If you enjoy spending time on your jet ski, you probably know how important it is to take every precaution with regard to safety. In 2012 alone, jet skis were involved in 19 percent of all boating accidents in the United States and accounted for 770 deaths.
Jet skis are subject to the same laws as any other boat, which means in the eyes of law enforcement, there is no legal difference between a jet ski and a 40-foot yacht!
That’s why it’s so important to take the time to learn how to properly operate your jet ski and obtain your jet ski license.
What is a Jet Ski License?
Due to the fact that jet skis are classified as boats, technically a jet ski license doesn’t exist. Instead, jet ski enthusiasts are required to obtain the same license as any other recreational boater.
In most states, that means taking a boating safety course that has been approved by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), although jet skiers are exempt from this law in some states.
Some jet skiers may worry that getting licensed to operate their craft is a timely and expensive process. Fortunately, this is not the case. A recreational boater’s license is very different from a commercial captain’s license and much easier and cheaper to obtain.
In most cases, it will only take you one day to study the material and take the test.
Which States Require a Jet Ski License?
If you like to travel around the country and use your jet ski in numerous states, it can be a pain keeping track of which states require a license to jet ski.
Below is a list of the requirements for each state:
- Alaska – jet ski license not required
- Arizona – jet ski license not required
- Arkansas – license required if you were born after 1986
- California – license required for any jet ski with a motor of more than 15 horsepower
- Colorado – license required for all jet skiers over 14 years of age
- Connecticut – jet ski license required for all boaters
- Delaware – jet ski license required for all boaters over 14, unless they already have a USCG captain’s license
- Florida – license required for all jet skiers, jet-skiing only allowed for people over 14 years old
- Georgia – jet ski license not required except for ages 12 to 15
- Hawaii – license required for all jet skis with engines above 10 horsepower
- Idaho – jet ski license not required
- Illinois – jet ski license required for boaters between 12 and 18 years of age
- Indiana – jet skiers must have a driver’s license to operate watercraft
- Iowa – license required for jet skiers aged 12 to 17 if the engine’s horsepower exceeds 10 hp
- Kansas – license required for jet skiers aged 12 to 20
- Kentucky – jet ski license required for boaters 12 to 17 for engines over 10 hp
- Louisiana – jet skis are not allowed for boaters under 16, but no license is required for older jet skiers
- Maine – jet skiers under 18 must show proof they completed a boating safety course
- Maryland – must be over 16 to use a jet ski. License required for all boaters born after July 1, 1972
- Massachusetts – jet ski license required for riders 12 to 15 years of age.
- Michigan – license required for riders born after July 1, 1996
- Minnesota – license required for all riders 14 to 17 years of age
- Mississippi – jet ski license required for all ages
- Missouri – license required for all riders born after January 1, 1984
- Montana – jet ski license required for all riders under 14
- Nebraska – safety course certificate required for all riders born after December 31, 1985
- Nevada – license required for riders born after January 1, 1983, with engine over 15 hp
- New Hampshire – license required if jet ski goes over 20 mph and has engine over 25 hp
- New Jersey – jet ski license required for non-tidal rivers, creeks, and lakes only
- New Mexico – license required if born after January 1, 1989
- New York – license required if born after January 1, 1993
- North Carolina – license required if born after January 1, 1988, and engine over 10 hp
- North Dakota – license required for riders under 15 with engine over 10 hp
- Ohio – jet ski license required for riders born after January 1, 1982 with engine over 10 hp
- Oklahoma – license required for riders aged 12 to 15
- Oregon – jet ski license required for riders 12 to 15
- Pennsylvania – license required for all riders
- Rhode Island – license required for all riders born after January 1, 1986
- South Carolina – license required for riders under 16 with engine over 15 hp
- South Dakota – no jet ski license required
- Tennessee – license required, riders must be over 12 years old
- Texas – license required for jet skiers born after September 1, 1993
- Utah – jet ski license required for riders 12 to 15 years old
- Vermont – license required for riders born after January 1, 1974
- Virginia – license required for all riders
- Washington – jet ski license required for all riders over 12
- West Virginia – license required for all riders born after December 31, 1986
- Wisconson – jet ski license required for all riders born after January 1, 1989
- Wyoming – no license required
Why Should I Get a Jet Ski License?
The primary reason for jet skiers to obtain their boating license aside from legal reasons is for personal safety.
Like any vessel, a jet ski operates on the same waterways as other small craft and commercial vessels, so it’s important to have a deep understanding of both how to properly operate your jet ski and all boating regulations that apply in your state.
Another reason to make sure to get your jet ski license before getting out on the water is for financial reasons.
If you decide to use your jet ski without first obtaining the required license you will be subject to a heavy fine. Considering the high cost of fuel and maintenance, another fee is the last thing you want to deal with while on the water.
One reason to get your jet ski license is due to insurance company policies. Even if your state doesn’t require a boating license to operate a jet ski, many insurance companies have this requirement anyway.
How Much Does it Cost to Get a Jet Ski License?
A jet ski license is usually very cheap to obtain. In most states, the license costs between $30 to $50 including the processing fee.
Considering the fact that the license will be good for the rest of your life, that’s quite a bargain!
How to Get Your Jet Ski License
It’s fast and easy to get your jet ski license in almost every state. Some states even allow you to take the safety test and obtain your license online!
While the exact process will vary depending on your home state, here’s a quick review of the typical process to obtain your license:
- Study the course. In most states, you can find resources to prepare for your boater’s safety test online. If not, ask your local parks and recreation commission for an informational booklet to help you prepare.
- Pass the exam. Some states will require you to take the test in person, while others offer the test through their parks and recreation website. Don’t panic if you fail on your first try, since most states will allow you to try again until you pass.
- Get your card. Once you have passed the exam, you will either be able to print off your certification at home, or it will be sent to you in the mail.
Get out on the water! You’re legal!
Are there Restrictions to My Jet Ski License?
Along with your jet ski license, there are a few other requirements that apply to jet ski operators in most US states, including:
- Using the jet ski at certain times of the day
- Maintaining adequate space between your jet ski and other boaters and people swimming in the water
- Avoiding certain waterways where jet skis have been banned
- Restrictions on who is allowed to ride on or be towed behind the jet ski
- Always wear an approved personal floatation device that is the appropriate size for the jet ski operator and passengers
- Making sure to use a safety lanyard at all times.
Getting your jet ski license goes a long way towards enjoying your time on the water with peace of mind.
Although requirements for your jet ski license vary by state, it’s always a good idea to obtain your license in order to be a safer, more knowledgeable jet skier.
No matter where you plan to use your jet ski, obtaining a license is an easy, cheap, and fast way to have more fun on the water.