Jon Boat Registration,Title & License Requirements by State


Jon boat with registration decal

There are over 17 million boat owners in America and a vast number of them enjoy the many benefits offered by a Jon boat. But are they are all legally complaint? To ensure your safety and that of other boaters it is important to ensure that you operate your boat within legal guidelines. Legislation exists for pleasure craft at the State level, so you should strive to be familiar with the laws that relate to the ownership and operation of your Jon boat as it related to your own State you live in and any State you plan to boat in.

Legal requirements of operating a Jon boat

Do you have to register a Jon boat? Licensing and title laws for Jon boat ownership, and use, differ from State to State. Local laws will determine the exact requirements though most states will require registration for Jon boats fitted with a trolling motor and will not require registration for Jon boats propelled by oars, paddle or pole.

Do you need a boating license for a Jon boat? Each State has different laws regarding boating licenses for personal watercraft, such as Jon boats. However, almost all states have restrictions on the age of boat operators and many require that a boater completes a state-sanctioned boating safety course and carries a certificate of completion while boating.

Jon boat registration and usage across state lines

Do you need to register your boat in a state that you are only visiting? No. Although registration requirements differ from State to State, if your Jon boat is registered in one State that registration will be enough to allow you to use the boat in other States, albeit for limited periods usually from 60 – 90 days.

The following are requirements that exist across the USA and will be active in most US States:

  • Registration. Registration requirements vary from State to State though a common theme is that motorized Jon boats require registration (and sometimes titling) whereas non-motorized Jon boats do not require registration or titling. So if you have a trolling motor fitted to your Jon boat chances are you need to register the boat.
  • Title. Most states do not require a Jon boat to be titled. Exceptions are noted under each State below.

As mentioned above, if your Jon boat is powered by a trolling motor then it will need to be registered in your state. This registration allows you operate your boat between states lines but usually only for a limited period. This is usually between 60 – 90 days.

Licensing and boat operating requirements

While an exhaustive breakdown of the laws pertaining to boating with small vessels like Jon boats is beyond the scope of this article, we have pulled together key information and links that should help you determine if a license is required for a Jon boat in your State.

The owners age and level of boat safety education, as well as the power and length of the boat, may determine your need for a license.

Licensing requirements for boats are almost always unique to each State but some key themes are recurring and should be expected to exist in your State’s boating laws.

The following are boat operating requirements that exist across the USA and will be active in most US States:

  • Age. Many states will require a boating license depending on the year you were born with emphasis placed on those under 18 years of age.
  • Completion of boat safety education and training. States often will require evidence of a certain number of hours of training on the water or completion of a standardized boating safety course.
  • Boat power. Training for handling powerboats may also be mandated.
  • Boat length. Requirements will differ from State to State but it is common for larger Jon boats to be more subject to license requirements (16 feet +) than smaller ones.

Jon boat registration, title and boating license requirements by State

Below are the requirements for owning and operating a boat in each state. These laws pertain to all boat types based on motorized and non-motorized vessels (with sailboats being an exception).

So, how does this relate to your Jon boat?

If your Jon boat is fitted with a trolling motor then it will fall under the legislation for motorized vessels. If your Jon is powered by oars, paddle or pole then it will fall under non-motorized vessels.

Be aware that some larger Jon boats 16’+ may be subject to registration and titling due to their length even if they have no outboard motor. Where this is the case it is mentioned below, under the appropriate State.

Alabama

  • All motorized vessels, sailboats and vessels-for-hire must must be registered (usually at the County level). Registration fees vary and are based on the length of the vessel.
  • Non-motorized vessels (except sailboats and vessel-for-hire) do not require registration.
  • Boats do not require titling.
  • A vessel operator’s license is needed. This is attained by either passing a state proficiency exam or completing a boater safety course approved by the Alabama Marine Patrol Division
  • Non residents using Alabama waters temporarily ( up to 45 days per calendar year) do not need an Alabama operator’s license.
  • More here.

Alaska

  • All motorized vessels be registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not need to be registered.
  • An undocumented boat 24 feet or less in length does not need to be titled.
  • Although there are not current boat licensing laws in Alaska it is recommended that all boaters take a boater safety course that is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

Arizona

  • All motorized vessels be registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not require registration.
  • The registration of the boat acts as the title.
  • There are no boating license requirements.

Arkansas

  • All motorized vessels must be registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not require registration.
  • Arkansas does not issue boat titles.
  • There are currently no boating license requirements.

