A boating license is not required to legally operate recreational water vessels throughout the state of Colorado for drivers of any age. How to get a boating license for minors, however, does include enrolling in a state-approved education program. All boat operators are encouraged to enroll in a certified education program by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department (CPW) to learn about safe water vessel operation skills and relevant state laws governing CO waterways. Approved programs are open to boat operators of every experience level, from beginners upwards.

Boat drivers can choose to enroll in an online boaters safety course or an in-person program taught in their local area. All boating education programs should cover the same basic safety and legal topics, with some covering additional topics, as well. Signing up for an approved course is as simple as finding the right course for the driver’s needs and enrolling in the next available course. All drivers must follow CO rules and regulations at all times when operating a motorized water vessel. Read on to learn more about boating programs and permits in Colorado.

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

For most drivers in Colorado, passing a boater exam is not necessary to legally operate a water vessel. Only boaters under a certain age are required to enroll in an approved education program. Technically speaking, no CO drivers need a license to drive a recreational boat in Colorado.

Colorado Boat License Requirements

The boating license age to operate a motorized boat, sailboat or personal watercraft (PWC) without supervision in Colorado is 16 years of age. These requirements are different for boaters 14 or 15 years of age, who must complete an approved education program in order to be eligible to operate a water vessel in Colorado.

Both adults and teens are eligible to sign up for a CO certified education program. These restrictions apply to boats propelled by motors or sails and PWCs like jet skis.

Getting a Boat License in Colorado

Boat drivers can choose between enrolling in an online boating license course and a classroom-based program taught in-person at several locations across the state. The CPW maintains an up-to-date list of approved boating classes that are currently enrolling students. The first step to choosing a program is figuring out which format is the best choice for the student. The state has approved three online programs for enrollment, including those offered by BoatEd, BoaterExam and Boat U.S.

If a boater would like to enroll in a boating course taught in-person locally, he or she is required to sign up online through the CPW web portal to save a spot. Drivers must be 16 years of age or older to enroll in an online course. Boat drivers who are 14 or 15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian throughout the duration of the course. All courses carry a standard enrollment fee. CO boat operators can also enroll in education programs specifically covering navigation rules and paddling safety.

Colorado Boater Safety Courses

Regardless of whether a student decides to enroll in an online boating course or a classroom-based course, the same basic subjects are covered. All state-approved programs concentrate on teaching students the foundations of safe water vessel operation in addition to the laws and regulations governing Colorado waterways.

When completing a course in-person, students should make sure to come prepared with their government-issued ID to register the course under their name. Drivers must pass the final course exam with a score of at least 70 percent to receive credit.

Once a student has passed the necessary boat license test, he or she should keep the certificate of completion on his or her person at all times when operating a water vessel if education is required by the state. How long does it take to get a boating license in Colorado? Most classroom-based courses do not last longer than one day in Colorado. Online-based courses can be completed at the desired pace of the student.

Renewing and Replacing a Colorado Boating License

It is necessary for some drivers to keep their boat safety certificate with them when operating a water vessel or PWC according to state law. As a result, boat operators who fall into this category must replace any boat card that has been lost, damaged or stolen. How to request a replacement depends on how the student took the course. Boaters who studied online can request a duplicate online while proof of completion of classroom-based courses may have to be requested from the CPW.

Do boating licenses expire in Colorado? The CPW requires boat drivers who are 14 or 15 years of age to pass an approved education program to independently operate water vessels and PWCs. No CO resident is required to apply for a license to boat. As a result, CO residents do not need to worry about expiration dates or renewals for boating permission.

Colorado Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration must be completed by the owners of most types of water vessels if the water vessel is primarily based in Colorado and not registered in another state. Instead of having to apply for a boat title, water vessel owners are asked to provide adequate proof of ownership when applying for registration. Applying for registration can be done in just a few simple steps by mail or in-person submission method. The CPW has an up-to-date list of dealers and state agencies available for the registration of boats.

Boat owners will receive boat registration stickers once their water vessel has been properly registered in Colorado. These decals must be properly attached or painted onto the water vessel to be considered valid. Registration stickers must be regularly updated with every new registration. All registration applications must be accompanied by the necessary fees to be correctly processed.

Colorado Boating Rules and Regulations

Colorado boating regulations were designed to keep boaters and others enjoying the waterways safe while still permitting the use of the state’s great natural resources. Many of these boat requirements concern the correct type of equipment a boater is required to carry on the boat for proper use and in the case of an emergency.

Drivers who fail to adhere to state boating laws may face civil or criminal legal penalties, similar to drivers who break motor vehicle driving laws. Some examples of important boating rules that all drivers in Colorado should know about include:

  • All water vessels must have at least one wearable, Type I, II or III life jacket (PFD) 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.
  • 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 13 years of age or younger must wear a Type I, II or III USCG-approved life jacket once the boat has entered the water unless below deck.
  • All boat passengers of any age aboard any type of personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a life jacket at all times.
  • All boat passengers of any age being owed behind a vessel must wear a Type I, II or III life jacket at all times.
  • Most motorboats and all types of large water vessels over 26 feet in length must have a functional B-1 type hand-portable fire extinguisher on board.
  • Daytime signals are required for boats over 16 feet in length from sunset to sunrise. All motorized boats must carry approved night distress signals for an emergency.
  • Boating while intoxicated is strictly prohibited in Colorado. Any driver found to be operating water vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol could face criminal charges.

Colorado Boating License Fees

The boat certification cost is ultimately the price of enrolling in a state-approved education program. Classroom-based programs in Colorado generally charge a $15 fee per student. Online education programs vary in price, but generally run from $20 to $30 for the complete program.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.