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Read 155 Reviews
Founded in 1976, Tracker Marine manufactures fishing boats, luxury pontoons, kayaks and more in America’s heartland. Consumers can enjoy discounts from Bass Pro Shop with some Tracker Marine purchases.
Read 16 Reviews
Crownline Boats was founded in Illinois in 1991. The company offers over 30 different models of boats ranging from speed boats to yachts. They also offer boat customization, like color and design.
Read 13 Reviews
MAKO has been making high-quality fishing boats for over 50 years. Their current lineup includes both offshore and inshore boats that are designed and built to meet or exceed quality and safety standards set by the US Coast Guard.
Read 15 Reviews
NITRO boats are one of Tracker Marine Group’s brands. All NITRO boats are American made and can be bought online and picked up at one of over 500 Bass Pro Shops around the United States.
Read 7 Reviews
Founded in 1982 and based in Loudon, Tennessee, Malibu Boats provide quality water sports boats for consumers around the world. The company is always innovating, and their boats are accessible for all budget levels.
Read 7 Reviews
Princecraft got their start making aluminum boats and canoes in 1954. Their product line has expanded to include pontoons, fishing boats and utility boats. Build your ideal Princecraft boat online, and buy it at your local dealer.
|ProCraft Boats||Read Reviews|
The Australian company ProCraft sells aluminum and fiberglass boats that are manufactured in Australia. The company sells a full range of models, including fishing and recreational boats.
|Boston Whaler||Read Author Review|
Boston Whaler has been designing and building unsinkable boats since 1958. They build a wide array of boats, including fishing, pleasure, cruising and water sport boats. They also build yacht charters for businesses.
|Chris-Craft||Read Author Review|
Chris-Craft had humble beginnings in 1874 when Chris Smith built his first boat at the age of 13. The company is known for designing elegant yachts and cruisers, available from dealers across the US, Canada and Puerto Rico.
|Crestliner Aluminum Boats||Read Author Review|
Crestliner Aluminum Boats has been building high quality aluminum boats for over 70 years. Their boats are designed with fishing and hunting in mind, and consumers can customize their boat to their exact specifications.
Important features to consider before buying a boat
How you plan on using your boat is the single most important factor to consider when you are boat shopping. Different boats are designed with different purposes in mind, and buying the wrong boat can have a major impact on your level of enjoyment.
- Sport: People who enjoy watersports like waterskiing or wake surfing will want to look for a boat with a tow specifically for water sports. These boats move fast and are designed for safe, but fun, water sporting.
- Fishing: Whether you’re a casual or professional fisherman will make a difference in the type of fishing boat you choose. A very casual fisher may be able to use a hybrid or even a canoe for successful fishing. A professional fisher, or angler, will want a boat specifically designed for their fishing purpose, whether inland or offshore, and even the specific type of species they fish the most.
- Cruising: A lot of people prefer to spend their day on the water simply relaxing. They may want a cruiser or yacht. A hybrid model that can accommodate fishing and/or water sports in addition to cruising might also be a good option.
Generally, boat hulls are made out of two materials, aluminum and fiberglass.
- Aluminum: Aluminum has traditionally been the material of choice for boat hulls because of its durability. Aluminum boats are also usually less expensive than fiberglass boats. These boats tend to weigh less than fiberglass boats, making them more maneuverable. However, many boat manufacturers are actually using heavier aluminum to increase the hull weight. If weight is a serious consideration for you, make sure to check manuals and boat specifications rather than relying on material to guide your decision.
- Fiberglass: Fiberglass is a relatively new material for boats, and they tend to cost more than aluminum boats. An advantage is that their heavier hull weight translates to a smoother ride. Their added weight can also make fiberglass boats easier to maneuver in windy and/or rocky waters.
Amount of passengers
Whether you prefer to cruise solo or with all your friends and family will make a difference in the type of boat you choose.
- Solo rider: People who prefer to boat on their own will want a smaller boat. If you want a manual boat, opt for a canoe or kayak. Many fishing boats are small enough to handle the water with only one passenger.
- Small group: If you want to hit the water with just a few of your favorite people, you’ll want a smaller boat. Depending on your boating purpose, you can find a fishing boat, cruiser, canoe or water sport boat that can hold up to four or five people.
- Crowd: If you prefer your days on the water with a huge crowd, you’ll want to look for a boat large enough to accommodate everyone. A pontoon is a good option if you aren’t looking to do watersports. You can fish off of a pontoon, and most of them include a swimming platform. Yachts and cruisers are also good options.
You can choose to buy a basic package of a boat, or you can add amenities and/or accessories to fully customize your ride. Many of these can be added on after your purchase, so you can determine how you use your boat and add things as necessary.
- Grill: Some pontoons have the deck space for a propane grill, which can be a nice addition to your day on the water.
- Seats: You can change or customize the seats on your boat if the ones that come with it aren’t working for you. Some types of seats include fishing seats, lounging seats, bench seats and folding seats.
- Motors: You can add an outboard motor to traditionally manual boats like kayaks or canoes. You can also choose your motor for your new boat based on things like speed and how much weight will be on the boat when you use it.
Your boat company should provide you with a full maintenance plan to make sure your boat lasts for years. There are some basic maintenance rules to keep in mind that are true for most boats.
- Rinse off salt water: If you boat in saltwater, a good rinse after every outing will go a long way to preserve your boat and keep the salt from corroding the metal on your boat.
