Renting Personal Watercraft in Florida

Personal watercraft, or PWC’s as they are commonly referred to, are also known as Jet Skis or waverunners. If you glimpse at any waterway in Florida during the summer, you’re sure to see lots of people on PWCs and you immediately want to be one of them. It looks like so much fun — zipping along with the wind blowing through your hair and water spraying and splashing all around. The good news is even if you don’t own one, you can be one of those people having all that fun by renting a personal watercraft.
The bad news is that renting a personal watercraft in Florida may not be as easy as just paying the rental fee. There are rules and regulations that rental facilities must follow... and, so do you.

Personal Watercraft Rental Requirements:

  • Minimum age to operate a personal watercraft in Florida is 14 and it is unlawful for a person to knowingly allow a person under age 14 to operate a personal watercraft.
  • The minimum age to RENT a personal watercraft in Florida is 18.
  • Persons born on or after January 1, 1988 are required to either have successfully completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved boating education course or have passes a course equivalency or temporary certificate examination.
  • OR… Non-residents with proof in his or her possession that they have completed a NASBLA-approved boater safety course or equivalency examination from another state.
  • Operators must have in their possession a boating education ID card and a photo identification card before operating a vessel with a motor of 10 HP or more in Florida. Temporary Certificate exams are made available to the public through contractors (includes renting facilities) and is valid for 12 months from the issue date. Identification cards for persons completing the course or the equivalency exam are good for a lifetime.

Personal Watercraft Safety Requirements (It’s the Law in Florida):

  • Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear a Coast Guard approved non-inflatable Type I, II, II or V personal flotation device (PFD). Inflatable PFDs are prohibited for personal watercraft use.
  • The operator of a personal watercraft must attach the engine cutoff switch lanyard (if equipped by the manufacturer) to his/her person, clothing or PFD. (Personally, I wouldn’t rent one without the cutoff switch.)
  • Personal watercraft may not be operated from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise, even if navigation lights are used.
  • It is a first-degree misdemeanor to maneuver a personal watercraft by weaving through congested vessel traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision. It is all considered as reckless operation of a vessel.
  • It is a second-degree misdemeanor to knowingly allow a person under 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Personal Watercraft?

There are many facilities that rent personal watercraft. The cost depends on the location and the demand for rentals, but typically a half hour jet ski rental will be around $50 with a full hour $80 or more. If you are renting a jet ski at Disney World, expect to pay $135 per hour.

Personal Watercraft Rental Facility Requirements:

  • Rental facilities are prohibited from renting a vessel that does not have proper safety equipment, exceeds the recommended horsepower or load capacity, or is not seaworthy.
  • The rental facility must provide pre-rental or pre-ride instruction on the safe operation of the vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or more.
  • The pre-rental or pre-ride instruction must include, at a minimum, operational characteristics of the vessel, safe operation and right-of-way, operator responsibilities and local waterway characteristics. Persons delivering this information must have completed a NASBLA/state-approved boater safety course (ask for credentials).
  • The rental facility must verify each operator have a boater education ID card.
  • Rental facilities must display boating safety information in a place visible to the renting public in accordance with FWC guidelines.
  • Rental facility operators must provide on-the-water demonstration and a check ride to evaluate the proficiency of renters.
  • Proper operation of a PWC and safety information must be displayed. The information must include: propulsion, steering and stopping characteristics of jet pump vessels, the location and content of warning labels, how to re-board a PWC, the applicability of the Navigation Rules to PWC operation, problems with seeing and being seen by other boaters, reckless operation, as well as noise, nuisance and environmental concerns.
Still have questions? Refer to the FAQs for Liveries (rental facilities) at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for further information.

Florida Boating Accidents and Fatalities

With over 1,200 miles of shoreline and numerous lakes, rivers and bays, it is no wonder that Florida tops the nation in boating fatalities according to the U.S. Coast Guard Division of Auxiliary and Boating Safety.
In its annual Boating Accidents Statistical Report for 2014, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that although the number of registered vessels have decreased since 2012, the number of fatalities has increased, with July being the most active month for accidents.
While renters of personal watercraft are the least likely to be in a fatal accident, up to 10% of boating accidents happen to those who rent vessels. You are more likely to become a statistic if you are male (93%), over 51 years old (59%) and surprisingly have more than a 100 hours of operator experience (58%). Eighty-two percent of all victims had no formal boater education.
It seems like a no-brainer, but so many people refuse to wear personal floatation devices. Perhaps these statistics will change your mind. Victim statistics clearly show that only 18% of those wearing a PFD perish in boating accidents, while 82% die without wearing a PFD. Of course, if you rent from a reputable facility, they should refuse to rent to you if you refuse to wear a personal floatation device.


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Travel Magazine: Renting Personal Watercraft in Florida
Renting Personal Watercraft in Florida
Travel Magazine
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