributing editor for Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer is a regular contributor to over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics including fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor activities. When not fishing, Keer and his family hunt highland birds over their three English setters. His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast, was published in January 2011. Visit him at or

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