While Georgia boaters do not technically need to apply for a boating license to operate a boat in the state, many GA operators of water vessels are required to complete a state-approved education program before driving a boat. Boat operators can enroll in a certified boaters safety course either online or through a classroom-based program to receive the necessary qualification. All courses cover the same basic material concerning the safe operation of a variety of types of water vessels and important state laws and policies governing the waterways.

How to get a boating license depends on what type of course the boater would like to enroll in. Boaters who are born after a certain date are exempt from the education policy and can operate boats without formal certification. All motorized water vessels and some other types of boats must be registered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which oversees most boater services in the state. Keep reading to find out more about how to get your certification to boat in Georgia.

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

Enrolling in an approved boating course is required for all Georgia boat operators who were born on or after January 1, 1998. This boat certification rule applies to the operation of all motorized water vessels based in Georgia. In addition to adults before 1998, the following categories of boat operators are exempt from having to meet the education requirement:

  • Drivers licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a Master of a Vessel
  • Drivers operating on a private lake or pond
  • Non-resident drivers who can proof that they have already passed a boater education course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) or equivalency examination in another state.

Georgia Boat License Requirements

The minimum boating license age in Georgia is 12 years of age to operate any water vessel. Boaters who are 12 to 15 years of age must complete boating classes to be able to operate any water vessel and are only permitted to drive boats that are less than 16 feet in length and have less than 30 horsepower under the supervision of a qualified adult. Drivers in this age group may operate personal watercraft (PWC) under 16 feet in length independently if the necessary course has been completed.

Boat license requirements for all drivers include providing proof of identification when signing up for the course. There is no residency requirement to receive a GA permit, but students may be required to request a GADNR Customer ID Number before they can sign up for an approved program.

Getting a Boat License in Georgia

Georgia boat operators can sign up for a boater safety course online or in-person by checking out the DNR’s list of approved programs currently accepting students. The state has approved several classroom-based and online boating course options to provide GA residents with multiple options to meet the state requirement. Both types of courses must be signed up for online. The driver will be required to provide some form of ID, preferably by providing a GADNR Customer ID Number from other services rendered through the DNR.

A spot in classroom-based boating classes can be reserved by creating a profile and signing up at GoOutdoorsGeorgia.com. How long does it take to get a boating license in Georgia? Most in-person courses are completed in a single day. Online courses, which are signed up for by visiting the course provider’s individual website, can be completed at the desired pace of the student. After completing the course, drivers are usually eligible to get out on the water immediately with proof of having passed the course.

Georgia Boater Safety Courses

All online boaters safety course programs and classroom-based programs cover the same basic material to adequately prepare drivers for safe boating. The typical boating education program in Georgia will go over how to safely operate different types of water vessels under a variety of conditions, including emergencies. It will also cover the state laws and regulations which govern GA waterways and how to legally drive boats. These courses are great for both new boat drivers and experienced operators who would like to learn more about boating specifically in Georgia.

Before taking the boating license course, Georgia boat drivers can review the Handbook of Georgia Boating Laws and Responsibilities for an in-depth look at the topics which will be covered in the course. Covering issues like safe boating techniques, boat equipment requirements and penalties for breaking the law, drivers who complete an approved course will be ready to use most types of water vessels on any of Georgia’s waterways.

Renewing and Replacing a Georgia Boating License

After receiving a GA boat safety certificate, boat operators are required to keep the certification with them at all times when operating an applicable water vessel. If a driver somehow damages or loses his or her credential, he or she is required to request a replacement before they can legally operate another water vessel. Drivers who took the course in-person can simply log back into their account at GoOutdoorsGeorgia.com and print another card for free. Drivers who studied online must contact the course provider for a duplicate.

Do boating licenses expire in Georgia? The GA boater education card required by the DNR does not have an expiration date and does not need renewal. This is the primary difference between requiring an educational certification instead of a license (which would necessarily have an expiration date).

Georgia Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration is required in Georgia by the owners of mechanically-propelled water vessels and sailboats over 12 feet in length. A boat title is not required by the state of Georgia for most private property. Boat owners who have recently acquired a water vessel or recently moved to Georgia have 15 days to submit new registration information the DNR to avoid late fees and penalties. GA boat owners can apply for first-time registration and registration renewal in three methods: online, by mail and by phone.

The DNR will provide boat registration stickers to all registered boat owners after successful registration. These decals must be affixed to the necessary area on the water vessel and visible at all times. Boat owners will receive new decals every time they renew their registration that can replace those stickers currently on their water vessel.

Georgia Boating Rules and Regulations

Boating rules in Georgia were created to keep boaters, swimmers and others enjoying the state’s waterways safe while also protecting the state’s natural environment. As such, GA boating regulations stipulate how to correctly operate water vessels and the type of safety and emergency equipment that all water vessels of certain classes must maintain at all times to be up to legal standards.

Other boating laws govern how water vessels should interact with other water vessels or respond to difficult navigational situations. A sampling of boat requirements that all drivers should be aware of when boating in Georgia include:

  • All water vessels must have at least one wearable, Type I, II, III or V life jacket (PFD) 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.
  • Passengers on all water vessels who are 13 years of age or younger must wear a USCG-approved life jacket at all times when the boat is in motion.
  • All water vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have at least one throwable Type IV USCG-approved personal flotation device.
  • All boat passengers of any age aboard any type of personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a Type I, II, III or V life jacket at all times.
  • All boat passengers of any age being owed behind a vessel must wear a life jacket, ski belt or ski jacket at all times.
  • All water vessels must have an adequate visual distress system on board if operating in darkness to signal for help in the case of an emergency.
  • All motorized watercraft under 26 feet in length must display a 20-point combination red and green sidelight and an additional light during all hours of darkness or low visibility.
  • Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in Georgia. Criminal charges will be brought against drivers found to be operating a vehicle impaired.

Georgia Boating License Fees

The cost of boating lessons depends on who is providing the course. In most cases, DNR boating classes taught in a classroom are free of charge. Most online programs carry an enrollment fee, though free NASBLA- and DNR-approved online programs can be found.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.