If you are new to boating, using one of the best boats for beginners can make your boating experience more fun and relaxing.
There are many types of boats today, some of which are very complicated to operate. Finding a boat with simple functionality and low maintenance needs can not only make life easier for you on the water, but it can also help you to increase safety and minimize costs.
Some of the best boats for beginners are:
- Inflatable Boat
- Jet Boat
- Jon Boat
- Flats Boats
When you're out on the open waters by yourself or with others, you should feel confident you can pilot a boat without any problems. You'll also want a boat that is comfortable to sit in comfortably and securely.
Small boats that fit 1 to 4 people can be easily attached to a trailer and are easier to operate due to their smaller dimensions and lighter weight. Even if the boat is motorized, beginners should be able to move a smaller boat by paddling if the motor happens to malfunction or run out of power.
8 Best Boats For Beginners
Boating beginners will want a boat that remains stable enough for you to move around and stand in without making you stumble. Most of the boats I recommend below are small and sturdy with simplistic features beginners should be able to manage.
One of the first boats I ever rode in as a child was an inflatable boat.
Back in the day, my family would often go to the lake with a few inflatable boats that were easy to bring in our station wagon.
Though we usually inflated the boats with air from our lungs, there are many helpful tools available today that can pump air into inflatable boats within minutes.
Some common pumping tools are portable foot pumps or electric pumps powered by batteries or your car’s electricity port.
Inflatable boats nowadays are much more robust in terms of their sizes, designs, seating capacities, and power options.
Modern designs, materials, and construction technologies have significantly enhanced the styles, speeds, and overall capabilities of inflatable boats.
Inflatable boats are so general in nature that some of the other boats on this list may have inflatable versions.
In general, the hull material of inflatable boats is made with sturdy plastic compounds that are thin and flexible enough to fold away for storage, but strong enough to stand up to rough waters in hot and cold weather.
Large boats and ships commonly use inflatable boats as lifeboats, which speaks to their reliability and ease of use for beginners.
Inflatable boats can be powered manually with oars or an outboard motor attached to the rear of the boat.
Of all boat options, inflatable boats are among the easiest and cheapest boats to store since they can be deflated and folded to fit small areas.
Kayaks were another big part of my early boating experiences as it was one of the first boats I powered on my own.
A kayak is a narrow recreational boat around 6 to 16 feet long that typically fits one or two people.
There are foldable varieties of kayaks that make it easier to store and transport compared to standard fixed kayaks.
Though it can be tough for some to get in and sit in without shaking, kayaks can be a good boat for beginners since they have straightforward functionality with sitting areas that are clearly defined.
The sitting area is snug and can act to hold you into place when the waters get a little bumpy.
You can focus more on just your immediate surroundings and less on wider areas of the vessel.
Though kayaks are commonly propelled by hand with a paddle, which is what I did my first time kayaking, there are many advanced kayaks out today with motors.
Motorized kayaks can make the kayaking experience much less physically demanding and more relaxing for beginners.
Kayaks today are often made with light and durable synthetic materials like fiberglass, carbon fiber, polyethylene, graphite, or a composite.
Though getting into and out of a kayak might be tricky for some, I find that it's quite easy to stay steady once you get going on the water.
The first time I went fishing with friends without my parents, we went to a harbor in a small boat called a dinghy.
Our rented dinghy had enough room to comfortably fit four people along with fishing gear and an ice box.
None of us had much experience with any kind of motorized boat, but we all found the dinghy to be easy to pilot around tight spaces in the harbor.
Dinghies these days are still relatively small and have simple controls beginners should be able to manage.
The motor on our dinghy was gas-powered and activated with a cord starter like a lawnmower, but there are dinghies around today that have electric motors.
Beginners that want to use a motorized boat without the hassles of buying and adding fuel should be delighted with an electric motor dinghy.
Dinghies generally have a solid hull that can smoothly float and move around calm waters.
Though it’s possible to ride in a dinghy by yourself, you may have a better time with stability if more passengers are on board to weigh the boat down.
As far as safety goes, if the motor were to break down or exhaust its power, it wouldn't be too hard for people to paddle or hold the boat while swimming alongside it.
A modern dinghy is reliable enough to operate as intended, but having a manual backup plan like paddling might make beginner boaters less anxious when going out on the water.
When I was old enough to take on a higher-speed boat, a jet boat was one of my boats of choice since it was geared more towards performance like a sports car.
Jet boats are a great way to have a typical speed boat experience without the expense and boating experience needed to pilot a standard full-sized speed boat.
You'll be able to gain useful experience in accelerating and steering a boat at higher speeds.
