Wisconsin Regulatory Guide

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) regulates boating, prioritizing safety and environmental conservation. They enforce rules on boat registrations, safety equipment, and speed limits while actively promoting responsible boating practices through education. The WDNR aims to ensure a secure and enjoyable boating environment while preserving Wisconsin's diverse aquatic ecosystems. On this page, we navigate you through everything you need to have in place in order to ensure that your boat rental business is compliant with Wisconsin’s regulations, along with some other important things to keep in mind.

Boxes you need to tick

These are requirements as defined by law:

Age Requirement

A boat livery may not rent, lease, or let for hire any vessel ten horsepower or more to any person under 16 years of age

License Requirement

A person born on or after January 1, 1989 must have a valid boating safety certificate to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft.

Safety Checklist

Cannot rent to someone without a boating safety certificate unless you give them instructions on how to safely operate the motorboat.

Registration Requirement

All boats must be covered by a certificate of number in order to operate in Wisconsin.

No person may operate, and no owner may give permission for the operation of, any boat on the waters of this state unless the boat is covered by a certificate of number or is exempt from the certificate of number requirements.

Keep in mind when renting out boats


Livery Definition

Not required

Video Documentation
Rental Agreement
Record Requirement
List of Passengers

The information provided is intended to be general and informative, and should not be interpreted as regulatory, legal, or insurance advice. It does not constitute professional advice from a licensed insurance agent and does not establish an attorney-client or insurer-insured relationship. This information should not replace the counsel of a qualified legal, regulatory, or insurance professional. Always consult with a qualified professional for legal, regulatory, or insurance advice pertaining to your specific circumstances.

Boat Rental Accident Reporting

A "reportable" boat incident is any incident (regardless of the number of boats involved) that results in loss of life, injuries that require medical treatment beyond first aid, boat or property damage in excess of $2,000, or complete loss of a boat.

Wisconsin law requires every boat operator involved in a reportable boat incident to report the incident without delay to law enforcement officials. In addition, within 10 days of the incident, the operator must submit a written report.

Report Accident

Federal Regulation

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) regularly provides updates on recentchanges in regulation and have overviews of specific requirements for boatrental companies

Buoy is your one-stop shop for compliance & insurance

Buoy provides boat rental companies with peace of mind while saving time and money. When using Buoy’s insurance solution, we will help you get fully compliant free of charge.

Get peace of mind
White glove support
Download resources