Boating in Florida Guide 2023

78 Motor Yacht Enclosed 2024 78' RIVIERA Motor Yacht. Boating in Florida Guide 2023

Boating in Florida offers some of the world’s best cruising grounds for you to explore – from oceans to rivers, to lakes. As one of the yachting and boating hubs in the world, we created this guide, so people know what to expect when they ride their boat in Florida.

Florida Boating License 

Do you need a boating license in Florida? 

No, you do not legally require a boating license in Florida. However, they do require anyone born after January 1, 1988 to have completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved boating course (or an equivalent). Don’t forget to carry your boating education course ID card on you while on the water and a piece of photo ID when operating a boat over 10 horsepower.  

How much is a boat license in Florida? 

While you don’t need a boat license in Florida, the cost for the boat education certificate is $34.95 and you have unlimited chances to take the exam until you pass. 

Boat Insurance in Florida 

Is boat insurance required in Florida? 

While you may not legally require boat insurance to operate your vessel in Florida, it’s highly recommended to secure insurance before boating in Florida. Not only will your own boat be covered should you do damage to your own boat, but potentially to any other boats that may be involved in such a situation. Similar to car insurance, it helps to have that added protection, just in case the worst should happen. One important thing to note is that if you require a loan to buy your boat, you may be required to have boat insurance so please read the requirements of your loan carefully. 

How much is boat insurance in Florida?  

The cost of insurance if you’re boating in Florida will fluctuate based on a few factors: 

  • Size of the boat – as the boat increases in size, usually the insurance will as well. 
  • Cost of the boat – Not only what you paid for the boat, but the value of the vessel will be a determining factor in your boat’s insurance rates. 
  • Cruising grounds – Will you be spending your time out on the open ocean off the coast of Florida, or mainly inland on closed rivers and lakes? 
  • Frequency of use – Insurance rates will go up if you live on your boat full time; but also, since most people boating in Florida can use their boat year-round, the rates can be higher than other places around the globe. 

Florida Boat Registration 

How to register a boat in Florida?  

If your boat is over 16ft in Florida, you’ll need to register it. The requirements to complete a registration for a boat in Florida includes the following: 

  • Complete the registration within 30 days of purchase. 
  • Proof of ownership (bill of sale, builder’s contract, etc.). 
  • Pay the appropriate fee (this will depend on the length of your boat).  

Please check the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) website for more information. 

Can I register a boat online in Florida? 

No, you can’t currently register a boat online in Florida. You have to file your application for boat registration with your local county tax collector or license plate agent. 

Can a non-resident register a boat in Florida? 

If you are a non-resident looking to register your boat in Florida, first know that you can operate your vessel in Florida for up to 90 days until you’d have to register it in state. You must be carrying a valid registration from other state or city, and if you plan to stay for less than 90 days, this will suffice. However, if you wish to remain longer than 90 days, you will have to register your boat like everyone else at a local county tax collector or license plate agency. 

How much is it to register a boat in Florida? 

According to the FLHSMV website linked above, the rates to register a boat in Florida are: 

  • Class A-1, less than 12 feet – Registration fee: $5.50 / Reduced fee: $2.95 
  • Class A-2, 12 to less than 16 feet – Registration fee: $16.25 / Reduced fee: $11.00 
  • Class 1: 16 to less than 26 feet – Registration fee: $28.75 / Reduced fee: $20.40 
  • Class 2: 26 to less than 40 feet – Registration fee: $78.25 / Reduced fee: $57.50 
  • Class 3: 40 to less than 65 feet – Registration fee: $127.75 / Reduced fee: $94.95 
  • Class 4: 65 to less than 110 feet – Registration fee: $152.75 / Reduced fee: $113.40 
  • Class 5: 110 or more feet – Registration fee: $189.75 / Reduced fee: $141.15 

Registration fees also include a $2.25 service fee and $.50 FRVIS fee, not included in fees above. 

COMMERCIAL FEES: An additional $50 commercial vessel license fee is required of all non-residents or aliens unless specifically exempted by statute. 

NOTE: The optional county fee is retained by the county where the vessel is registered. Counties that charge the optional county fee are: Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Dade, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Volusia. 

*The above was taken from the FLHSMV page on boat registration in Florida. 

How to get a title for a boat in Florida? 

Similar to the above, you will need to apply for a title for a boat in Florida from your local county tax collector or license plate agent office. Some vessels are exempt from titling so please refer to the above link to make sure yours will need a title. Note, most private boats will require a title unless they are being used exclusively on a private lake or pond. 

Can you sell a boat without a title in Florida? 

Technically no, you cannot sell a boat without a title in Florida. Legally, Florida requires a transfer of vessel title from the previous owner to the new one in order to obtain legal ownership. So, unless your prospective buyer is paying cash, it will be much harder to sell your boat without a title for those that require a boat loan. 

Florida Boating Essentials 

What is required to operate a boat in Florida?  

In order to safely and responsibly operate a boat in Florida, you should have: 

  • Completed a boat safety course. 
  • Completed and carry your Boating Safety Education Identification Card. 
  • Registered and titled your boat. 
  • Have the right number of life jackets for your guests. 
  • Carry safety equipment (life ring), and first aid kit. 
  • Working navigational lighting. 
  • Safety items like flare gun, horn, etc. 

What do you need to drive a boat in Florida?  

Since you don’t require a license to drive a boat in Florida, you won’t need to officially have a license to operate your boat. However, you do require the items above and most importantly, items one and two – completed a boat safety course and carry your Boat Safety Education ID card. Obviously, you need to know how to drive the boat in order to safely leave and return to the dock. 

How old to drive a boat in Florida? 

You must be at least 14 years old to drive a boat in Florida. Please do keep in mind this if for smaller boats, so if you are looking into larger lengths, you’ll want to ensure you have an experienced and capable driver to operate the boat. 

