Rather than needing to obtain a boating license in Minnesota, you must apply for a watercraft operator’s permit (also referred to as a boat safety certificate) if you are younger than 18 years of age and wish to operate a boat or personal watercraft without adult supervision. However, be mindful that this permit is only a requirement if you are within a certain age range. Moreover, that age range varies depending on whether you wish to operate a motorboat or a personal watercraft such as a jet ski or wave runner.

To get a watercraft safety certificate in MN, you must complete a boaters safety course that is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). Despite the fact that taking this course is only a requirement for motorists who are younger than 18 years of age, it is also recommended for adult boat operators. In any case, the completion of this program may provide benefits such as a discount on boat insurance. To learn more about getting a certificate, read the sections below.

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

More often than not, Minnesota boating licenses are required for residents to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft. However, an MN boater education card is required in the state in lieu of a license, and it is only a requirement for young boaters who wish to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft without needing a direct adult or parental supervision.

Furthermore, operators who are younger than 12 years of age may be able to operate a motorboat without restrictions depending on the horsepower (h.p.) of the boat. For example, boaters younger than 12 years of age:

  • May legally operate a boat powered by a motor with 25 horsepower or less with no restrictions.
  • May legally operate a boat powered by a motor 26 – 75 horsepower only if there is a supervising person of at least 21 years of age aboard the boat with access to its controls.
  • May not legally operate a boat powered by a motor with more than 75 horsepower under any conditions.

Operators between 12 and 17 years of age have different restrictions regarding motorboats and may require a boater safety card. Thus, these motorists:

  • May legally operate a boat powered by a motor with 25 horsepower or less with no restrictions.
  • May legally operate a boat powered by a motor with more than 25 horsepower only if they have either:
    • A watercraft operator’s permit.
    • A supervising person of at least 21 years of age on board the boat with access to the vessel’s controls.

The rules for operating personal watercraft such as a jet ski or wave runner are different. The rules are as follows, regardless of horsepower:

  • Residents younger than 13 years of age may not legally operate a personal watercraft under any circumstances.
  • Operators who are at least 13 years of age may legally operate a personal watercraft if they have either:
    • Someone at least 21 years of age on board.
    • A watercraft operators permit and are in direct visual supervision of someone at least 21 years of age.
  • Motorists between 14 and 17 years of age may legally operate a personal watercraft if they have either:
    • Someone at least 21 years of age on board.
    • A watercraft operators permit (no supervision required).
  • Operators 18 years of age or older may legally operate a personal watercraft without restrictions.

Minnesota Boat License Requirements

The boating license age required to get an operator’s permit is 12 years of age in Minnesota. As mentioned in the previous section, motorboat operators between the 12 and 17 years of age and personal watercraft operators between 13 and 17 years of age are required to obtain the permit if they wish to operate their vessel without direct adult supervision.

Despite the fact that general boat license requirements include these age criteria, adults who wish to learn more about boating safety are able to enroll in an education program and receive a certificate as well.

Getting a Boat License in Minnesota

If you are wondering how to get a boating license or permit in Minnesota, the process simply involves enrolling in and completing an educational course. You must do the following:

  1. Enroll in the approved school through the steps provided by that program.
  2. Study the information provided in the course.
  3. Pass the boater exam.
  4. Pay the applicable course fee.
  5. Receive your card.

Minnesota Boater Safety Courses

A Minnesota boating course must be successfully completed in order for an operator’s permit to be provided. You may either choose from an online boaters safety course that is approved through the NASBLA, or you can find an in-classroom course offered through organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons. Although the online courses require a fee, some of the classroom courses are offered for free or at a reduced cost.

The exact information included in each boating school program will vary depending on the institution offering the instructions. However, you will typically learn about boating safety, traffic laws, necessary equipment and handling emergency situations.

Despite the fact that these courses are not required for residents who are 18 years of age or older, adults seeking a boating license can learn more about boat safety and techniques. Thus, all applicants are encouraged to take these types of courses. In addition, motorists may be eligible for a discount on boat insurance rates. To learn more about potential discounts, contact your boat insurance agency.

Renewing and Replacing a Minnesota Boating License

Many boaters wonder, “Do boating licenses expire in Minnesota?” Overall, state-issued operator’s permits do not have an expiration date because they are not technically licenses. Because they do not expire, they also do not need to be renewed. Thus, these boating permits function differently in comparison to standard drivers licenses.

However, in the event that you lose your permit or it gets damaged, you can replace it. To do so, contact the establishment that provided you with the card and follow the instructions that are applicable to your credential.

Minnesota Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration is a requirement in the state of Minnesota. You must register your new watercraft in person as initial boat registration online is not an option. When you register for the first time, you must know the length, manufacturer, model, year, serial or hull identification number of your boat. It is crucial that you are prepared ahead of time so that you can anticipate a smooth process.

Boat registration stickers are valid for a period of three calendar years. Once they expire, it is your responsibility to renew your registration in person or online. Keeping your boat properly registered is a necessary part of being a boat operator/owner and must be taken seriously. Otherwise, not registering your watercraft may lead to serious consequences.

Minnesota Boating Rules and Regulations

Minnesota has boating laws that must be followed in order for motorists to avoid consequences. These boating regulations are important to understand and abide by in order to ensure that everyone in the watercraft stays safe. For instance, it is against the law:

  • For youth to operate a watercraft without a permit and/or proper adult supervision.
  • To operate a watercraft in a reckless manner.
  • To operate a watercraft so that its wake endangers or harasses any person or property.
  • To operate a watercraft so that is obstructing ordinary navigation.
  • To ride or sit on any part of the boat without proper railings where the danger of falling overboard is increased.
  • To chase wildlife with a motorboat.
  • To operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled or harmful substances.
  • To operate a boat with more passengers than allowed per capacity.

Minnesota Boating License Fees

The fee for getting your permit is based on the cost of completing the boaters course of your choice. In Minnesota, you have the option to participate in either an online or in-classroom program, and the cost of the permit is included in the price you pay for the class. In general, you are not likely to pay more than $25 for the course and permit.

Last updated on Thursday, March 7 2019.

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