Applying for a boating license is necessary for Texas residents under a certain age, while older adults can operate a boat without first applying for a special permit. TX boat drivers looking into how to get a boating license must submit a request to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to receive a license. All applicants for a license must complete a state-approved education program before they can be found eligible to receive a permit.

Texas boat operators can take an online boating license course to satisfy this education requirement in many cases. While adults over a certain age are not usually required to request a license, the court can order a negligent boat driver to complete a program. Once received, drivers can request a duplicate for a lost or destroyed certificate by contacting the course operator or TPWD. All requests for a license must be accompanied by the appropriate fee to be processed correctly. Read on for more information about licenses for boat operators in Texas.

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

A boat certification is required by any boat operator who was born on or after September 1, 1993. Getting a boat license for boaters in this category is a matter of completing the necessary education as recommended by the state.

Texas residents younger than 13 years of age are not permitted to operate a boat alone under any circumstances. These basic age restrictions apply to all operators of vehicles which meet the following conditions:

  • Has engine strength over 15 horsepower
  • Is over 14 feet in length
  • Is a Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Texas Boat License Requirements

The boating license age is the most important eligibility requirement that boat operators must meet in order to legally drive a vessel in Texas waters. Requirements for operators who fall into this category include that drivers must carry their education card received after passing the course and a valid photo I.D. at all times when driving a boat.

Adults born before September 1, 1993 are not generally required to pass a boater exam in order to legally operate most types of basic water vessels in Texas water. Adults who are eligible for a motor vehicle driver license should have no problem operating a boat. Similar rules and regulations apply as well.

Getting a Boat License in Texas

Drivers asking where to get a boating license in Texas will be relieved to know they have two education options available to them. Because a license is the equivalent of a boat safety certificate received from passing a TX approved education program, drivers must enroll in a certified course to receive the qualification necessary to legally drive a boat. This course is intended to teach new boat drivers the basics of safe and lawful boat operation.

Once a boater has deemed it necessary to enroll in a boaters safety course, he or she can choose from an array of course options offered both online and in-person at locations across the state. The TPWD has an up-to-date list of schools currently offering in-person boating classes and websites offering approved online course options.

Enrolling in a course is as easy as contacting the head of the course and signing up. A standard course fee applies to all student enrollments. Once this course has been passed, the student will receive a certificate of completion to be used as his or her TX license.

Texas Boater Safety Courses

All approved boating courses in Texas are taught by members of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, US Power Squadron, trained TPWD volunteers, teachers or game wardens who are familiar with state boat policies. How long does it take to get a boating license through an approved education program in Texas? Course duration can vary, but most programs last just a few hours.

Boat drivers in Texas can choose from courses taught completely online or in the classroom. All courses are required to cover the same principle information, though many courses include additional material beyond the required subjects.

To get a boating license online in Texas, new boat drivers can visit any of the state-approved providers of education programs online to easily sign up for a course. These courses meet the same state requirements that in-person courses do but can be completed whenever and wherever the driver chooses. There is no difference in the certification received for a course taken online or in-person in Texas.

Renewing and Replacing a Texas Boating License

Boating without a license is illegal for any person operating a boat over 14 feet long or with more than 8.5 horsepower born on or after September 1, 1993. Not only does the driver have to have taken the boating education course, but he or she must also keep the certification with him or her at all times when driving a boat. If the driver is under the age of 18, he or she must be accompanied by an eligible or licensed boat driver who should also carry the necessary identification documents at all times.

Do boating licenses expire at any point after completion of the course in Texas? No, course certificates are considered valid licenses indefinitely. If a license holder loses or destroyed his or her boater education card, he or she can request a duplicate card either from the school which provided the course or directly from the TPWD.

The TPWD offers an online look-up service for licenses that allows drivers to print a copy of their certification if it is on file with the state office. The most popular online programs also have easy procedures for requesting a copy of an existing education certificate, usually free of charge.

Texas Boat Registration Basics

A Texas boat registration is required by all water vessels over 14 feet in length or that have a motor must be registered and titled with the TPWD. Getting a boat title and registration can be done by bringing the applicant’s Texas Parks and Wildlife Identification Number along with a credit or debit card for the processing fee to the TPWD. Multiple locations around the state accept registration requests for boats, including participating Tax Assessor-Collector Office, any of the state’s 27 Texas Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement field offices and the TWPD headquarters in Austin.

There are several types of boats that do not require boat registration stickers or any form or title from the TPWD. These boats are not motorized and include non-motorized canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, or rubber rafts if propelled by paddles, poles, oars or sails under 14 feet in length when windblown.

Texas Boating Rules and Regulations

Texas boating regulations dictate how a boat driver should prepare for every trip, appropriate boat operation and best practices for remaining safe. While boating laws do not restrict drivers from operating a boat with open alcohol containers in the vicinity, operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited in the same way as when driving a car. Some important boating requirements that boat drivers in Texas should remember include:

  • Children under 13 years of age must wear a life jacket at all times when in a moving boat under 26 feet in length.
  • Wardens and Marine Safety Enforcement Officers enforce the Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) law, which prohibits drivers with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of more than 0.08 or who are otherwise impaired from operating a boat.
  • All water vessels, regardless of size or propulsion mechanism, must display at least one bright light in a location that is visible from all direction at all times from sunset to sunrise in all weather conditions.
  • All water vessels, including canoes and kayaks, must have a Type I, II, III or V wearable Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for each person on board at any time.
  • All water vessels over 16 feet in length must have at least one Type IV throwable PFD.
  • All water vessels with a motor must carry a whistle, horn, bell or equivalent sound making device to signal for help in case of emergency.

Texas Boating License Fees

In Texas, getting a boat certification should cost not more than $20 for an approved course. There is at least one national organization, BoatUS, which provides Texas-approved courses from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) at no cost to interested and eligible drivers. Acceptable payment methods for the course cost vary from program to program and should be confirmed with the course provider before signing up.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.