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Small Boats with Motors | Your Guide to the Best Compact Models

Small Boats with Motors | Your Guide to the Best Compact Models

Discovering the Best Small Boats with Motors: A Compact Guide

Ready for some water-bound adventure but don’t want the hassle of a big vessel?

Small boats with motors are your ticket to freedom on the waves. These compact powerhouses pack a punch, perfect for solo fishing trips, cozy family outings, or just some peaceful time on the water.

Let’s dive into why small boats are a big deal, what makes a motor stand out, and spotlight some of the coolest models cruising the market.

best small motorboats

Benefits and Considerations for Small Motorized Boats

Small boats with motors stand out for their ease of use, lower maintenance, and affordability. They are perfect for navigating narrow waterways, ideal for fishing in remote spots, and great for day trips.

When selecting a motor for a small boat, consider factors like fuel efficiency, noise level, power, and reliability. A good motor should provide enough power for your boating needs while being fuel-efficient and easy to maintain. Also, consider the engine’s weight, as a heavy motor might overpower a small boat.

Top Motors for Small Boats: Finding the Perfect Match

The market is filled with various options, but finding the right motor for your small boat is crucial for an optimal boating experience. Look for motors known for their durability, efficiency, and performance.

At OnlineOutboards, we specialize in providing top-quality motors from trusted brands, including:

  • Tohatsu . Known for their reliability and innovation, Tohatsu motors are a great choice for small boats, offering both power and efficiency.
  • Mercury . Mercury motors are celebrated for their performance and advanced technology, making them a preferred choice for a variety of boating activities.
  • Suzuki Marine . With a focus on environmental friendliness and cutting-edge technology, Suzuki Marine motors are ideal for those who value sustainability without compromising on power.
  • Honda Marine . Honda motors are synonymous with durability and smooth operation, perfect for those who prioritize longevity and a quiet ride.

Set Sail with Confidence

A world of adventure awaits with the right small boat and motor combo. With trusted names in your corner, you’re all set for endless fun and exploration. Whether you’re casting a line or just cruising around, remember that the best things often come in small packages.

Check out our lineup at OnlineOutboards.com and get ready to make some waves with your new compact boating buddy!

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  • Feb 19, 2024
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Best Small Fishing Boats

The Best Small Fishing Boats of 2024

Small crafts will get you out fishing without the massive bills that come with owning a boat

Best Overall Apex Marine Gamefisher

The Gamefisher is a ruggedly built classic Jon boat that is versatile for a whole bevy of different fishing styles and scenarios.

Best One Man Bass Pro Shops Pond Prowler 8

The tiny BassPro Shops Pond Prowler is a simple, affordable design that is ripe for customization to each angler’s individual style.

Best for Two People Pelican Bass Raider 10E NXT

The Raider comes at a great price point and is endlessly customizable to fit each angler’s individual interests and styles.

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Small fishing boats are often just as capable as larger ones that cost quadruple the price. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to take out a loan to buy the latest fiberglass bass boat or a deep-v hull offshore craft. Even if they can afford it, some anglers aren’t interested in a larger boat, especially if the brunt of their fishing is on small lakes and streams. Another factor is simply that some anglers might not have a vehicle large enough to tow a bigger dedicated fishing boat.

The good news is that there are options out there to fit a variety of fishing styles, scenarios, and budgets. From the latest in fishing kayaks to singe-person bass boats, we’ve narrowed down the best of the best so you can focus more on fishing. Here are our top picks for the best small fishing boats being made today.

  • Best Overall: Apex Marine Gamefisher
  • Best Budget: Pelican Intruder 12
  • Best for Lake Fishing: Pelican Bass Raider 10E
  • Best for Bays and Estuaries: Old Town Sportsman PDL
  • Best One Man: Bass Pro Shops Pond Prowler 8
  • Best for Two People: Sun Dolphin American 12′ Jon boat

How We Picked the Best Small Fishing Boats

As a lifelong fisherman, I have had the privilege of fishing from a variety of watercraft over the years—large and small. Some of which could be considered the top boats made today. I used that experience to guide my choices here. Some of the craft here I’ve either fished from personally or I’ve used a similar model in the past. Additionally, I compared key features of many of these boats to help make my decisions. Among the most important considerations considered include:

  • Length and width: How big is the boat? How much of that space is usable? Is the boat wide enough to stand up in?
  • Weight: Does this boat require a trailer? Or is this craft light enough to toss in the back of a pickup truck?
  • Fishing-specific features: Does this boat have rod holders? Live wells? Or is it a bare-bones boat ripe for customization?
  • Construction: What materials were used in the construction of this boat, and how durable is it?

Best Small Fishing Boats: Reviews and Recommendations

Apex Marine Gamefisher

Key Features

  • Length: 14’
  • Weight: N/A
  • Weight Capacity: 625 Pounds
  • Strong, one-piece hull
  • Great weight capacity
  • Requires a trailer

The wide hull of the Gamefisher is made from a single piece of aluminum which gives it great strength and stability. This is a boat built to bounce off stumps, rocks, and whatever else the angler can throw at it in the shallows. Because this boat has a mostly open floor plan, it’s ideal for modifications too. There are three bench seats already included, but it is easy to add some aftermarket swivel seats.

While user reviews note it is light enough to be carried by two people, the boat’s length almost necessitates a trailer, which is an extra expense for anglers who don’t already own one. However, this boat offers more in versatility than most other options on the market. For instance, it’s rather easy to add a blind for waterfowl hunting, making this a good option for all-around outdoorsmen and women.

Pelican Intruder 12

  • Length: 144”
  • Weight: 126 Pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 420 Pounds
  • A lot of boat for the price
  • Extremely stable
  • Weight capacity seems low for a craft this size

The plastic Intruder is a solid lightweight Jon boat that comes with a great price tag. At just under $700, the Intruder has a simple, but highly versatile design. This boat can easily be modified with seats, rod holders, and fish finders. It is a good option for anglers who want something that could transition seamlessly to waterfowl hunting. While this is a 12-foot boat, the weight is only 126 pounds, making it easy for two anglers to quickly load into the back of a larger pickup.

Our only downside for the Intruder is the 420-pound weight capacity seems a little on the low side for a 12-foot boat. It should handle two anglers for a day at the lake just fine. More than that, plus gear might be pushing things. However, for fishermen on a budget, this is a highly versatile craft.

Pelican Bass Raider 10E NXT

  • Length: 122”
  • Weight: 145 Pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 600 Pounds
  • Easy to modify
  • Incredibly stable
  • Excellent price point
  • Some reported shipping issues

The Pelican Bass Raider is one of the most popular plastic bass boats on the market today. It has developed a rather dedicated following from those who like customizing boats to suit specific fishing styles. With a minimum weight capacity of 600 pounds, this boat can easily hold two adults for a day of fishing, plus all the gear you might want. While it doesn’t come with a live well or rod holders, they are rather easy to add after the fact. We also like the Bass Raider for the shallow draft. Another bonus is that it is already wired up for an electronic motor and marine electronics.

A common problem reported in user reviews is boats shipped with subpar packaging. Some users have reported receiving damaged craft . Another problem was some users didn’t get a title with their shipment. This becomes an issue when trying to register in some states. However, for $1,000, there is much that can be done with this boat.

Old Town Sportsman PDL

  • Length: 12’
  • Weight: 116 Pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 500 Pounds
  • PDL drive seamlessly transitions between forward and reverse
  • Rugged construction

A kayak makes an excellent choice for inshore angling on bays and estuaries, and Old Town produces some of the best in the business. I’ve used Old Town’s kayaks in both inland lakes and mangrove flats, and I am always amazed at their stability. The biggest selling point of the PDL line is the pedal drive system. This drive can seamlessly transition from backwards and forwards simply by reversing pedaling motions. Not every pedal kayak on the market can do that. I love how this kayak leaves my hands free to cast and fight fish while still being able to navigate. I find the Sportsman PDL to be very rugged—I’ve run the drive system aground, into logs, and I’ve wrapped the prop in weeds many times without issue. Pedaling in reverse usually clears the tangle.

Fishing Gear photo

The biggest downsides to this kayak are the $2,700 price tag and the 116-pound weight. It’s not an easy kayak to get into the water or onto a trailer by yourself. And you can forget about wrestling it onto a rooftop rack. However, the stability and ease of navigating make this boat of the best kayaks on the planet.

Bass Pro Shops Pond Prowler 8

  • Length: 8’ 7”
  • Weight: 100 Pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 515 Pounds
  • Compact and easy to transport
  • Great price point
  • Already wired for a trolling motor
  • No front lift handle
  • Seat doesn’t lock down

The Prowler is a simple little boat that is perfect for solo anglers. Because of the compact design, this boat slides into the back of a pickup rather easily. The flat bottom allows anglers to get back into shallow areas that other boats can’t reach. This boat also boasts an impressive 515-pound weight capacity that makes it comfortable for anglers of all sizes despite the boat being less than nine feet long. Much like the Pelican Bass Raider, this boat is often heavily modified by users. The polyethylene construction is basically a blank slate for anglers looking to build the ultimate tiny bass rig.

One downside mentioned in user reviews is the lack of a carry handle on the front. It can make transporting a little more difficult. The seats also don’t lock down, and several user reviews mentioned minor problems with the seat shifting on them when they leaned over to get in their tackle box or land a fish.

Best for Two People: Sundolphin American 12′ Jon Boat

Sundolphin American 12' Jon Boat

  • Weight: 110 Pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 532 Pounds
  • Lightweight
  • Extremely affordable
  • No enclosed storage spaces

This Jon boat’s width and flat bottom make it an excellent choice for two anglers. The Sundolphin only weighs 110 pounds, making it easy to slide into a trailer or the back of a pickup truck. It has four built-in rod holders and multiple cup holders molded into the polyethylene hull. The boat’s materials also make it easy to hose and wipe down at the end of a long day of fishing.

The biggest downside to this boat is that there are no enclosed storage areas, which is a dealbreaker for some. That also means a battery for a trolling motor will need to sit on the deck exposed to the elements. However, for a boat of this size, the sub $800 price tag is hard to beat.

What to Consider When Buying a Small Fishing Boat

With the price of almost everything being extremely high right now, most anglers are turning to a smaller boat. But not all boats are created equal. If you want to fish saltwater flats, a long, wide specialized fishing kayak makes more sense than a flat-bottomed Jon boat. On the flip side, most small aluminum boats work best for inland lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. For intercoastal fisheries, select a craft built to withstand the corrosive saltwater environment. Don’t forget to always rinse your craft thoroughly after each trip in saltwater to extend the life of the craft.

Storage and Transport

The biggest benefit of a smaller boat is that it is easier to store and transport. However, it’s still important to take stock of how much storage space you have in your garage before you buy. Storing your boat inside will significantly increase the life of the craft. Try to figure out your storage options before you buy to avoid unwanted headaches.

Another factor some fishermen and women neglect is how to transport the new craft to the water. Smaller bass boats and kayaks are sometimes easily transported in a pickup bed. However, if you’re like me, you might find yourself needing to purchase a small trailer for transport. This can mean buying and installing a hitch if you don’t already have one.

Depending on the state, you may need to register the trailer too. Here in Michigan, a smaller kayak trailer under 2,500 pounds doesn’t require a plate. However, if you’re planning to buy a smaller aluminum boat that requires a heavier towing system, you may need to put plans in your budget for getting a plate.

Motors and Batteries

Unless you plan to paddle, pedal, or row your small fishing boat, you will also need to invest in a motor and possibly a marine battery . Most smaller boats can be powered by a simple trolling motor, but that adds another $150 to $1,500 just in motor costs alone. While a cheap trolling motor can do the job, the battery can add on another $150 to $500 depending on whether it is a lithium, absorbed glass mat (AGM), or lead acid battery. Small, simple outboard motors can go for anywhere from $250 to $1,800, depending on the make and model. However, the good news is that for a small 10 to 12-foot boat, most anglers don’t need a super fancy motor.

Registration and Other Legalities

Registration for small fishing boats is often unnecessary if the craft is non-motorized. That means most kayaks, canoes, and rowboats are often exempt from licensing and other regulations. In most states, you only need to register a boat if you add a small motor, whether it be a trolling motor or outboard. There is a ton of variation here from state to state, so be sure to review your state’s rules before you head out for the first time. Although some small boats may not require registration, many states still require you to have life vests and preservers for everyone on board. Most states also require some sort of running lights if you plan to fish after dark or near dawn or dusk. Fortunately, there are some cheap options for boat lighting online.

Q: Are small boats safe?

Small boats are perfectly safe as long as they are not overloaded or used in poor weather conditions. Pay attention to the weight limits of each craft. Besides having the proper number of life vests onboard for the number of passengers, be sure to read the owner’s manual thoroughly. The manual will have safety information specific to the boat, including conditions to avoid.

Q: What is the most stable boat for fishing?

In most cases, a wide, flat-bottom boat will usually be the most stable. Although manufacturers have become more sophisticated in their designs and many modern fishing kayaks also offer incredible stabilization in a very narrow package. However, a good rule of thumb is that the wider the hull, the more stable the boat will be. Consequently, this is why so many modern fishing boats have wider, more stable platforms regardless of the size of the overall craft.

Q: How long do small fishing boats last on average?

This depends on the type of boat and how well it is maintained. I have relatives and friends who have owned the same aluminum boats for decades. Two of my plastic kayaks are over 12 years old and still floating. Storing your small boat indoors in the winter months will help increase its lifespan considerably. With plastic boats, avoid exposure to sunlight, as UV light can bleach and ruin the color. Don’t forget to winterize the motor before putting the boat into extended storage at the end of the season. Properly maintained, there’s no reason a small fishing boat shouldn’t last 15-25 years.

Best Small Fishing Boats: Final Thoughts

While it might seem like larger boats are all you hear about these days, there is still a market for small fishing boats. Many anglers are re-discovering the effectiveness of a simple Jon boat like the Apex Marine’s shallow draft for reaching hidden spots that no one else can get to. Additionally, these smaller crafts are simply a more cost-effective way to get on the water without totally breaking the bank.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.

Travis Smola

Travis Smola is a Staff Writer with Field & Stream. He spent eight years writing about all things outdoors with Wide Open Spaces before looking for a new challenge with Field & Stream in 2023. Contact the author here.

23 Most Affordable Entry-Level Boat Models

most affordable boats

Our Boat Loan Calculator makes it easy to figure out just how much boat you can afford, and our Boat Finder will help you narrow the field to a particular type of boat. But it can be much more difficult to identify the specific models that fit both your budget and your desires.

