Instead of a Montana boating license, motorists who wish to operate boats are required to obtain a motorboat operators safety certificate if they are of a certain age. For example, residents who are between 13 and 14 years of age must obtain a safety certificate if they wish to operate vessels with certain horsepower without adult supervision. This certificate can only be obtained after the completion of a boaters safety course that is approved by the Natural Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

Despite the fact that you do not need to obtain a boat safety certificate in MT if you are older than 14 years of age, it is still highly recommended that you enroll in an education course to learn more about safety procedures. Having a valid certificate or proof of completion of a boating course can be a great benefit to you regardless of your current skill level. If you are interested in learning more about how to get the certificate, continue reading the sections below.

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

Several states require residents who wish to operate boats to obtain a boating license from an approved safety course. However, Montana residents must simply obtain a motorboat operators safety certificate instead.

Furthermore, this certificate is only required for motorists who are 13 or 14 years of age and wish to operate a motorboat without any adult supervision. Thus, this certificate is not required by law if there is an adult who is 18 years of age or older accompanying the youth. Among the age requirements for motorboat operator’s certificate applicants, consider the following:

  • Children who are 12 years of age or younger may not operate a boat or a personal watercraft with more than 10 horsepower unless accompanied by an individual who is 18 years of age or older.
  • Motorists who are 13 or 14 years of age may not operate a boat or personal watercraft with more than 10 horsepower unless:
    • Accompanied by an individual who is 18 years of age or older.
    • They possess a boater education card or evidence of completing an approved course.

Note: Boat operators who are older than 14 years of age are not legally required to enroll in a boat course and do not need to obtain a certificate of boat safety.

Montana Boat License Requirements

The minimum boating license age in Montana for applicants to obtain a safety certificate is 13 years of age. On the other hand, there is no age limit for obtaining a certificate. Therefore, any resident who is 13 years of age or older can enroll in an educational program and obtain this boat certification.

In addition, the only boat license requirements that must be met in order to get this certificate are completing the course and paying for the applicable fees.

Getting a Boat License in Montana

Getting a boat safety certificate in Montana is a generally simple process. First, you must enroll in a NASBLA-approved program. Then, you need to complete this course and pass the required boater exam. Once you have successfully completed this program, you will be required to pay for the applicable fees and will be issued an operator’s certificate.

Montana Boater Safety Courses

There are three different types of Montana boating schools that you can choose from. The options that you have for completing these courses include:

  • Online: There are three different approved websites that offer online classes. The fees vary depending on the company you choose.
  • Through a home-study: The Montana Motorboat Operator’s Home-Study course is available at any regional Fish, Wildlife and Parks offices or by calling the state headquarters. The home-study course is available free of charge.
  • In a classroom: These classes are sponsored by either the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks division and are generally free or inexpensive.

Regardless of which boating course option you choose, you will be awarded with a certificate once you successfully complete the program. Moreover, the information covered in each of these courses is generally the same, including boating laws, negligent operation, launching and mooring, noise limitations and emergency situations.

Renewing and Replacing a Montana Boating License

Residents often ask, “Do boating licenses expire in Montana?” Overall, these boating credentials issued in MT do not have an expiration date. That is because they are not actual licenses. Thus, unlike drivers licenses, they do not have an attached date of expiration.

In the event that your boating license/certificate was lost or destroyed, you can request a duplicate copy. If you took the Montana Motorboat Operator’s Home-Study course, you can request a duplicate by calling the Fish, Wildlife and Parks headquarters and providing the following information:

  • Your name
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Year that the certificate was issued

If your certificate was issued by an organization other than the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Home-Study course, you must contact that organization directly to inquire about getting a replacement.

Montana Boat Registration Basics

Sailboats that are 12 feet or longer and all motorboats and personal watercraft (such as jet skis or wave runners) must have proper boat registration stickers in Montana. Conversely, non-motorized sailboats that are shorter than 12 feet in length and all manually propelled boats are not required to be registered. Furthermore, government-owned boats and vessel’s lifeboats are exempt from registration as well.

To complete this registration procedure, boat owners must obtain a certificate of boat title and certificate of number. Then, applicants must pay all of the applicable fees at the treasurer office in the county where they reside. The new certificate of number must be present in the boat and must be available for inspection whenever the boat is being operated. In any case, the exact fees that must be paid for the registration vary based on the length and age of the vessel being registered.

Montana Boating Rules and Regulations

There are many strict boating regulations in Montana that you must follow in order to stay safe and avoid facing serious consequences. For example, MT law prohibits:

  • Operating a boat in a careless manner, including weaving through congested traffic, passing unreasonably close to other vessels and buzzing/wetting down others.
  • Crossing or jumping the wake of another boat within 100 yards of the vessel or within 100 yards of a water skier.
  • Traveling at a speed which does not allow for you to bring the boat to a stop within the clear distance ahead, or at a speed that is in violation of the “no wake” and speed limit signs located on the water.
  • Recklessly approaching or departing from a dock, ramp, diving board or float.
  • Operating in restricted areas.
  • Harassing wildlife.

Furthermore, there are specific boat requirements in place regarding the equipment that is allowed by Montana and federal laws. These boating laws include that all vessels must have:

  • The appropriate type and number of personal flotation devices.
  • Fire extinguishers.
  • Backfire flame arresters in every inboard gasoline engine.
  • Proper ventilation.
  • Noisemaking devices such as whistles, horns and bells.
  • Properly working navigational lights.

Montana Boating License Fees

The fees for a boat safety certificate vary depending on the course that you choose to enroll in. A few of the options, including the Montana Motorboat Operator’s Home-Study course, are offered free of charge. However, if you opt to complete an online boat safety course, you will typically pay approximately $30 to take the course and get your certificate.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.