Can I Use My Boat License in Another State?

Close-up of a boat hull on calm waters; can I use my boat license in another state concept?

Wouldn't it be awesome if your boater education card or boating license allowed you to boat in your home state as well as the states you're vacationing in?

The idea of taking a separate course for every state where you plan to boat is overwhelming (and costly). 

We have good news! If you've successfully completed an official boating safety course through Boat-Ed or an ilearntoboat course, your boater education card is welcome in every state that requires mandatory boater education. Keep reading to learn why you need a safety certification and how to make sure you're licensed to boat anywhere you travel in the States!

Example of a boater education card.

Why You Need a Boater Education Card

Driving a boat without taking a required boater safety course is dangerous. In most states, it's also illegal. 

Rather than risk your own safety or the safety of friends and family in your boat or people in other boats on the water, it's best to prepare for boating season ahead of time. Taking a safety course and passing the exam not only gives you a required boater education card so you can legally drive a boat, but it also helps keep you and others safe on the water. 

Safe boating leads to more fun during boating season! 

Your Card Never Expires

Your boater education card will never expire and doesn't need to be renewed. Once you take your required course and pass the exam, you won't have to do it again! 

Plus, as we mentioned earlier, the boating license for your state is good in any state requiring licensing to operate a watercraft. That means when your plans call for vacationing in another state, the boater education card you already have is your passport to operate a boat there. 

For example, if you have a Virginia boating license and you plan to head over to Maryland for a fun weekend on the water, you're ready to set sail. 

Boat-Ed courses are approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). NASBLA represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and the U.S. territories. One of the organization's jobs is maintaining national boating education standards to ensure you're learning the most important information to stay safe.

Carry Your Card With You

Remember, when operating a boat, make sure you carry your card with you. In states where you must pass a boating safety course, you must carry the boating certification card with you when boating. You'll avoid a big hassle if you can present that card to the law enforcement officer if you're stopped.

If you're like most people, you've got a ton of other cards to keep track of, so it's easy to misplace your boater education card – especially at the end of the last boating season when you're you're winterizing and storing your boat for the off-season. 

No problem! Just head over to Boat-Ed and select your state. Then, on your state's page, click the link in the upper right corner that says "Lost Cards." That's where you'll find your state's step-by-step instructions for how to replace a lost card.

Screenshot of the Lost Card button on Boat-Ed, replace your boater education card concept.

Boat Safely in Any State With Your Boater Education Card

Now that you know the ropes about your boating license (or boater education card), you can focus on fun! Staying safe on the water means you get to spend more time enjoying your boat every season. 

Boat-Ed makes it easy to get your boat safety card before it's time to launch again! Our courses are state-approved and 100% online, so you can learn at your own pace. When you've completed the course units, you can also take your exam and order your card online. 

Find your state course, learn critical safety, navigation, and maintenance aspects of boating, and then carry your card in any state where you boat!


Originally published May 30, 2013. Content updated November 30, 2023.