Owning a boat is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Days spent cruising the waters can make memories to last a lifetime.
The market is awash with different designs, types, and sizes of watercraft. They also have varying features to match diverse needs, which explains the dissimilar price tags. Such factors contribute to finding the right boat for your budget. But which is the best boat for the money?
The best boats for the money are Yamaha WaveRunner, Donzi 16 Classic, Lund Angler, Regal 1900 ES, Starweld 16, and Godfrey Sweetwater. They have versatile features that enhance their capability in whatever function they serve, be it fishing, cruising, watersports, or living onboard.
The price of most boats falls between $20,000 and $50,000. But there are some brands and models that will set you back less than $10,000, while others cost upwards of half a million dollars. It all boils down to your needs and financial capability. But how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth?
After extensive research and a thorough tally, we found 13 of the best boats for your money. Hopefully, this will enable you to choose a seaworthy craft that falls within your budget.
13 Best Boats For Your Money
At first glance, it seems like buying a boat is a lot of money that can be channeled elsewhere. But to the boating community, this is a fair price range for such an investment. Typically, the pre-owned craft is cheaper than new models and is priced differently per seller.
Stick around as we explore some of the best boats for the money. Our review will help you plan better before rushing to close a deal.
1. Yamaha WaveRunner-Personal Watercraft (PWC)
With personal watercraft (PWC), as opposed to riding in a boat where passengers sit in it, you lay, stand, kneel, or sit when using a PWC. The most common types of PWC are Jet Skis, Sea-Doos, and WaveRunners.
By popular vote, the Yamaha WaveRunner EX series takes the trophy as the best PWC for your money. It’s built for agility, so it's always been the bestselling PWC for fun-filled on-water activities.
The manufacturers offer customization services. You can purchase accessories to make it your own. You can also install floating, wireless Bluetooth speakers if you wish to bring your music on the water.
Specs: Rider capacity - 3 persons, Width - 44.5 in, Height - 45.3 in., Dry weight - 576lbs, Storage space - 7.7 gal.
2. Donzi 16 Classic Boats-High-performance Boat
High-performance boats are compact, long, sleek speed boats commonly used in cruises and offshore racing exploits. They are loved for their speed and agility.
Popularly nicknamed “The Sweet Sixteen,” the Donzi 16 Classic Boats are one of a kind. It sets new standards in race boat design thanks to its solid build and aesthetics.
Specs: Max horsepower - Overall length 16ft 5in, Beam 6ft 11in, Fuel capacity - 32 gal, Dry weight - 2,500 lbs (1,134 kg), Person capacity - 4
Price: $13,900 to $50,000
3. Lund 1650 Angler SS-All-Purpose Fishing Boat
All-purpose fishing boats are all about simplicity. They are often made with lightweight material to cruise effortlessly over shallow water but with a deep-V hull that can handle big water with relative ease. It’s the best boat that lets you enjoy fishing in many different ways for many species.
A good all-rounder is the highly-versatile Lund 1650 Angler SS. It is one of the most affordable entry-level boats on the market. You can pick from three model designs: Rear steering (tiller), SS (side console), and full windshield (sport) to suit your fishing needs.
Specs: A maximum horsepower rating of 60hp. Length - 16ft, Beam - 80ft, Fuel tank size - 6.5 gal, Weight capacity 1422 lbs
Price: Starting at $18,907 (not inclusive of registration, taxes, tariffs, and freight fees)
4. Regal 1900 ES-Bowrider
Most bowriders are built as summer boats and are often used for leisure activities like cruising and watersports. They are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, making them a darling for most first-time boat owners.
If you’re looking for a beginner bowrider boat that falls within a 50k price range, consider the Regal 1900 ES bowrider. At just about 20 feet long, it can accommodate up to 9 people on board comfortably. And thanks to its design, the Regal 1900 is fast, smooth, and dry.
Specs: V6 engine with a maximum hp of 225. Overall length - 20ft 3in, Beam - 8ft 3in, Fuel capacity - 35 gal, and holds a dry weight of 3100 lbs (1406kg).
