driver’s license

It depends on your age. From 2018 to 2025, the state is phasing in mandatory boater education based on operator age, requiring boaters to have a boating license, similar to how a driver’s license is required to legally operate a car on the road. These new regulations will apply to anyone operating a motorized vessel on California waterways (including powered sailboats and paddlecraft). Beginning January 1, 2018, the mandatory education law for boaters in California applies to persons aged 20 and under. Here is the full list of dates by which boating licenses will be required:

  • Everyone 20 years old and under – Jan 1, 2018
  • Everyone 25 years old and under – Jan 1, 2019
  • Everyone 35 years old and under – Jan 1, 2020
  • Everyone 40 years old and under – Jan 1, 2021
  • Everyone 45 years old and under – Jan 1, 2022
  • Everyone 50 years old and under – Jan 1, 2023
  • Everyone 60 years old and under – Jan 1, 2024
  • Everyone regardless of age – Jan 1, 2025

There are additional benefits to being a BOATsmart! cardholder – once you’ve obtained the card, it will be good for life, it will keep you legal when boating in other states, and you’ll even save money on your boat insurance. Get your California Boater Card now and be prepared for the change!