Jet skis are a great way to enjoy the water. They are also quite popular in New York, with many people owning jet skis or taking trips to NYC for some jetskiing time on the Hudson River. However, before hitting the waves—you need to know your legal requirements! This blog post will cover all of them: vehicle licensing (driver and craft), age restrictions, and any other laws that may pertain specifically to NY & NYC. You’ll learn how renting can save you money on the costs of a jet ski, too!
What is Required to Operate a Boat in New York?
NY boating laws of 2021 state that you need to have a license for operating a boat at the professional level, e.g. vessels used for sightseeing, or charter fishing and commercial workboats such as ferries and tugs.
New York State and most other states don’t require a license to operate a personal recreational boat, and, instead, require boat operators to acquire a boating safety certificate and display it if asked to by authorities while they are riding the craft on the water.
NY Jet Ski Regulations
Jet skis are considered personal watercraft (PWC) vessels. As of January 1, 2005, you must have a boating safety certificate and be at least 14 years of age or older to operate a personal watercraft. To get your certification to operate a PWC, you’ll need to take written exams on applicable regulations as part of the Boating Safety Education Course.
Who Teaches the Boating Safety Education Course?
There are several providers that teach in-person and online boating courses in your NYC area, and you can find out more about them at: https://parks.ny.gov/recreation/boating/education.aspx
How to Get Your PWC License in NY
There are three steps to getting your PWC license (source—https://www.boaterexam.com/usa/newyork/faq.aspx).
- Study the New York Boating Safety Course and pass the final exam.
- Pay a $29.95 one-time fee which gives you free, unlimited retries of the final exam.
- Print your temporary card immediately after passing. Your permanent card will be mailed to your address. The process typically takes 3-5 weeks.
Do I need a License Plate for my Jet Ski?
It depends. If you own a jet ski and use your vehicle exclusively for pleasure or recreation (like going to the beach or riding on rivers), then there is no need for a license plate. However, if you plan on using this watercraft commercially—e.g., renting out jet skis as a business like Sea the City does—then, yes, you will need a vehicle tag.
What Age Can You Drive a Jet Ski?
As previously mentioned, New York law requires the driver of a jet ski to be at least 14 years old. Although a child as young as 10 can operate other recreational boats as long as they have passed the requirements of the Boating Safety Certificate, it’s necessary to be 14 before they may drive a jet ski. They also must have passed a safety course, which is offered by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Additionally, they’ll need to carry their State Boating Safety Certificate with them when they ride the jet ski.
Are Jet Skis Very Expensive?
Yes; a new jet ski can be quite expensive, and they range anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. There are also the maintenance costs and the cost of owning a vehicle or trailer that is large enough to haul it around to consider too.
It really winds up being a costly outdoor hobby and a very tight fit for the vessel if you are storing them at your apartment in NYC. However, if you are renting or borrowing one— it can be a very cheap way to enjoy the water (at the end of this article we discuss how you can go about doing this).
Safety Tips for Using a PWC
You’ll learn a lot of safety tips and more during your boating safety course. However, since the certification is for a lifetime, the summary on this list will serve you well if a lot of time has passed since the course or you need to jog your memory a little.
- Carry your Boating Safety Certification with you.
- Always make sure you are wearing a serviceable life jacket.
- Check local age restrictions before heading out because local municipalities and other areas may have different requirements for age thresholds.
- Never drink alcohol before or during PWC usage, because it can impair your judgment and ability to operate the vehicle safely.
- Avoid congested areas with lots of boats/ships/ferries etc., as it is very easy for them not to see you on the water!
- Always utilize the kill switch attached from the switch by a lanyard to your life jacket whenever you are riding the PWC, especially if it’s in shallow water or your area has “reefs” (rocks). That way, the jet ski will automatically be cut off by the deadman’s switch if you fall in the water.
- Watch out for underwater obstacles like rocks, debris and logs.
- Make sure to check local laws before taking off on a ride! There can be unique rules depending on where you’re at. For example – most NYC beaches don’t allow you to ride a jet ski on certain parts of the water—only in designated areas.
- Be courteous of others using the waterways, and know when it is appropriate/inappropriate to use your PWC.
Anything Else I Should Know?
It’s best to keep learning if you are serious about picking up the PWC hobby, and our blog has several helpful articles that inform and give you tips and tricks about operating and owning a jet ski. A few helpful ones to check out include:
Book a NYC Jet Ski Tour with Sea the City Today!
Whether you are just getting your safety certification or are a seasoned pro, jet skiing is a great way to enjoy New York. And the best and easiest way to participate in this fun activity is to book a jet ski tour with Sea the City.
Our most popular tour is the 1-hour New York Harbor tour, and it launches just 10 minutes from Manhattan. During the tour, you’ll see cultural attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the New York skyline, Ellis Island, and much, much more — all from the vantage point of your PWC! You can easily book your tour online or call us at 201-335-2732 to find out more.