Boat Operation by Age

Those Less Than 12 Years of Age

  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (horse power) legally without restrictions.
  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 horse power but no more than 35 horse power legally only if they are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age.
  • May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 horse power legally under any conditions.

Those 12 to 15 Years of Age

  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horse power legally without restrictions.
  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 horse power legally only if they:
    • Have passed a boating safety course approved by the Department of Natural Resources and have on board their boating safety certificate or are accompanied on board by a person at least 16 years of age.

Those 16 years of age or older

  • May operate any boat on the waters of Michigan
    • See Who May Operate a PWC

Who May Operate a PWC (Personal Watercraft)?

  • Those less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC.
  • Those 14 and 15 years of age may operate a PWC legally only if:
    • He or she is accompanied on board by his or her parent or legal guardian or by a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian
    • He or she is operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from his or her parent or legal guardian or from a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian.

Safety Education Requirement

Those 14 years of age or older:

  • Born after December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate
  • Born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally without restrictions

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