That’s a great question, meaning you’re seriously thinking about getting your first boat.
To answer that question, you’ll have to think about how you will use your boat and define your specific needs. So before you start searching the boat classified ads or go looking for a new boat for sale or used boat for sale, here’s some of the things to think about to help you define what type of boat and how large a boat you need.
– What kinds of activities do you want to do – leisure boating, water sports such as water skiing, fishing or better yet travel and overnight excursions?
– What types of water will you use your boat in – small inland lakes, large inland lakes, waterways, bays or larger bodies of water?
– How many people do you need to accommodate while boating?
When it comes to fishing you can fish in small aluminum boat 10-12 feet with a small outboard. These are considered utility boats and are perfect for small inland lakes and ponds. They’re relatively inexpensive, light and easy to move around. And on calm days you can use them on larger lakes near shore. In terms of capacity, they can hold two adults or an adult and a child. Larger aluminum boats come in 16-18’ range and can hold 4-6 persons.
Taking a step up you get into the 14-18 foot range which are considered small boats. They’re available with an open or closed bow and in many varieties – from deck boats, ski boats to powerboats and fishing boats. Fishing, ski and deck boats have unique features for those activities. Our first boat was a 14 foot Bayliner Bowrider, meaning it had an open bow and seating for two in the front. It also had 3 seats across in the rear. It was good for 2 – 3 persons comfortably. If I wanted to take my boys out cruising on a small inland lake, this would have been the perfect size. It was equipped with a 50HP Chrysler Force outboard and moved fairly well for a small boat. It was even capable of pulling a skier as long as the skier wasn’t too heavy and the boat wasn’t overloaded. We skied with it when we pretty thin and there was only 1 or 2 persons in the boat – more than that and it had a difficult time pulling a person out of the water. But it was fine for pulling tubes or other water accessories. We once had it out on a larger inland lake when the water was pretty choppy with 2 to 3 foot waves. That was pretty rough. The boat was bouncing around to the point where we had to get it out. If you’re going to take a smaller boat out on larger waters, for example 14-16 footer, it’s only enjoyable and safe when the water is fairly calm. If you’re target is general or recreational boating, then a powerboat or deck boat provides the ability to do a number of activities. But if you have a specific focus, like fishing or waters skiing, you’ll want to take a closer look at boats in those categories.
Advantages: low to mid cost depending on whether you buy new or used, easy to trailer, launch and store, perfect for dad and kids in small to midsize lakes Disadvantages: minimal seating capacity, smaller engines means limited ability for recreation and sports.
If you’re planning on larger parties and pulling adult skiers, you’ll want to move up to the 18-24’ range. These boats generally come with larger motors, outboards or inboards and hold 4 or more passengers comfortably. They’re great on both small and larger lakes and because their depth or draft is relatively low, they’re also good on shallow lakes.
Many of these boats come with large outboard motors or 4cyl., 6cyl. or even 8 cyl. engines. Reliability is generally high and gas mileage is pretty good. You can also find 6 or 8 cylinder I/O’s for added speed and power.
Advantages: mid-cost range, fairly easy to trailer, launch and store, good for families and larger parties of 4-6
Disadvantages: generally without sleeping amenities, head or shower
If boating and sleeping over night is in your blood, you may need to consider 26 to 30’ footer with a cuddy cabin. These boats offer usually offer sleeping for 4 or more, toilet, shower, and some include kitchen amenities. This size of boat is getting fairly large and you’ll need a good size truck to pull it. These boats are perfect for the larger inland lakes and waterways. You can also get them out in the inlet waters off the coast or in bay areas in calm waters. In this size of boat you’ll have the ability to cruise to different locations or hot spots for fishing, swimming, overnight camping and the like. They’re fitted with larger gas tanks, around 100 gal and also hold 15-30 gallons of water. They provide large storage areas and amenities to keep every member of the family satisfied.
Advantages: ability to do a variety of boating recreational activities- from skiing, tubing, fishing and more
Disadvantages: more expensive than mid-size, requires a larger truck and trailer, more expensive to operate, store and maintain.
Lastly, if you want to spend even more time on the water, either traveling or overnight trips, you may be interested in 30-36’ boat. Now you’re in the large size boat range or small size yacht range. These guys are not towed frequently. They are usually kept at a marina, stored and maintained there. They generally have twin or triple inboard motors and outdrives and are well detailed inside and out. You can easily sleep for 4 or more and you’ll usually find a stove, refrigerator, TV, shower and toilet.
Advantages: ability to travel, stay overnight and enjoy all the comfort features of home
Disadvantages: cost is generally high to purchase, operate and maintain, also harder to trailer and store, usually done professionally
There are many boat manufacturers of all types and you have quite a large choice depending on where you’re at and what your local dealers offer. Here’s a few to get you going. Check these boat manufacturers out.
Utility /Small Boats: BRIG , Whitehall
Fishing Boats: Sea Swirl, NITRO, TRACKER, SYLVAN, LUND, SMOKER CRAFT, TROPHEY
Ski Boats: EPIC
Pontoon Boats: Sun Tracker, Manitou, TRACKER, Sunchaser, Premier, Gillgetter, Northwood
Power Boats: Bayliner, Sea Ray, MAXUM, Rinker, Four Winns, Wellcraft
Race /Cruisers: Formula, Fountain
Well, that should give you some things to think about. Look around, shop around and also talk to your friends that already own a boat. They’ll be able to offer some great advice. But it’s more important to really figure out what you want to do and where you want to do it. If you do that before you go out and start searching your local boat classified ads or start looking at new boats for sale or used boats for sale, you’ll be well on your way to deciding what type of boat and how big a boat you really need to buy. And remember, it’s not the size that counts, it’s just being on the water!