Price: Starting at $21,400
5. Starweld 16 Fusion DC-Aluminum fishing Boat
As the name suggests, aluminum fishing boats are favorites among freshwater and saltwater anglers. Manufacturers of these boats design them to achieve optimum functionality and convenience. For instance, the hull is made entirely from aluminum, making it lightweight and easy to travel with on both water and land.
The Starweld 16 Fusion DC is the best boat for the money for aluminum fishing boats. They are light in weight, can be trawled behind light-duty tow vehicles, and are garage-ready, facilitating easy storage at home.
Anglers appreciate the rugged look, huge casting deck, and secure rod stowage box. One can cast their line and hook while standing or sitting on one of the aft jump seats strategically placed alongside the boat’s beam.
It has enough space to hold 6 people, should you want to bring friends or family on board to cruise and fish.
Specs: Maximum horsepower of 90hp, length of 16ft 6in., beam height of 82 inches, fuel capacity of 12 gal, and dry weight of 925 lbs (420kg).
Price: Upwards of $23,900
6. Godfrey Sweetwater 1886 C-Pontoons
Advancement in pontoon tube design has turned this boat into a popular choice for family fun adventures. Pontoons have massive deck space making them suitable for a sun pad, stand-up bar, and an expansive lounge area.
The Godfrey Sweetwater 1886 C is the best pontoon boat for the money. The pontoon boat comfortably seats 10 passengers, making it an excellent choice for family fun.
Specs: In-line 4-stroke engine supporting 75hp. Overall length - 19ft 11in., Beam - 8ft 6in., Fuel capacity - 30 gals, and dry weight of 1900 lb (862kg).
Price: MSRP is just over $26,000.
7. Bayliner Element Series-Deck Boat
Deck boats are innovatively designed to provide ample offshore lounging space for sizable groups. They are the ultimate recreational cruises for families that love day-cruising, watersports, and freshwater fishing.
Try the Bayliner Element series if you’re looking for a deck boat with an exceptional price tag. They are available in the E21 (21ft), E18 (18ft), M17 (17ft), and M15 (15ft) models to match different onboard requirements. These Bayliner boats are stable, safe, dry, and have lots of space and storage.
Price range: $19,595 to $50,000
8. Lowe FS 1700-Fish and Ski Boat
As the name suggests, this type of vessel makes the best of two worlds. If you love to go on quiet, nature-filled fishing trips but enjoy the occasional family watersports weekend, then a fish-and-ski boat is what you need.
And no boat serves this purpose better than the Lowe FS 1700. The rugged, aluminum vessel has a deep V hull making it extremely reliable even in choppy water.
Specs: Max Horsepower - 115hp, Overall length - 16ft 10in, Beam - 95 in, Fuel capacity - 26 gal, Dry weight of 162lbs (735.73kg), 5 pedestal seat bases
Price: Starting at $30,337
9. Rinker 22MTX-Cuddy Cabins
Cuddy’s are small-family recreation, overnighter, and fishing boats. The perfect solution for someone who wants to enjoy the versatile features on a lower budget.
These medium-sized, trailerable vessels cross between a family bowrider and a cabin cruiser. They have a below-deck area for siesta-style snoozing or overnight rest. During the day, you can swim off the platform, practice angling, or anchor on a sandbar for a beach party.
Whatever your idea of fun, if you're after versatility and agility, opt for a Rinker 22MTX. And even though Polaris decided to cease manufacturing this line of boats, the Rinker 22MTX is still one of the best cuddy cabins. Well, that’s if you can find one before sellers run out of stock.
Specs: Max Horsepower rating - , Length - 22 ft. 7in., Beam - 8 ft. 2in, Fuel Capacity - 34 gal, Dry weight - 3,520 lb. (1598 kg), Passenger capacity - 8 to 10 persons
Price: $33,999 to $45,600
10. 230CC World Cat –Multi-hull Powerboats
Commonly referred to as power catamarans, multi-hull powerboats are best known for their comfortable ride. As the name states, their two hull design promotes stability and maneuverability. It's less tiring to sail this type of boat, particularly on downwind runs.
The 230CC World Cat brings 23 feet of comfort, quality design, and first-rate features for anyone who loves freshwater fishing and day-cruising. But be prepared to part with almost $100,000 for a powerboat like this one.