California

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats over 8 foot in length must be registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels (except sailboats over 8 feet in length) do not require registration.
  • Any boat purchased, transferred or sold, must be titled if the boat is:
      • Powered by an inboard motor, including personal watercraft, 1997 model year or newer.
      • Powered by an outboard motor, 14 feet or longer, 1997 model year or newer.
      • Currently titled in Pennsylvania.
      • Currently titled in another state when Pennsylvania becomes the state of primary uses.
  • To operate a motor-powered vessel of 15 HP or more:
      • You must be 16 or older.
      • You must possess a California Boater Card.
      • More here

Colorado

  • All motorized vessels must be registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not require registration.
  • Colorado is a registration only state and does not issue boat titles.
  • Youths aged between 14 – 16 who operate a motorized boat are required to pass a boater safety course.
  • A boater education card must be carried by law.
  • More here.

Connecticut

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats 19½ feet in length and longer require registration and titling.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not require registration or titling.
  • Under 16’s need to be certified with a:
      • Safe Boating Certificate (SBC) or Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation (CPWO).
      • Under 16’s can operate a vessel without being certified if supervised by someone over 18 years of age who has been appropriately certified for over 2 years.
      • More here.

Delaware

  • All motorized vessels require registration.
  • Non motorized vessels do not require registration.
  • Delaware is a non-title state.
  • You must be at least 14 years of age to operate personal watercraft.
  • All personal watercraft operators need evidence of the completion of a boating safety course.
  • Over 16’s who have a boating safety course certificate can operate a boat without adult supervision.
  • More here.

Florida

  • All motorized vessels operating on Florida’s public waterways must be titled and registered.
  • Non-motor-powered vessels less than 16 feet in length do not require registration.
  • Vessels operated, used, and stored exclusively on private lakes and ponds do not require registration.
  • To operate a boat of 10 HP or more a Boating Safety Education Identification Card is needed.
  • More here.

Georgia

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats over 12 feet in length must be registered.
  • Non motorized vessels and sailboats less than 12 feet in length do not require registration.
  • Boat operators of 16 years or older may operate a boat on Georgia waters if they have proper I.D. onboard.
  • Those born after January 1st, 1998 must have passed an approved boater education course.
  • More here.

Hawaii

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats over 8 feet in length must be registered.
  • Non motorized vessels and sailboats less than 8 feet in length do not require registration.
  • Hawaii is a non-title state.
  • You must be at least 15 years old to operate a motorized vessel.
  • You need to complete an online course and an additional boater safety course from an approved institution.
  • More here.

Idaho

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats require registration.
  • All motorized vessels and any manually, or sail-powered, vessels over 12 feet in length must be titled.
  • All other vessels may be optionally titled.
  • There are no boating license laws currently in effect in Idaho.

Illinois

  • Most watercraft need to registered.
  • Exceptions to registration are:
    • Sailboards.
    • Canoes.
    • Kayaks.
    • Non-motorized vessels used exclusively on privately owned waterways.
  • Watercraft under 22 feet in length do not require a title.
  • It is illegal for anyone under the age of 10 to operate a motorboat.
  • Between 12 and 18 years of age a person may operate a motorized boat only if they have a valid Illinois Department of Natural Resources Boating Education Certificate of Competency.
  • More information here.

Indiana

  • All motorized vessels require registration.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not need to be registered.
  • Registering a boat in Indiana automatically titles it.
  • No under-15’s can operate a boat over 10 HP or a personal watercraft.
  • A boater education course issued by the BMV must be completed.
  • An I.D. card, issued by the Indiana BMV, should be kept onboard when operating the boat.
  • More info here.

Iowa

  • Most watercraft need to be registered in Iowa.
  • Boats that do not require registration include:
    • Inflatable boats that are 7 ft. or less in length, with no motor or sail.
    • Conventional canoes and Kayaks (includes inflatable canoes and kayaks) that are 13 ft. or less in length, and do
      not have a motor or sail.
  • All vessels 17 feet and longer require a title (except canoes, kayaks and inflatable vessels).
  • 12 to 17 year old persons require an Iowa Watercraft Safety Certificate to operate a boat over 10 HP or a personal watercraft.
  • More here.

Kansas

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats must be registered and numbered in Kansas.
  • Non-motorized vessels (except sailboats) do not need registration.
  • Kansas does not require watercraft to be titled.
  • Unaccompanied boaters between 12 and 20 need to pass a “boater safety” course and carry a card.
  • Find out more here.