The price range for boats is huge, of course, but average middle-class Americans looking to find their new dream-boat will each have their own budget, and their own definition of just what “affordable” means. That may mean looking for a boat that costs about as much as a new car, taking the family on a series of vacations, or putting in an in-ground pool.

Fortunately, there is indeed a boat for every budget. Here are some of the most affordable starter boats to keep in mind when you begin dreaming, listed in order of boat type from A to Z.

lund 1650 angler ss

1. All-Purpose Fishing Boats: Lund 1650 Angler SS

In this category there are countless options, and luckily, many all-purpose fishing boats are relatively low cost because their focus on fishing means they aren’t loaded up with excessive amenities. While that simplicity may limit the boat’s appeal to only anglers, it also helps manufacturers keep pricing down—way down. In fact, in the smaller size ranges it’s possible to find an all-purpose fishing boat that can easily hold a family of four and fits in the garage, yet is priced in the $10,000 to $20,000 range.

Take the Lund 1650 Angler SS , for example. It’s rated for up to five people, has a 40 HP outboard, a trailer, a livewell, and a driver’s side console, and is an ideal platform for all kinds of freshwater fishing and trips on relatively protected saltwater bays. Yet listing at just $15,547, this package can be financed with payments under $150 a month.  Visit  Lund Boats  to learn more.

Explore All-Purpose Fishing Boat Brands

Tracker Topper 1542

2. Aluminum Fishing Boats: Tracker Topper 1542

Aluminum boats are like the ATVs of the boating world. They’re rugged, versatile, compact, easy to transport, and easy to afford. They’re also an excellent choice for people who have light-duty tow vehicles, thanks to their relatively light weight. True, they don’t usually have many luxury features nor integrated entertainment devices, but you’ll be so busy reeling in fish you’ll never notice in the first place. One sub-category of aluminum fishing boat with particularly wide appeal is the Jon boat , since it’s among the most affordable options on the water.

In fact, some smaller utilitarian models intended for protected waterways, like the Tracker Topper 1542 , can be powered with a small outboard or an electric motor and at $1,595 costs less than some high-priced cell phones. For many forms of fishing in protected waterways, a boat like this will more than do the trick. Visit  Tracker Boats  to learn more.

Explore Aluminum Fishing Boat Brands

Ranger RT188P 

3. Bass Boats: Ranger RT188P 

While we’ll stipulate that there are some extremely expensive bass boats on the market, there are also plenty of lower-cost bass boats out there that are very competent fishing machines. They may not have the bling of models that are triple the cost, but boats like the Ranger RT188P have it where it counts: in the bass fishing department. This boat-motor-trailer package offers 115 horses, a fishfinder, a bow-mount trolling motor, multiple rodboxes and livewells, onboard tackle stowage, and an onboard battery charger. Even with all these big-ticket goodies included, base price is just $27,095. Oh, and did we mention that it looks great, too? Visit  Ranger Boats  to learn more.

Explore Bass Boat Brands

Mako 18 LTS

4. Bay Boats/Flats Boats: Mako 18 LTS

Saltwater fishing is popular just about anywhere there’s a coastline, and anglers who ply bays, inshore waters, and back-country flats love their bay boats and flats boats . If you’ve been looking at offerings in this genre you’ve probably noticed there’s a very wide range of pricing, which is often related to the size of the boat. But an 18-footer like the Mako 18 LTS can still be had for well under the $30,000 mark. And note that although it’s relatively small and inexpensive, this boat can carry five passengers and has plenty of features ranging from flush-mount vertical rodholders, to an 18-gallon livewell, to cockpit courtesy lighting. Visit MAKO to learn more.

Explore Bay/Flats Boats Brands

regal 1900 es

5. Bowriders: Regal 1900 ES

As one of the most versatile, do-everything designs around, bowriders attract a lot of first-time boat-buyers. That means there’s a long list of boatbuilders who make bowriders, and they’re available in a huge range of shapes and sizes. You’ll want to do lots of comparison shopping before deciding which specific make or model is ideal for your needs, but if your budget comes in at $30,000 or under, one you’ll surely want to look at is the Regal 1900 ES . It can hold the entire family plus some friends (maximum capacity is nine people) and can be used for everything from watersports to day cruising . Visit  Regal Boats  to learn more.

Explore Bowrider Brands

jeanneau nc 795

6. Cabin Cruisers: Jeanneau NC 795

Cabin cruisers naturally tend to be larger and more expensive than many other types of boats, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of reach for people who considers overnight cruising the ultimate family adventure. In fact, consider all the expenses you’d incur if you paid for all the gear, vehicles, lodging, and supplies to go on a trip to some exciting new place every weekend, all summer long. Then visit our Boat Loan Calculator and plug in the cost of a relatively affordable cabin cruiser, like the $80,750 Jeanneau NC 795 . You might be surprised to learn that you could actually do more for the dollar, by buying the boat. Visit  Jeanneau  to learn more.

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Robalo R160

7. Center Consoles: Robalo R160

Traditionally most people have thought of center consoles purely as fishing boats, but in recent years more and more people have discovered that the center console design is also great for any number of boating activities.

Consider a boat like the Robalo R160 , for example, which starts at an uber-affordable $23,295 and comes ready to fish hard, trailers easily, and can pull the kids around on water-toys when the fish stop biting. You want a serious but affordable fishing machine? Then there’s a good chance a center console will fit the bill—but don’t think for a second that you won’t find countless other ways to enjoy family boating, as well. Visit  Robalo Boats  to learn more.

Explore Center Console Brands

Rinker 22MTX

8. Cuddy Cabins: Rinker 22MTX

If you like the idea of having a boat with a cabin and spending nights or weekends aboard is an option you desire—but spending big bucks on a yacht is not—a cuddy cabin will likely prove ideal. Cuddies have all the basics you need like a berth to sleep on, basic restroom facilities, and sometimes even a compact galley (kitchen), but they’re still small and simple enough to keep pricing down at reasonable levels. Just what’s “reasonable”?

While cabin boats do tend to cost a bit more than open models, some like the Rinker 22MTX will cost less than many nice cars (sticker price is $47,380). Yet boats like this come fully-equipped with everything you need for memory-making mini-vacations. Visit Rinker Boats  to learn more.

Explore Cuddy Cabin Brands

Bayliner Element Series

9. Deck Boats: Bayliner Element Series

If you could figure out the cost-per-smile factor of any recreational vehicle in the world it would be seriously tough to beat a deck boat . These open, spacious boats are great for just about any waterborne activity and thanks to their simplicity they’re shockingly affordable. The Bayliner Element series is a perfect example. A beefy 21-footer with a 115 HP outboard, a trailer, and room for a crowd of 10 people lists for under $28,000. The 18-foot version barely breaks the $20,000 mark, and the 16-footer starts as low as $15,299—less than the cost of many new motorcycles, which aren’t exactly the ideal vehicles for family entertainment. Visit Bayliner to learn more.

Explore Deck Boat Brands

walker bay 10

10. Dinghies: Walker Bay 10

Many people get dinghies to go with a larger boat, but they can provide lots of fun all on their own. In fact, for a couple of people who want to go out exploring or fishing in protected waters, a dinghy is one of the most cost-effective ways to get out there.

True, little boats like the Walker Bay 10 don’t have much in the way of amenities; but with the ability to hold three people, add a sail or outboard (up to three HP), and a list price of just $1,279, how can you beat the bang for the buck? Visit  Walker Bay Boats  to learn more.

Explore Dinghy Brands

Lowe FS 1700

11. Fish-and-Ski Boats: Lowe FS 1700

Families who enjoy both fishing and watersports naturally gravitate to this design. Fish-and-ski boats are exactly what they sound like: fishing boats that are designed and equipped to do double duty when they kids enjoy watersports as much as they enjoy hooking walleye.

The Lowe FS 1700 is sure to draw plenty of attention, thanks to its aptitude as both a fishing boat and a watertoy-towing fun-machine. And its price tag is quite low, starting at a mere $20,495 with a 60 HP outboard and a trailer. Visit  Lowe Boats  to learn more.

Explore Fish-and-Ski Brands

Donzi 16 Classic

12. High Performance Boats: Donzi 16 Classic

When it comes to budget-conscious boat-buying, high performance boats probably don’t top most people’s lists. However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a million dollars to get a boat that provides adrenaline-inducing thrill rides. Start small with a boat like the Donzi 16 Classic (MSRP: $61,900), which can be equipped with 200- or 250-horsepower, and you’ll soon be zipping across the water at speeds most boats only reach when they’re being trailered down the highway. Visit  Donzi Marine  to learn more.

Explore High Performance Boat Brands

Sea Eagle 10.6sr

13. Inflatables: Sea Eagle 10.6sr

Inflatables are a rather unique class of boats, particularly in that many can be deflated, rolled up, and stored under a couch or in the closet of a studio apartment. So not only are they ideal as tenders and towboats, inflatables can also get urban dwellers into the boating game. And they can do so quite inexpensively.

Match up a boat like the Sea Eagle 14sr ($2,499) with a portable outboard, and you young urban dwellers have a boat capable of carrying seven people that takes just 25 minutes to inflate—and you could even add on things like swivel seats, a Bimini top, and fishing rod holders. Visit  Sea Eagle Boats  to learn more.

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scarab 165 g

14. Jet Boats: Scarab 165 G

Jet boats are quite popular among first-time boat-buyers, and other than the jet drive and some rather sporty and spectacular handling characteristics, most are more or less like other runabouts. They tend to share pricing characteristics, too, and one that’s eminently affordable is the Scarab 165 G . Even with its small $24,433 MSRP it delivers big on sporty fun, and has a surprisingly wide range of features like aft swim platform loungers, a ski-tow eye, and USB charging ports. Visit  Scarab Boats  to learn more.

Explore Jet Boat Brands

15. Motor Yachts/Power Cruisers: Sea Ray Sundancer 350 Coupe

Sea Ray Sundancer 350 Coupe

No one’s going to argue that motor yachts and power cruisers are low-cost; but consider how much you have would to pay for a chic two-bedroom waterfront home with a full kitchen, living room, and bathroom, plus a deck with a grill, outdoor stereo, and retracting sunshade. Oh, and BTW, you can park this bungalow in any waterfront village you’d like, whenever you’d like. What do you think, a half a million dollars sounds about right?

For significantly less you can get boats like the Sea Ray Sundancer 350 Coupe , which not only have all of the above but can also hit speeds in the 40-mph range and feature perks like outdoor cockpit air-conditioning, a bow lounger, and a sunroof over the helm. Visit  Sea Ray Boats  to learn more.

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World Cat 230CC

16. Multi-Hull Power Boats: World Cat 230CC

Ask a crowd of experienced boaters about multi-hull power boats , or "power cats" as they’re often called, and you may hear that they generally cost more than regular monohull powerboats . But when you compare different boats by their capabilities and useable space, that’s not always the case.

Consider a World Cat 230CC , for example. Yes, it has a sticker price pushing close to $100,000, which sounds like a lot for a 23-foot boat. But powercats like this have more interior volume because they’re wider in the bow—in fact, the 230CC has seating for a huge crew of 10. Plus, the smooth twin-hull ride can take on bigger seas than most monohulls in this class, and the boat has twin engines. So when you add capability and space into the equation this boat should really be compared to much larger monohulls. And for the value you get it’s actually far more affordable than it seems upon first glance. Visit  World Cat  to learn more.

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yamaha waverunner ex series

17. Personal Watercraft (PWC): Yamaha WaveRunner EX Series

Looking for a cheap thrill? You just found it. Few boats are as affordable as personal watercraft , and few can claim to be more fun. Grin-inducing wave-hops, G-force turns, and a face full of spray are just a few of the experiences that await you, and we dare you to try to go two minutes on a personal watercraft without smiling. Good luck, because it isn’t going to happen.

And, talk about affordable: the Yamaha Waverunner EX series lists at a mere $6,899 to start—less than a couple might lay out for a week-long trip to Europe. Yet it can carry up to three people and blasts off with a 1049-cc Yamaha TR-1 jet engine. Can you say “WOOHOO”? Visit  Yamaha WaterCraft  to learn more.

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Godfrey Sweetwater 1886 C

18. Pontoon Boats: Godfrey Sweetwater 1886 C

One of the great things about pontoon boats is that most models are highly customizable, and you can get them just as simple and inexpensive or as gussied-up as you please. While that may mean foregoing the snazzy wine-chiller or the huge outboard engine to get a more affordable price, it certainly doesn’t mean foregoing the family fun a pontoon boat will provide.

Consider the Godfrey Sweetwater 1886 C , which seats 10 comfortable and comes with features like a 40 HP outboard, gobs of seating, a cocktail table, and a swim ladder. MSRP is just over $26,000, and you can add in a slew of features like a Bimini top, a stereo system, a pop-up changing room, and even a chilled cupholder at the helm, without breaking through the $30,000 barrier. Visit  Godfrey Pontoons  to learn more.

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Beneteau First 14

19. Sailboats: Beneteau First 14

When it comes to economics, sailboats hold an advantage over powerboats since they don’t need the power provided by those big motors. You may be attracted to a small, simple boat that can be taken out single-handed or by a handful of people, like the $10,800 Beneteau First 14 . Or you may be more interested in a model that has a cabin and a berth, like the First 18 ($28,800). In any case, not only are boats like these eminently affordable, they also enjoy lower operational expenses than powerboats. You’ll love that new boat even more as you sail right past the fuel dock. Visit  Beneteau  to learn more.

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Four Winns HD 200 Surf

20. Ski Boats/Wake Boats: Four Winns HD 200 Surf

Towed watersports have exploded with popularity in the past decade, and it’s no wonder why. Whether you’re surfing the wakes or practicing slalom skiing, watersports make for fast-paced and exciting athletic action. If you’ve shopped for dedicated watersports boats , however, you may have noticed that they can be on the expensive side. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. New tech in drive units and boat designs has made it possible for many manufacturers to offer lower cost boats that work great for sports like surfing and water skiing.

The Four Winns HD 200 Surf is a great example, since it has everything needed in a serious watersports boat (like tow points, wake tabs, and ballast tanks), but it doesn’t edge too much above the $50,000 mark. Visit  Four Winns  to learn more.

