How to Determine the Right Boat for You
With so many options, trying to find the right boat to match your lifestyle is a tall order.
What type of boat do you want? What do you plan to use it for? How far do you want to be able to go on a voyage? Can you buy new, or are you leaning towards used?
Knowing the answers to these questions and having an honest assessment of your budget will prepare you to talk with a salesperson or broker. Nonetheless, there is so much more you need to consider.
The reality is that having a boat is a major investment. Mariners from all over love to joke that “boat” is an acronym for “bust out another thousand” since it can be common to pay for unexpected maintenance.
But don’t let inside jokes like that keep you from diving headfirst into the world of boat ownership.
Believe us when we say owning a marine vessel is well worth it, and you can avoid high maintenance bills. This is especially true when given basic care, like storing it with the correct fuel additive in the off-season. All you need is a little help getting started, so you can choose a boat that fits your needs without breaking the bank.
Let us throw you a proverbial lifesaver before you ever get a chance to get lost at sea as we walk through four different boat styles. After you’ve gotten a chance to read through each one, you should have a clear understanding of which one to keep on your radar when you go out boat shopping. How exciting!
Power cruisers have enough space, engine power, and accommodations for longer trips. These fuel-powered vessels can range anywhere from 25-40 feet in length, so you have plenty of options to choose from. A few boat styles that fall into this category include cabin cruisers, weekender boats, and cuddy cabins, to name a few.
If the name doesn’t give it away already, cruisers are designed for longer voyages on open water. These boats can be utilized for day trips, overnight stays, and extended getaways. This type of boat is typically powered by stern drive engines that supply above-average cruising speeds to cover greater distances.
Boaters who are interested in power cruisers are usually interested in traveling comfortably and entertaining guests. YachtWorld claims that the average cruiser for sale on their website accommodates 12 guests. However, that number can vary higher or lower depending upon the size of the cruiser, the number of beds on board, and deck space.
The average price for a cruiser is listed at $120,698 on Boats.com between the online inventory’s reserve of new and used boats. Since there is so much variety between manufacturers, cruiser types, and customization options, you shouldn’t let that average deter you either way. If you genuinely want to climb aboard a craft that can really take you places, consider a power cruiser.
Boating, in general, is so much more than having a piece of equipment capable of traversing across the water. Owning a boat is an involved hobby that requires a knowledge of the sea, nautical terminology, maritime laws, and most importantly, your own ship. Out of any boat type on this list, sailboats require the most skill, along with a lifestyle change.
Sailboats can vary between 25 and 200 feet in length. Similar to cruisers, sailboats come in all shapes and sizes, so you can use them for extended trips. But the one significant difference that you might have already guessed is that these boats are wind-powered. Even though they rely on mother nature to move, sailboats still have a smaller engine to navigate in and out of port and provide a slight boost when needed.
Monohulls, catamarans, and multi-hull crafts are some of the most popular sailboat types you can find on the market. Each one is named after its primary hull design, which speaks to the classification of each boat. Some rigs are easier to learn than others and require less manual labor to operate. Regardless, you can’t simply turn a key and head out to sea like you could with a cruiser. Instead, you need intimate knowledge of the boat’s anatomy and a sail plan every time you take it out.
If you are ready to embrace the world of sailboats, you can expect to pay an average of $80,000 for a new 26′ Catalina. That price should give you a reasonable estimate of what you can expect to pay if you go with a larger, smaller, or even a used option. Look into sailboats and sailing cruisers if you don’t shy away from adventure and care to add some valuable new skills to your repertoire.
When you bring people you care about together for a day out on the water, we call the boat you use a friend ship. Out of every model you can find on the market, pontoon boats are arguably the best fit for the job. These boats are equipped with a flat, expansive deck that can be fitted with accommodations like sun tanning pads, small service bars, and more.
Pontoon boats fall anywhere between 16 and 30 feet in length, making them smaller than cruisers or sailboats. However, these boats make effective use of their space, allowing for 12 or sometimes even 16 guests to fit. These models are supported by two or more metal tubes (or pontoons), and they are propelled by either an outboard engine or a sterndrive engine. Since they have so much buoyancy, pontoon boats can safely operate in shallow water, which is one more added benefit of this diverse boat class.
Since pontoon boats are smaller and have less engine power than some other styles, picking up the controls is much easier. Therefore, if you are trying to decide between a big cruiser and a smaller pontoon, play skipper of the pontoon boat first. It’s a smart decision to help you get a good sense of your capabilities before investing in something more expensive. Who knows? You may even fall in love with pontoon boats after practicing aboard one.
A pontoon boat can cost you anywhere between $15,000 to $175,000, based on the size and accessories most important to you. That’s quite a range but well worth the time investigating, especially if you have a lake house with a dock. Keep in mind that your pontoon boat will act as an extension of your dock, so take the time to find a model that matches your aesthetic.
Not every captain is looking for a grand vessel or a pontoon boat. Some folks are looking for a smaller option with enough engine power to engage in watersports like skiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing, and tubing. If you fall into this category, you are in the market for something with the right drivetrain and low-end torque to pull weight effectively.
Allow us to introduce you to the magnificent world of watersport boats.
This type of boat typically runs anywhere from 16 to 28 feet in length, and they are optimized for towing (or pulling). Similar to the first two categories we’ve covered, there are a lot of different watersport boats with various intended uses. For example, some models generate the flattest wake possible while others can make bigger wakes for more competitive skiing, surfing, or wakeboarding.
Nonetheless, all boats that fall in this category are propelled by an inboard engine, stern drive, or jet. These three types of drivetrains give the machine enough force to haul, making watersport boats the metaphorical tow truck of the water. The only thing you have to decide is what activities you want to participate in on the lake.
As of October 2021, Boats.com has 1,648 new, and 1,325 used watersport boats for sale. Out of this collective inventory, prices range anywhere from $9,545 to $319,274, making watersport boats the most economically diverse type on the list. Therefore, there is truly something available for all budget types if you want to get active on the water come summer.
At this point, you should have a general understanding of the most common boat types, along with their respective price points. And while there is a lot more to know about cruisers, sailboats, pontoon boats, and watersport boats, there are even more boat styles out there that fall somewhere in between.
For example, you may be considering speed boats, freshwater fishing boats, saltwater fishing boats, or even houseboats – all of which are perfectly good options if you want to spend time on the water.
Regardless of which boat is your ideal choice, you will get the most out of it by keeping up with maintenance and detailing it like a professional, which is easy when you have the right marine care products.
Lastly, sticking with simple upkeep, including an annual winterization routine, is the best way to keep your boat in good health. After all, you will want to keep it in favorable shape so you can make wholesome memories to last the rest of your life.