It may seem like a lot, but you’ll make up for it with the smooth twin-hull cruise, capability, and space for 10 people.
Specs: A max horsepower rating of 230hp (2 X 115). Length of 23 ft, beam height of 8ft 6in., fuel capacity of 89 gal (2 X 44.5), dry weight of 4000lbs (about 1815kg).
Price: From $109,900
11. Sea Ray Sundancer 350 Coupe-Power Cruisers
Motor yachts and power cruisers are some of the most innovative luxury boats globally. They are designed with features and amenities that promote
The Sea Ray Sundancer 350 Coupe is a great-looking sports cruiser. It has an open-air atrium, spacious flybridge, excellent accommodation for an overnight stay or live-in situation, and an enhanced coupe foredeck lounging area.
If seaworthy comfort and good speed sound like a plan, how do you feel about parting with half a million dollars?
Specs: Horsepower rating - 750 hp, Overall length - 35ft, Beam - 11ft 4in, Fuel capacity - 230 gal, Dry weight - 15,780 lb (7,158 kg), Sleeping capacity - 6
Price: From $359,900
12. Walker Bay 10-Dinghies
Dinghies are small, open boats often used as a tender or lifeboat by a larger vessel. At first sight, these watercraft resemble simple rowboats, but they represent outstanding performance and value.
For instance, the Walker Bay 10 is three boats in one—you can sail it, use oars to row, or crank the motor! These boats are designed with a comfortable interior to facilitate a smooth, dry ride.
Specs: Length - 10ft, Width - 4.8ft, Adjustable rowing footrest, Integrated motor/tiller mount, Passenger capacity - 3 adults or 204 kg
Price: From $1,510
13. Sea Eagle 10.6sr-Inflatable Boats
Inflatable crafts are built for ease of transport and convenience. They make excellent towboats and tenders. But probably the best thing about them is that they can be deflated, folded, and stored in the closet or a storage basket. Perfect for people dealing with space constraints.
Another great thing about inflatables is their customizability. You can install accessories like a Bimini top and swivel seats to match your needs.
But don’t judge these vessels at face value. The Sea Eagle 10.6sr takes about half an hour to look like a boat. It’s specially designed to navigate smoothly through rough seas with ease.
Unfortunately, production was discontinued. So, it’s just a matter of time before the remaining stock is depleted. Luckily, there’s always an abundance of pre-owned boats up for sale.
Specs: Engine capacity - 15hp, Overall length - 10ft 6in, and carries a maximum of 5 persons.
Price: Starting at $1,849 plus free shipping
How to Choose the Best Boat For Your Water Activities
There's a boat for every person and budget, but most importantly, every activity. The vessel you use in a river will differ in functionality and design from the one you drive on the high seas. Check out these tips for finding the boat that will suit your water activities.
Best Boat For Oceans
The open sea is another world on its own. Calm waters could turn into monster waves in a matter of minutes. Therefore, the ideal ocean crossing boat should be capable of traveling large distances, be self-sufficient for lengthy periods, and have features that can withstand deep, rough waters.
A larger boat is the wise move. The smallest allowable size for an ocean crossing is 27 feet. Sailboats, catamarans, cabin cruisers, sportfishing and motor yachts, center consoles, trawlers, and high-performance boats are the best choices for the seas.
Opt for something with high fuel capacity, considerable range, shelter, and amenities for overnight ocean trips. It is best to have boating experience before commandeering your vessel through deep waters.
Best Boat For Lakes
Lake boating offers more versatility. Most lakes support a wide range of water activities, expanding the list of possibilities. Leisure crafts like houseboats, cabin cruisers, deck boats, pontoon boats, and fish-and-ski boats are the popular choice.
You want a boat that you can anchor so you can fish, or your kids can dive off the deck. At the same time, it should be able to cover certain ranges while cruising as you explore the lake.
If you enjoy multiple water activities, opt for a multi-functional boat. For instance, a pontoon boat with the right fixtures can be used for fishing, water games, and even dinner dates. Models like the South Bay Super Sport 925 can reach speeds of 90mph, facilitating wakeboarding, skiing, and tubing.