Kentucky

  • All motorized vessels must be registered and titled.
  • Non motorized vessels do not require registration.
  • Watercraft of 10 HP and over should only be operated by persons of 12 years and over.
  • 12 to 17 year old persons can legally operate a boat if they are in possession of a Kentucky Safe Boating Certificate Card or certificate showing completion of a NASBLA approved boating course.
  • Learn more here.

Louisiana

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats over 12 feet in length and non-motorized houseboats must be registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels (except houseboats) do not need registration.
  • You must title a boat or outboard motor of 25 horsepower or more.
  • Mandatory boater education is required for operating a vessel over 10 HP if born on or after January 1st, 1984.
  • The minimum age requirement is 10 years of age.
  • Not having a valid Louisiana Boater Card when requested by waterway authorities carries a fine.
  • More here.

Maine

  • All motorized vessels must be registered.
  • Maine does not issue boat titles.
  • Under 16’s are not allowed to operate personal watercraft.
  • 16 to 17 year old persons may only operate personal watercraft after completion of an approved boater safety course.
  • Young boaters will need to carry evidence that hey have completed the approved boater safety course and proof of their age.
  • Be area of the New Hampshire boating laws that require all boaters, regardless of age, to have a Safe Boating Certification which you will be responsible for having if you venture into New Hampshire waters.
  • More can be found here.

Maryland

  • All motorized vessels must be registered and titled.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not require registration or titling.
  • Personal watercraft operators cannot be under 16 years of age.
  • Boaters require a boating safety course certificate.
  • Learn more.

Massachusetts

  • All motorized vessels must be registered.
  • Non motorized vessels do not need to be registered.
  • Titling is done automatically with registration.
  • No person under 12 years of age is allowed to legally operate a motorboat on their own.
  • Persons under 12 years of age may operate a motorboat only when accompanied and supervised by a competent person 18 years of age or older.
  • Personal watercraft users must still be at least 16 years of age.
  • 12 to 15 year old persons who are illegible to operate a boat need to complete an approved classroom-based boating safety course.
  • Find out more here.

Michigan

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats must be registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels that are 16 feet and lower do not need to be registered.
  • All motorized vessels and all watercraft over 20 feet in length must be titled.
  • All other vessel may be optionally titled.
  • Under 12’s are able to operate powered boats of less than 6 HP without restriction.
  • To operate boats up to 35 HP operators must be directly supervised by someone of at least 16 years of age.
  • People born after July 1, 1996, can operate a boat legally only if they possess a boating safety course certificate and have it onboard.
  • Further details on boat licensing in Michigan can be found here.

Minnesota

  • All motorized vessels (exceptions listed below) need registration.
  • Exceptions include: duck boats (like a duck hunting Jon boat) but only during the duck hunting season, rice boats but only during the harvest season.
  • All boats over 16 feet in length require a title.
  • Personal watercraft can only be operated by individuals over 13 years of age.
  • Over 18’s can operate motorized vessels without restriction.
  • More can be found here.

Mississippi

  • All motorized vessels and all sailboats (regardless of length) must be registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels (except sailboats) are exempt from registration.
  • The option exists to title your vessel and/or motor but it is not compulsory to do so.
  • Anyone born after 30 June 1980 needs to complete a boater safety course to legally operate a motorized boat.
  • A card or certificate of boater education should be carried onboard.
  • Persons under 12 years of age must be accompanied by a person 21 years of age or older.
  • More information here.

Missouri

  • Motorized vessels and sailboats longer than 12 feet must be titled and registered.
  • Non-motorized vessels, regardless of length, are not required to be titled or registered.
  • People born after January 1, 1984, must pass a Missouri boater education course prior to operating any motorized vessel.
  • The operator of a boat must be 14 years of age or over to operate a boat alone.
  • A child under 14 years of age, operating a vessel with adult supervision, needs a boater identification card.
  • Guidance is provided here.

Montana

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats over 12 foot in length must be registered and titled.
  • All non-motorized vessels regardless of length (except sailboats over 12 foot in length) do not require registration or title and are except from tax.
  • Anyone 12 years old or younger may not operate a motorboat or a personal watercraft over 10 HP unless accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older.
  • All 13 to 14 year old persons who operate a powered vessel require a Montana Boating License unless supervised by an adult.
  • A person must be 18 years or older to rent a motorboat or a personal watercraft.
  • More here.