- Keep things safe: Safety should be your top priority when you’re getting ready to take your boat on the water. Make sure you have enough life jackets for all of your passengers along with a working fire extinguisher and first aid kit on deck. Make sure to seal your deck to prevent accidents and slips.
- Change your oil: Your boat needs routine oil changes, just like your vehicle. You’ll either need to do this yourself or take it to your dealer. A general rule of thumb is to change your boat’s oil every 100 hours of operation or once a year, but refer to your manufacturer’s specifications for details on your boat.
- Check your propeller pre-launch: Make checking your propeller a part of your pre-launch inspection. Things you’re looking for include nicks, dents and fishing line that can easily get caught up around the propeller.
The huge variety of boats means they are available in every price range, from a few hundred dollars to over $500,000. You will want to create a realistic budget before you start shopping for boats. It’s easy to get swept away with all of the features a boat company can offer and end up overspending. Look for ways to save money on your boat to maximize your experience without going over your budget.
- Financing: Some boat companies offer financing for qualifying consumers. This financing can be in the form of a loan or a credit card that has an introductory APR. Make sure to read all the fine print before signing on to a financing agreement.
- Buy used: Boats are generally designed to last for decades, so you can find a used boat in good condition if you look in the right places. Many dealers and boat companies have a used marketplace and can direct you to quality boats at a fraction of the price of their brand new models.
- Only buy the size of boat you need: It’s important to be realistic about how you will use your boat when you’re shopping. Focus on your purpose for boating and consider your best option to get everything you want out of your boat without going overboard. Buying a boat that’s bigger than you need will cost more upfront and will also cost more in fuel and maintenance in the long-term.
What are the different types of boats?
Towed water sports boats
These boats are designed for sports enthusiasts and are fast enough for you to go waterskiing, tubing or wake surfing. These are best if you plan on using your boat exclusively for water sports since that’s what they are designed for.
Fishing boats are ideal for either inshore or offshore fishing. Some fishing boats are even species-specific, which is great for anglers and recreational fishers who only fish a certain species.
Pontoons are large, luxury boats that can accommodate a large group of people. They do not move very fast and are ideal for lazy days on the water. Pontoons can come with many amenities that can make a day on the water relaxing and enjoyable.
Kayaks are made for either one or two people and are steered manually. Some people prefer to put a small motor on their kayak for instances when they need to paddle upstream and/or when their arms get too tired to paddle safely. Kayaks are ideal for adventurers who want to attempt solo trips on rapids as well as for water enthusiasts who are looking for a low impact sport.
Canoes are usually made to fit 2-4 people, and they are manually steered with a paddle. Like kayaks, they can have a small outboard motor added on to them for additional safety and speed. Canoes do not move very fast, and they are a great way to cruise down a river.
Who would be interested in buying a boat?
Men and women who love fishing will want to look for a boat specially designed for their favorite fishing spot. Recreational fishers may want a hybrid boat, which can function for leisure and/or sport along with fishing.
Anglers will want a species-specific boat to give them an edge over their competition. Anglers will be more interested in specific fishing accessories than luxury or leisure amenities.
It’s hard to beat a day of family fun on the water. Whether your family likes to waterski or just relax, finding a boat that is big enough to accommodate all of you and your gear is key. Families might be interested in larger boats, like pontoons, which can accommodate a large group of people and have amenities such as a refreshment stand and ample shaded space for all-day boating.
Water sports enthusiasts
Those who enjoy water sports will want to get a sports boat that is specially designed for them to go tubing, waterskiing or wakeboarding. They might be interested in a hybrid if they also enjoy fishing and relaxing while they’re on the water.
People who love the water but also love to travel in style will want to look for a luxury yacht, pontoon or speed boat. These high-end models have additional amenities that combine fun with luxury.
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Compare Reviews for Top Boat Brands
|G3 Boats||Read Author Review|
G3 boats by Yamaha Motor Group specializes in sports fishing boats, and they also make pontoons for leisurely family outings. Customers can easily compare G3’s selection of boats online, and they can buy from their local dealer.
|Lund Boats||Read Author Review|
Founded in 1948, Lund makes both aluminum and fiberglass boats for anglers and recreational fishers. Lund owners can participate in tournaments and receive special offers by signing up for the exclusive members club.
|MasterCraft||Read Author Review|
Used by professional wakeboarders and waterskiers, MasterCraft boats have been in production since 1968. Their boats are ideal for serious water sports enthusiasts as well as families and leisure boaters.
|Regency Boats||Read Author Review|
Regency is Tracker Boat Group’s brand that specializes in high-end pontoons. Find a full range of comfort and luxury features, including plush seating, full sound system and refreshment center.
|SeaArk Boats||Read Author Review|
Founded in 1992, SeaArk boats is now a Correct Craft company specializing in aluminum Jon boats. Their lineup includes species specific boats, sport jet models and tunnel hulls. Find them at one of SeaArk’s national dealers.
|Skeeter Boats||Read Author Review|
Skeeter has been making fishing boats since 1948. Consumers can buy their customized Skeeter boat from their local dealer or at one of two Skeeter boat centers located in the Midwest.
|Stingray Boats||Read Author Review|
Stingray makes boats that are ideal for water sports and leisure. The company is committed to reducing their carbon footprint by using and promoting environmentally friendly initiatives for boaters.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.