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Boston Whaler 345 Conquest

21. Sportfishing Yachts: Boston Whaler 345 Conquest

No, we’re not going to try to convince anyone that a sportfishing yacht is “inexpensive.” And affordability is entirely in the eye of the beholder. But consider this: if you chartered an offshore sportfishing yacht for a day of fishing, in most parts of the nation you’d pay somewhere between $1,500 and $2,500 per day. Once you spend that money it’s gone. But if you purchased a sportfishing yacht that retains a good deal of its value over time, like the Boston Whaler 345 Conquest (which goes for a little over a half-million dollars), you’ll have the asset of the boat itself for years to come. And on top of that you’ll have the unrestricted ability to go fishing or cruising in luxury whenever the mood strikes. Visit  Boston Whaler  to learn more.

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Ranger Tugs R-23

22. Trawlers: Ranger Tugs R-23

Since most people think of trawlers as large and luxurious, you may find it a bit surprising to discover that there plenty of smaller, more affordable trawlers to consider, too. True, you won’t be crossing the Atlantic on a 23-footer like the Ranger Tugs R-23 . This little $115,000 pocket-yacht does, however, have sleeping space for a family of four, complete food-prep facilities, a private head compartment (that’s nautical-speak for bathroom), and an open cockpit you can use for everything from tanning to fishing. Visit  Ranger Tugs  to learn more .

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Striper 200 Walkaround OB

23. Walkarounds: Striper 200 Walkaround OB

Many people, especially parents with small kids, feel a cabin is a must-have whether they plan to go fishing, day cruising or spend a night or two camping aboard. And even the smallest of the walkarounds out there provide you with a place to sleep, protection from the weather, and somewhere to relieve yourself. Boats like the Striper 200 Walkaround OB check all those boxes. And listing an MSRP of $66,893, it’s certainly easier to afford than a cabin at the lake. Visit  Striper Boats  to learn more.

Explore Walkaround Boat Brands

And don’t forget people, while you could dedicate that boat budget to a car, vacations, or a pool, we think a boat has got all of those things beat—hands-down. Who would rather travel down the road, when open waterways beckon? Why restrict your recreation to short-lived vacations, when going boating is like taking a vacation each and every time you pull off the dock? Doesn’t choosing a pool seem rather limiting, when your boat will provide you with countless places to take the plunge? Find the perfect boat for you, your family, and your budget, and you’ll never regret it.

Read Next: Best Boats for Families

Editor's Note: Pricing is accurate as last date of publish, May 12, 2020. Please contact each boat manufacturers or your local boat dealer directly for the most updated pricing.

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The Top 5 Smallest Motor Boats on the Market: Compact Vessels for Easy Maneuvering

The world of motor boating has something to offer for everyone, regardless of their preferences and budget. From luxurious yachts to smaller, more affordable vessels, there’s a boat out there for every need. For those who are looking for a compact and easy-to-maintain option, small motor boats are a great choice.

Table of Contents

Understanding Motor Boats

Motor boats, also known as powerboats, are boats that are propelled by an engine. They come in various sizes and shapes, from small fishing boats to large luxury yachts. Motor boats are an excellent choice for those who want to enjoy the water without the physical effort required by sailboats.

There are two main types of engines for small boats: inboard and outboard. Inboard engines are typically more powerful and efficient than outboard engines, and they’re also usually quieter. However, they’re also more expensive and require more maintenance. Outboard engines are less expensive and easier to maintain, but they’re also less powerful and noisier than inboard engines.

When choosing a motor boat, it’s important to consider the intended use. For example, if the boat will be used for fishing, a fishing boat or a skiff would be a good choice. For water sports enthusiasts, a watersports boat or a bowrider would be more suitable. For those who want to spend a day on the water with family and friends, a deck boat or a day cruiser would be a good option.

It’s also important to consider the size of the boat. Smaller boats are easier to handle and maneuver, but they may not be as comfortable or stable as larger boats. Larger boats are more comfortable and stable, but they require more space for storage and may be more difficult to handle.

The Criteria for Small Motor Boats

When selecting a small motor boat, there are a few key criteria to consider. These include:

Small motor boats can range in size from dinghies that are less than 10 feet long to boats that are up to 25 feet long. The size of the boat will impact its stability, speed, and maneuverability on the water. It is important to consider the intended use of the boat when selecting the appropriate size.

The power of a small motor boat is typically measured in horsepower (HP). The amount of power needed will depend on the size and weight of the boat, as well as the intended use. For example, a boat used for water sports will require more power than a boat used for leisurely cruising.

The design of a small motor boat can impact its performance on the water. Factors to consider include the shape of the hull, the weight distribution, and the placement of the motor. A boat with a deeper V-shaped hull will typically be more stable and handle rough water better than a boat with a flatter hull.

Small motor boats can come with a range of features, such as comfortable seating, storage compartments, and built-in sound systems. It is important to consider which features are necessary for the intended use of the boat, as well as the budget.

Small motor boats can range in price from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. It is important to consider the budget when selecting a boat, as well as any ongoing maintenance and operating costs.

Top 5 Smallest Motor Boats on the Market

When it comes to small motor boats, there are plenty of options available on the market. However, finding the right one for your needs can be a challenge. In this section, we will take a look at the top 5 smallest motor boats on the market and their key features.

The first boat on our list is the Grady-White. This boat is known for its durability and reliability, making it a great choice for those who want a small boat that can handle rough waters. It has a length of 18 feet and can accommodate up to 6 passengers. The Grady-White is equipped with a Yamaha outboard motor and has a maximum speed of 40 mph.

The second boat on our list is the Starcraft. This boat is perfect for those who want a small boat that is easy to maneuver. It has a length of 16 feet and can accommodate up to 4 passengers. The Starcraft is equipped with a Mercury outboard motor and has a maximum speed of 30 mph.

The third boat on our list is the Jeanneau. This boat is ideal for those who want a small boat that is both stylish and functional. It has a length of 17 feet and can accommodate up to 5 passengers. The Jeanneau is equipped with a Yamaha outboard motor and has a maximum speed of 35 mph.

The fourth boat on our list is the Sea Ray. This boat is perfect for those who want a small boat that is versatile and can be used for a variety of activities. It has a length of 19 feet and can accommodate up to 7 passengers. The Sea Ray is equipped with a Mercury outboard motor and has a maximum speed of 45 mph.

The fifth and final boat on our list is the Bertram Yachts. This boat is known for its high-quality construction and attention to detail. It has a length of 20 feet and can accommodate up to 6 passengers. The Bertram Yachts is equipped with a Yamaha outboard motor and has a maximum speed of 50 mph.

How to Choose the Right Small Motor Boat

When it comes to choosing the right small motor boat, there are several factors to consider. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

1. Intended Use

The first thing to consider is what you will be using the boat for. Will you be using it for fishing, water sports, or just cruising around? Different types of boats are designed for different purposes, so it’s important to choose one that suits your needs.

2. Size and Capacity

Small motor boats come in a range of sizes, from tiny one-person boats to slightly larger boats that can hold a small family. Consider how many people you will need to accommodate and what kind of gear you will be carrying.

3. Engine Type

There are two main types of engines for small boats: inboard and outboard. Inboard engines are typically more powerful and efficient than outboard engines, and they’re also usually quieter. However, outboard engines are easier to maintain and repair.

4. Fuel Type

Small motor boats can run on gasoline or diesel fuel. Gasoline is more common and usually less expensive, but diesel engines are more fuel-efficient and can provide more power.

5. Brand and Reputation

Finally, it’s important to choose a reputable brand with a good reputation for quality and reliability. Do your research and read reviews from other boat owners to find a brand that you can trust.

Maintenance Tips for Small Motor Boats

Maintaining a small motor boat is essential to ensure the boat’s longevity and safety. Here are some tips to keep your small motor boat in top condition:

Regular Cleaning and Waxing

Regular cleaning and waxing are necessary for protective and cosmetic purposes. It prevents oxidation and maintains a shiny appearance. Use a mild detergent mixed with water to clean the boat’s surface and rinse it thoroughly. After cleaning, apply a coat of wax to protect the boat’s surface from UV rays, salt, and other environmental factors.

Check the Engine

The engine is the heart of the boat, and it is essential to keep it in good condition. Check the oil level and top it up immediately if it is low. Inspect the fuel hoses, look for leaks or damage, and replace anything that is not in top condition. Ensure the exhaust and ventilation systems are working correctly. Inspect the raw water pump, and replace the rubber impeller annually.

Inspect the Electrical System

The electrical system is crucial for the boat’s safety and performance. Check the battery’s charge level and ensure it is fully charged before going out on the water. Inspect the wiring, connections, and fuses, and replace any damaged components. Ensure all lights, including navigation lights, are working correctly.

Check the Trailer

The trailer is an essential part of the boat, and it is crucial to keep it in good condition. Check the tires’ pressure, bearings, and brakes before every outing. Ensure the trailer lights are working correctly and the safety chains are properly attached.

Keep Records

Keeping records of all maintenance and repairs is essential for the boat’s resale value and your peace of mind. Use a boat maintenance checklist to keep track of all maintenance tasks and the date they were completed.

In conclusion, the market for small motor boats is vast and varied, with many different options available to suit a range of needs and preferences. From compact dinghies and tenders to sporty bowriders and deck boats, there is a small motor boat out there for everyone.

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Best Small Outboard Motors: A Comprehensive Buying Guide

Small outboard motors are perfect propulsion solutions for small boats, including dinghies, tenders, canoes, kayaks, skiffs, and Jon boats.

However, mind that small outboard motors are not trolling motors that only provide limited power and range (Check our previous post comparing outboard motors vs trolling motors ).

A reliable small outboard motor should be lightweight and quiet, yet powerful enough to get you from point A to point B effortlessly, even when dealing with tides or swift rivers.

Having searched around and found yourself overwhelmed by nearly endless options of small boat motors with mixed reviews? Making it even ‘worse’, now you have affordable options of small electric outboards.

No worries. In this post, we will have a detailed comparison between portable electric boat motors, small gas outboards, and other options available (such as trolling motors), with the best recommendations to help you make a quick decision.

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  • Electric vs. Gasoline
  • Best Small Boat Motors

Small Outboard Motor on Boat

Small Outboard Motor: Electric vs. Gasoline

Here we list the top 5 reasons and occasions you should consider an electric outboard vs. a gas small boat engine.

‘I’m searching for the quietest small outboard possible.’  A quiet ride is one of the benefits of small outboard motors compared with those big engines.

If you want to cruise silently up and down the river, the best solution is to go electric. The electric small outboards are surprisingly quiet because they don’t rely on the internal combustion which causes loud noise and vibiration.

Thanks to the industry leading direct drive technology and FOC (Field-Oriented Control) built into the small outboard motors, ePropulsion outboards further reduce the number of internal moving parts and eliminates the gearbox, making the quietness a next level. You will simply hear no noise but the sound of nature.

Here is a video comparison between small gas boat motors and their electric counterparts:

Key takeaway:  If quietness is your top priority, small electric outboards will be your best choice. You will feel the difference immediately once you switch over to electric motors.

#2. Lightweight

Portability is another crucial factor for users to choose small boat engines. Usually, the small portable outboards can be hand-lifted easily, making them easy to transport, attach and remove from your boat. The weight for gas and electric small outboards is neck and neck, generally ranging from 9 kg – 10 kg for a 3 HP outboard motor.

However, don’t forget to include the weight of gasoline required (for small gas outboard motors) and the battery pack (for electric motors). The electric small boat motors usually come with built-in batteries for easy installation and transportation, making it a more portable solution.

#3. Power & Range

The power is a big drawback for some lightest (or cheap) small outboard motors. With those smallest boat motors, such as trolling motors rated by thrust, users might have difficulty moving forward when caught in the gale or tide, even at its max speed.

If you need more power to help you feel safer on water, you need to consider some higher-powered small outboards, and 2.5 or 3 hp small outboards can be a good starting point to deal with the possible elements on water. 

For example, the 3 HP small outboard  ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 Plus  gives you  4.5 mph  speed,  5 hours  runtime and  22 miles  range with a single charge of its  1276 Wh  battery (tested on a 12-foot aluminum boat with one person on board in calm water). 

#4. Easy to Use & Maintain

Forget about the ignition and pulling the cord every time to start the small gasoline outboard motor. With electric boat motors, you only need to press one button and you are ready to go. It’s simple to use for all your family members.

Electric outboard motors are made for a premium experience. It’s easy to operate with the built-in tiller handle, and you will stay informed of the real-time battery status with its convenient digital display. So no worries about getting stuck in the middle of a lake.

Some small boat motors featuring direct drive technology are maintenance-free, saving you a lot of trouble and money in the motor service.

The price might be a big reason that puts off your decision on buying a electric small outboard motor. Some of you might be looking for small boat motors for sale or cheap small boat motors resellers on the market.

It’s true that the initial investment is higher than the petrol counterpart, but you will be compensated by the savings on petrol cost, maintenance fees, and the superium experience it provides. You will be surprised that you will start to save within a few years of use (about 150 hours of service time), according to our calculation .

If you want to save some budget on the small outboard motors, you can pay attention to online and offline activities to get some hot deals and save money. For example, you can get a discounted ePropulsion small outboard motor by becoming our  pro staff .

Best Small Boat Motors: Top 2 Options

As we have discussed above, electric small outboard motors can be your ideal solution for small vessels in terms of the motor weight, power, range, and cost in the long run.

So what’s the best option for a reliable small outboard? Does anyone have a brand they suggest?

Check out the top two electric small outboard motors models recommended by industry professional reviewers and customers from over 40 countries.

#1. Spirit 1.0 Plus: 3 HP

As one of the most popular selling models, Spirit 1.0 Plus has everything you may expect from a small outboard motor, plus extended battery life and long range.

Spirit 1.0 Plus Small Outboard Motor

Designed for dinghies, fishing boats, and sailboats, Spirit 1.0 Plus is suitable for various applications, providing you with enough power to go fishing all day long at trolling speed.

Performance:

Power (W)Speed (mph/kph)Runtime (hh:mm)Range (mile/km)
352.2 / 3.536:2580 / 129
652.7 / 4.319:3553 / 85.3
1253.5 / 5.610:0035 / 56
2504.4 / 7.15:0022 / 35.5
5005.3 / 8.52:3013.3 / 21.3
7505.7 / 9.21:409.5 / 15.3
10006.2 / 101:157.8 / 12.5

Features you will love:

  • Quiet, no noise to disturb your journey
  • Clean power, environmentally friendly
  • Portable, easy to install and transport
  • Easy to use, all family members can enjoy the fun
  • Digital display, real-time access to battery status
  • Integrated floating battery
  • Solar charging supported
  • Free of maintenance, saving cost and trouble

Customer Reviews:

‘Tried our spirit 1.0 plus for the first time today on our old tender dinghy and the difference between that and the old gas motor is amazing. Not just noise and smell. But performance too.’