Nebraska

  • All motorized vessels must be registered.
  • A Certificate of Title is required for all motorboats manufactured after November 1, 1972.
  • Some motorboats are exempt from titling.
  • Non-motorized boats do not require registration or titling.
  • The minimum age to operate a motorized boat or personal watercraft is 14 years of age.
  • Motorboat operators born after December 31st 1985 must complete a boating safety course and have a course certificate onboard while operating the vessel.
  • More on this here.

Nevada

  • All motorized vessels must be registered and titled.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not need to be registered.
  • Motorized boat and personal watercraft operators who are born after January 1, 1983, are required to complete and carry evidence of a boater safety education course.
  • Not producing evidence upon request by waterway authorities will incur a fine.
  • More information here.

New Hampshire

  • All motorized vessels and sail-powered vessels 12 feet or longer in length require registration.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not require registration.
  • New Hampshire does not title boats.
  • The completion of the Safe Boating Certification for motorboat operators aged 16 and older is mandatory.
  • The boating education certificate must be in the operator’s possession while on the boat.
  • Read more here.

New Jersey

  • In order to use New Jersey waterways, all boats must be titled and registered.
  • Under 16’s cannot operate a personal watercraft.
  • Over 16’s must have completed an approved boating safety course.
  • All boat operators must carry a New Jersey Boat Safety Certificate.
  • Find out more here.

New Mexico

  • All motorized vessels require registration.
  • All motorized and sail-powered vessels 10 feet or longer in length require a title.
  • Boat trailers are titled and registered separately.
  • All personal watercraft and motorboat operators born after January 1, 1989, must pass a boater safety education course and carry a card.
  • Learn more here.

New York

  • If you use a motor (electric or fuel-driven), regardless of the size of your boat or the motor, you must register your boat.
  • Boats without a motor do not need to be registered.
  • Upon acceptance of you completed NY boat registration form your boat is automatically titled.
  • A gradually phased-in law requires that all boat operators complete a boater safety education certification from January 1, 2020.
  • All personal watercraft and motorized boat operators should be certified by 2025.
  • Learn more.

North Carolina

  • All motorized vessels used on public waters must be registered.
  • Manually operated boat that are used on public waters must be registered if longer than 14 feet.
  • Any vessel 14 feet in length or greater or a personal watercraft (i.e. jet ski) is required to be titled.
  • Anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, requires a North Carolina Boating License to operate a powered vessel of 10 HP or more.
  • Find out more here.

North Dakota

  • Owners of any watercraft propelled by a motor must register their vessels with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
  • The Watercraft Registration certificate, issued after registration, must be produced upon request.
  • North Dakota does not issue boat titles as it is a registration only state.
  • Anyone operating a personal watercraft or boat of more than 15 HP should complete a boater education course and carry a card.
  • More information here.

Ohio

  • Registration is required for every recreational boat in Ohio.
  • Titles are required for all boats 14 feet or greater, for outboard motors 10 HP or greater, and for PWCs (ie. Jetski, Sea-Doo, etc.).
  • Boats that require a title they must have an Ohio title in order to get an Ohio registration.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not need a title.
  • Young adults over the age of 16 can operate a boat without supervision provided they have a relevant boating education certificate.
  • Anyone born prior to 1982 can operate a boat without a certificate.
  • More on this here.

Oklahoma

  • All boats powered by a motor of more than 10 HP must have a title and registration.
  • Paddle boats, such as kayaks and canoes and non-motorized Jon boats, are exempt from registration and title requirements.
  • Between the ages of 12 and 16, a child may operate a powered vessel over 10 HP, or of a length of 16 feet or more, only when:
    • A boating safety education course has been successfully completed.
    • They are supervised by a competent adult of at least 18 years.
  • More details here.

Oregon

  • Any motorized boat must be titled and registered.
  • Paddle boats, such as kayaks, canoes and manually powered Jon boats, do not require any form of registration.
  • Watercraft should be operated by boater education cardholders aged 18 or over.
  • Under 16’s may operate a vessel if supervised by an adult holding a boater education card.
  • More on this here.

Pennsylvania

  • Any motor-powered boat must be registered.
  • Unpowered boats are not required to be registered – unless used at a Fish & Boat Commission access area or lake, or at Pennsylvania state parks and state forests.
  • Boat operators of all ages must complete a boating safety education course.
  • Boat operators of all ages must have a boating safety education certificate onboard with them.
  • More information on Pennsylvania boating license requirements here.

