Interior shot of boat floating in lake

Understanding the Different Types of Boats: Which One Is Right for You?

Are you thinking about buying a boat? Whether you love to fish or want to cruise the open water, there are several different types of boats to choose from. Each boat type generally falls into three categories: cruising boats, fishing boats, and water sports boats. When choosing the right boat, you’ll need to consider:

  • What you’re going to use it for
  • How much time you’ll spend on the water
  • How many people will be on the boat

Once you’ve determined your needs, you’re ready to dive into the world of boats. Ready to learn about the different types of boats? Read on, Captain!

Aluminum Fishing Boats

Are you a no-nonsense fisherman who’s eager to get on the water? Check out the simple aluminum fishing boat. These types of fishing boats are slender and streamlined, and their outboard steerable motors make them easy to navigate through the water. The no-frills design and durable build makes these boats inexpensive and easy to drive, allowing you to focus on the fish.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 8
  • Length: 8-24 ft

Common Uses

  • Freshwater fishing
  • Duck hunting
  • Day cruising

Where They’re Used

  • Shallow, fresh water
  • Inlets

Pros

  • Easy to operate; great for fishing families
  • Inexpensive compared to other fishing boats
  • Made of durable materials
  • Light and easy to transport
  • V-shaped hull makes it easy to steer

Cons

  • Design isn’t as sleek as other models
  • Can be a rough ride
  • Doesn’t come with many amenities

Bass Boats

Bass boats are the perfect type of fishing boats for those with one goal in mind—snaring largemouth bass. With easily operated, high-horsepower trolling motors, these small boats are perfect for first-time owners. Bass boats have broad platforms that allow you to cast off the back and front, and their low-profile bottoms make moving in shallow water. These boats also include built-in storage for fishing tackle and floor space for fishing chairs.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 3
  • Length: 16-25 ft

Common Uses

  • Freshwater fishing

Where They’re Used

  • Inland lakes
  • Rivers

Pros

  • Includes an aerated onboard tank for fish
  • Plenty of storage
  • Outboard engine allows for extra seating
  • Plenty of power and speed

Cons

  • Operating costs and accessories make it one of the more expensive freshwater boats
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Bay Boats

Similar to flats boats, bay boats are shorter profile motor boats designed for floating in shallow waters. The main differences on a bay boat are higher sides and deeper hulls for a smoother ride in coastal waters. Elevated platforms in the back allow riders to move through shallow waters with the help of a pole, while the short stature makes it easy for anglers to look for fish directly under the surface. Versatile and fun to drive, the outboard motor can even be lifted to navigate through shallow water.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 5
  • Length: 17-25 ft

Common Uses

  • Fresh and saltwater fishing

Where They’re Used

  • Shallow coastal waters

Pros

  • Deeper hulls allow for a smoother ride
  • Built-in livewells for holding live fish
  • Movable outboard engines can be lifted for movement in shallow water
  • Fiberglass bottoms stand up to abrasive salt water

Cons

  • Shorter profile isn’t great for larger bodies of water
  • Open decks offer no protection from the elements
  • Limited amenities

Bowrider Boats

Named for its expansive bow area, bowriders are considered as the most popular of power boats for families. Bowriders can also be classified as runabout boats, a term that describes a small power boat with open space in the bow. Outboard or sterndrive engines provide a smooth ride, and ample seating is available behind the cockpit area, which can protect you from spray. The V-shaped design of the bottom is great for easily navigating through different water conditions.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 10
  • Length: 16-35 ft

Common Uses

  • Water sports
  • Fishing
  • Day cruising

Where They’re Used

  • Shallow saltwater bays
  • Lakes
  • Oceans

Pros

  • Swim platforms for skiing and other water sports
  • Easy to transport
  • V-hull shape allows bowriders to go fast
  • More affordable than other models (lower insurance and maintenance costs)

Cons

  • Rough ride on choppy water
  • Smaller dimensions; aren’t good for overnight trips
  • No protective space from harsh weather

Cabin Cruisers

Stocked with amenities, cabin cruisers are a spacious and comfortable type of power boat you could live on. Similar to a yacht or houseboat, cabin cruisers are perfect for overnight trips because they’re equipped with a sleeping area, kitchen, and small toilet. This boat offers enough space for seating and movement and ensures a smooth ride in all water conditions with its wide, V-shaped hull. Some of the different types of cabin cruisers include:

  • Convertible cruisers
  • Express cruisers
  • Pocket cruisers

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 6-12
  • Length: 26-75 ft.