The above comment is quoted from Miles Buckhurst’s sharing on ePropulsion Owners Group. Here is also a video that compares ePropulsion small outboard motors with other alternatives (trolling motors and more). Check it out for details:

In addition, ePropulsion offers three years warranty upon  product registration . So you are covered if anything happens to your ePropulsion small outboard motor.

#2. Spirit 1.0 Evo: 3 HP

Spirit 1.0 Evo has inherited all the benefits from the Plus model and innovatively been integrated with the extra hydro generation function.

It allows the battery to be charged while sailing. If you are looking for a small outboard motor for your sailboat, Spirit 1.0 Evo would be a better fit.

For the hydro generation charging capacity and more genuine comments, you may check out the below review video from  The Sailing Frenchman:

If you still need more battery capacity for a longer trip, you can check out ePropulsion E-Series batteries that provide extended runtime at an affordable price.

Small outboard motors bring a lot of convenience and premium experience to your boating activities. Whether you plan to use it for roaming around the small shallow river near your place, or want to go long ways and come back to the start points upriver and against the current, you would be happy and safe with a reliable small outboard motor.

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All Types of Small Boats Are Best

27th jul 2023 by john burnham / toi williams.

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Small boats are the best boats, many boaters will say, and they make several strong points to support their argument. First, small boats provide the best bang for your buck, putting you out on the watery natural world at a low cost. Second, they have the best time-spent-boating to time-spent-on-upkeep ratio of any boat. Third, they are naturally lighter and more portable and easier to pull up on the beach, fit in a truck. and store in out-of-the-way places. Finally, they are the best teachers of boathandling skills; whether you’re a youth or adult, everything you learn in a small boat is applicable to handling a larger one.

And with all that going for them, the best thing about small boats is that there are dozens of different types of small boats available, so you can find one for nearly any water activity. Even boaters who own a large boat will often have a small one to put to work for specific activities and when it’s just too darn much trouble to get the big boat organized and underway. 

See our list of small boats for sale

So what type of small boat is right for you? We’ve organized the handy guide that follows into a dozen different categories, including everything from rowing dinghies sailing boats to kayaks and small powerboats.. 

Types of Small Boats

While there is no official definition of a small boat, most people agree that the term applies to vessels that are less than 30 feet long (and some would say much shorter). The type of small boat that’s right for you will depend on what activities you want to pursue and where you are planning to launch your boat. Here are the basic types of small boats you will find during your search. 

small motorboat

The common features of a jon boat include an aluminum hull shaped with a flat bottom and a squared-off bow, an outboard engine, and bench seats. The light and simple construction of these boats makes them easy to launch, load, and store, and they require very little maintenance. Depending on the price of the engine, they are also among the least expensive options available when buying a boat with an engine. 

Check out our guide on The Best Jon Boat Brands  and our wide range of Jon boats for sale .

jon boats

If you’re looking for a simple boat at a moderate price, then a skiff might be the choice for you. Skiff is a catch-all term usually used to describe boats with a simple hull, an outboard engine, and some seats. While a Jon boat will sometimes be categorized as a skiff, the skiff is typically a more substantial boat, and in modern use may even be laid out with a center console helm station. Learning how to maneuver a skiff is relatively easy when compared to other types of boats, and its maintenance needs are minimal. A skiff's small size also makes it easy to transport and launch in a wide variety of settings. 

Skii boats for sale

Dinghy is another catch-all phrase that describes a wide variety of boats, including designated classes of sailboat racing classes. Dinghies typically top out at about 10 feet, but those with sails may be 15 feet long or more. Dinghies can be powered by sails, a motor, oars, or  paddles. They can be made of fiberglass, aluminum, or wood, and there are also some types that are inflatable that may be called RIBs (rigid inflatable boats). Dinghies can be used alone or as tenders for larger boats to allow boaters to reach shallow water and the shore. 

Dinghies for sale

Inflatable boats

There are two basic types of inflatable boats from which to choose. The first type is completely inflatable and collapsible because it is soft all the way through and can be rolled up and stored in the locker of a larger vessel. In the case of dinghy-type inflatables, these will often have wooden floorboards. The second type has a rigid hull, normally made of fiberglass, surrounded by an inflatable ring that rises to form the sides of the boat. Most inflatable boats range from 6 to 22 feet long, but there are a number of models upwards of 40 feet long that may serve as tenders to large vessels such as sailboat racing yachts. 

Inflatable boats for sale

inflatable boats

Aluminum fishing boats

Aluminum fishing boats are a practical choice for small boats. Their aluminum construction makes them lightweight, easy to transport, and simple to maintain. They also tend to cost less than other types of small fishing boats and are among the most fuel-efficient types of small boats. Most aluminum fishing boats are 8 to 24 feet long; the shorter ones may also qualify as a Jon boat, while longer ones such as bass boats may be quite sophisticated and fast.

Aluminum fishing boats for sale

Pontoon boats

Pontoon boats come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from mini fishing pontoons to performance pontoon boats for longer-range day cruising. These small boats are generally between 15 and 30 feet long with a flat profile that provides plenty of open space for multiple passengers. Pontoon boats are one of the most affordable boat options. The fact that they are easy to trailer and easy to launch are features that only add to their appeal. See our articles on the best pontoon boat brands  and comparisons between  tritoon boats  and deck boats .

Pontoon boats for sale

pontoon on a lake

Canoes are a traditional and frequently chosen small-boat option because they are easy to use, maintain, and transport. Boaters use paddles to power a canoe and can transit just about any type of shallow water. Even small models are typically designed to accommodate more than one passenger. Canoes come in a variety of shapes, including some models that prioritize speed, others that prioritize coasting, and still others that are designed for fishing excursions.

Kayaks are a popular modern choice of small boat for many of the same reasons as canoes. However, instead of having room for several passengers, most kayaks are designed to hold only one or two people. Propulsion through the water is achieved with a double-bladed paddle, and the front is often enclosed over the boater's legs instead of being open like a canoe. A variation is the sit-on kayak, which has a molded area for sitting and paddling while keeping one’s legs clear of the water. Some kayaks are powered effectively by foot pedals and rotating fins below the waterline.

kayaks / canoes

If you are looking for a fast small boat with a lot of features, then a jet boat may be the right type for you. Jet boats typically range from 14 to 24 feet long and are built for speed, maneuverability, and a thrilling ride. A jet engine in the boat creates thrust by moving water at high pressure through a nozzle. The engines on jet boats can be inboard or outboard.

Jet boats for sale

Personal watercraft

Personal watercraft , sometimes called Jet Skis after one of the top brands,are some of the smallest boats available on the market today. They are also some of the fastest, zipping along the surface of the water at speeds that can be difficult for a larger boat to achieve. They're designed to hold one or two people and are sometimes called water bikes and water scooters. You'll find them in both sit-down and stand-up versions. A wide variety of these types of small boats are available from various manufacturers.

Personal watercrafts for sale

jetskis

Deck boats are some of the largest small boats on our list, ranging up to 26 feet in length. These boats have the most room for passengers and equipment because they are designed to provide a wide-open deck space forward and aft with plenty of seating. These boats often also come with high-powered engines for speed, and their molded hulls provide good maneuverability. Many boaters with large numbers of family and friends to take on the water will choose deck boats. 

Deck boats for sale

Bowrider boats

Bowrider boats are another option for those looking for larger boats in the small-boat category. The longest of these boats may be well over 30 feet in length and therefore not a small boat at all, but smaller versions often measure in at least than 20 feet.. A bowrider’s V-shaped hull typically cuts well through the waves and maneuvers neatly. These versatile boats can be used on nearly any body of water and are good for a wide variety of water activities. See our guide on the best bowrider boat brands .

Bowrider boats for sale

Types of Small Motorboats

Many types of small motorboats are referred to with the catch-all terms cruisers and runabouts. These terms describe a variety of boats that are considered relatively small powerboats and can have inboard or outboard motors. Cruisers and runabouts include bowriders, deck boats, jet boats, and just about any other type of small boat outfitted with a motor. See our article on some of the Best Small Motor Boat Brands .

small boats on a marina

Types of Small Sailing Boats

If a boat is less than 25 feet long and equipped with a mast, rudder, and sail, it will likely be considered a small sailboat. In addition to sailing dinghies, types of small sailing boats include daysailers, also known as dayboats, small sloops and boats with “cat” rigs (one sail instead of two); and small multihulls with two or three hulls for stability. One commonality among many small sailing boats is that their crews may be in for a wet ride if the wind pipes up.

More information:  What are the Different Types of Sailboats?

Types of Small Fishing Boats

Just about any small boat can be used as a small fishing boat, but some types of small boats are better suited for anglers than others. The most popular types of small fishing boats are aluminum fishing boats and jon boats, because they can be used in many different types of water, including narrow inlets, bays, flats, and shallow shorelines. Ranging from kayaks and aluminum fishing boats to jon boats and skiffs, these types of boats can also be delivered with features specific to fishermen. 

More information:  Best Fishing Boat Brands

Types of Small Boats for Lakes

The best types of small boats for lakes are ones that let you travel around the lake with ease. Depending on the size of the lake, this could mean a small, manually powered boat like a canoe or kayak or a larger powerboat like a deck boat. The size of the waves on the lake will also play a role, with larger, heavier boats able to handle larger waves than smaller inflatable crafts or boats you paddle. Of course, there is always the option of choosing a mid-range small boat so that you can feel confident on both large and small lakes. 

More information:  The Most Popular Types of Lake Boats

small lake boat

Types of Small River Boats

One of the most important things to remember about boating on a river is that it will continuously be pushing you downstream. Unless you are only planning to travel downstream, in which case a canoe or kayak would be sufficient, you are going to need a boat with a motor to return to your point of origin. Fortunately, many small boats can be outfitted with a motor, making them suitable as types of small river boats. The most popular small river boats include jon boats, pontoon boats, deck boats, and jet boats. 

Related article:  Small sailboat types

Written By: John Burnham / Toi Williams

John Burnham is a marine ​editor and writer with ​decades of journalism experience as ​Chief Editor of​ boats.com,​ Sailing World, Cruising World, and ​other boating websites. As a competitive sailor, he has led teams to world and national titles in the International One-Design, Shields, and other classes. Based in Newport, Rhode Island, John is a​ PCC leadership coach, a member of the ​America’s Cup Hall of Fame Selection Committee​, and a ​past board member of Sail America and US Sailing. For more, see  johnsburnham.com .

Toi Williams grew up in coastal New England, Her parents had a second home on Newfound Lake, in New Hampshire. Because of this, Toi was able to enjoy boating at sea as well as in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Today, she regularly wakeboards and waterskis on her Malibu wake surfing boat. She also sailed at sea in Maine, and taken many trips to the Isles of Shoals.

More from: John Burnham / Toi Williams

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best small motorboats

11 Small Boats With Cabins You Can Afford (With Pictures)

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If you’re looking for a small boat with a cabin, what you’re essentially looking for is either a trawler, a cuddy cabin, or a “cruiser”.

Let’s break down each category and find some great deals for each.

Table of Contents

After we’ve gone over these categories, we’ll also go over a few questions which need to be answered before you decide on a purchase.

What is the most affordable cabin cruiser or a small cabin boat?

There are a variety of cuddy cabins which are both affordable and spunky while out on the water.

You can find older models for sale between $20,000 and $30,000, and which are between 20’ and 25’ in length.

Some of the best options you can find are:

  • 20’ Pro-Line Hard Top
  • 22’ Sea Hunt 225 Victory
  • Sea Ray Sundeck
  • Stingray 21’ Cuddy Cabins

What is the best trawling boat?

While you might not be a fisherman at heart, some of the heartiest boats are fishing boats. They have bigger cabins for fisherman to relax after a hard day on the water as well as large storage areas for their gear.

Trawling is a method of fishing where the fisherman drags a net through the water behind them.

Recreational trawlers aren’t actually fishing boats, however. They resemble the vessel’s design, but that’s where the similarities end.

Remember that recreational trawlers use smaller engines than their fishing brethren; one which will only produce approximately 80 hp.

Trawlers have a dedicated following. These boats can be slow cruisers but, at their heart, they weren’t built for speed. After all, they are single-engine boats that can go from 7 knots to 20 knots.

One of the best values when it comes to trawling boats is the Carver c34 .

Here it is:

best small motorboats

While it might not be as inexpensive as the other options in this article, at $371,820, you’re getting a smaller (34 feet long) more economical coastal cruiser.

More economical than a lot of the other boats of the same type on the market right now, which can range up to $500,000 – $900,000(!)

If you look for this boat used, you will most likely find it over $100,000 cheaper than the new sticker price.

What is the best boat to buy for a beginner?

The Glastron GS 259 is a 25-foot-long cruiser with a price range of about $77,000.

best small motorboats

While the cabin is huge, as is the full galley, and the large dinette, the price also matches the large accommodations.

However, it will be difficult to find such accommodations on a boat of this size. Not only that, it comes recommended for a beginning boater by Lenny Rudow of Boats.com.

You should also check out the Trailcraft boat models .

What is the best cabin cruiser under 30 feet?

At 28 feet, the Bayliner 285 SB is a great cruiser which is still small enough to be towed and stored on your property.

best small motorboats

But at the same time, it is still big enough to say overnight if you feel like going on a weekend excursion on your boat.

The price ranges from $96,000.

What is the best cabin cruiser under 25 feet?

A cabin cruiser is a powerboat with overnight accommodations and a galley.

They are generally faster than trawlers and cuddy cabins and can range from 25’ to 100’ in length. There are a number of different types of cruisers, including:

  • Aft cabin cruisers
  • Convertibles
  • Express cruisers
  • Motor yachts
  • Pocket cruiser

It cuts it close, but the Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe is just over 25’ (at 26’) and can be found for around $100,000.

best small motorboats

It also comes in a longer 10’ model and has a double-stepped hull with a deep entry that turns into a moderate keel pad, which shows off its maximum efficiency.

It even has the option of coming with an electric grill built into the transom, and an adjacent sink.

