Getting a boating license in Arkansas is as easy as enrolling in a state-approved education program and passing the course exam. How to get a boating license is not a concern for all boat operators in Arkansas because only boaters under a certain age are required to pass an education program. Other boat drivers can operate most types of water vessels in Arkansas without having to apply for a license. The only eligibility criteria for enrolling in an approved program is the age of the driver.

Drivers interested in enrolling in a boaters safety course can choose from education programs taught in the classroom or on the web. These programs cover important safety techniques that can be useful for boaters of any experience level operating a variety of types of boats. Relevant state laws governing waterways throughout Arkansas are also covered in detail in approved education programs. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and state law enforcement officials work together to keep state waterways safe and enjoyable for everyone. Keep reading for more details on legally driving a boat in Arkansas.

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

In Arkansas, passing a boater exam or applying for a license is not required for drivers of any age who would like to operate a boat or personal watercraft. However, the AGFC does require some boat drivers to enroll in and pass a state-approved course before they can legally operate motorized water vessels and sailboats.

More specifically, drivers of a certain age must take an approved education program to operate boats with an engine of ten horsepower or more or sailboats of any size.

Arkansas Boat License Requirements

The boating license age to be able to legally operate a water vessel without the supervision of another person is 12 years of age, if that person has received the necessary education certification. A boat license test must be passed after enrolling in a certified education program by all AR drivers born on or after January 1, 1986. Boat operators born before this date do not need to complete any education program or licensing application to legally drive water vessels and PWCs in Arkansas.

There are no other state-wide requirements concerning residency or skills that apply to Arkansas boaters. Drivers must be 16 years of age in order to operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC) without supervision and must be at least 12 years of age to drive with adult supervision. Minors under 12 years of age can only operate a PWC under the supervision of an adult 21 years of age or older.

Getting a Boat License in Arkansas

In lieu of applying for a boating license, AR boaters born since 1986 are required to enroll in a state-approved education program. The AGFC has approved both online boaters safety course options and classroom-based courses so that every driver can find a course to suit his or her specific needs.

Signing up for an approved course is as simple as checking out the state’s recommended list of approved programs and choosing between online and in-person programs. Classroom-based programs are offered throughout Arkansas with course starting dates happening year round.

Drivers who choose an online boating course will cover the necessary technical and safety material by watching a series of short videos, while those attending a classroom-based course can expect a more hands-on approach. Course durations can vary from course to course but do not usually take more than a day to complete in full, unless additional topics are covered.

In any case, passing the course exam will require the driver to know the basic of safe boat operation and AR waterway regulations.

Arkansas Boater Safety Courses

Boating classes are a great resource for Arkansas residents who would like to learn more about how to safely operate a variety of PWCs and water vessels, even if not required for everyone. Although offered in a variety of formats, all types of boating school in Arkansas cover the same basic subjects relating to the best practices for safe boat operation and state regulations governing the waterways.

Once the driver has received his or her boat safety certificate, boat drivers can expect to have a handle on how to drive basic motorboats, what safety regulations all boaters must adhere to while operating a water vessel, minimum specifications for boat gear and much more.

While every boater safety course online or in the classroom is unique, they will all touch on the most commonly applied state laws affecting how to legally operate PWCs and water vessels in Arkansas as well. The AGFC includes the following six topics in its study guide for boaters:

  1. Before Getting Underway
  2. Getting Out on the Water
  3. Navigation and Safe Operation
  4. Arizona’s Legal Requirements of Boating
  5. Boating Emergencies
  6. Enjoying Water Sports

Renewing and Replacing an Arkansas Boating License

Once a boat operator has received a boater education card, it is necessary for him or her to keep the documentation with him or her at all times when operating a water vessel. If a licensed boater somehow loses or damages his or her credential, he or she can request a replacement for a small fee by calling 1-800-830-2268 or going to In some cases, boaters who received an online certificate may be able to simply print another verification offline.

Do boating licenses expire in Arkansas? Because boaters only receive education cards instead of licenses, they do not need to be concerned with expiration dates or renewals. Proof of passing an approved education course never expires.

Arkansas Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration is required by all owners of motorized water vessels and sailboats in Arkansas. A valid boat title should also accompany every water vessel based in the state of Arkansas. Registration and titling are handled by the AGFC and the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). Registrations are usually valid for a period of three years before they need to be renewed. All registration requests must be accompanied by the necessary application fee, which varies according to the length of the boat.

All water vessel owners will receive boat registration stickers at the time of successfully submitting their registration and title application. These stickers must be affixed to the correct locations on the water vessel to be valid and easily visible by officials. Water vessels that are not powered by an engine or a sail are not required to be registered in Arkansas. Newly purchased vehicles must be registered and titled within 30 days of purchase.

Arkansas Boating Rules and Regulations

All boat operators must be familiar with AR boating regulations when operating any type of water vessel in state waterways. These regulations include important boat requirements for adhering to state safety standards and protecting both boaters and others enjoying Arkansas nature. Some examples of essential boating laws that all drivers in Arkansas should keep in mind when boating include:

  • Boating rules strictly prohibit boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in Arkansas and persecuted similarly to driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Drivers found operating a boat while impaired may face criminal charges.
  • All water vessels must have at least one wearable, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved life jacket on board for every person on the boat at all times.
  • All life jackets must fit appropriately according to the age, weight and activity of expected occupants and be in proper, usable condition.
  • All water vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have at least one throwable USCG-approved personal flotation device.
  • Passengers on all water vessels who are 12 years of age or younger must wear an USCG-approved life jacket securely fastened at all times when on any type of water vessel.
  • All boat passengers of any age aboard any type of personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a life jacket at all times.
  • All motorized water vessels must have a Type B fire extinguisher on board.
  • All motorized watercraft and sailboats must display the necessary signal lights at an appropriate strength from sunset to sunrise and during restricted visibility.

Arkansas Boating License Fees

The cost to take the state required boating education program varies from course to course as there is no standard state fee. Most boating lessons taught in-person in a classroom setting are free to the public and offer students the necessary course materials. Online programs usually carry a $20 to $30 course enrollment fee before allowing student drivers full access to the program.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.