How to get a boat licence in Ontario

12 minute read Published on Apr 10, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Yacht shot at sunset.

Ontario boasts so many opportunities to get out on the water. From the Great Lakes to the many rivers you’ll find here, boating is a popular pastime for a reason. Whether you use a boat as a mode of transportation or a way to unwind at the cottage over the summer, you will need a boating licence and boat insurance. We dive into the topic of how to get an Ontario boating license.

Do I need a boat licence in Ontario?

Yes, if you drive a motorized boat in Ontario, you need a boat licence. It’s the law, which means failure to register your boat and obtain a boat licence is illegal. Specifically, when you apply for and obtain a boat licence, you will be given a pleasure craft operator card, which essentially serves as proof of education for anyone that operates a pleasure craft with a motor. Failure to obtain an Ontario boating license could result in an automatic fine of $250.

Why get a boat licence in Ontario?

There are many reasons to licence your boat in Ontario. These are a few of our top reasons:

You are in compliance with the law

The first reason to get a boat licence in Ontario because not doing so is against the law. That’s right, if you drive a motorized boat in the province of Ontario but fail to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, you are in violation of the law, and if caught, will face an automatic fine of $250. Avoid this hefty fee by applying for your Canada boating licence online.

You learn important safety skills

A second reason to licence your boat in Ontario is that during the online safety course you are required to complete, you will learn important safety skills. These skills could save lives, depending on the situation. For example, in the Transport Canada boating safety education course, you will learn how to navigate your boat during adverse weather conditions, as well as how to handle capsizing, unmanageable waves, or a swamped boat.

You’ll learn boating basics

A third reason to get a boat licence in Ontario is due to the useful information you will learn. This is especially important for novice boaters. For instance, throughout the online safety course, you will learn basics like how to correctly overtake a boat, dock a boat, and pass a boat.

A step-by-step guide to getting a boat licence in Ontario

Are you ready to get your Ontario boating license online? Doing so is simple and easy. Just follow the three steps below and you will have your Ontario boating license in no time:

1. Complete a Canada approved boating course

Before you can receive your boating licence, you will need to complete a Canada approved boating course. The course takes roughly three hours to complete. At the end of the course is the Transport Canada boating safety test. Only by passing the Ontario boating exam will you be approved for a boating licence. Please note that if you do not pass on the first try, you can retake the exam as many times as you like. Both the course and the exam are conducted online, meaning you can complete both from the comfort of your home.

2. Print a copy of your temporary boating license

Once you have passed the Transport Canada boating safety test, you will be sent a temporary boating license online. You can now legally drive your pleasure craft. Just make sure that you print a copy of this temporary license and keep it with you at all times while on your boat.

3. Wait and receive your Pleasure Craft Operator Card in the mail

The final step is to receive your Pleasure Craft Operator card in the mail. Also known as a PCOC card, this will take a few weeks to arrive and will be mailed to the home address listed in your application. Once you receive it you can swap out your temporary license for this one and make sure you carry it anytime you are on the boat. Please note that Pleasure Craft Operator Cards are recognized by all Canadian provinces and territories, not just in Ontario.

The importance of boat insurance

Boat licensing is not the only important undertaking for a boat owner in Ontario. In addition to licensing your boat and obtaining your Pleasure Craft Operator Card, it is equally important that you insure your boat with boat insurance. Boat insurance may not be mandatory in the way that boat licensing or commercial marine insurance is, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. When you think about it, the right boat insurance coverage can protect you and your watercraft from all kinds of risks, like theft, collisions, legal claims, and more. We dive into all things boat insurance below:

Boat insurance coverage

Boat insurance may not be a legal requirement in Canada, but boat insurance importance cannot be understated. Consider all that a single boat insurance policy covers. The typical boat insurance plan in Ontario covers the following incidents:

  • Your boat, its motor, or other equipment or accessories relating to it being stolen or damaged in a collision.
  • Any personal items on board your boat being stolen, vandalized, or damaged.
  • Someone is injured while on your boat or your boat causes damage to another person’s personal property and they file a third party claim against you.

Meanwhile, the types of coverage most often included in boat insurance policies are:

  • Property coverage: Property coverage aims to protect your physical boat and its contents from certain perils like theft, vandalism, collisions, etc.
  • Liability coverage: Liability coverage is designed to cover policyholders in the event that a third party claim of bodily injury or property damage is made against you following an incident involving your boat.
  • Temporary replacement coverage: Temporary replacement coverage protects policyholders in the event that their boat is damaged and they are temporarily unable to use it. This coverage provides you with a rental boat until yours is back in action.
  • Agreed value coverage: Agreed value coverage may be offered and it can cover the full insured value of your boat if you suffer a total loss.
  • Navigational extension coverage: Navigation extension coverage protects policyholders who intend to operate their boats outside standard navigational limits.