The former is fully removable and can hide under a fully rigged livewell.

All of these small touches add to its appeal.

What if I don’t necessarily need a cabin?

If not having a cabin isn’t a deal breaker, your options for affordable boats just blew wide open:

The 16’2” Bayliner Element

($14,742) with a cruising speed in the mid 20’s can seat four.

The 17’11” Four Winns H180 OB

($24,451) includes a swing away tongue, full-sized walk-across swim platform, and Bluetooth-capable stereo with MP3 port and two speakers.

The 23’1” Larson LX 225S IO

($43,267) comes with a trailer that has disc brakes, a canvas bow, and cockpit covers. It also has an MP3-capable stereo.

Is it better to buy a used boat?

There are plenty of advantages to buying a used boat. The biggest advantage is the price.

While you might find some expensive boats listed on used vessel or vehicle websites, but you will find more reasonably priced used models than not.

Just like a car, a boat depreciates in value when it gets driven off of the lot.

Because of that, a used boat will better hold its value.

Another perk to buying used is the option to buy from a private seller or a dealer.

While there are many different perks, there are also a few disadvantages. One of which is that you never really know what you’re going to end up with.

You might be able to take it out for a ride with the seller but if you don’t have a boat mechanic look at it, you won’t really know what kind of wear and tear it’s been through.

If you do buy a boat used, make sure to inspect:

  • The hull for scratches, dents, and marring
  • The motor for damage
  • The upholstery for worn spots and tears in the vinyl
  • Broken levers

Don’t be shy about inspecting as much as you can.

best small motorboats

An example of how to save money with a used boat is with the C Dory 23’ Venture Sport which weighs less than 3000 lbs. and has a fuel capacity of 60 gallons.

Fishermen will love how it tracks while you’re trolling, which will let you focus on fishing.

Every day boaters will love how much headroom is in the cabin and how much more pleasant it is to cruise on rough waters.

When you buy it new, it can be upwards to $100,000 but buying it used, instantly cuts the price in half or even as low as $35,000.

If you decide to find yourself a used boat, it would be best to check out some local options.

When is it better to buy a new boat?

A new boat ensures that you’re getting what you want.

The ability for customization is fantastic. From the paint scheme to the engine and turbines to the stereo system, you can fulfill your wish list in one stop.

New boats are both shiny and clean. You’ll rarely have any issues with the engine. You might also have the backing of a manufacturer’s warranty, which isn’t just a great deal of safety when it comes to your finances (in the long run) but is also great peace of mind.

The downside to buying a new boat is the price.

You’ll also have to deal with the depreciation, which starts as soon as you tow it off the lot. While it might cost a little more, look for high quality, trustworthy manufacturers and builders, which could help with the depreciation.

What exactly is a cuddy cabin on a boat?

A cuddy is another term for a small room on a boat. It comes from the 19 th century when they used to be referred to as saloon cabins, which were on the stern of ships.

These days it refers to a small shelter cabin , which has a small berth and head.

Normally, they are not tall enough to stand in but are still popular recreation boats for boaters who don’t quite want to upgrade to a full-size cabin boat.

A lot of fishermen use cuddy boats as their fishing boats because of the price, storage capabilities, and the small stature.

Final Thoughts

When going on a treasure hunt for your future boat, make sure that you have these things before you leave the house:

  • An idea of what you are going to use your boat for (watersports, racing, fishing, day trips, cruising, party boat, etc.)
  • An initial list of dreamboats you want to test out
  • Clear cut boundaries for price and options (AKA a “wish list”)

Remember that it may take a little while to find your dream boat.

It can be difficult to cull through all of the choices at the lots or on the internet. Know that the only way to make sure which boat is perfect for you is to take it out for a spin on the water.

If you’re still indecisive, that just means that you can go out and try out as many different boats as you can. This search doesn’t have to be a chore; go out and have fun.

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Discover the Best Types of Small Boats for Every Water Adventure

In the realm of miniature vessels, a unanimous chorus sings the praises of small boats. These compact aquatic conveyances hold sway with a multitude of compelling arguments .

  • Initially , their allure stems from their cost-effectiveness, offering a wallet-friendly gateway to the aqueous wilderness.
  • Secondly , their unparalleled ratio of time spent afloat to maintenance time sets them apart from their larger counterparts.
  • Thirdly , their lightweight design and portability make them effortlessly reachable, truck-fittable, and stowable in remote alcoves.
  • Lastly , they serve as exceptional tutors for honing boat handling proficiency, whether in the hands of the youthful or the mature; skills cultivated in small vessels readily translate to their larger brethren.

Amidst this favorable backdrop, the greatest appeal of small boats lies in the abundance of diverse options available. A cornucopia of small boat types caters to an array of aquatic activities . Even those with substantial vessels often keep a small counterpart on standby for specific tasks or when the grandiose boat's logistics prove daunting.

Which variety of small boats aligns with your aspirations ? The ensuing guide categorizes them into a dozen distinct genres, encompassing rowing dinghies, sailing boats, kayaks, and petite powerboats, to name a few.

📢Read also:   Best Liveaboard Boats to Live On Full-Time

Types of Small Boats

Types of Small Boats

Defining a precise threshold for small boats remains a subjective endeavor. However, consensus typically pegs them at under 30 feet in length and, in some circles, considerably shorter . Your ideal choice among small boats hinges on the intended aquatic pursuits and launch locations. Herein, an overview of the fundamental small boat types awaits your exploration.

Flat-Bottomed Jon Boats

Flat-Bottomed Jon Boats

Characterized by their aluminum construction, flat hulls, squared bows, outboard engines, and bench seating, Jon boats emerge as uncomplicated and economical options. Their simplicity extends to ease of launching, loading, and maintenance . The cost of the engine bolsters the affordability of these boats.

The Versatile Skiff

The Versatile Skiff

Skiffs, occupying the midrange in cost and complexity, beckon those seeking simplicity at a reasonable price. Typically featuring uncomplicated hulls, outboard engines, and seating, skiffs may sport center console helm stations in contemporary iterations . Maneuvering a boat proves relatively straightforward, with minimal maintenance requirements, and their compact size facilitates diverse launch locations.

Diverse Dinghies

Diverse Dinghies

The term " dinghy " encompasses various vessels, including sailboat racing classes. Dinghies generally measure up to 10 feet, though sail-equipped variants may extend to 15 feet or more. They derive propulsion from sails, motors, oars, or paddles and boast varied materials, such as fiberglass, aluminum, wood, or inflatable construction. Some serve as tenders for larger vessels, enabling access to shallow waters and shores .

Inflatable Options

Inflatable Options

Inflatable boats come in two primary forms. The first type is entirely inflatable and collapsible, allowing for convenient storage within larger vessels . The second variant combines a rigid fiberglass hull with inflatable sides. Inflatables span from 6 to over 40 feet, often serving as tenders for sailboats. Their versatility makes them adaptable to a range of scenarios.

Lightweight Aluminum Fishing Boats

Lightweight Aluminum Fishing Boats

Aluminum fishing boats excel in practicality, offering lightweight construction, ease of transport, and minimal upkeep. They typically cost less than their counterparts and exhibit commendable fuel efficiency . Lengths vary from 8 to 24 feet, with shorter models resembling Jon boats and longer versions boasting sophistication and speed.

💥See also:   Best Catamaran Fishing Boat Brands 2024

Pontoons Boats

Pontoons Boats

Pontoon boats come in diverse sizes and shapes, from compact fishing pontoons to performance-oriented cruisers. Ranging from 15 to 30 feet, they flaunt a spacious, flat profile accommodating numerous passengers . Affordability, easy trailering, and launch capabilities enhance their appeal.

👀Look at this:   12 Best Pontoon Boat Brands for Your Money in 2024

Canoes

Canoes endure as a cherished traditional choice, celebrated for user-friendliness, low maintenance, and portability. These paddle-powered vessels navigate various shallow waters and typically accommodate multiple passengers . Canoes adopt diverse shapes, catering to speed enthusiasts, leisurely cruisers, and avid anglers alike.

The Modern Appeal of Kayaks

The Modern Appeal of Kayaks

Modern kayaks garner popularity for many of the same reasons as canoes. Designed primarily for one or two occupants, kayaks propel through water with double-bladed paddles. Some feature enclosed cockpits, distinct from open-canoe designs . Innovations include foot pedal propulsion and submerged fins for efficient navigation.

Jet Boats for Thrills

Jet Boats for Thrills

Jet boats come to the fore for enthusiasts seeking exhilarating speed and maneuverability. Ranging from 14 to 24 feet, these vessels prioritize velocity and excitement . Jet engines generate thrust by directing high-pressure water through a nozzle, with options for both inboard and outboard configurations.

Personal Watercraft: Compact and Speedy

Personal Watercraft Compact and Speedy

Personal watercraft, often known by brand names like Jet Ski, represent some of the smallest and swiftest boats available. Designed for one or two occupants, they zip across the water's surface at impressive speeds . Available in sit-down and stand-up variations, these water bikes and water scooters offer a broad selection from various manufacturers.

Deck Boats: Space and Power

Deck Boats Space and Power

Among the larger small boats, deck boats stretch up to 26 feet, affording ample room for passengers and gear. Their open deck layout , forward and aft seating , and powerful engines cater to family outings and recreational activities on the water.

Bowriders: Versatile Watercraft

Bowriders Versatile Watercraft

Bowrider boats, while occasionally extending beyond 30 feet, offer smaller versions measuring under 20 feet . Featuring V-shaped hulls for wave-cutting efficiency, they excel in maneuverability and adapt to diverse aquatic settings, accommodating various activities.

🚨You may be interested in:   12 Best Bowrider Boat Brands to Buy for Your Money

Types of Small Motorboats

Types of Small Motorboats

Small motorboats, collectively known as cruisers and runabouts, encompass various powerboats . These boats may employ inboard or outboard motors, with representations like bowriders, deck boats, and jet boats.

Types of Small Sailing Boats

Types of Small Sailing Boats

Small sailboats, usually under 25 feet long, embrace masts, rudders, and sails. Varieties include daysailers, small sloops, " cat " rig boats, and multihulls with two or three hulls for stability. Expect the possibility of a lively journey when the wind picks up.

⚡️Another article:   Small Sailboat Types: Your Guide to the Perfect Vessel

Types of Small Fishing Boats

Types of Small Fishing Boats

While most small boats can serve as fishing vessels, aluminum fishing boats and jon boats are especially well-suited for anglers. Their versatility extends to diverse waters, including narrow inlets, bays, flats, and shallow shores . From kayaks to skiffs, these boats can come equipped with angling-specific features.

👀Look at this:   The Best Small Fishing Boat Brands

Types of Small Boats for Lakes

Types of Small Boats for Lakes

Selecting the ideal small boat for lake navigation hinges on seamless travel around the lake . Options span from manually powered canoes and kayaks to larger powerboats like deck boats, tailored to match the lake's wave conditions and size.

🚨You may be interested in:   Exploring the Most Popular Types of Lake Boats

Types of Small River Boats

Types of Small River Boats

River boating mandates constant downstream drift, necessitating motor-equipped boats for returning upstream. Small river boats, including Jon , pontoon , deck , and jet boats , accommodate this requirement, enabling fluid river exploration.

In embracing the diversity of small boats, one can embark on aquatic adventures that align with their desires and the water's character. The world of petite vessels beckons, promising memorable journeys on the open water .

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Best Outboard Motors

  • By Jim Hendricks
  • Updated: June 4, 2021

Learn more about some of the best outboards and outboard brands

Outboard motors dominate today’s boating market. And with good reason. Today’s outboards are powerful, quiet, reliable, easy to service, and offer excellent power-to-weight ratios, as well as outstanding corrosion resistance. American boaters can choose from more than 180 models (not counting shaft length variants), all four strokes, from manufacturers such as Honda Marine, Mercury Marine, Suzuki Marine, Yamaha Outboards, and others, many in a choice of colors.

Horsepower ratings range from 2.3 to a whopping 600 ponies. Advanced technology abounds, with many models featuring electronic throttle and shift, electric steering, digital integration with your marine electronics , wireless connections to apps that let you view key functions, and more. While many boaters might narrow their search to the best outboard motor for the money, we instead built this list to showcase the best outboards available.

If you own an outboard motor, then you probably already know what you like in terms of brand and horsepower. But, on the other hand, you might be interested to learn about other great outboard motors, in case you buy a second boat or want to repower with the latest outboard technology. With this in mind, we looked at three outboard categories—portables, midsize and big outboards—and highlighted models from the major outboard brands that reflect some of the most notable and innovative engineering and features in each class.

Choosing an outboard motor for your boat is an important decision. Here, then, are 15 of today’s best outboard motors, ordered by horsepower from low to high, defaulting to alphabetical order for like power ratings.

Portable Outboard Motors

The Honda Marine BF5 is easily portable

Honda Marine BF5

Portability, performance and reliability are the hallmarks of the Honda Marine BF5 tiller-steer outboard model, a motor that’s ideal for small boats and dinghies. The BF5 is equipped with a 0.4-gallon internal fuel tank, the largest in its class. This single cylinder outboard is also easy to pull-start, thanks to a decompression system that bleeds off cylinder pressure to reduce the pulling force. Weighing about 60 pounds, the BF5 is equipped with a 127cc overhead-cam engine that features an Oil Alert system that indicates any drop in oil pressure, automatically limiting the engine speed to 2,300 rpm. The Honda BF5 is available with an optional charging system with a capacity of 6 amps at 12 volts to power electronic devices on board.

The Suzuki Marine DF9.9B is packed with features

Suzuki Marine DF9.9B

This portable outboard is the only motor in its class with electronic fuel injection for easy starting, strong acceleration and smooth operation at all engine speeds. Even more impressive is that Suzuki DF9.9B’s EFI system does not require a battery. The two-cylinder 327cc overhead-cam engine also features Suzuki’s proven Lean Burn Control System for outstanding fuel efficiency from low idle speeds well up into the cruising range. Weighing 108 pounds (20-inch model), this motor is available with electric or manual start with a decompression system for easy pull-starts. Suzuki’s class-leading 327cc displacement delivers plenty of torque for pushing inflatables, small fishing boats and more. Power tilt and trim is optional.

Yamaha Outboards High-Thrust T9.9

The Yamaha T9.9 is light and portable

The Yamaha T9.9 is one of today’s smallest and lightest high-thrust 9.9 hp outboard motors and serves a perfect kicker outboard for a variety of boats. Weighing 102 pounds (20-inch model), the T9.9′s 212cc, two-cylinder, overhead-cam engine provides smooth, reliable power and torque with outstanding fuel efficiency. Yamaha’s patented dual-thrust propeller offers robust forward and reverse thrust. Shallow Water Drive System or Power Tilt allows the operator to raise the outboard during low-speed operation or fully tilt the outboard up. A freshwater flushing device at the front of the outboard allows for easy maintenance and increased longevity. Resting pads enhance storage capability.

The Mercury Marine 20 EFI FourStroke is easy to operate

Mercury Marine 20 EFI FourStroke

Designed for anglers, recreational boaters and commercial operators, the Mercury 20 hp FourStroke features battery-free electronic fuel injection for reliable starting, instant throttle response, strong performance and superb fuel efficiency. Weighing in at 99 pounds, this outboard model is among the lightest in its class. Available with electric start, this engine is designed with ease of maintenance, featuring a clean, no-drip, no-spill oil-drain system. The 20 hp EFI FourStroke features an award-winning multi-function tiller handle, offering ambidextrous operation. Its vertical down-stop is adjustable to accommodate specific boat layouts and transoms.

Midsize Outboard Motors

Mercury Racing 60R for smaller high-performance boats

Mercury Racing 60R

The only outboard motor in its class available as a 15-inch model, the Mercury Racing 60R fits perfectly on the transom of flats skiffs and other small high-performance boats. Featuring a high-thrust gearcase, this outboard motor is geared to deliver strong hole-shot for jumping on plane in shallow water. The smallest outboard motor in the Mercury Racing line, it features a four-cylinder, 1.0-liter long-stroke powerhead tuned for torque. Wide-open throttle range is extended to 6,300 rpm to maximize acceleration and enable more propping options. Weighing in at 268 pounds, it can accommodate a lower poling platform while eliminating the need for a jack plate

Suzuki’s DF70A mixes efficiency with reliability

Suzuki DF70A

Known for delivering strong fuel efficiency and long-run reliability, Suzuki’s DF70A pushed a 17-foot Hell’s Bay flats skiff to victory in the 2021 Florida Skiff Challenge, a non-stop, 1,300-mile race around the entire Florida coastline. This four-cylinder engine features dual overhead cams, four-valves-per-cylinder and electronic fuel injection with Suzuki’s Lean Burn Control. Weighing 343 pounds and boasting 9.17 liters of displacement, it’s the only motor in the class with an offset driveshaft for better weight distribution and balance on the transom. Suzuki’s two-stage gear reduction and 2.59:1 gear ratio delivers snappy acceleration and top-end performance. This motor also features a self-adjusting and self-lubricating timing chain and powerful 27-amp alternator for tech-laden boats.

Yamaha's F70 mixes efficiency with performance

Yamaha Outboards F70

Yamaha’s F70 outboard motor is perfect for family fishing and fun. Weighing 253 pounds, it’s the lightest in class and delivers quick starts, high performance and efficiency for aluminum fishing boats, pontoons and fiberglass boats. This 1.0-liter engine also boasts the best horsepower-per-liter ratio in its class. It offers four-valve-per-cylinder and single cam design with electronic fuel injection. A high gear-ratio and 6,300 rpm wide-open throttle rating combine with a compact single-throttle valve and long-track induction system for maximum power and thrust. The F70 integrates with Yamaha’s CL5 and CL7 touchscreen displays.Yamaha’s Multi-Function tiller handle is also an option for the F70.

The BF90 is built to last

Honda Marine BF90

Inspired by the engine of the Honda Fit car, the BF90′s 1.5-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder features multi-port electronic fuel injection. Weighing 359 pound (20-inch model), it comes with a multi-function display and an optional tiller handle that includes a larger shift lever, a power trim and tilt switch, handle height adjustment and trolling-speed control. The patented Blast system advances ignition timing during hard acceleration for powerful hole shots, while a Lean Burn Control system adjusts the air/fuel mixture to maximize fuel efficiency at cruise. A three-way cooling system promotes long-term durability. Honda’s Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) improves torque and power at higher rpm.

Mercury Marine 115 hp Pro XS can get you fishing fast

Mercury Marine 115 hp Pro XS

The 115 hp Pro XS has been powering bass boaters and other performance enthusiasts since its launch in 2016. Built on the proven 2.1-liter four-cylinder platform, this outboard motor lives up to the Pro XS reputation for hole shot, top-end speed, and durability. It delivers outstanding zero-to-20 mph heavy-load acceleration and a blistering top speed. At 359 pounds, it’s the lightest weight high-output engine in its class. In addition, the 115 hp Pro XS features the Idle-Charge Battery Management system, ensuring peace of mind for a full day on the water. Available with the standard or larger Command Thrust gearcase, this outboard motor is perfect for boaters looking to maximize performance on their bass boats, multi-species boats, bay boats and pontoons.

Big Outboard Motors

The Honda BF250 looks good and runs great

Honda Marine BF250

The flagship of the Honda outboard line, the BF250 outboard motor integrates an innovative design, a sleek progressive V-form style, improved corrosion resistance, streamlined maintenance, and an expanded number of rigging options. Weighing 622 pounds (25-inch model), the 3.58-liter V-6 is available with either Intelligent Shift and Throttle (iST) or electronic controls or mechanical controls. Technological innovations include Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC), Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) to delivers precise amounts of fuel and air to each cylinder, Boosted Low Speed Torque (BLAST) to increase performance and acceleration; and Lean Burn Control to maximize fuel efficiency in cruise mode. The motor also features digital line redundancy for added protection against connection failure.

The Yamaha Outboards F300 Offshore is built to withstand the rigors of going offshore

Yamaha Outboards F300 Offshore

Yamaha’s updated F300 Offshore Digital Electronic Control (DEC) model features Digital Electric Steering (DES) and Thrust Enhancing Reverse Exhaust (TERE) and other XTO Offshore-inspired features. Fast and precise Digital Electric Steering (DES) draws battery amperage only when active. The 4.2-liter EFI V-6 incorporates Thrust Enhancing Reverse Exhaust (TERE) that allows the propeller to bite clean water for strong reverse thrust. Yamaha’s TotalTilt function allows complete tilt up from any position with a double push of the “UP” button, or full tilt down with a double push of the “down” button. Weighing 562 pounds (25-inch model), F300 has a color-matched lower unit, an upgraded one-piece top cowling with water-draining air duct molding and a new bottom cowling.

The DF350 is built for top-end speed and low-speed maneuvering

Suzuki Marine DF350A

Suzuki’s flagship DF350A was the first outboard to feature dual contra-rotating propellers for superior hole shot and strong acceleration for today’s larger and heavier boats. It also improves top-end speed and enhances low-speed maneuvering. Weighing 727 pounds (25-inch model), this 4.4-liter V-6 features dual fuel injectors for better power output and fuel efficiency, a self-adjusting oil-bathed timing chain with Variable Valve Timing for performance and durability, a dual-louver direct air intake to provide cooler, denser air for more powerful combustion, and Suzuki’s Lean Burn Control technology for optimum efficiency. The drive-by-wire Suzuki Precision Control system delivers silky smooth shifting and instant throttle response, along with a wide range of advanced features for anglers and boaters.

Yamaha Outboards XTO Offshore is packed full of amazing features

Yamaha Outboards XTO Offshore

The 425 hp XTO Offshore 5.6-liter V-8 outboard motor combines power, reliability, system integration, control and convenience. The first four-stroke outboard to use direct fuel injection, the XTO Offshore sprays fuel at high pressure directly into the combustion chamber, rather than the intake track, improving atomization and increasing fuel burn effectiveness to maximize power and efficiency. Weighing 952 pounds (25-inch model), this outboard motor also features integrated electric steering, eliminating hydraulic lines, fluid and linkages. It allows for clean rigging and an orderly bilge. The XTO provides up to 96 amps (net) at idle and reaches peak output around 1,500 rpm. It is compatible with Yamaha’s Helm Master joystick control system.

Mercury Racing's 450R is built for performance

Mercury Racing 450R

The hand-craft 450R has elevated the definition of outboard motor performance. Boosted by an exclusive supercharger, the 4.6-liter V-8 FourStroke powerhead delivers 450 peak horsepower—40 percent more torque than the powerful 400R. Weighing 689 pounds, it is 300 pounds lighter than the nearest competitor. The exclusive Mercury Racing Advanced Mid Section (AMS) features heavy-duty stainless-steel guide plates and stiffened engine mounts that stabilize the outboard and enhance high-speed handling. An optional rear tie-bar bracket integral to the AMS provides a strong, ultra-light mounting point and uncluttered installation for catamaran and other high-speed applications. The 450R outboard is backed by a three-year limited factory warranty and a three-year limited corrosion warranty, the same as Mercury mainline outboards.

The Mercury V12 Verado is a revolutionary outboard

Mercury Marine V12 Verado

The new V12 Verado is in a class of its own, providing the ultimate boating experience for customers. Incorporating industry-first innovations, the 600 hp Verado includes a two-speed transmission, steerable gearcase, and 7.6-liter V-12 powerhead that differentiate it from any other outboard motor. Weighing 1,260 pounds, the V12 is Mercury’s quietest high horsepower engine ever built. Contra-rotating propellers maximize thrust and ease low-speed maneuvering. Maintenance has also been simplified—service intervals have been extended and all regular maintenance points are accessible via the top cowl service hood, meaning the top cowl does not need to be removed for 1,000 hours or five years. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Mercury V12 Verado establishes a new benchmark for marine propulsion.

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Best boats for beginners: 4 affordable options for your first boat

  • How to start boating: Everything you need to know to get afloat
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Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four of the best boats for beginners from the likes of Fletcher, Regal, Axopar and Marex…

This morning was spent watching an old video of Smuggler’s Blues 2 (my boat) while finding reasons not to get on with my proper work. I’d filmed it over a weekend aboard with my partner Marianne after an exceptionally busy couple of weeks.

It was a Sunday morning, we’d only just got up, and over breakfast I was opining that boating can be whatever you want it to be: thrilling, adventurous, exciting, sociable, fun, restorative – you choose.

However, you do actually need to buy yourself a boat first. So for those still considering a first step afloat, here are four great examples, from an affordable 22ft cuddy to a fast 37ft weekender with a 31ft Scandi cruiser in between.

The one thing they all have in common is that they are simple, user-friendly beginners boats for first-time buyers to own, drive and maintain.

4 of the best boats for beginners

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Fletcher22_1

Fletcher 22 GTS

Built: 2002 Price: £19,950

There’s a lot to be said for starting small and working your way up. Not only does it keep the budget manageable, it keeps the boat manageable too.

At just 22ft, even a novice could soon be managing this little craft single-handed with a modicum of training – helpful if guests (or spouses) are not so enthusiastic about getting hands on.

However, it’s also big enough to extend the horizons beyond merely day boating , and the diesel engine keeps the running costs under control too.

Of course smaller boats come with smaller, well, everything – and it’s in the cabin that you feel the pinch most keenly on the Fletcher 22 GTS. It is basically a cuddy, so there’s not enough height to stand up and there’s not enough space for a separate toilet compartment.

But accept those limitations and it’s a perfectly useable cabin. There’s a nice little dinette where you can tuck yourself out of the weather, and if you drop the table and slot in the infill cushions, you’ve got a very decent double bed.

There is a chemical loo under one of the seats too, so compact though it is, all the important bases are pretty well covered.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Fletcher22_4

The cuddy cabin has a convertible dinette and a portable loo

Outside is where the priority clearly lies in the layout of this boat. Again, it’s compact, but it’s easy for a family to enjoy. There’s a little swim platform with a ladder and the seating wraps sociably around the aft section of the cockpit, with a fridge and a sink to starboard.

It’s also quite high-sided, adding a sense of security that’s vital for those taking their first steps afloat. At the business end, there are two seats for helm and navigator and a walk-through windscreen to access the foredeck.

Performance

Lift the back seat and you’ll discover a Yamaha 370 STI engine. The big news about this is that it’s a diesel. That means it offers lower consumption and running costs, as well as much easier availability of fuel at the dockside.

Churning out about 160hp, it ought to be good to take this affordable family cuddy to a top end of around 30 knots.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Fletcher22_3

As with all Fletcher sports boats, the ride and handling are conspicuous strong points

Norman Fletcher, founder of Fletcher International Sports Boats, was a powerboat racer who understood a good hull. That’s why all Fletcher boats punch well above their weight when out at sea.

Specifications

LOA: 21ft 7in (6.6m) Beam: 8ft 6in (2.6m) Draft: 1ft 8in (0.5m) Displacement: 2 tonnes Fuel capacity: 280 litres Engine: Yamaha 370 STI 164hp diesel Location: Essex Contact: boats.co.uk

Article continues below…

Secondhand buyers guide: Best starter boats under £20,000

Saxdor 200 sport test drive: £25,000 boats don’t get any cooler than this.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Regal_28_1

Regal 28 Express

Built: 2014 Price: £79,995

If you need something that feels a little more like motor cruising and a little less like camping, then the 25ft mark is where it all starts.

Often referred to as ‘pocket cruisers’, this is the size where increased volume creates the space for the basic essentials of comfortable onboard living.

Features like standing headroom, a separate toilet and a dedicated (rather than convertible) bed make all the difference.

The layout on this type of boat is inevitably pretty ubiquitous, simply because it’s what works best. There’s a U-shaped forward seating section that converts to a double berth or creates a dinette for meals.

Further aft, where a rising roofline generates adequate headroom, there is a small galley opposite the toilet compartment. It features a single burner hob, a sink with pressurised hot and cold water and a fridge and microwave.

Move aft again and, beneath the forward end of the cockpit, there is sufficient space for a permanent double berth. That takes the sleeping capacity to four but, more importantly, it means that if you choose to cruise as a couple, you are not continually having to convert the seating before bedding down for the night.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Regal_28_2

It features a permanent mid cabin, a convertible dinette and a lower galley and heads

A canopy turns the cockpit into quite a versatile living area. Removable sides mean you can use it as a bimini top for shade too. Another neat feature is the twin aft benches, which face each other across the table. The backrest of the aft seat pivots forward, creating an aft sunpad and locking into various positions.

You can lock it up for dining, leave it half way for chaise-longue-style lounging or lie it flat and use it for sunbathing.