Common Uses

  • Overnight and day cruising
  • Water sports
  • Fishing

Where They’re Used

  • Inland lakes
  • Rivers
  • Oceans

Pros

  • Easy to navigate in choppy water
  • Great amenities such as power hookups
  • Covered cabin and lots of sleeping space for trips

Cons

  • Generally more expensive than other cruisers
  • Difficult to transport
  • Slower than other power boats

Center Console Boats

Hardy and reliable, center console boats are named for the central location of the steering column and are ideal types of boats for sport fishing. A deep V-hull creates a smooth ride in offshore waters, and the durable outboard motors can handle choppy waves. With plenty of seating and cover, this type of boat is also great for day cruising.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 5-8
  • Length: 18-55 ft

Common Uses

  • Salt and freshwater fishing
  • Day cruising

Where They’re Used

  • Offshore ocean waters
  • Lakes
  • Rivers

Pros

  • Easy to navigate through rough waters
  • Covered console offers weather protection
  • Plenty of storage space for fishing equipment
  • Easy to transport

Cons

  • Aren’t equipped with many amenities
  • More expensive than other fishing boats

Deck Boats

Similar to a bowrider, a deck boat has the same sleek design with even more seating capability. The difference between the two is the rounding of the V-shaped bow. This simple change gives deck boats more space, making it perfect for entertaining, fishing, or just enjoying a day in the sun.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 8-12
  • Length: 18-28 ft

Common Uses

  • Water sports
  • Freshwater fishing
  • Day cruising

Where They’re Used

  • Lakes
  • Oceans
  • Bays

Pros

  • Increased seating makes this model ideal for families
  • Flat hulls make them stable in the water; great for families with small children
  • Deck boats have a lot storage and seating capacity

Cons

  • Can be more expensive than other cruisers like the pontoon
  • Unprotected seating area limits the boat to nice weather days

Dinghys

A common  type of rowing boat or inflatable boat, dinghys are small vessels that act as helpers to larger boats that may not be able to navigate tight areas. The flat bottom allows easy movement through shallow waters without becoming stuck. Some are equipped with outboard motors, while others rely on paddles for power. Along with inflatable models, these boats can be made from fiberglass, aluminum, or marine plywood.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 5
  • Length: 6-8 ft

Common Uses

  • Recreational use
  • Companion boats
  • Workhorse vessels
  • Fishing

Where They’re Used

  • Lakes
  • Shallow water bodies
  • Rivers

Pros

  • Easy to operate
  • More affordable than other boats
  • Can maneuver through small areas
  • Inflatable models can be easily stored in smaller homes or storage spaces
  • Some dinghys can be outfitted with sails for an easier cruise

Cons

  • May require towing from larger vessels
  • No amenities
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Fish & Ski Boats

If you’re looking for versatility, then a fish and ski boat is perfect for you! Features like built-in ski racks, elevated platforms, and fishing chairs can be added or removed to accommodate different water activities. Similar to bowriders, fish and ski boats have ample seating for the entire family and protective windshields, which will provide a comfortable ride no matter your speed!

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 8
  • Length: 16-22 ft

Common Uses

  • Salt and freshwater fishing
  • Water sports
  • Day cruising

Where They’re Used

  • Lakes
  • Oceans
  • Rivers
  • Bays

Pros

  • Versatile; great for fishing, cruising, and water sports
  • Easy to transport
  • Removable components and lots of storage space

Cons

  • Limited protection from the elements

High Performance Boats

Think of the high performance boat as the Ferrari of sport boats. Sleek and streamlined, these power boats are great for those seeking the ultimate adrenaline rush on the water. Built for lightness, speed, and style, high performance boats have details like narrow beams, high-horsepower inboard or outboard motors, and deep V-hulls for a fast ride you’ll never forget!