Some craft for river use, like flatboats, can be operated on lakes. But you must exercise caution if you’re on a deep lake and when faster or larger vessels are within the same environment.
Best Boat For Rivers
When picking a riverboat, the first consideration is the ability to navigate through shallow water. That is why flat-bottom boats are preferred.
Bass boats, bay boats, aluminum fishing boats, jet boats, and skiffs are common choices designed for shallow waters. Craft like the Micro Draft 20 can travel on 3” deep water.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Boat
With boat sales at an all-time high, getting yourself one could be a good time. But before you buy a boat, there are numerous factors you should consider, including:
- Intended use
- Your budget
- Motor vs. sail
- Condition of the vessel
- Storage options
- Legal obligations
- Where to shop
Type of Vessel
There are numerous boats in the market - different brands, designs, capabilities, and sizes. If you were to begin going through boat catalogs, you still wouldn’t be done in a week.
If you’re finding it difficult to decide which type of boat you should buy, take note of things like:
- Where do you plan to use the boat, and for what activity?
- The number of people you wish to have on board regularly.
- The type and size of your vehicle if you’ll be trailering the boat.
- Where you’ll store the boat.
You need to buy for your needs. Do you intend to engage in high-speed water activities or embark on fly fishing excursions? Will you be going on occasional overnight adventures, or do you plan on moving into your boat permanently?
Answers to such questions will help you choose the right type and size of boat to buy. Visit online forums and talk to other people who love boats. It’s a great way to learn more about different types of boats.
And how often will you be operating the boat? If you want to use it only once a year, you could be better off renting. Renting frees you from costs associated with insurance, storage, and depreciation.
Your Budget vs. Market Prices
First, you’ll need to figure out your budget. The amount you are willing to spend determines the type, brand, and size of watercraft you can buy.
Consider your current monthly expenditures, such as auto insurance, utility bills, and mortgage, against your annual salary and any other income. All this enables you to ascertain how much disposable cash you have each month.
These figures will tell you if you can hack saving up for the boat model you want. It will also enable you to calculate your ability to fulfill monthly installment payments if you take a boat loan. Always pick a vessel that falls within your budget.
Don’t forget to include boat ownership costs like online boat registration, gas, storage costs, boat insurance, moorage, regular cleaning, maintenance fees, permits, and licenses. And factor in charges for hiring a marine surveyor or boat dealer.
Motor or Sail
Before you pick a motor or sailboat, ask yourself two questions: Do you wish to operate your boat alone, and your boating experience?
Motor-powered watercraft are easier to drive and steer, while their sailed counterparts rely on the wind and skills to move the vessel. But it all boils down to preference and what you plan to do.
A sailboat could be ideal if you love to fish, scuba dive, or snorkel. But you’ll need a bit of experience to learn how to sail properly. On the flip side, you need a motorboat if you’ll be waterskiing and kneeboarding at the back.
Size of the Boat
The size you choose depends on several factors. To get it right, ask yourself these questions:
- Where do you plan to use the boat? You need a deep hull for large waterways and vice versa for shallow rivers and lakes.
- How many passengers will you regularly have onboard?
- Do you plan to stay overnight on the vessel? If so, you need a large boat with a cabin, galley, and adequate amenities.
- What’s the maximum amount you’re willing to pay?
- Where do you plan to store it? If you keep the boat on your driveway, the stern shouldn’t jut into the street. If it’s on a marina or dock, you must consider monthly storage costs or slip (berth) fees.
Condition of the Vessel
Are you buying new or pre-owned? Buying a new boat is pretty straightforward if you have the cash in hand. But if you’re buying a used boat, ensure you inspect the vessel in person before you decide.
Check the overall condition of the hull, gunwale, and stern—dents and cracks are a red flag. Request the seller for a test drive. Test driving is a great way to get a feel of the boat on the water. You’ll also be able to determine whether the watercraft is sea-worthy if it is pre-owned.
It would be best to hire a marine surveyor to conduct a valuation on your behalf. They are specially trained to detect outstanding issues to prevent you from making bad purchasing decisions.
Typically, buying new is better because the vessel comes with a warranty. Most boaters, however, are opting for pre-owned models. That is because they are less costly as the boat has already depreciated.
