Do You Need a Licence to Rent a Boat? (UK & US Requirements)
Velos Boat Insurance


Do You Need a Licence to Rent a Boat blog banner

Do You Need a Licence to Rent a Boat? (UK & US Requirements)

There’s nothing like taking a rental boat out during the holidays, setting sail with your loved ones and completely letting go! But do you need a boating licence to rent a boat?

In some cases, boat rental is not as straightforward as boating in your personal watercraft.

Some places require that you have a boat licence, others don’t.

So, it can be a little confusing and can even prevent you from having the holidays of your dreams purely from misunderstanding the rules! 

The short answer is, in many cases, you do not need a boat licence to rent a boat, however, that isn’t the case everywhere.

The rules and regulations do indeed change from country to country, state to state, and company to company.

So, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the UK’s and USA’s boating rental regulations, and more.

Do You Need a Boat License to Rent a Boat in the UK?

Whether you need a licence or not to rent a boat in the UK depends on where you plan on using it. 

For example, if you are going to be using the boat in inland waterways, then you will need to contact the specific organisation managing the area i.e.

or other organisations relevant to where you plan to go boating.

Each area will have its own requirements regarding licences, however, most do request that all kinds of water vessels come with their own licences, boat insurance, and a Boat Safety Scheme. 

Given how busy inland waterways can be, it is only natural for the managers of these areas to want to ensure that whether you are renting a boat, or running your own, that you are more than capable of handling the boat in busy areas safely. 

If you plan on hiring any kind of sailing boat, rowing boat, canoe, or motorboat to use on the sea, then you will need to contact your local council for a pleasure boat licence.

This licence will allow you to take up to 12 passengers and roam the specific areas that you have stated. 

It is important to enquire about the right licence for your trip from your council, as it is not only dangerous to go out without one, but you also risk being fined up to £1,000 for a lack of a licence – or for ignoring the terms of your licence. 

Do You Need a Boating License to Rent a Boat in the USA?

Thankfully, most states in the US do not require you to have a boat license in order to rent a vessel. 

However, some of them do have boating license requirements.

For example, you will need to obtain a boating license in Tennessee and Texas. 

That being said, even the states that do not ask for a boating license, do still have certain requirements that need to be met: 

  • Some states ask that you be at least 16 years old to rent a boat yourself and that under that age you must be accompanied by an adult of 18 to 21 years old, and older. 
  • Some states also require the boat operator to complete an approved boating safety course before being able to rent a vessel.
  • They will also need to carry proof (which could be in the form of a temporary certificate) on their person as they navigate. 
  • In some states, such as Massachusetts, Illinois, and Idaho, there are no minimum age requirements, nor is a licence or a boating safety course required. 

Either way, whether you need a license or not, it is always wise to take a boater education course, or at least a safety course to ensure that – not just you and your passengers – but that everyone on the water around you is safe.

No matter the vessel, knowing basic safety and first aid will go a long way, and will not limit your fun.

If anything, it will make it better by ensuring that your family, friends, and the other boaters around you stay safe during your trip.

See here for more information about the US rules on licencing.

What are The Requirements to Rent a Boat?

Depending on the country and state that you are in, you may have to meet:

  • certain age requirements
  • certain aptitude tests such as online courses
  • getting a boater education card
  • a boating safety education identification

And maybe other requirements specific to the region. 

The requirements for renting the boat will also depend on the rental company that you choose.

In order to meet their insurance policies, you may have to provide different documents stating that you have successfully completed certain courses, indicating that you can safely operate a boat. 

It will also depend on the watercraft that you are renting.

For example, you will not need the same certificates for renting a canoe as you would for renting a sailboat. 

In order to ensure that you are ready and able to rent a boat, ensure that you have checked the watercraft rental safety checklist, as well as the regulations set by the country, state, and company from which you will rent the boat.

You will be able to check the regulations for renting a boat on the company’s website, before going to the shop.


So, if you are interested in boat rentals for your upcoming holiday, then remember that a little bit of research will go a long way.

Even contacting your local council or state boating law administrators will help you to get the best, precise answers that you need to get a rental boat safely this year. 

It pays to obtain a boating license wherever possible to be safe, but at the very least, ensure you know basic first aid and boating safety before you take to the water.

You never know when lives may depend on it, and the coast guard isn’t always going to be around to help you.

In the best case, you will have the all-clear and be ready to go with what you’ve got. However, don’t fall foul of the law.

Whether you’re one of several recreational boaters taking to the water this year or not, keep an eye on what’s expected of you when you rent a boat.

Get a quote online:

1. Please select where is your vessel flagged or registered: