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So you’re looking for a new boat, huh?
It’s tough out there with so many options for recreational boaters.
If you’re new to the world of boating it can be even more difficult to understand the myriad of options available to you for the type of boats that you could choose from.
While budget is probably the leading factor that influences what you can buy, most boaters will need to closely consider other important factors when choosing their type of boat.
Whether you’re a seasoned boater or a newbie looking to set sail into new adventures, choosing the right boat to fit your boating lifestyle is a pivotal decision.
With so many different types of boats available to boaters it can be exciting and overwhelming to navigate the options.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of different boat types that are available to boaters in an effort to help you better understand the options available in the marine world.
From the sleek speedboats that cut through the waves to leisurely cruising on a floating palace where relaxation reigns supreme, the world of boating offers something for every type of boater.
In this article about the types of boats available to boaters, we’ll embark on a captivating journey through the diverse waters of recreational boating.
We’ll outline different boat classifications, explore different unique features and outlines what they are used for on the water.
Whether you’re looking to get out on the flat water of the lake or into the rough waters of the Gulfstream, this guide will help you better understand the options available to you as a new boater.
So tighten up your life jacket and let’s dive into the world of different boats together.
While this is by no means an end-all and be-all list of all the boat types in the world, by the end of this journey, you’ll know much more about some of the common recreational boat types.
And, you’ll be much better equipped to make an informed decision about the type of boats that line up perfectly with your style of boating so that you can maximize your time on the water.
Inflatable Boats (Dinghies, Tenders & RIBs)
First up on the list of types of boats, we start with a boat style that commonly provides support or transport for larger vessels.
Inflatable boats, or dinghies, are air-filled watercraft that are made of durable materials like PVC or Hypalon.
They are versatile vessels that many boaters begin their relationship on the water.
One of their significant advantages is the ability for easy transport by deflating and reinflating the air chambers that run along the sides of the boat.
They are easily maneuverable watercraft that help provide support and tender to larger boats, that require minimal maintenance to keep afloat.
A popular choice among recreational boaters, the inflatable boat is one of the more common types of boat in any marine setting.
When choosing an inflatable, always be on the lookout for your intended usage, size, weight capacity, material quality and other significant features to help you select the best boat for your needs.
Whether you’re a newbie on the water or a salty professional, inflatable boats provide an amazing blend of convenience, performance and affordability.
If you’re in the market for a tender or support vessel, embrace the endless possibilities that inflatable boats have to offer.
Popular Inflatable Boat Brands:
Wakeboard & Ski Boats
Next up on the list of types of boats are Wakeboard and Ski boats.
Over the years as wake technology has evolved, wakeboard and ski boats have become especially popular for extreme sports enthusiasts that are looking for a reliable vessel that supports wake customization.
Wakeboard and ski boats are specially designed boat types that support a number of features for advanced watersports.
Wakeboard boats are designed to create adjustable, well-defined wakes or waves behind the boat. These wakes create ideal conditions for wakeboard and wake surf enthusiasts who use the wake to create opportunities for tricks.
They usually include features like a wake shaping system, tower and racks for wakeboards, ballast systems to adjust the weight of the boat, stereo and tower-mounted speakers, and comfortable seating positions for non-riders.
Ski boats, on the other hand, are specially designed boats that help to minimize the wake for waterskiers.
These boats are usually direct drive or inboard vessels that produce minimal wake, utilize speed control and feature a tow pylon for easy slalom skiing.
It’s important to note that there can be significant overlap between ski and wake boats, which is why we have included them here together.
When looking into a potential wake or ski vessel, always be sure to consider the main watersport you’ll be doing with the boat, the size of your normal entourage, and other more detailed and specialized equipment for the enjoyment of your favorite watersports.
Popular Wakeboard Boats:
Bowrider Boats are popular types of boats that is well known for their spacious and social configurations in an open bow area.
This open bow allows for additional seating extending the social environment of the boat from the main cockpit up into the bow of the boat.
Bowrider boats are well-liked due to their flexibility on the water. They make great boats for families and friends as their spacious bow seating and lounging provide passengers with a unique view as the boat glides on the water.
Bowriders usually feature comfortable seating arrangements with wraparound seating that brings guests together.
Being so versatile, many bowriders also provide great functionality for watersports for water skiing, wakeboarding and other similar activities.
Many bowriders are known for their handling and maneuverability making them stalwarts on lakes and oceans for smooth rides.
Whether you’re looking for excitement in the form of watersports, a relaxing cruise on the water, or a way to bring your friends together, bowrider boats offer a wide variety of models to fit your style and function on the water.
Popular Bowrider Boats:
Flats or Backcountry Boats
Next up on our list of popular types of boats is the flats boat.
The Flats Boat, also known as Backcountry Boats, or shallow-water skiffs is a very specially designed boat style that navigates shallow and skinny waters, usually in search of flats gamefish.
These boats are uniquely appointed to help anglers handle the shallow water conditions while providing access to areas nearshore that other boats simply can’t reach.
Their low profile and shallow draft help flats boats minimize the risk of running around even in very shallow water conditions.
Most flats boats feature a skiff-style design with a basically flat bottom and tapered or square stern.
In addition to this design feature, many flats boats also feature a poling platform located above the engine so that Captains can cut the engines and silently approach fish species like the bonefish.
A flats boat is a fishing boat and as such they usually come well-appointed with a number of features catered to backcountry fishermen. Some of these include flush decks, rod holders, and wide spacious decks for casting.
With their flat bottom, flats boats offer great stability on the water for anglers.
While maybe not the best choice to run offshore, if you’re moving to the Florida Keys in search of bonefish, permit and more, a backcountry boat might be your best option!
Popular Flats Boats:
Pontoon boats are a popular type of recreational boat that is known for their open decks, stability and ability to offer a good time for family and friends!
Pontoon boats feature a wide and open deck space that makes them specially equipped for a variety of boating adventures including entertaining, fishing and relaxing.
They are usually made of two or more pontoons (or cylindrical tubes) that help to provide stability on the water.
Offering ample seating for passengers, Pontoon boats are well-equipped to provide a great solution for boaters looking for something stable, spacious and social.
While they are not designed for high-performance or rough offshore seas, their stability and spaciousness make them one of the favorite boats available for party-time or weekend warrior-type boaters.
Many Pontoon boats are easily trailerable, making them a popular choice for boaters on lakes and other calmer bodies of water.
While not a great choice for anglers looking to get out into blue water, the pontoon boat is definitely not one to be overlooked for any entry-level boater looking for a social and entertaining boat type.
Popular Pontoon Boats:
Center Console Boats
Center Consoles are one of, if not the most popular style of entry-level recreational boats for people looking to get on the water.
While they include ultra-luxurious and high-end styles, the center console is designed around the functionality of a centrally located console usually centered in the middle of the vessel, as the name suggests.
The centrally located console acts as the command center for the boat, storing the navigation center with the steering wheel, controls and all electronics.
One of the reasons that center console boats are so popular is because of the open layout style the provides serious freedom to move around the entire boat.
This space is what makes center console boats one of the most convenient and popular for anglers, as they have more than enough room to fight fish and set lines.
In models that are targeted toward fishermen, center consoles usually include rod holders, live wells and fish boxes, which help make a more efficient and effective fishing machine.
Center console boats come in all shapes in sizes, with many smaller versions being trailierable while large center consoles resemble small ships!
Popular Center Console Boats:
Cuddy Cabin Boats
Next up on the list of types of boats is the cuddy cabin design.
Cuddy cabin boats combine the popular aspects of a bowrider or center console boat while adding a convenient small cabin space for overnight accommodations.
The cabin space provides a great solution for boaters looking for the convenience of a center console-style boat with a way to enjoy more extended trips or overnight adventures on the water.
The defining feature of the cuddy cabin is the namesake cabin which is located in the forward bow of the boat.
The cabin area provides a small sleeping area and usually some configuration of seating/dining areas.
Depending on the size of the cuddy cabin, the cabin areas can be larger and include galley options like a sink and stove.
While providing extra convenience for overnight stays, the cuddy cabin still retains a lot of the versatility and multi-functionality for other activities on the water.
They offer a great solution for boaters who want to combine many of the positive aspects of a center console with a convenient way to get out of the sun and into a nice nap on the water.
Popular Cuddy Cabin Boats:
Next up on our list of types of boats is a type of boat that blends a lot of the amenities of the cuddy cabin with a feature that allows you to explore the whole length of the boat easily.
Walkaround boats, or walkaround fishing boats, are a very flexible style of recreational watercraft that is designed with a walkable perimeter around the cabin of the boat, providing simple access for boaters to the bow from the helm area.
Walkaround boats are especially loved by fishermen as their unique design lets anglers quickly and easily access the full length of the boat overall in search of landing that next esteemed catch.
The cabin that the walkaround is built around varies in size and style depending on the overall size of the boat. Most of the built-in cabins are big enough on walkaround to provide a small berth, ample storage and on larger models, a head and potential small galley.
Many walkarounds are powered by outboard engines as the extra space in the deck gives boaters more space for the walkaround features and dedicated helm.
Walkarounds have become more and more popular due to their versatility in boating, allowing users to fish, cruise and even have accommodations overnight when needed.
Whether you’re an angler or a family looking for a practical and enjoyable boating experience, the walkaround can be a great option.
Popular Walkaround Boat Brands:
Cabin & Express Cruisers
The next type of boat making waves on our list is a combination of two similar boat styles.
The cabin cruiser and express cruiser boats, while slightly different, share very similar characteristics for boaters.
Cabin cruisers and express cruisers are popular recreational boat style that is designed for overnight stays and more extended cruising adventures on the water.
The namesake feature of both the cabin and express cruisers is the enclosed cabin space that makes up the forward section of the boat to the bow.
These comfortable cabins provide a more sophisticated living space with ample berths, a galley, and dining and entertainment areas. The overall size of the cabin and amenities completely depend on the overall size of the boat.
Larger cruises provide even more amenities making them more suitable for extended stays overnight in some far-flung marinas.
There are a few differences between Cabin and Express Cruisers.
First, cabin cruisers usually have a more traditional design, while express cruisers may feature a more open and streamlined design style.
Next, express cruisers are usually designed for more speed and performance with more powerful engines and a hull design that provides more efficiency and speed in the water when compared to a more traditional cabin cruiser.
Finally, Cabin Cruisers are designed for more overnight stays, while Express Cruisers provide more of a balance between shorter day trips and more entertainment capabilities.
All in all, the Cruiser style of boat is a great versatile option for boaters looking for a way to extend trips longer while having a great platform to entertain and enjoy time on the water.
Popular Cabin & Express Cruiser Brands:
High-performance boats are the next types of boats on our list of popular recreational boats.
Also known as powerboats or speedboats, High-Performance vessels are watercraft that are designed to deliver high speeds and exceptional performance on the water.
Featuring sleek hull designs and advanced boating technologies, speedboats provide the high-speed thrill that some boaters are looking for in their time on the ocean.
These boats usually have streamlined hull designs that are optimized to provide stability in high-speed conditions, reducing data and providing better hydrodynamics.
They are normally outfitted with impressive and powerful engine capabilities that allow them to reach speeds that other boats can only dream of on the water.
Oftentimes powerboats also provide owners with comfortable or even luxurious interiors and amenities for use onboard when not cutting through the waves at record speeds.
They come in various makes and models that include offshore powerboats, performance v-hulls, power catamarans, and hydroplanes.
While maybe not the best option for a new boater, powerboats are very popular with experienced boaters looking for fast speeds!
Popular High-Performance Boat Builders:
From the highspeed adventures onboard high-performance boats, we take a more casual cruise with the next types of boats on our list.
Trawlers are motorized mini-ships that are designed for longer-range cruising and comfortable living while moving at much slower speeds on the ocean.
Known for their stability, amenities, and spaciousness, Trawlers provide a home away from home on the ocean for people who are looking to live part or full time on their recreational vessel.
With a history that is richly derived from commercial fishing vessels, trawlers have gained popularity over the years with boat owners who are looking for a durable boat that provides extended cruising on a fraction of the fuel costs.
Typically featuring a displacement hull design and a full keel that extends the length of the boat, trawlers provide smoother handling even in rougher sea conditions.
Made primarily of fiberglass or steel, trawlers range in size from 30 feet for smaller models up to 70 plus feet and provide great space and comfort for boaters.
Due to their size and design, trawlers are designed to provide extended cruising with better fuel efficiency, while prioritizing comfort and livability. Interiors are often well-appointed with full-beam saloons, larger galleys and robust cabins.
Offering a relaxed and comfortable boating experience, trawlers are a great option for boaters looking to explore far-flung destinations for boaters who are looking to get away from the comfort of their home port.
Popular Trawler Builders:
Next up on our list are power catamarans (or Power Cats); vessels that feature a catamaran hull design with two connected smaller hulls.
The two-hull feature is joined in the middle by a bridge or main deck and offers more stability and reduced rolling compared to a monohull design.
Power cats vary in size from center-console fishing setups to larger power yachts and provide versatile boating from angling to simply enjoying the moment on the water in comfort.
They usually feature outstanding space and stability for boaters and provide efficient performance oftentimes beating out monohulls of similar size in fuel consumption.
While smaller power cats are usually setup for offshore fishing, larger models are full-blown luxury getaways with a host of features and amenities for boaters.
With their blend of stability, efficiency and versatility, power cats are a great option no matter what size boat you are getting into.
Popular Power Catamaran Builders:
Sailboats, Sail Catamarans & Sail Yachts
While we haven’t yet mentioned them on our list of types of boats, there is one broad category of boats that are available to boaters who have specialized knowledge of the wind.
Sailboats come in all shapes and sizes and really would probably be better fit with a more expansive list of its own types, but for the sake of this breakdown, we have included all sailboats.
Today sailboats are available to boaters in every size, from small daysailers to mega sail yachts like the 88-meter Maltese Falcon.
Anyone who has been around the water knows exactly what a sailboat is, but for those that have been dry-docked too long, sailboats are the world’s original form of oceanic transport.
Using the wind as their power, sailboats provide today’s modern recreational boaters with vessels that don’t require the use of engines to go any distance.
They come in a variety of types themselves that include:
Sloop – The most common sailboat type featuring a single mast.
Ketch – Two-masted sailboat with a teller mainmast and shorter mizzen mast located further forward.
Schooner – Sailboat with two or more masts that features a foremast being shorter than the mainmast.
Catamaran and Trimaran – Sailboats that feature multiple hulls powered by different mast configurations.
Sailing is a lifestyle and takes a fair degree of seamanship and experience to become fluent in the art.
With that said, the plethora of options available to modern boaters in the sailboat world and the fact that they reduce emissions and fuel costs exponentially make sailboats a great option for any boater looking for a new vessel.
Popular Sailboat Builders:
Sportfishing yachts are specialized vessels designed for avid fishermen that combine performance, luxury and numerous angling features.
They provide a comfortable platform for anglers to pursue their passion for sport fishing in offshore oceans.
These vessels are typically larger boats that range in size from 40 to over 100 feet in length, with hulls that maximize stability and efficient performance in a variety of sea conditions.
Most sportfishing yachts are designed around a central cockpit section that is strictly dedicated to the fishing activities onboard. The cockpit features fishing features that include things like a fighting chair, rod holders, outriggers, live wells, fish wells and other important angling equipment.
Many modern sportfishing yachts also include luxurious relaxation of livability features in glorious saloons and cabins that allow anglers to stay overnight onboard these powerful yachts.
Depending on the model and its size, sportfishing yachts may have multiple staterooms, full galleys, spacious saloons, entertainment systems and much more.
They are also normally equipped with the latest in technological equipment including the best in radar, GPS chart plotters, fish finders, radar, and other powerful technological features.
Many sportfishing yachts are custom-built to the owner’s specifications and desires, which makes them a high-ticket boat type.
But for the blend of performance, power, luxury and fishing functionality, these boats combine the best that is to offer for serious anglers.
Sportsfishing Yacht Builders:
So…if you have the money, love the ocean, but aren’t there to fish, what kind of vessel are you thinking about?
Motoryachts are a broad term for recreational vessels that are primarily powered by engines. They usually are fit and styled in a similar luxurious fashion as sportfishing vessels, but instead of including fishing amenities, there is more attention given to comfort and livability.
Motor yachts range in size, and while there is no definitive cutoff to create a motor yacht, they typically fall into this category in the 30-100 foot range.
They feature luxurious living spaces, high-end finishes, and many modern amenities that you won’t find on other small yachts and boats.
Most, if not all, motor yachts have various outdoor spaces, flybridge or sundeck, and comfortable and ample seating arrangements inside and out.
Most motor yacht builders offer fully customizable builds for bespoke features and a tailored fit and finish.
Whether being used for day trips, cruising, or long distance exploration, these yachts offer a powerful combination of luxury and performance that caters to the custom desires of their discerning clientele.
Popular Motor Yacht Builders:
Ever had the dream of exploring some far-flung coastline?
The next types of boats on our list helps make affluent boaters’ dreams a reality.
Expedition yachts are a specialized type of yacht that is designed for extra long-range cruising and exploration in some of the world’s most isolated and extreme oceans.
Equipped with the latest and greatest in robust technology, Expeditions yachts boast advanced navigation systems, and extensive storage to support long-term livability on the water.
Starting around 70 feet and going up over 200 feet, Expedition Yachts usually feature a study displacement hull made of steel and other durable materials.
They are designed for self-sufficiency for extreme adventurists and provide extreme luxury and amenities.
They are often equipped with tenders, dive gear, submarines and other exciting amenities that provide owners with extreme hobbies with a way to explore the oceans.
Built to withstand the roughest sea conditions, Expedition Yachts feature reinforced hulls, stabilizers and other tools to ensure the safety of long-term comfortable cruising.
With their advanced price tags, many expedition yachts are built completely custom for discerning boaters.
If you have the budget, an expedition yacht might be your dream ticket to explore this gorgeous marine planet!
Popular Expedition Yacht Builders:
Mega / Super Yachts
The last type of boat on our list is the big dog.
Reserved for industry leaders and makers of change on this planet are the mega, or super yachts.
Mega yachts are mind-blowing yachts that are basically their own floating country on the water.
They feature the best of the best in terms of features and amenities including all you could ever dream up on the water, even a game of basketball!
These behemoths are hundreds of feet long, feature multiple levels and usually have a complete floor devoted to the owner’s cabin and living spaces.
The luxurious features of mega yachts rival some of the world’s nicest living spaces on or off the water and provide the ultra-wealthy with amazing entertainment and live-aboard spaces.
Most, if not all, super yachts feature a full-service crew and captain that provide excellent service for owners and guests, making these yachts very popular on the worldwide charter yacht circuits.
Mega yachts are simply the pinnacle of luxury and extravagance on the water today!
Popular Super Yacht Builders:
Boat Type Buying Guide
Now that we’ve covered a basic overview of some of the types of recreational boats available on the market to boaters today, it’s important to consider factors that should be on your list as you start your search for your dream vessel.
Buying a new boat is an exciting and exhilarating journey, but also requires careful consideration and a keen eye for detail with respect to what best fits your boating lifestyle.
To help you navigate the waters to help you find your perfect boat, we have put together the following factors for you to consider during your search for the perfect boat.
Determining your usage:
Before you weigh your anchor, it’s critical to map out how you intend to use your boat. Are you a part-time lake boater looking for a reliable pontoon boat, or are you a serious angler with a big budget who plans to be offshore 100 days a year?
Understanding how you intend to use your new vessel will immediately help you better filter down the different types of boats that are best fit for your boating life.
One great question to ask in the beginning stages of looking for a new boat revolves around your experience level with boats in general.
Are you a new boater? Or, do you have decades at the helm under your belt?
Are you interested in a power boat or is your dream to ride the wind on a sailing vessel?
Knowing your experience level and combining it with your interests on the water will help you make a better choice with respect to choosing the best type of boat for your lifestyle.
Size and capacity:
When it comes to boats, size definitely matters!
When choosing the right type of boat for you, be sure to think about the number of passengers you’ll normally have on board your vessel. Be sure that you choose a vessel that has enough seating, storage and space to accommodate your activities on the water comfortably.
Also, with respect to size, you’ll need to keep your boat somewhere.
Whether you intend to trailer your new boat and drop it in at a boat ramp while storing it on land or keep it in the water at a dock, you will need to accurately determine what size boat will best fit the options available to you and your unique boating situation.
Power & Propulsion:
Next up on things to consider with respect to purchasing a new boat is the power and propulsion of the boat you are considering.