A Mercruiser 350MPI V8 petrol engine sits snugly beneath the aft deck. That 350 figure refers to the capacity in cubic inches (5.7 in litres). It puts out a smooth and potent 300hp, which is enough for 30 knots plus and a reasonably economical 25-knot cruise.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Regal_28_7

With convertible seating and multi-part canopies, the cockpit is pretty versatile

The high, narrow hull requires a little tab work to keep it on an even keel in a crosswind, but this is a decent performer for its size.

LOA: 28ft 8in (8.7m) Beam: 8ft 6in (2.6m) Draft: 3ft 3in (1.0m) Displacement: 3.5 tonnes Fuel capacity: 276 litres Engine: Mercruiser 350 Magnum 300hp petrol engine Location: Torquay Contact: One Marine

Axopar 37 Sun Top

Built: 2017 Price: £154,950

The joy of this (and indeed any) Axopar is its innate practicality. Low-sided and heavily fendered by a chunky grey rubbing strake, it’s surprisingly confidence-inspiring.

The aft end of the Axopar 37 is entirely customisable when ordered new. A raised sunpad is one option, bringing enough height for a small two-berth cabin beneath.

An alternative is the flat aft deck behind the rear cockpit seating, creating a wonderful watersports arena. Whichever option the buyer chooses, you get a forward cabin ahead of the helm.

Duck into here and you’ll discover a wide open-plan environment with a double berth in the bow, a single seat and a galley area. There’s also a proper plumbed-in sea toilet down here, nestling discreetly inside a small wooden cabinet.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Axopar37_IMG_8349

The cabin is bright and comfortable for two but lacks a separate heads compartment

It’s clear then that this is not designed to be a dedicated family cruiser. The focus here is alfresco fun. In addition to that impressive aft deck, the long bow space provides a set of sunbathing cushions on the cabin top.

There’s also a central cockpit space with four forward-facing seats opposite another three helm seats that swivel 180 degrees to face aft across the table.

As the sun-top version, this boat features a large hardtop with a fabric opening sunroof but other notable deck options include a cabin version which closes the cockpit off for year-round recreation.

The Axopar 37 is built for twin outboard installations. The smallest option is a pair of 200hp motors for a top speed of around 40 knots.

However, we tested the Axopar 37 with the same option as this boat, a pair of Mercury’s super smooth Verado 350 motors. And in that form, you can expect a 47-knot top end and a very easy 40-knot cruise.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Axopar37_IMG_8330

Even on a 2017 model, Axopar’s prowess in day boating practicality is clear

Speed is fun but only if kept firmly under control. That’s particularly true for first-time boaters where crew confidence is paramount, but you need have no worries here.

Our man in Mallorca described the hull as “so adept, so unflappable and so flattering that it’s easy to drive fast in a big sea and still feel utterly safe and in control”.

LOA: 36ft 9in (11.2m) Beam: 10ft 10in (3.3m) Draft: 2ft 9in (0.9m) Displacement: 2.9 tonnes Fuel capacity: 770 litres Engines: Twin Mercury 350 Verado 350hp outboard engines Location: Poole Contact: Salterns Brokerage

Built: 2019 Price: £235,000

Almost a quarter of a million pounds might feel a little steep for a first boat, but it’s important to understand that people have all sorts of different budgets, and this boat works so well as a first boat that if you have the means, it’s actually a very sensible investment.

UK dealer Wessex Marine has confirmed that several have been supplied as first boats, including one to TV presenter James May .

On a Scandinavian designed and built boat, you expect plenty of cruising practicality and you get it.

In addition to a pair of very decent double cabins, plus a heads compartment and galley, the 310 features a really well protected cockpit. In all regards, it is a very safe and capable small cruiser.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Marex_310_DSC00917

Marex’s proven quick-rig canopy system makes the 310 ideal for year-round use

The cleverness of the cockpit arrangement starts with the canopy system. The open-backed hardtop has two manual sliding roofs extending fore and aft from a central bar.

You can open or close these in seconds by simply twisting the release catch and pulling. But the real pièce de résistance is the side canopy system. That hardtop extends almost to the transom, providing the perfect location for hanging the aft canopies.

Once unclipped, a split on the centreline means that both sides slide along what are effectively curtain tracks, disappearing into dedicated vertical lockers. ‘Voila!’ as they say in Norway.

The fact that these are so easy to deploy makes the large comfortable dinette aft of the helm seat particularly handy for year-round use.

A single Volvo Penta 4-cylinder D4-300 was the standard engine, but many buyers (this one included) upgraded to the larger and more powerful 6-cylinder D6-370.

We described it as a “fine match for the 310”, topping out at 35 knots and cruising at just under 30 knots.

best-beginner-boats-MBY283.sans_fma.Marex_310_DSC00921

As a premium Scandinavian cruiser, the helm is superb

The Scandinavians design their boats to be used pretty much every day and that’s why the helm position is ergonomically so good.

It’s also well protected by large windscreens, enabling the helmsman to fully enjoy “an engaging and lively driving experience”.

LOA: 31ft 0in (9.5m) Beam: 10ft 6in (3.2m) Draft: 3ft 2in (1.0m) Displacement: 4.5 tonnes Fuel capacity: 440 litres Engine: Volvo Penta D6-370 370hp diesel Location: Poole Contact: Wessex Marine

4 more beginners boats from the April 2022 issue

Bayliner 742.

Built: 2014 Price: £40,000

In the 1980s Bayliner sold on price – undercutting the competition and gaining a name for themselves as the cheapest way into a new boat. As is so often the case, however, you got what you paid for or, more accurately, didn’t get what you hadn’t paid for.

It’s fair to say that the reputation was broadly comparable to Skoda’s at the time. But just like Skoda, the company has gone through something of a renaissance, and whilst the prices are no longer bargain basement, neither is the quality – both manufacturers are turning out a pretty solid product these days.

Still the budget end of the market, it’s the frills that are reduced these days, not the quality. It’s why the cabin of this boat, first introduced to the UK at the London Boat Show in 2014, has plenty of smooth gelcoat on show rather than soft vinyl and polished wood.

But it serves its purpose just fine as a space to get out of the weather or enjoy an occasional overnight stay. There’s even a proper plumbed-in sea toilet here.

best-boats-for-beginners-bayliner-725-interior

There’s a fair bit of GRP on show but it’s a perfectly decent cabin for overnighting

The same applies to the cockpit: it might be a little more functional than expensive competitors, but you can’t fault the layout or the facilities. There’s a canopy frame that folds and stows beneath the aft seat, and a cockpit wet bar behind the helm seat includes a proper fridge and a hob.

There are some neat details too, like a section of the sunpad aft that lifts to provide a backrest if required, or folds to create a walk-through from the swim platform. The passenger seat backrest also folds forward to extend the seating along the full length of the cockpit.

Bayliner offers a variety of engines from a two-litre diesel right through to a 6.2 litre V8 350 Magnum. This boat treads the middle ground with a punchy but relatively (it is a boat!) economical Mercruiser 4.3 litre V6 giving 220hp.

best-boats-for-beginners-bayliner-725-cockpit

Functional cockpit is large, comfortable and equipped with a proper little wet bar

It’s a small, light boat, so don’t expect to be crossing the English Channel in a Force 5, but for coastal cruising in sensible conditions it’s perfectly sufficient.

Length: 24ft 6in (7.5m) Beam: 8ft 4in (2.5m) Draught: 3ft 4in (1.0m) Displacement: 1.9 tonnes Fuel capacity: 196 litres Engines: Mercruiser 4.3 litre V6 220hp Contact: Salterns Brokerage

Sealine S330

Built: 2017 Price: £209,950

Launched in 2014 and designed by Bill Dixon, the S330 was a very important boat for Sealine . When the original Kidderminster company went into administration in 2013, the brand was bought by the Hanse Group in Germany, and whilst the F380 was the first Sealine it launched, that boat was a design inherited from the British company.

The S330 was the first Sealine that Hanse developed from scratch. The boat proved to be a great success, so much so that it spawned a C330 Coupe version that remains in production today as the mildly upgraded Sealine C335 .

Sealine kept the layout traditional inside, with the usual cabin at each end separated by the saloon and galley set-up that has worked for the brand and countless others for years. There is a factory option to lose the forward bulkhead but most got the separate forward cabin.

It’s nicely done though, large hull windows offer both light and view (the former augmented by skylights), and headroom is great. This boat has the popular walnut finish to bulkheads, although oak and cherry were also offered.

best-boats-for-beginners-sealine-s330-interior-cabin

The forward cabin is surprisingly light and spacious with good headroom too

The hardtop came as standard, so you won’t find a completely open version, but Sealine has been careful to retain the feeling of being outside. Not only does the roof slide almost all the way back, courtesy of having a fabric centre section, but the aft section slides forward to meet it. You can also remove the clear vinyl panels above the fixed glass sidescreens.

Three forward facing seats at the helm is a great feature, and there is plenty more seating around a table further aft.

Sealine launched this boat with a pair of Volvo Penta D3 220 220hp engines, which is exactly what this boat has got. A single Volvo Penta D6 was an alternative, and more recently Sealine launched a twin outboard engine version called the S335V. When we tested the boat at launch with the 220s, we achieved a credible 33 knots.

best-boats-for-beginners-sealine-s330-interior-saloon

Few 33ft boats offer such a good balance of price, accommodation and style

Calm seas made it difficult to assess the seakeeping but we certainly enjoyed the handling, describing it as a ‘brilliant hull and powertrain’.

Length: 33ft 10in (10.3m) Beam: 11ft 6in (3.5m) Draught: 2ft 9in (0.9m) Displacement: 6.7 tonnes Fuel capacity: 570 litres Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D3 200 220hp diesel engines Contact: Boats.co.uk

best-boats-for-beginners-doral-250se-exterior

Doral 250SE

Built: 2003 Price: £47,500

A rare beast in that, although the styling has distinctly American overtones, Doral boats were actually made in Canada. Prevalent in the Nineties and Noughties, Doral actually dates back to 1979 and built a range of craft from speedboats up to 50-footers.

The standout feature of this boat is the finish and the colour of the woodwork in the cabin, which looks both classy and inviting, and a huge step up from the very plain and austere looking interior of the boat we tested in 2000.

The layout is entirely conventional for a boat of this size and type, with a dinette forward, a small galley opposite the heads and a double berth running transversely beneath the cockpit.

There is standing headroom at the bottom of the steps, and although the shape of the boat means that you lose this further forward, the nature of the dinette is that you’d be sitting by this point anyway.

doral-250se-interior

A smattering of wood lifts the look and feel of this Canadian built compact sportscruiser

Almost all mid-20ft sportscruisers are constrained to an 8ft 6in beam in order to maintain the ability to be towed on the road but Doral has been particularly clever in how it ekes out the maximum amount of space.

No side decks is an obvious win, access to the foredeck being granted via steps and an opening windscreen. More intriguingly, Doral has fitted a sliding section of cockpit seating, meaning that if you’re happy to lose a little bathing platform space, you can slide the aft portion out over it and drop in infill cushions. In fact, this example has the extended platform, reclaiming some lost ground.

We tested a 250SE with a 260hp Mercruiser V8 petrol engine and achieved a very sporting 37 knots! Subtract the extra weight of the diesel engine (and the extended bathing platform), add a little back for the extra 40hp of the Mercruiser 300hp diesel and you should still be the right side of 30 knots.

doral-250se-cockpit

A full beam cockpit with a sliding aft bench makes the most of every inch

We found the handling of the 250SE to be ‘excellent’ apparently, with no heavy slamming. Like all tall narrow boats of this genre, it relies on the trim tabs to maintain an even keel in a crosswind.

Length: 28ft 8in (8.7m) Beam: 8ft 6in (2.6m) Draught: 3ft 5in (1.0m) Displacement: 3 tonnes Fuel capacity: 245 litres Engines: Mercruiser 300hp diesel engine Contact: One Marine

best-boats-for-beginners-fairline-targa-30-exterior

Fairline Targa 30

Built: 2001 Price: £69,950

The Targa 30 is the final evolution of a successful Fairline model that dates back to 1994, when it was introduced as the Targa 28. Two years later it morphed into the Targa 29 with little changing beyond a longer bathing platform.

But the Targa 30 variant introduced a new cockpit layout with a sunpad, and windows (rather than portholes) for the cabin, although bizarrely these were optional extras.

The layout echoes smaller sportscruisers with its U-shaped dinette forward, galley opposite the heads and a mid cabin aft. However, the extra length, and in particular the 10ft beam, make this a far more spacious area.

The galley is an L-shape, with room for a two-burner hob, an oven and a grill. Those hull windows are worth looking out for (although I’ve only ever seen one boat without them so they should be easy to find).

fairline-targa-30-interior-cabin

The mid-cabin is fairly tight but it’s a private escape from the open-plan saloon and dinette

A sunpad aft is the big news. Where the 28 and 29 had seating to the transom, the 30 shifts it forwards. However, Fairline cunningly claws space back via a neat swinging backrest to the passenger seating next to the helm, allowing it to be used as forward facing seating under way or join the cockpit dinette at rest. That sunpad also creates space for a very handy deck locker.

When new, you could specify your Targa 30 with a pair of 4.3-litre petrol engines (190hp or 205hp each) or a single 7.4-litre 310hp motor but the vast majority went out with twin diesels.

These 150hp AD31s gave the boat a perfectly respectable 30+ knots, but the KAD32 upgrade that this boat received doesn’t just give higher speed (past 35 knots when new), it gives far lustier acceleration due to superchargers bolstering low-end torque before the turbos spin up at higher revs.

fairline-targa-30-interior-cockpit

The sunpad was a new feature introduced in the transition from a Targa 29 to a Targa 30

These boats handle brilliantly. Stable and fast, they don’t require excessive trim tab action, and spray management is great. For a 30 foot boat, it punches well above its size and weight.

Length: 31ft 2in (9.5m) Beam: 10ft 2in (3.1m) Draught: 3ft 2in (1.0m) Displacement: 4.1 tonnes Fuel capacity: 418 litres Engines: Twin Volvo Penta KAD 32/dp 170hp diesel engines Contact: boats.co.uk

First published in the April 2022 issue of MBY.

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The 4 Best Autopilots For Small Boats

Paul Stockdale Author Avatar

Top boat autopilot systems will assist skippers and captains in operating a vessel on the water.

There are a number of top small boat autopilot systems to choose from with each designed with its own unique strengths.