Please note that boat insurance policies vary because each boater’s needs are different. To determine the right coverage for you and your boat, reach out to a BrokerLink insurance advisor today.


Recommended boat insurance liability coverage

Liability coverage is important for almost any type of insurance policy, from home insurance and business insurance to auto insurance and even boat insurance. The amount of liability coverage that is recommended by experts varies, but generally speaking, the minimum amount that insurance professionals recommend is $1,000,000. That said, depending on the value of your boat and how risk-averse you are, you might feel safer with a liability coverage limit of $2,000,000. To determine what amount of boat liability coverage is right for you, contact a BrokerLink insurance advisor and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I store my boat in a marina? If so, does the marina require a certain amount of liability coverage?
  • Where am I using your boat most often? Is it a small private body of water with minimal boating traffic or a busy, high-traffic lake?
  • Do I travel with my boat, such as through locks or on land via a trailer?

What information do I need to provide for boat insurance?

The information needed when applying for a boat insurance policy will ultimately depend on the insurance provider. That said, you should generally expect to provide the following information:

  • The length, type, and value of your boat
  • The condition and fair market value of your boat
  • How frequently you use your boat and the nature of the usage
  • Where and how your boat is stored
  • The condition of the water you most often drive your boat on
  • The level of experience the policyholder has with boating
  • Your personal claims history

Factors impacting the cost of boat insurance policies

Before you purchase insurance coverage for your Ontario boat, it’s important to understand how much a boat insurance policy will cost you. Reading through the following list of factors that impact boat insurance costs in Ontario will give you a better idea of how much you can expect to pay for coverage:

  • Your personal driving record: Same as if you were purchasing a car insurance policy, your insurance provider will ask for a copy of your driving record. The cleaner your record, the better your rates will be. Always drive safely and defensively to avoid any infractions on your record.
  • Your experience with boat ownership: If you have years of experience driving boats or as a boat owner, this will make you seem like a safer investment, possibly lowering your rates. Insurance providers like when policyholders have years or even decades of driving experience, especially if it’s coupled with a clean record.
  • Where you drive your boat: Where you drive your boat will also come into play when applying for boat insurance. Some bodies of water may be seen as riskier than others. This could be because they experience more boat traffic throughout the season or possibly even because they face severe weather. Ultimately, when you apply for boat insurance, your provider is likely to ask you about the specific lakes and waterways where you drive your boat. Your boat’s navigation areas will likely influence your premium.
  • Where you store your boat: Where you choose to store your boat is another factor that can impact your boat insurance premium. Why? The location where you store your boat can directly correlate to risk. If your boat is stored in a private marina or in a covered boat house on your property, the odds of it being stolen, vandalized, or damaged are far less than if it is stored in a public or high-traffic setting. Further, the climate in the place you store your boat can also impact your rates, especially if the region is prone to serious storms.

Boating safety tips

If you want to keep your boat safe and secure - which can help lower boat insurance premiums in Ontario - follow the tips below:

  • Always let someone know before taking your boat out.
  • Obey the rules of the water and drive extra slow when passing other watercrafts.
  • Equip your boat with a monitored alarm system or anti-theft device to deter crime and possibly lower your insurance rates.
  • Never get behind the wheel while impaired, whether from alcohol, cannabis, narcotics, or something else.
  • Do not leave valuable items on your boat when it is unattended.
  • Keep an emergency safety kit on board.
  • Add lights to your boat if you often drive at night.
  • Make sure everyone on board, including yourself, is wearing an approved personal floatation device at all times.
  • Take a boating safety course. Beyond the Transport Canada boat safety course that is required to licence your boat in Ontario, consider enrolling in an additional boat safety course that will teach you a range of defensive boating techniques to keep you safe on the water.

How to get your boat ready for summer

Summer is fast approaching, which means it’s time to get your boat in tip-top shape. We have put together this list of tips to prepare your boat for the summer season. It serves as an excellent first-time boat owners checklist, however, it is also incredibly useful for veteran boaters. Check it out!

