The process to obtain a boating license in North Carolina is developed to ensure residents practice this recreational activity safely. Understanding how to operate motorboats is essential when applying for permits. In person and online boating license safety courses are available for boaters to enroll in. These classes teach students basic regulations and techniques for driving water vessels. Education certificates are awarded to drivers who successfully complete courses.

In order to be granted boating privileges in the state, residents must meet eligibility requirements for new drivers. Boat certification is only provided to applicants who adhere to these standards. Additionally, specific fees should be paid by drivers to receive education certificates. Learn more about the steps to obtain licenses for new boaters in NC by consulting the next sections.

Do you need a license to drive a boat in North Carolina?

Any person born after January 1, 1988 must take an education course to be awarded boating privileges. Residents born before this date are exempt from these requirements. In North Carolina, all residents 14 years of age or older must take boaters safety courses to drive personalized watercraft (PWC).

However, drivers older than 14 may operate water vessels without taking an education course if they are under a valid supervisor. An adult who has already completed the process of getting a boat license and is 18 years of age or older is an acceptable supervisor. This is similar to how minors with a learner’s permit must be accompanied by a licensed driver.

North Carolina Boating License Requirements

Eligibility for NC boating certificates is based on a variety of factors, including age. No person younger than 14 years of age can operate a PWC over 10 horsepower. This rule is developed to ensure young drivers are especially safe on the road.

An additional boat license requirement is that residents must take a final competency exam to be granted certification. The final examination is based on a variety of important safety concepts covered during classes.

Getting a Boating License in North Carolina

NC boater education cards are only administered to drivers who successfully complete the state boating safety course. The subject of these classes is safety rules, regulations and practices specific to North Carolina.

Boating license certification is available online and in-person for state residents. For either method, the following steps should be followed to obtain a license:

  1. Find an online or in-person safety course offered in the state. Courses must be approved by the Wildlife Resource Commission to be considered valid. A variety of third-party organizations offer classes at varying costs to students.
  2. Attend the required hours of the course and complete all class components.
  3. Prepare for the final competency examination by going over all information covered during class. Additionally, these important concepts are found in the official state boaters guide.
  4. Take the boater exam in order to get final approval for education cards.
  5. Pay any required fees to be issued a physical certificate by the state.

When the aforementioned steps are successfully complete, licenses are provided by mail to applicants.

North Carolina Boater Safety Courses

The NC boaters safety course is always necessary for obtaining privileges for operating boats on state waterways. The convenient options for in-person or online classes give applicants freedom and flexibility. There are various benefits to either of these methods. Additionally, both options appeal to different styles of learning that are preferable to new drivers in the state.

The fees for attending boating schools vary throughout North Carolina. Some agencies may offer free courses, while others charge a fee to students. Going over all options available is helpful for residents to find the best course to fit their needs. However, drivers should keep in mind that a final examination is required for both class styles in order for driving privileges to be granted.

Renewing and Replacing North Carolina Boating Licenses

NC law states that boater exam certification forms must be with drivers at all times when operating water vessels. If certificates are lost or stolen, replacement should occur immediately. Otherwise, boaters could be ticketed by law enforcement for failing to produce documents when asked.

In-person and certificates can be replaced through the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. Drivers can easily submit an official request for a replacement card by email.

The following information is needed for replacement boating licenses to be issued in the state:

  • Full legal name or name change information, if applicable
  • Date of Birth
  • Official mailing address

After successful application submission and approval, drivers are issued replacement certificates.

Alternatively, online boating course certificates are obtainable only through the specific agency offering classes. Residents should contact these institutions directly to obtain replacement forms.

Boating certificates remain valid throughout a lifetime and do not have to be renewed. However, boat owners must renew their registration and title forms over time.

North Carolina Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration and title certificates are important factors for owning motorized watercraft in North Carolina. Drivers should submit a boat title and registration application form along with necessary payment. Valid signatures must be included on these documents. In some cases, certain types of water vessels are exempt from registration and titling laws.

Documents proving eligibility are required at the time of application. For example, proof of boat ownership, identity and bill of sale could be necessary. When requests are approved by the state licensing agency, boat registration stickers are provided to new boaters. These stickers should be placed on motorized water vessels in the appropriate areas, so they can be seen by law enforcement.

North Carolina Boating Rules and Regulations

Certain boating regulations are developed specially for NC residents to follow while driving motorized vessels and watercraft. These boat requirements are used to help drivers maintain safety on state waterways. Doing this allows passengers, swimmers and wildlife to be protected from unsafe driving practices.

Furthermore, natural areas remain protected when boaters respect their surrounding while using recreational boats. The following boat requirements should be followed:

  • Coast Guard approved lifejackets should be on board for those required to wear life vests.
  • All children below age 13 must wear a lifejacket at all times when riding on water vessels.
  • Driving boats while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law. Boaters can receive fines, tickets and/or be arrested for this type of behavior.
  • Every boat owned in the North Carolina must be registered with the state Wildlife Commission.
  • Boats above certain lengths should maintain approved whistles and bells.

Drivers can find further boating rules in the official state boaters guide.

North Carolina Boating License Fees

Boating certificate fees vary among educational institutions in the state, ranging anywhere between $20 to $50. In some cases, fees are assigned to boaters who would like to receive replacement licenses. Replacement fees cover processing costs for drivers to obtain new certification forms.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.