Rhode Island

  • All motorized vessels must be registered. Registration lasts for 2 years.
  • Lifeboats, non-motorized inflatable vessels, surfboards, rowboats, Jon boats, documented vessels, and vessels less than 14 feet long do not need to be titled.
  • Boater safety education courses and certification are mandatory without exemption.
  • Boat operators should have their card on their person while boating.
  • Learn more here.

South Carolina

  • Motorized vessels require a title and a Carolina Certificate of Number registration.
  • Vessels that are non-motorized, documented. or that have valid registration in another state or country (and being used temporarily on the waters of South Carolina) do not need to be registered.
  • Completion of a boater safety course is mandated for operators under 16 years.
  • If the motor of the vessel is over 15 HP, persons under the age of 16 must be supervised by an adult.
  • More information here.

South Dakota

  • All motorized vessels and all non-motorized vessels over 18 feet in length must be registered and numbered.
  • All non-motorized vessels under 18 feet in length do not need to registered or numbered.
  • Non-motorized vessels over 12 feet in length must have a validation sticker, but boat numbering is optional.

Tennessee

  • All boats must be registered.
  • There are no title requirements.
  • People operating motorized vessels are required to carry a Tennessee Boater Education Certificate if they are born after January 1, 1989.
  • Further information can be found here.

Texas

  • All motorized vessels, regardless of length must be titled and registered.
  • All non-motorized vessels (including sailboats) 14 feet in length or longer must also be titled and registered.
  • Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, Jon boats and rafts under 14 feet in length when paddled, poled, oared, or windblown do not require registration or title.
  • A Boating education card is required for everyone born after September 1, 1993, who is operating a motorized boat over 15 HP.
  • More on this here.

Utah

  • All motorized vessels and sail-powered vessels must be registered.
  • Titling is only required on vessels aged 1985 or newer.
  • Vessels registered in different states and only used for 60 days or less in Utah do not require a license though they must be licensed in another state.
  • Every 1985 or newer outboard motor operated in Utah waters must be titled with exceptions given to motors 25 HP or lower.
  • Utah requires the Utah Boating Safety Certificate to be carried for all operators of motorized boats between the ages of 12 and 17.

Vermont

  • All motorized vessels must be registered in Vermont.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not need to be registered.
  • Vessels that are 15 years old or newer, based on calendar year, with a length of 16 feet or longer must be titled.
  • Operators of motorized boats born after January 1, 1974, should pass a boater safety education course and carry a card.
  • More information is provided here.

Virginia

  • All motorized vessels must clearly display decals indicating they have a Certificate of Number registration.
  • Non-motorized vessels do not require registration.
  • Boat owners in Virginia must apply for a certificate of title at the same time an application is made for registration.
  • Vessels registered in another state do need Vermont registration if they are used for 90 days or less in the state.
  • Since July 1, 2016, a boater safety education course has been mandatory for vessel operators aged 14 or more.
  • Further information can be found here.

Washington

  • All motorized vessels must have a Washington title and registration certificate.
  • Non-motorized vessels and sailboats, under 16 feet in length and without a motor, do not require titling or registration.
  • Vessels that are less than 16 feet in length and have a motor of 10 horsepower or less are used only on non-federal waters do not require a title.
  • An approved boater safety course must be completed to be able to operate a motorized boat of more than 15 HP.
  • Operators must carry the Washington State Boater Education Card as evidence of completion.
  • Visit here for more information.

West Virginia

  • All motorized vessels must be registered and have a valid West Virginia Certificate of Number and display the relevant decals.
  • All motorized vessels purchased in West Virginia after July 1, 1989, must have a title.
  • The West Virginia Boating License is required for all boaters born after December 31, 1986.
  • Learn more here.

Wisconsin

  • All motorized vessels must be registered.
  • Non motorized vessels do not need to be registered.
  • Only vessels 16 feet or more in length require a Certificate of Title.
  • Boaters born after January 1, 1989, are required to complete a boater safety course and carry a certification card.
  • More information on this can be found here.

Wyoming

  • All motorized vessels used in public waters in Wyoming must be registered.
  • Effective January 1, 2010, all motorized watercraft must be titled.
  • Non-motorized watercraft and non-motorized sailboats do not need to be registered or titled.
  • There are currently no boating license requirements in Wyoming.

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