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How Old Do You Have to Be to Drive a Boat in Minnesota?

Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” and boating is a popular recreational activity enjoyed by many residents and visitors. However, before you take the helm of a boat in Minnesota, it’s important to understand the age restrictions and requirements for operating watercraft in the state. This article will provide you with all the information you need to know about the minimum age to drive a boat in Minnesota, as well as other relevant regulations.

Minimum Age Requirements

In Minnesota, the minimum age to operate a motorized watercraft without supervision depends on the type of boat and motor. The following are the age requirements for different categories:

1. Personal Watercraft (PWC): To operate a PWC, such as a Jet Ski or WaveRunner, the minimum age is 14 years old. However, this applies only if the person has completed a boating safety course approved by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). If the individual has not taken a course, they must be at least 16 years old to operate a PWC.

2. Motorized Watercraft Under 10 Horsepower: For boats equipped with motors under 10 horsepower, there is no specific age requirement. However, it is recommended that operators be at least 12 years old and have taken a boating safety course.

3. Motorized Watercraft Over 10 Horsepower: If the boat has a motor over 10 horsepower, operators must be at least 12 years old and have a valid Minnesota watercraft operator’s permit. To obtain this permit, individuals must complete an approved boating safety course and pass a written exam.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: Can children operate a boat with adult supervision?
A: Yes, children under the minimum age requirements mentioned above can operate a boat if they are under direct supervision by a person 21 years old or older who is onboard and responsible for the watercraft’s operation.

Q: Are there any age requirements for non-motorized watercraft?
A: No, there are no specific age requirements for non-motorized watercraft such as canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards. However, it is still recommended that children have proper supervision and wear personal flotation devices (PFDs) while on the water.

Q: Do I need a boating license in Minnesota?
A: Minnesota does not require a boating license. However, individuals born after December 31, 1978, must complete an approved boating safety course and carry a certificate of completion while operating a motorized watercraft over 25 horsepower.

Q: What are the penalties for violating the age restrictions?
A: Operating a motorized watercraft without meeting the age requirements is a misdemeanor offense in Minnesota. Violators can face fines, potential jail time, and suspension of boating privileges.

Q: Are there any additional regulations for boaters in Minnesota?
A: Yes, there are several regulations that boaters must follow in Minnesota. These include maintaining proper registration and displaying registration decals on the watercraft, carrying the required safety equipment, following speed limits, and adhering to specific rules regarding water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing activities.


In Minnesota, the minimum age to drive a boat varies depending on the type of watercraft and motor. It is crucial to understand and comply with these age requirements to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the water. Remember to take a boating safety course, obtain the necessary permits, and always follow the rules and regulations set forth by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. By doing so, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable boating experience in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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