Legal Age for Driving a Jet Ski in Tennessee


Every state gets to make its own boating laws, and Tennessee has some unique regulations. The legal age for operating a jet ski and all of your other questions about Tennessee PWC laws are answered below.

The legal age for operating a jet ski in Tennessee is 12 years old. Those who are 12 years old or older must have a Tennessee boater education certificate. Those who are younger than 12 may operate IF there is a supervisor who is 18 years or older with their Tennessee boater certificate.

Those in Tennessee who were born after January 1, 1989, must have their Tennessee Boating safety certificate in order to operate a jet ski or any other vessel.

Steps to Becoming an Operator

To get your Tennessee boater education card you just need to follow these three simple steps:

  1. Once you are 12 years or older, you may begin studying the Tennessee safe boating course. You can either get a physical manual and read through it, or you can sign up for the safe boating course online. You can go to boaterexam.com to sign up for the online study course.
  2. After studying, there is a practice exam you can take on the same website listed above. It includes 60 multiple-choice questions and is graded immediately so that you can review your answers.
  3. Once you feel confident from the practice tests, you can book the final exam which must be in a classroom setting by going to this website and choosing the region where you live. Once you pass the final exam by getting 80 percent or better, you will receive your certificate.

Getting your boating safety certificate is like getting your drivers license, in that you have to go in and take a test and pass it to get your certification. One great thing about your boater certificate is that you do not have to renew it, once you get it, it will last you a whole lifetime.

Understanding Tennessee’s Boating Rules

  • All persons who are on board must be wearing a life jacket that fits and is US Coast Guard-approved
  • Make sure there is a life ring on board at all times in case someone goes overboard and needs to be rescued
  • A jet ski needs to have a minimum of 1 type B-l fire extinguisher on board at all times in case of an emergency
  • You have to have some form of navigation lights on your PWC just in case you are on the water between sunset and sunrise or when your visibility is restricted. Some of these lights you can choose from include sidelights, stern light, masthead light, or all-around white light. Each of these has its own special placement on your PWC so read more into each one to see which is the best fit for your jet ski
  • Most PWCs do not have brakes, so it is important to be extra cautious when slowing down or stopping. You will need to give yourself more time to come to a complete stop and more room between other vehicles and objects as well
  • It is required that the operator of the jet ski wears a lanyard that is connected to the safety switch that is then connected to their wrist. Just in case the operator goes overboard, the lanyard will automatically pull the key out switching the engine off
  • Check the back of your jet ski for a sticker that shows which way to roll your jet ski if it gets overturned in the water. If you roll it over the wrong way you could damage your PWC. If there is not a sticker, then check the owner’s manual for the directions
  • PWC must be operated only during the daytime
  • It is illegal to do any of the following: jump the immediate wake of another PWC or vessel, weave through congested waterway traffic, steer toward another person or object in the water and swerve at the last possible moment in order to avoid an accident, operate the PWC close to boat ramps, docks, or the shoreline at more than idle speed, chase or harass wildlife with your jet ski

Regulation Enforcement in Tennessee

If you are 12 years or older you need to have a Tennessee boater safety certificate and carry it on board with you. Law enforcement has the right to see your certificate at any time so make sure it is available when you are on the water.

Another thing to keep in mind before taking off is leaving a float plan with a trusted friend or family member. This is a plan that will keep you safe in case of an emergency. It makes sure you have someone who is aware of your plans to make sure they go as planned.

A float plan includes a description of your vessel including the registration numbers, length, make of the jet ski, horsepower, and engine type. Include in the plan where you are going, the route you are taking to get there, and your expected return time. You will need to include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of those who are on board with you and their emergency contact.

Boater Safety Certification Requirements for Residents of other States

Let’s say that you are visiting Tennessee and you brought your jet ski along. It is lawful for you to operate your PWC on Tennessee waters as long as you have your home state’s boating safety certificate with you on board. As long as you are just visiting Tennessee for a short amount of time you can operate with your home state boating safety certificate.

Renting Regulations in Tennessee

Once you are 16 years old you can rent a jet ski in Tennessee. You must have a valid photo ID when renting one. Anyone who is under 18 years old must have a signed waiver from a parent or a guardian who is 18 years or older. Prices differ when it comes to how much jet ski rentals cost in your area.

A general price per hour you have it is around $90, but again if you want to know a specific price you should call in and ask for a rental quote at a rental area near you.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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