Although a boating license is not required by boat drivers in Alabama, all operators of water vessels in the state must complete an approved education program. The boaters safety course programs that have been approved by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) teach drivers about the basics of safe water vessel operation in a variety weather conditions and circumstances. Students in the course also learn about Alabama regulations that govern state waterways.

How to get a boating license in Alabama depends on the driver’s age. Drivers born after a certain date must enroll in a certified boating course but do not have to take the final course exam to gain permission to boat in Alabama. All motorized boats based in Alabama must be registered and titled with the Marine Patrol Office to be legally operated in the state. Most state-approved education programs carry a standard fee that must be paid before the driver will be allowed to take the final exam. Read on to learn more important details about operating boats in Alabama.

Do you need a license to drive a boat in Alabama?

Taking some form of boat classes is required by all boat drivers before they can legally drive most types of recreational water vessels in Alabama. According to the Boating Safety Reform Act of 1997, all drivers must complete an approved boating school and pass the course’s final exam, unless the driver was 40 years of age or older on April 28, 1994 in which case the boater is only required to complete the course and does not have to take the exam.

Boat operators who have completed similar education programs with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadron or the Alabama Marine Police are also exempt from having to take another state-approved course.

Alabama Boat License Requirements

The minimum boating license age in Alabama is 12 years of age for motorized water vessels. No one under 12 years of age can independently operate a water vessel or PWC in Alabama. The requirements for drivers who are 12 or 13 years of age include being supervised at all times by a licensed boater over 21 years of age.

Once a driver turns 14 years of age he or she can drive a boat alone if the necessary education program has been completed. This education requirement does not apply to drivers of sailboats, rowboats or canoes.

Getting a Boat License in Alabama

There are two ways Alabama drivers can take the boater exam and receive the necessary qualification to drive water vessels in the state: online and in-person. Both the boater safety course online and based in the classroom cover the same topics and require that the driver pass an exam with the same format and question types.

The final exam consists of 25 questions, 20 of which must be answered correctly for the driver to pass the course. Once passed, the boat driver will receive a new automobile driver’s license with a “V” class or a “Vessel Only” license if the driver does not have an auto license.

Drivers who would like to take the boat license test in-person can find an available course in their area by checking out the DPS’s list of approved programs. Regardless of whether an Alabama driver chooses to enroll in an online boaters safety course or classroom-based course, he or she can take the following steps to complete their education requirement:

  1. Review enrolling courses in your area offered by the Alabama Department of Public Safety Driver’s License Division.
  2. Begin reviewing the Alabama Boating Handbook and study guide to prepare for the course.
  3. Head to the Safety Driver’s License Examining Office in your county to take the course exam OR complete your online final course exam.
  4. Drivers applying in-person should receive a new license with the “V” or “Vessel Only” validation immediately. Drivers applying online must wait for the ALEA Marine Patrol to mail them their certificate of completion from the course. Once received, the boater can visit a DPS office and request a new license with the “V” validation.

Alabama Boater Safety Courses

Boating classes in Alabama concentrate on teaching drivers how to safely operate a variety of types of water vessels and respect the state’s natural resources. After completing the courses, operators should be familiar with Alabama laws and regulations governing the waterways as well. Certified courses are taught by qualified instructors that can help boaters of all experience levels learn more about safe boating techniques and navigation.

How long does it take to get a boating license in Alabama? Most students complete approved courses in a single day, though some courses may be extended if additional topics are included. Online courses can be completed at the chosen pace of the student but do not generally take more than eight hours.

Renewing and Replacing an Alabama Boating License

Do boating licenses expire in Alabama? The Alabama certificate must be renewed every four years when a driver’s automobile license must be renewed. Renewing the certification is free of charge and happens automatically unless the driver has had his or her boat permit suspended or revoked since last renewing the card.

If an individual’s boater education card has been lost or damaged, the driver must apply for a replacement by visiting his or her nearest probate judge or license commissioner’s office. The boat operator will not have to retake the knowledge exam, but he or she will be asked to provide his or her ID. Making false statements while renewing or replacing a card will result in criminal misdemeanor charges.

Alabama Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration with the Marine Patrol Division is required for most types of recreational water vessels in Alabama. A boat title is also necessary for motorized water vessels based in Alabama.

Applications for registration and titles are accepted at local county Judge of Probate and License Commissioner offices around the state or the central Marine Patrol Division office in Montgomery, AL. All registration applications must include the processing fee according to the size of the water vessel being registered.

Once registered, owners are issued boat registration stickers that must be affixed in a clearly visible location on the water vessel. Water vessel owners should keep proof of their registration in the boat at all times. Driving without valid registration or title documents can result in fines and other penalties.

Alabama Boating Rules and Regulations

Boating rules in Alabama work to keep both boaters and others enjoying the state’s waterways safe whenever outdoors in addition to protecting the natural environment. Beyond requiring that all drivers complete some form of education program, a significant portion of AL boating laws concern the types of safety gear that motorized water vessels and large boats must carry in case of an emergency.

Drivers who do not adhere to stipulated boating regulations could lose their permission to operate water vessels and even face penal charges. Some examples of important boating laws all AL operators should be aware of include:

  • All water vessels must have at least one wearable, Type I, II, III or V U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved life jacket on board for every person on the boat at all times.
  • All water vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have at least one throwable Type IV USCG-approved personal flotation device.
  • AL boat requirements state that all life jackets must fit appropriately according to the age, weight and activity of expected occupants and be in proper, usable condition.
  • Passengers on all water vessels who are eight years of age or younger must wear a properly fastened life jacket at all times unless below deck.
  • All boat passengers of any age aboard any type of personal watercraft (PWC) or being towed behind a boat must wear a USCG-approved life jacket at all times.
  • All motorized boats and some categories of water vessels must have a functional Type B fire extinguisher on board.
  • Specific colored light signals are required for all motorboats from sunset to sunrise and during periods of reduced visibility.
  • Boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited in Alabama. Drivers found to be operating a boat while impaired could face criminal charges.

Alabama Boating License Fees

The cost of a boater safety card in Alabama depends on whether the driver is ordering a first-time permit or another type of card. Common boating costs for drivers vary somewhat locally but are based on the following schedule of fees:

  • Certification Application Fee (to take the exam or exam exemption): $5.00
  • Boater Safety Certification if done while receiving an automobile driver’s license or permit: No Cost
  • Boater Safety Certification done at other times: $23.50
  • Duplicate Certification (first and subsequent duplicates if lost or destroyed): $18.50
  • Duplicate for other reasons: Cost of Original
  • Certification reinstatement after revocation or suspension: $50.00
Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.