1. Make sure you have boat insurance

First, make sure you have a valid boat insurance policy. As with car insurance policies, boat insurance policies are subject to terms. These terms are most often one year, which means you will need to renew your policy every year or switch to a new policy before your existing one expires. If you need help purchasing your first-ever boat insurance policy or are unsatisfied with your current coverage, contact a boat insurance specialist at BrokerLink. We have licensed insurance advisors who can assess your needs and help you find great coverage - all while ensuring you never overpay for boat insurance.

2. Store your boat safely

If you plan to use your boat this summer, you will need to think about where you plan to store it when you’re not using it. Common storage locations include marinas, docks, or even at one’s home. Take some time to carefully consider the best and safest options for your boat. Look into the cost of storing your boat in a marina. If this isn’t for you and you’d prefer to store your boat at home, make sure you have enough space. Think about what you can move out of your garage or driveway to make room for your boat. We also recommend researching any rules and regulations in your municipality surrounding home boat storage. For more information on how boat storage impacts boat insurance rates, contact BrokerLink.

3. Come up with a boat towing plan

Our third tip for getting your boat summer-ready is to come up with a boat towing plan. Towing is one aspect of boat ownership that many boaters, especially first-time boat owners, forget about. However, it is extremely important. Towing your boat is necessary anytime you want to move it from one body of water to another, or from your home to a marina or cottage dock. You will need to make sure that you have a trailer of adequate size and strength to tow your boat safely. If you opt to tow your boat using a smaller vehicle, you must ensure that it has a hitch and that the hitch is strong enough to support your boat. Note that the right vehicle will have fittings that can be properly secured to your boat.

4. Gather the necessary documentation

Before hitting the water for the first time this summer, make sure you have gathered the necessary documentation. This documentation should be with you at all times, especially when on board your boat (make sure to store them in a waterproof bag). Failure to present these documents when asked could result in a fine. The documents you must gather in advance of getting behind the wheel are:

  • Your proof of boat ownership
  • A copy of your boat insurance policy
  • Your boating licence (pleasure craft operator card)
  • Your boat registration records
  • Your boat inspection records

5. Create a boat safety equipment checklist

If you want to make sure that your boat is as safe as possible at all times, we strongly recommend creating a boat safety equipment checklist. This checklist can be referenced every time you board your boat to help you minimize risk. Please note that boat safety is not only important to ensure that everyone on board is safe at all times, but some aspects of it are legal requirements. For instance, life jackets are a legal requirement. Therefore, failure to obtain and store the necessary equipment on your boat could result in a serious fine. Beyond life jackets, there are several other types of boating equipment that are recommended to ensure the safety of all passengers. Please note that depending on the size and type of your watercraft, additional equipment may be required:

  • Life jackets (enough for all passengers)
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A flare gun
  • A first aid kit
  • A functioning radio
  • A throwable rescue device, such as a life ring or buoy
  • A horn or safety alarm that is capable of producing a four-second blast
  • An operational bilge pump (internal or external)

6. Take the time to de-winterize your boat

Our last tip to get your boat ready for the summer is to de-winterize your watercraft. De-winterizing your vessel is easier than you might think and is of the utmost importance, especially if you want your boat to live a long and healthy life and be in the best possible condition come summer. To effectively de-winterize your boat, we recommend doing the following:

  • Check the oil in your boat and change it or top it up if necessary.
  • Change the oil filter in your boat and check the oil in the outdrive.
  • Inspect the battery by reattaching the cables and checking that there is no evidence of corrosion in the terminals (if any appear corroded, wipe them clean).
  • Use a battery tester to inspect the volts and amps in the boat.
  • Inspect the fuel system, which often involves changing the fuel filter and checking that the fuel line is attached and not cracked due to the harsh winter weather.
  • Tighten the belts and replace any that are worn down.
  • Remove and thoroughly clean the distributor cap, especially if there is evidence of corrosion.
  • Go through the boat safety equipment checklist you wrote and make sure that your boat is equipped with all necessary safety equipment.

Contact BrokerLink to learn more about obtaining your boating licence in Ontario

If you still have questions about getting your boat licence in Ontario, contact BrokerLink today. One of our licensed experts can discuss all things boat licensing with you. They can even offer insight into how boat insurance works and the benefits it offers. From there, one of our brokers can suggest what type of coverage is right for your watercraft. We can even give you tips on how to insure a commercial fishing boat in Ontario. Want a free quote on boat insurance? BrokerLink can help with this too. We are happy to provide free boat insurance quotes to all customers. Simply use our online quote tool, give us a call, or visit us at any one of our 200+ locations in Canada.