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 6
  • Length: 2-50 ft

Common Uses

  • High performance sports
  • Cruising
  • Racing

Where They’re Used

  • Coastal beaches
  • Rivers
  • Lakes

Pros

  • These boats are FUN to drive
  • Extremely versatile; great for racing, cruising, and water sports

Cons

  • Limited seating
  • More expensive than other models
  • High-horsepower engines increase fuel consumption
  • Can have high insurance rates

Pontoon Boats

If a relaxing cruise sounds better than a fishing expedition, a pontoon may be the perfect fit. With ample seating and standing areas, pontoon boats are both comfortable and incredibly versatile. Pontoons are well-known for a simple, relaxing cruise on the water or entertaining, but they can also be used for fishing and water sports that aren’t very intense.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 25
  • Length: 16-30 ft

Common Uses

  • Cruising
  • Water sports
  • Fishing

Where They’re Used

  • Inland Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Small bodies of water

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy to transport
  • Simple to operate
  • Versatile
  • Easy to store

Cons

  • Not as fast as other models
  • Doesn’t handle rough water as well as other boat types
  • Outboard engines are noisy
  • No protection from harsh weather

Sailboats

Used as both cruisers and sport boats, sailboats are beautiful vessels that are available in all sizes. Most use the wind to maintain speed, but some use inboard or outboard motors to help them power through the water. While many sailboats have single (mono) hulls, catamarans (two hulls) and trimerans (three hulls) are increasing in popularity. The different types of sailboats include:

  • Daysailers
  • Cruisers
  • Racing sailboats

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: Depending on the model, anywhere from 1-4
  • Length: 7-70 ft

Common Uses

  • Daysailing
  • Competitions
  • Overnight cruising

Where They’re Used

  • Lakes
  • Oceans
  • Bays

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Easy to transport
  • Can achieve very high speeds for racing

Cons

  • Can be difficult to steer
  • More expensive than other cruisers
  • Storage and maintenance can be expensive
  • May take longer to get to your destination with sails
  • Not ideal for shallow or narrow waterways

Tow Sports Boats

If you’re looking for a truly versatile boat, then tow sports boats (also known as ski/wake/surf boats) are a great match. These sleek power boats are perfect for families and individuals who love to ride choppy waves. The primary difference between each boat lies in the engine. Ski boats have the engine placed in the center for a smoother ride, while wakeboard boat engines are placed in the back of the boat, creating larger wakes and more opportunities for tricks. These boats also have built-in accessories for all of your skiing, wakesurfing, and wakeboarding needs.

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 14
  • Length: 18-28 ft

Common Uses

  • Water sports; skiing, wakesurfing, and wakeboarding
  • Day cruising

Where They’re Used

  • Oceans
  • Bays
  • Rivers
  • Lakes

Pros

  • Safety features like hidden propellers
  • Includes accessories like ballasts and a tower for each sport

Cons

  • Flatter hulls make them difficult to navigate on rough waters
  • More expensive than other sport boats
  • High fuel consumption

Trawler Boats

Looking to spend your days and nights on the water? Consider the trawler! With round displacement bottoms for a smooth ride and large cabins, trawlers are the great boat for overnight cruises. There’s plenty of space, and many include amenities like a sleeping area, kitchen, and bathroom. If you’re looking for a cruiser that feels like home, a trawler is for you!

Fast Facts

  • Maximum passenger load: 6-8
  • Length: 26-50 ft

Common Uses

  • Overnight and day cruising

Where They’re Used

  • Lakes
  • Oceans
  • Intercoastal waterways

Pros

  • Ideal for choppy water
  • Lots of amenities for long cruises
  • Low-horsepower engines consume less fuel than other cruisers

Cons

  • Aren’t as fast compared to other boats
  • Extra amenities means more maintenance costs

Now that we’ve covered the different types of boats and their uses, you’re ready to pick out the ideal boat for your lifestyle. Also interested in finding an RV for camping or traveling? Check out this guide to the different types of RVs, campers, and trailers!

Boat Types