Is your boating life best suited to outboard engines or do you plan on buying a boat that requires inboard power?
If you’re going with outboard power, how many engines and how much horsepower is best to meet the needs of your boating demands.
Make sure that you consider your power needs based on the intended use of your boat and the speeds that you desire when on the water.
Hull type & Stability:
Different hull designs offer different features and feel on the water.
Does your new boat need something stable and secure or are you aiming for top speeds?
Options may include planning hulls to reach higher speeds, displacement hulls for overall efficiency or catamarans for a more stable experience on the water.
When choosing your new boat, be sure that you understand how your hull will perform in different conditions, including rough seas when speed doesn’t matter.
If you’re in the market for a new boat, chances are that it’s all about having fun.
With fun in mind, make sure that when you choose your new vessel you are selecting a boat that can provide you with all of the features and amenities available to help make your life on the water an exciting adventure.
Considering things like seating and entertainment spaces, sun decks, swim platforms, fishing amenities, cabin space, galley and saloon appointments, and other factors can help you define the types of boats that are best fit for your boating adventures.
One factor that cannot be ignored on boats is maintenance.
No matter what type of boat you are looking at, maintenance is one of the biggest components of keeping that vessel running in the long run.
When choosing your next vessel be sure that you understand the maintenance required to keep your boat afloat.
Do you know how to maintain teak decks and other classic appointments? Or are you looking for something that can just be rinsed down and forgotten?
Some types of boats require a lot more TLC than other types, so be sure to choose a vessel that fits with your maintenance skill level, or your budget for hiring other professionals to conduct the appropriate maintenance for you.
This factor seems pretty straight forward, but can be more complex then most people consider when first buying a boat.
Remember that the cost of your boat is not just the price you pay the dealer. It includes annual expenses that include:
- On-going Vessel Maintenance
- Engine Maintenace and Upkeep
- Fuel Costs
- Storage and Docking Fees
- Other unseen and unexpected costs
There’s an old acronym for boats that every boater should know!
B.O.A.T > Bring on another thousand!
Be sure that you are prepared for the expected and unexpected costs of the type of boat you are purchasing so that you can avoid unseen challenges with boat ownership.
Be sure to research the reputation and resale values of any vessel you are getting involved with on the water.
Like any other depreciating asset, you will want to make sure that whatever type of boat you ultimately choose provides you with a solid platform to sell the boat down the line in the future.
Some boat brands hold their value better than others, and some boat brands hold up in the harsh elements of the ocean better than others.
Doing your own due diligence before selecting your new boat can help you save money in the future when you decide it’s time to sell your boat to move onto a newer model or further flung marinas.
As anyone can see, choosing the best type of boat for your boating lifestyle takes careful consideration of a multitude of different factors.
Be sure that your search for the perfect boat is complemented by thorough research before committing to your next vessel.
Doing so will help you narrow down your options and find a boat that best aligns with your boating preferences, activities and budget.
Final Thoughts on Types of Boats
With Types of Boats 101: we hope that you’ve gained a solid understanding of some of the more popular styles of the diverse array of boats available on the market today.
From nimble center consoles to luxurious motor yachts, and from inflatable boat to comfortable trawlers, the boating world has something to offer boaters with every experience level as well as every budget.
Remember that the key to finding the perfect boat to fit your needs lies in matching up your boating desires with available features, amenities and options available in boats today.
Whether you’re looking to take your friends wakeboarding in a quiet lake or are ready to explore distant harbors in the safety of your luxury expedition yacht, there’s a boat out there waiting to be the vessel of your dreams!
So, weigh anchor, set your course and embark on the exciting journey of finding the best-fit boat for your boating life!
As you navigate the process keep safety, functionality and your boating style at the forefront of your mind to help you create the best boating life for you, your family and your friends on the water.
Now, it’s time for you to go out and find the best types of boats for your boating dreams!
We wish you calm seas and a lovely cruise on your adventures!
Did you like this article? Did it help your search to find the perfect type of boat? Leave us a comment below and join the conversation!
Or have a look at some of our other marine guides including Gifts for Boat Owners, or informative posts like our Boat Grill Review, Anchor Chain Solutions, choosing the Best Fishing Hats, Selecting the Best Marine Stereo, or our guide to Haulover Inlet!
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