A recent study by NMMA supports this point. A whopping 1.1 million used boats were sold in 2021, while only 300,000 new units were bought. If this doesn’t prove anything, I don’t know what does!
Ideally, every boat owner should keep their boat near their house. But in the real world, this isn’t always possible. You might not own waterfront property or have adequate space in the homestead. Thankfully, boat storage options are plentiful amidst the most popular boating destinations.
Boat storage options typically fall into two categories: In-water and out of the water. Each has different requirements and expenses. Consider where you will slip or trailer it and store it each winter.
Options include marina slips, boatyards, high and dry stores, and self-storage. However, the latter requires you to have a trailer system for moving the vessel on land.
Much like a car, there are certain laws governing watercraft ownership. By law, you are meant to register the boat soon after purchase. Inquire from your local official maritime authority regarding boat registration requirements in your state. Most human-powered craft like canoes and kayaks are often exempt from this process in most states.
You will receive a registration number, which functions as your vessel's license plate and must be put in plain sight on both sides of the front of the boat, the hull, and near the bow. Watercraft can only be officially registered in one state and is subject to renewal upon expiry.
You’re also legally required to seek permission from the state to be on the waters in their jurisdiction. Check the State Boating Laws, Rules & Regulations Map for specific requirements.
It may also be necessary to take a boating education and safety certification before applying for a boating license. The course is available in-person and online for a fee. After passing an exam, you’re given a certificate.
Where to Shop
As you look through ads placed by boat dealers and online catalogs from sellers, you’ll start to see what you like. You already know the style and features you want on the boat, making it easier to find what you want.
Use online boating communities and forums as a resource to learn about boating. You will find answers to matters that could be troubling you. There are plenty of participants in the discussions who were once first-time boat buyers and can offer invaluable advice.
If you’re looking to buy watercraft and associated accessories, check:
- Local brick and mortar boat shops
- Online e-commerce stores
- Websites of boat dealerships
- Boat shows
- From a private seller
Ensure you get all the paperwork when you close the deal. And only transact with credible dealers and sellers, especially when buying online.
Financing Options For a Boat
Sometimes, one can afford a boat, just not all the money at once. Such a situation is where boat financing comes in. Continue reading as we look at easily-accessible options to help you raise funds to own a boat.
Most lenders will offer a personal loan to finance a boat, but under certain conditions. It is given in lump sum and paid back in monthly installments over a specified period.
The loans can be either secured or unsecured. You can access them through three channels:
- Credit unions
- Credible lending firms
Typically, secured loans can be as high as $1 million, while you can get a little over $100,000 on an unsecured loan. Each comes with its own rules, pros, and cons. Ensure you understand these requirements before making a loan application.
For instance, most secured loans require the loanee to pay a down payment and complete the balance within the stipulated period. Failure to fulfill the monthly payments usually results in the boat getting confiscated by the lender.
If this is your preferred method of financing, use a boat loan calculating tool to determine if you are capable of paying the installment amount. The calculator computes the loan amount against the repayment period and interest costs on a boat loan to tell you how much one month’s installment will cost you.
Arrange Financing Through a Boat Dealer
Boat dealerships have plenty of experience dealing with clients with different financial needs. As such, they are highly adept at setting up boat loans.
Dealers often collaborate with money lending firms to provide financing options to interested buyers. After all, it is in their best interest to pull strings that facilitate more sales.
With everything shifting to the digital arena, it is only expected that lenders have also moved their operations online. Numerous Internet-based loan companies offer different types of loans.
They are convenient and easily available. And if you conduct proper research, you might just find one with low-interest rates and favorable loan terms. However, exercise caution not to fall prey to unscrupulous lenders.
Borrow from a Friend or Family
If you’re known to stand by your word, you can ask a friend or family member to loan you the money for the purchase. Depending on your relationship and agreement with the loaner, these loans can be interest-free.
But even when they do accrue interest, the rate is usually lower than banks and other lenders.
Find a Boat Buddy
An alternative is to find someone to go in on the purchase with you. There’s probably someone in your circle who’s in the same predicament, looking for a trusted person to cost-share together.
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