In West Virginia, a boating license is required for all drivers of motorized water vessels born after a certain date. Drivers who would like to learn more about how to get a boating license can review information from the WV Division of Natural Resources (DNR) which oversees all boating services in the state. Drivers born who meet the eligibility requirements must enroll in and pass a state-approved education program and receive the accompanying certificate of completion.

Drivers can sign up for an online boating license or a classroom-based course to complete the necessary state requirement. Once completed, the driver can use proof of completing the course as his or her license to legally operate a water vessel in the state. Most boats and Personal Watercraft (PWCs) must be registered and titled to be legal. All drivers must adhere to state laws and regulations when driving any sort of water vessel in West Virginia.

Do you need a license to drive a boat in West Virginia?

A boat certification is required by all boat operators in West Virginia who were born after December 31, 1986. Getting a boat license or attending an education program is not necessary for WV drivers born before this date.

Oftentimes, drivers of small boats without a motor do not need to meet licensing requirements either. The DNR requires drivers to complete an education program instead of applying for a typical license.

West Virginia Boat License Requirements

Where to get a boating license in West Virginia depends on where a driver can find a state-approved course currently accepting students by them. Drivers can also choose to enroll in an online boaters safety course to meet the state’s education requirements to avoid attending a course in-person. All classroom-based courses in West Virginia are taught by one of the following state-approved groups:

  • The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
  • The United States Power Squadron
  • The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
  • Individuals certified by the DNR to teach boating safety

The boating license age when drivers can legally drive a water vessel without supervision is 16 years of age in West Virginia. Drivers between 12 to 15 years of age can operate applicable water vessels under the supervision of an eligible adult driver and boats with less than 10 horsepower without adult supervision.

Some boat drivers are exempt from the typical WV boat license requirements required of other drivers born after 1986. Any boat operator that means any of the following conditions is not obligated to complete a WV boaters safety course:

  • Nonresidents visiting the state for 60 days or less with a motorboat or PWC registered in another state, if the driver is at least 15 years of age and been issued a boating safety certificate from another state or a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)-approved program
  • Nonresidents visiting the state for 60 days or less with a motorboat or PWC visiting from another country.
  • Any driver using a water vessel in connection with commercial activity
  • Any boat operator who purchased his or her boat within the last 45 days

Getting a Boat License in West Virginia

Most boating classes approved in West Virginia last from four to eight hours, though significant variations in course duration and content exist. Before a driver can sign up for the right boating education program, he or she should consider the pros and cons of taking an online program or of enrolling in an in-person program. WV drivers who need a license can take the following steps to sign up for a state-approved boating school and receive the necessary certification:

  1. Decide whether you would like to take an approved education program online or in a classroom. The WV DNR offers a list of qualified programs currently offerings courses across the state or on the web. Both free and fee-based courses can be found.
  2. Sign up for the course of your choice. Study the WV boating guide and other applicable material to prepare for the course exam.
  3. Take the required exam.
  4. When you pass, receive your Certificate of Completion electronically or in print format. This is your license that should be kept with you at all times when operating a motor vehicle.

West Virginia Boater Safety Courses

The boaters safety courses approved by the WV DNR cover a variety of topics related to the safe operation of motorized boats and PWCs. In order to complete the course and pass the boat license test, applicants must also become familiar with laws and regulations specific to driving in WV waterways. While the typical online boating course last just four to eight hours, other classes (especially those that are classroom-based) last longer and cover more topics in-depth.

Renewing and Replacing a West Virginia Boating License

Once earned, it is important for boat operators to keep their boater safety card with them at all times when driving a water vessel in West Virginia. If a driver somehow loses or destroys his or her boating license, he or she is required to request a duplicate from their nearest DNR Law Enforcement Office. To request a replacement, drivers must complete a Hunter and Boater Duplicate Education Certification form, prepare the application fee by check or money order and mail the packet to the DNR for processing.

Do boating licenses expire in West Virginia? Because the WV DNR does not technically issue licenses, requiring education certificates for permission instead, there is no expiratory date for drivers to worry about. Certificates of completion for education programs do not expire.

West Virginia Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration is required for all water vessels propelled by an electrical, steam, gas, diesel or other fuel propelled or driven motor operating in West Virginia. Both boat title and registration procedures are overseen by the WV Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which accepts applications accompanied by the necessary processing $15 fee. Registration and title documents issued in West Virginia have a validity of three years.

Upon registration, the boat owner will receive boat registration stickers that he or she must display on his or her water vessel. The water vessel will also be issued a certificate number that will remain with the vessel throughout its lifetime. Boating without a valid registration or title is illegal in West Virginia, akin to driving a motor vehicle on the road without a valid driver’s license.

West Virginia Boating Rules and Regulations

West Virginia boating regulations were designed to keep boaters, swimmers and all others enjoying state waterways safe at all times. To meet those ends, several state boat requirements concern the type of equipment boats must carry and the emergency systems they must be equipped with in order to be up to legal standards. Some examples of important West Virginia boat laws and regulations operators should be aware of include:

  • All water vessels must have at least one wearable, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved Type I, II or III life jacket on board for every person on the boat at all times.
  • All Class 1, 2 or 3 water vessels 16 feet or longer must have at least one throwable USCG-approved Type IV personal flotation device.
  • These life jackets must fit appropriately according to the age, weight and activity of expected occupants.
  • Boat passengers who are 12 years of age or younger must wear an approved life jacket at all times when the boat is in motion, unless inside the cabin.
  • All motorboats should carry at least one Type B-I fire extinguisher, according to their size.
  • All registered water vessels must have the necessary sound and light emergency signaling systems.
  • Similar state laws exist to prevent driving a boat while under the influence as for driving motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

West Virginia Boating License Fees

The total cost a driver can expect to pay for his or her boating license depends on how he or she chooses to meet the education requirements for application. Getting a boat card in West Virginia comes down to passing a state-approved education course, which can be free or cost up to about $40. Drivers who need to replace a certificate that has been lost or destroyed will be expected to pay a $10 processing fee.

Last updated on Thursday, March 7 2019.

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