If you've ever ridden on a jet ski or water scooter, a jet boat should be easy for you to manage.
A jet boat typically has an inboard motor, similar to that of a water scooter, which is light and easy to control.
It can also reach high enough speeds for you to dart around lakes or ocean shorelines.
Jet boats basically look like small speed boats and are around 15 to 28 feet long.
Beginners will probably want to stick with jet boats on the shorter end of that spectrum to keep things safer and more manageable.
There are even smaller versions that fit one or two people, which can be good for recreational use as a jet ski.
Beginners that want more stability and room for passengers should opt for a size that’s suitable for their activity and capacity needs.
A Jon boat is a small flat-bottom boat that starts around 8 feet long and 3 feet wide.
The main reason I feel it works well as a boat for beginners is that the flat bottom makes it easy to maintain your balance whether sitting or standing.
Compared to boats with a pointier bow, Jon boats typically have a more rectangular shape and may be roomier and easy to keep balanced due to their wider hull area.
Upon seeing a Jon boat as a child, my first thoughts were that it looked like a raft with seats built into it.
If you feel like you can manage a raft, then you can probably do well to manage a jon boat.
Jon boats are typically used in calmer waters, which is probably the type of waters beginner boaters should be in anyway.
Early Jon boats were largely made of wood, but Jon boats today are made of more durable materials such as fiberglass, plastic, and aluminum.
Jon boats have some of the most simplistic construction, so beginners should find operating a Jon boat to be quite intuitive compared to many other boats.
Since the hull is somewhat like a tub with seats, you should be able to manually paddle the boat pretty smoothly if your engine breaks down.
Fishing trips or slow-paced boating activities near land are great with a skiff.
Skiffs are generally smaller-sized boats between 12 to 15 feet long, which is a bit tight if you want to bring some friends along.
If you’re a beginner at boating, you will probably be better off learning the ropes with less people on board anyway.
Though you can bring a sizable group with you on a larger skiff, most of the skiffs I’ve been on are more suited for less than a handful of people.
A skiff is similar to a Jon boat, but it has broader specifications in terms of its size and features.
Skiffs typically have a flat bottom like a Jon boat and are also used in shallower waters much of the time.
Remaining stable when sitting or standing shouldn’t be too tricky for beginners, especially if there is adequate weight on the boat to keep things balanced.
Compared to Jon boats, skiffs tend to have higher speed capabilities and wider limits to how far they can safely travel away from shore.
For beginner boaters that want more versatility in the types of activities they can do, a skiff might be the preferred boat selection.
I enjoy piloting or riding in a flats boat when I go fishing or just want to chill out on steady waters during a nice and sunny day.
Flats boats run somewhere between 17 to 25 feet long and have a simple structure that can be great for basic recreational use, fishing, or trips of leisure.
Flats boats generally have flat-bottomed hulls but can also come in a slightly v-shaped variety.
Compared to other boats, the flatter profile of a flats boat allows it to safely pass over underwater objects that might come in contact with the boat and cause rough riders or even damage.
There is less of a need for boaters to be as skilled and careful when it comes to underwater vision, boat piloting, and navigation.
Waters will not always be clear, so beginner boaters will feel more assured being out there on a boat with more clearance than a boat with a more pronounced v-shaped hull.
Of course, you should be as careful as possible under all circumstances when using any boat, including a flats boat.
If beginners are worried about engine failure, some flat boats come with features to make it easier to manually push the boat along with a pole.
When boating through tricky areas where there may be vegetation or other materials inhibiting movement with a motor, being able to use a pole or other manual method is good to have as an option.
A bowrider is a great a boat selection for beginners that want more features to accommodate lounging areas, walking space, and more passengers
The length of a bowrider generally runs between 17 and 35 feet long, though they are more commonly available at 21 feet long or less.
Bowriders can have an outboard motor at the stern or an inboard motor built into the hull.
Built-in motors allow the boat to be piloted at a central console with a steering wheel, much like a car on the road.
This familiar steering format can make piloting the boat less confusing for beginners that already know how to drive a car.
Bowriders often have flat space in the middle that makes it easy for passengers to stand and walk around.
Though bowriders can be used for higher speed activities farther into the ocean, it is often used in lakes, near shorelines, and other bodies of water that are more inland.
Since beginner boaters should stick more to slower speeds for safety, a bowrider makes sense as a beginner boat since it’s often used for recreational activities like fishing, water skiing, or just stopping to let passengers swim.
Even though bowriders cost more than other boats on this list, they should be relatively easy to access through boat rental services.
About THE AUTHOR
I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.Read More About Brian Samson