What safety equipment is required on a boat in Florida?  

The exact safety equipment required on a boat in Florida will depend on the length of the vessel. However, at a minimum, you will require: 

  • A life jacket for every person on the boat (including those doing watersports). 
  • A fire extinguisher in size and number in relation to the size of the boat. 
  • Distress signals (ex. Flare gun). 
  • Sound device – horn, bell, whistle etc. 
  • Backfire flame control. 
  • Ventilation system – appropriate for the size of the vessel. 
  • Navigational lights. 

Sell My Boat in Florida 

How to sell a boat in Florida?  

You may choose to sell your boat by yourself in Florida, however, like most sales transactions, sometimes you want to leave it to the experts and find a reputable boat broker. If you’re just starting to research how to sell a boat in Florida, please read these articles, How to Sell a Boat Fast Part 1 and the follow-up, How to Sell a Boat Fast Part 2 to get an idea of what’s involved in the process. If you’re ready to get started, please fill in our form, How Can I Sell My Boat With YATCO so one of our trusted broker members can help you get the process started. 

How to avoid sales tax on a boat in Florida? 

You can avoid sales tax on a boat in Florida if the sale is completed by or through a registered dealer to a purchaser who is a non-resident of Florida at the time of delivery. This exemption only applies to the boat, and not the boat trailer (if one is included). 

Do you need a license to sell boats in Florida?  

Yes, in order to sell boats in Florida, you will need to receive a yacht broker license from the state. Not only that, but you’ll also need to first gain some experience before you can become certified. Like many careers, you can start working at a brokerage house under more experienced brokers and in a few years pay the appropriate fees to obtain your license and complete an optional certification process such as one offered by the Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB) certification

People Also Ask 

How to become a boat captain in Florida? 

To become a boat captain in Florida, there are a number of steps you’ll need to take, and it won’t be an overnight achievement. Let’s explore some of these requirements: 

  • Get your hours up – You need signed witness accounts proving you have spent 360 days as part of a crew on any vessel. You must also have at least 90 days in the last three years and a minimum of 90 days offshore as well. 
  • Pass your Coast Guard exam. 
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship, or a Green Card. If you are not a U.S. resident, you’ll need to acquire a Social Security Card as well. 
  • Complete a boat captain license application form. 
  • Pay applicable fees. 
  • Proof of passing your captain’s exam. 
  • A completed background check. 
  • Medical certificate. 
  • Random drug test within the last six months. 

Depending on the size of the boat you’ll be driving, or the number of crew you are managing, or guests you will have onboard, you will require further certifications and training. 

What size boat requires a captain’s license in Florida? 

If the main purpose of acquiring your captain’s license in Florida is to earn money, you will need a captain’s license, regardless of the size of the boat since you are monetizing it. If you are simply looking to captain your own boat, most will agree that at 70ft, you should have an experienced and licensed captain navigating the boat. 

Is a boat slip real property in Florida? 

If you are living on your boat full time in Florida, you may be wondering if the boat slip you are docked on is your own property. Usually, the answer will be no. The dock will be the property of the marina or yacht club to which you pay mooring or rental fees to. However, if you have a boat slip located on your own property, this extends to the property of your home. 

Can you drink and drive a boat in Florida? 

Much like driving a car, there is zero tolerance for driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Florida. You are considered over the legal limit if you have a blood alcohol limit over 0.08%. 

Can you have alcohol on a boat in Florida? 

Yes, you can bring alcohol on a boat in Florida, however it is illegal for the driver to become intoxicated. 

Can you live on a boat in Florida? 

Given the year-round temperate weather and access to the ocean and stunning Intracoastal waterways, many opt to live on their boat full time in Florida. If you’re curious about what it’s like to make your boat your permanent home, please read this Liveaboard Boat Guide here. 

What do you need to rent a boat in Florida? 

To rent a boat in Florida, you will still require a Boating Safety Education Identification Card

How old to rent a boat in Florida? 

To rent a boat in Florida, you have to be at least 18 years of age

Can a boat captain marry you in Florida? 

While many believe any captain can legally marry you on a boat, there are a few more details to know. In order for a boat captain to legally marry you in Florida they must also be a Florida Notary Public and be within two geographical miles of the coastline. 

Can you carry a gun on a boat in Florida? 

You may carry a gun on a boat in Florida if you are: 

  • Over 18 years old 
  • Lawfully able to own a gun 

How much do boat clubs cost in Florida? 

A boat club are a membership system where you get access to boats without the costs and associated responsibilities that come with owning your own boat. These clubs will have a one-time fee anywhere from $900 to nearly six or seven times that! They will also have a monthly fee somewhere around $200 – $600 monthly. Please read our article on Boat Clubs for more information on joining a boat club in Florida. 

Florida is a yachting and boating hub for good reason. Florida offers excellent weather, ample beaches, access to both oceans and lakes and rivers, and some of the hottest cities to visit while in port. Here are a few of our top places to visit when boating in Florida: 

  • Miami – One of the most popular places to go boating in the sunshine state. From white sand beaches to the unmissable nightlife in town, there’s something for everyone in Miami. Check out boats for sale in Miami here. 

Boating in Florida is beloved by many yacht and boat lovers around the world. Known as the first yachting capital of the world, Florida is surrounded by water, with easy access to the Caribbean or even trans-Atlantic Ocean crossings. Start your search for boats for sale in Florida here. Or, if you’re new to boating, why not try chartering a yacht in Florida first?

YATCO Boat Buying & Boating Resources

If you’d like even more information on boating in the sunshine state and beyond, please review our other guides and insights below: 

Please see the following for various types of boats and yachts available on the market today: 

Wondering the difference between certain types of boats? We have you covered here too: 

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