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get your north carolina boater card

North Carolina’s Official Boating Course, Test and Card. Animated, narrated & perfect for all ages.

Need your North Carolina
Boating License?

BOATsmart! is the easiest and fastest way to get your North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Approved Boater Education Card (or boating license). We include everything you need.

1. Study Online

Study up with the Official North Carolina Boating Safety Course. Animated and narrated lessons put you in the captain’s seat. Anywhere, on any device and perfect for all ages.

2. Ace the test

It’s easy. Our North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Approved multiple-choice test is open book with unlimited free retries. Basically, you’re guaranteed to pass and it’s good for life!

3. Get on the water

Once you pass the test, you can print your temporary card and use it immediately. Your permanent Boating Education Card, the official North Carolina boating license, will arrive by mail within four weeks.

670,691 Certified

Proud to be North America’s Boating Educator. Join the crew!

Do you need a license to drive a boat?

Born after December 31, 1987? You must have a North Carolina Boater Education Card to operate any motorized watercraft greater than 10 horsepower.

Try the test for free

Not sure what to expect? Try the Practice Test for free and test your knowledge.
Try it now

Try the test for free

Not sure what to expect? Try the Practice Test for free and test your knowledge.
Try it now

Watch, listen
& learn

Animated, narrated & perfect for all ages.

Animated lessons
make it easy

Our animated, narrated and interactive lessons guide your learning experience and help you pass.

Everything you need
included

The BOATsmart!® Course includes all the knowledge you need to pass the test and boat with confidence.

Study at your
own pace

BOATsmart!® automatically tracks your progress on any device. Take it anywhere, anytime.

Designed for all ages
& skill levels

Designed by boaters and subject matter experts just for you.

Made for boaters,
by boaters

Excellent

BOATsmart! has a rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 6327 ratings and reviews.

North Carolina Boating Knowledge Base

North Carolina Boating License
Frequently Asked Questions

DO NORTH CAROLINA BOATERS NEED TO HAVE A BOATER EDUCATION CARD?
 
Yes, in North Carolina this card is known as the North Carolina Boater Education Card and it is required if you were born on or after Jan. 31, 1988 and are operating a motorized boat powered by an engine of 10 HP or greater, on the public waters of North Carolina. Most other states and most of Canada’s provinces and territories also require boaters to carry a Boater Education Card, more commonly known as a ‘Boating License’. Get the Card, even if you aren’t required to in North Carolina, and you’ll be good to go boating in most of North America.
 
WHO ENFORCES NORTH CAROLINA’S BOATING LAWS?
 
North Carolina’s boaters must always comply with both federal and state boating laws and must follow any direction given by law enforcement. Learn more about North Carolina’s boating laws by taking the BOATsmart! North Carolina Course. North Carolina’s boating law authorities you’ll see on the water are:

The North Carolina Wildlife and Resources Commission and its officers

The U.S. Coast Guard

Department of Natural Resources officers

Any other authorized law enforcement officer
 

CAN I DRINK ALCOHOL WHILE BOATING IN NORTH CAROLINA?
 
In North Carolina it is illegal to operate any boat, including motorized boats, personal watercraft, water-skis, sailboats, sailboards or any other similar device, while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. In North Carolina, boaters are considered to be under the influence if they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. Learn more about the risks of drinking and boating by taking the BOATsmart! North Carolina Boating Safety Course!
 
IS THERE A MINIMUM AGE FOR PWC OPERATORS IN NORTH CAROLINA
 
Yes, PWC operators are required to be at least 14 years of age in the state of North Carolina. It is illegal for any boaters younger than 14 to operate a PWC, regardless of their boater certifications.
 
DO I NEED TO WEAR A LIFE JACKET WHEN BOATING IN NORTH CAROLINA?
 
The only boaters required to WEAR their life jackets in the state of North Carolina are:

Children 13 years of age and under who are on any boat that is underway, unless they are in an enclosed cabin or below deck.

PWC operators and passengers (inflatable life jackets are not permitted in North Carolina for PWC passengers).

Passengers being towed by a boat or PWC (inflatable life jackets are not permitted in North Carolina towed sport participants).
 

IS MY NORTH CAROLINA BOATSMART! CARD THE SAME THING AS A NORTH CAROLINA BOATER EDUCATION CARD OR ‘BOATING LICENSE’?
 
Yes, your BOATsmart! Card is the same as a North Carolina Boater Education Card. In North Carolina the ‘Card’ is commonly referred to as a ‘Boating License’, although this is not the correct term.
 
WHAT HAPPENS IF IT TAKES ME LONGER THAN 3-HOURS TO COMPLETE THE BOATSMART! COURSE? WILL I NEED TO START OVER?
 
The 3-hour timer is only a minimum requirement. You’re free to spend as much time as you need in the BOATsmart! Knowledge Base before taking the Final Test.
 
WHAT FINES AND/OR PENALTIES WILL A BOATER CAUGHT OPERATING WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE FACE ON NORTH CAROLINA’S WATERS?
 
Any person convicted or operating a boat under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol will be subject to significant fines and/or imprisonment. Take the BOATsmart! North Carolina Course to learn more about the effects of alcohol on boaters and the laws for boating with alcohol in North Carolina.
 
WILL MY NORTH CAROLINA BOATER EDUCATION CARD BE VALID FOR BOATING IN OTHER STATES?
 
Yes! The BOATsmart! Card is accepted in 40 other states, which extend reciprocity to certified boaters. This law applies to operators of motorized boats (who have taken and passed a NASBLA approved boating safety course), but does not apply in all states to operators of personal watercraft (PWCs). Always check the boating laws in the state you plan to visit before operating a boat or PWC there.
 
ARE THERE CLASSROOM BOATING COURSES IN NORTH CAROLINA?
 
Yes! If you’re the type who would like to take a classroom course in boating safety, you can. Contact the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for more information about registering for a classroom  course in your area.
 
WILL MY BOATSMART! CARD EVER EXPIRE?
 
Your BOATsmart! Card will never expire. But stay in touch after you pass the test – BOATsmart! offers free, online refresher lessons that will help you keep your boating skill and knowledge up to date as years pass and boating regulations change.
 

Boating in
North Carolina

Trusted and recognized from coast to coast

Almost 10% of North Carolina is water, so it’s no wonder boating one of the state’s most popular year-round activities. The Wildlife Resources Commission manages over 200 free, 24/7 public boating access areas, and most of the state’s waterways allow power boating. With more than 50 lakes alone, it can be tough to choose the best boating destination, so we’ve done it for you.

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