The best autopilots for small boats are:

  • Best For Small Motorboats : Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot
  • Best For Small Sailboats : Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack
  • Best For Both Inboard & Outboard Boats : Furuno Navpilot 711C
  • Best For Tiller Steered Boats : Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot

Great marine autopilot systems are capable of adapting to changing marine conditions and responding appropriately to maintain a steady course.

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission.

1. Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot

Best Small Motorboat Autopilot Garmin Compact Reactor40

The first best marine autopilot is the Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot. The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot is manufactured by the brand Garmin in Taiwan and sold worldwide. We rate this autopilot system 9.9/10. This is the best autopilot for small motorboats.

The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot is designed for motorboats less than 30ft. with a single-engine outboard motor of 20 horsepower or less.

Most retailers price the Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot between $2,000 to $2,400. The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot comes with a limited 1-year warranty which ensures the autopilot will be free from defects in materials or workmanship.

To use the Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot, a minimum 10v power supply is required.

The installation time of the Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot System is between 15 and 25 minutes from start to finish.

The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot System can be used in winds up to 20 knots.

With winds over 10 knots, using the remote control to adjust the autopilot throttle settings helps maintain the heading, minimize heading error and keep the boat on course.

The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot System can operate in temperatures from 5°F to 158°F.

The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot System package includes a 9-axis attitude and heading reference system, 1 GHC 20 helm control with 4.3" display, 1 NMEA 2000 2 meter drop cable, 1 NMEA 2000 power cable, NMEA 2000 T-connectors, male and female terminators, buzzer, interconnect cable, electronic control unit, ECU power cable, 1.0 L pump, reactor 40 CCU, wall mounts, installation and owner operations manuals and 1 warranty registration booklet.

The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot System weighs 14.4 pounds. It has a waterproof rating of IPX6. It is black in color.

The benefits of the Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot System are:

  • Easily operated remotely : The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot System can easily be operated by using a remote control to adjust heading and throttle settings without the need to be at the helm
  • ISO 9001 certified : The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot System is ISO 9001 certified which means it meets North American manufacturing and design quality standards
  • Fast Installation : This autopilot system can be installed quickly in under 25 minutes

Two disadvantages of the Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot are it is not compatible with motorboats over 30 feet and it will only function on outboard engine motorboats only.

Garmin Compact Autopilot System On Amazon →

Garmin Compact Autopilot System On Walmart →

2. Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack

Best Small Sailboat Autopilot Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack

The second best marine autopilot is the Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack. The Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack is manufactured by the brand Raymarine and sold worldwide. We rate this autopilot system 9.8/10. This is the best autopilot for small sailboats.

This Raymarine autopilot system is designed for small sailboats where the sailboat has a maximum displacement of 16,500 pounds and is under 40ft.

Most retailers price the Raymarine Wheel Pilot Pack between $1,750 to $2,000. The Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack autopilot system comes with a limited 2-year warranty with the option of upgrading the warranty period to 3 years free of charge.

To upgrade the warranty to 3 years free of charge, Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System buyers will need to register their product on the Raymarine website.

To use the Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System, a minimum 12v power supply is required.

The installation time of the Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System is between 23 and 33 minutes from start to finish.

The Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System is extremely adaptable. It can be used in winds up to 16 knots with no calibration needed due to the autopilot automatically adapting to the vessel's steering characteristics.

In winds up to 16 knots, the Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System is accurate and able to maintain a precise and accurate course even in harsh marine environments.

The Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System can operate in temperatures from -5°F to 130°F.

The Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System comes in a package that includes 1 EV-100 wheel drive pilot with a clutch engagement mechanism, 1 NMEA2000 marine networks compliant p70s control head device with a 3.5" LED screen, 1 EV1 sensor, 1 ACU-100 drive control unit with 2 screws and a mount, 1 SeaTalk cable kit that includes a 0.4m power cable, 1x 5m SeaTalk backbone cable, 1x 0.4m SeaTalk spur cable, 1x SeaTalk 5-way connector block, 2x SeaTalk t-piece connector and a 2x SeaTalk Terminator. The package also includes installation instruction documentation, warranty registration information, part information and installation tools.

The Raymarine Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System weighs 14.5 pounds.

The benefits of the Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack are:

  • IPX6 Waterproof : The Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack Autopilot System is rated IPX6 waterproof which means it is waterproof against high-pressure water. This means it can be used both above and below deck
  • Fits multiple spoked steering wheels : The Raymarine EV-100 Wheel comes with multiple predrilled holes which allows it to easily be attached to different spoke wheels from 2-spoke to 12-spoke steering wheels
  • Easy to use : The Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack autopilot system can be easily installed and the clear instructional booklet makes it simple to use with clear set-up instructions
  • Mechanical and hydraulic steering compatible : This autopilot system is compatible with both mechanical and hydraulic steering systems and is not limited to one

One disadvantage of the Raymarine EV-100 Wheel Pilot Pack is it is not compatible with sailboats with a displacement higher than 16,500 pounds.

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3. Furuno Navpilot 711C

Best Inboard Outboard Autopilot Furuno Navpilot 711C

The third best marine autopilot is the Furuno Navpilot 711C. The Furuno Navpilot 711C is manufactured by the brand Furuno and sold worldwide. We rate this autopilot system 9.7/10.

The Furuno Navpilot 711C is designed for small boats under 35ft.

The Furuno Navpilot 711C works with Yanmar, Yamaha, Seastar and Volvo Penta marine engines.

Most retailers price the Furuno Navpilot 711C between $2,900 to $3,250. The Furuno Navpilot 711C comes with a limited 2-year warranty.

The Furuno Navpilot 711C requires a minimum 12v power supply to operate.

The installation time of the Furuno Navpilot 711C System is between 20 and 30 minutes from start to finish.

The Furuno Navpilot 711C can be used in winds up to 15 knots. The Furuno Navpilot 711C can be adjusted to any sea conditions with 3 sea condition settings available on this autopilot including a calm setting, a moderate setting and a rough setting.

The 3 sea condition settings on the Furuno Navpilot 711C will help the autopilot to operate effectively in various marine weather conditions from calm weather to rougher seas.

These settings help ensure the autopilot can adapt to all marine environments and ensure an accurate course.

The Furuno Navpilot 711C comes with 4 different mode settings which are auto mode, advanced mode, NAV mode and wind mode.

For outboard motors only, there is a Sabiki mode on the Furuno Navpilot 711C that can be toggled on or off which allows the direction to be kept by adjusting the throttle.

The Furuno Navpilot 711C can operate in temperatures from 0°F to 140°F.

The Furuno Navpilot 711C comes in a package that includes a 4.1" LCD display unit, 1 rudder reference unit with 20 meter cable, terminator, 1 processor unit, 15-meter cable between processor unit and controller unit, standard spare parts, installation instructions, 176-page operator's manual and 1 warranty registration booklet.

The Furuno Navpilot 711C is rated IPX5 waterproof which means it is protected from moderate levels of water.

The benefits of the Furuno Navpilot 711C are:

  • NMEA2000 certified : The Furuno Navpilot 711C is NMEA2000 certified which means it has been tested to meet specific safety criteria
  • Great alarm to keep the captain alerted : The Furuno Navpilot 711C comes with a great alarm that has 8 alerts which are heading deviation alert, cross-track error alert, boat speed alert, depth alert, water temperature alert, wind speed alert, log trip alert and a watch alert
  • Works on both inboard and outboard engines : This autopilot system works on both inboard and outboard motors and is not limited to one type of boat motor
  • Works both night and day : The colorful and bright 4.1" LED display unit of the Furuno Navpilot 711C allows the autopilot to be operated in both the daytime and nighttime and it is not limited to just daytime boating
  • Self-learning algorithm : The Furuno Navpilot 711C comes with a self-learning algorithm that will track & make adjustments to the boat steering characteristics and power application plus it greatly reduces manual helm effort in maneuvering situations

One disadvantage of the Furuno Navpilot 711C is it is expensive with a price tag of between $2,900 to $3,250.

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4. Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot

Best For Tiller-Steered Boats Autopilot Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot

The fourth-best boat autopilot is the Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot. The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot is manufactured by the brand Simrad and sold worldwide. We rate this autopilot system 9.5/10. This is the best autopilot for small tiller-steered boats.

The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot is designed for small boats of 32ft or less with a maximum displacement of 8,160 pounds.

Most retailers price the Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot between $600 to $900. The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot comes with a limited 2-year warranty.

The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot requires a minimum 12v power supply to operate.

The installation time of the Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot is approximately 15 minutes to complete.

The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot comes with 5 buttons which are a "left" button, a "right" button, a "tack" button, a "stby auto" button and a "cal" button. It comes with 2 modes which are standard mode and autopilot mode. These modes help the autopilot to adapt to various marine conditions and accurately operate with only minor levels of calibration needed in harsh weather conditions.

The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot can be used in winds up to 12 knots. It can operate in temperatures from 14°F to 131°F. It operates with a peak thrust of 143 pounds.

The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot comes in a package that includes the Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot, a 32-page user's manual, a warranty registration booklet and screws.

The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot is rated IPX5 waterproof which means it is can resist low-pressure seawater spray.

The benefits of the Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot are:

  • Fast 15-minute installation time : The installation of this autopilot system takes just 15 minutes to complete
  • Built-in auto tack and auto gybe facility : The built-in auto tack and auto gybe facility on the Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot allows for easy tacking and gybing of the vessel when single-handed
  • Lightweight : The Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot is a lightweight autopilot weighing just 4.41 pounds

Two disadvantages of the Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot is it will not work on boats over 32ft and the owner's manual is confusing as it includes 3 different Simrad autopilot models in the same manual.

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Top Autopilots For Small Boats Comparison Table

Rating Brand Price Best For Warranty Max. Boat Size Compatibility
9.9/10 $2,000 - $2,400 Small Motorboats 1 Year 30ft
9.8/10 $1,750 - $2,000 Small Sailboats 2 Years 40ft
9.7/10 $2,900 - $3,250 Inboard & Outboard Motors 2 Years 35ft
9.5/10 $600 - $900 Tiller-Steered Boats 2 Years 32ft

What To Consider When Buying A Boat Autopilot

The 5 most important factors to consider when buying a boat autopilot are:

  • Ease of use : Ensure the marine autopilot system is easy to use with simple instructions and a clear and simple installation guide to make it as easy as possible
  • Price : The price is important when buying a boat autopilot system. A buyer's budget will influence the marine autopilot that will be purchased
  • Compatibility : Ensuring the autopilot system can function and operate on your specific boat size and weight is important to ensure the autopilot works correctly
  • Reliability : An autopilot system should be reliable and able to operate consistently in a variety of conditions
  • Accuracy : The autopilot should be able to maintain a precise and accurate course, even in challenging conditions

Frequently Asked Questions About Top Marine Autopilot Systems

Below are the most commonly asked questions about the top small boat autopilots.

What Are The Best Boat Autopilot Brands?

The best boat autopilot brands are:

How Much Does The Best Boat Autopilot Cost?

The best boat autopilots costs between $600 and $3,250.

What Is The Cheapest Top Boat Autopilot?

The cheapest top boat autopilot is the Simrad TP10 Tillerpilot which costs between $600 and $900.

What Is The Most Expensive Top Boat Autopilot?

The most expensive top boat autopilot is the Furuno Navpilot 711C which costs between $2,900 and $3,250.

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  1. Best Small Motor Boat Brands: Fishing Boats, Wakeboard ...

    That said, we can take a look (in no particular order) at some top manufacturers of smaller sized motorboats which fit within the categories of fishing boats, wakeboard boats, bowriders, and more, to come up with some top picks. Sea Ray. Boston Whaler. Bayliner. Chaparral. Yamaha.

  2. Best Boats Under $20,000, Small Family Boats

    Yamaha WaveRunner EXR. $9,299. Under $10,000, but delivering speeds exceeding 50-mph and capable of handling a crew of three, this Yamaha WaveRunner could be the path to the water for a boating family. Yamaha's high-tech Nano 2 system reduces the EXR's weight to 540 pounds, a 60-pound drop from the otherwise comparable EX Deluxe.

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  4. Small Boats with Motors

    Also, consider the engine's weight, as a heavy motor might overpower a small boat. Top Motors for Small Boats: Finding the Perfect Match. The market is filled with various options, but finding the right motor for your small boat is crucial for an optimal boating experience. Look for motors known for their durability, efficiency, and performance.

  5. Five Starter Boats that are Perfect for the Beginner Boater

    Jet Boat - Yamaha SX210. WE LIKE the all-new Yamaha TR-1 engine, which is 40-percent smaller and 20-percent lighter than the MR-1 it replaces. We're also impressed by the reduction in sound levels in this boat as compared to earlier models, which is a result of the TR-1's reduced RPM, a redesigned pump inlet, and increased engine box ...

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    Cruising at about 20 mph, the 110-hp Yanmar diesel burns only 4 gph and pushes the boat 5 mpg. With a 130-hp twin-prop Volvo Penta I/O, the boat gets an impressive 7 mpg at 31 mph. A third power option — a 135-hpHonda — can also power this boat. At 29 mph, the 22-footer travels about 3 mpg.

  7. The Best Small Fishing Boats of 2024

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    SunChaser offers the best of both worlds in its all-new Vista 22 Fish. Comfortable lounge seating, upscale SeaWeave flooring, a standard Bimini top and twin pedestal fishing seats mean no one needs to compromise. When it comes to pontoons, there aren't many 20-foot boats that can compete. Length: 22' 10". Beam: 8' 0".

  9. 5 of the best compact cruisers

    Boston Whaler's entry-level Conquest is a very versatile platform. It might be the smallest of the Conquest line, but the 285 is a serious (and seriously versatile) boat. In addition to its heavyweight lay-up, acutely angled hull, wide beam and Mercury Verado outboard, the 285 offers plenty of storage, versatile seating and alfresco deck space ...

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    Check out these small fishing boat options to find your ideal angling machine. Whether you're looking at freshwater fishing boats or saltwater fishing boats , the bulk of the choices on the market are going of 20 feet long or smaller. Smaller boats cost less to purchase, operate, store, and maintain. Since they're less complex they break ...

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    Even with its small $24,433 MSRP it delivers big on sporty fun, and has a surprisingly wide range of features like aft swim platform loungers, a ski-tow eye, and USB charging ports. Visit Scarab Boats to learn more. Explore Jet Boat Brands . 15. Motor Yachts/Power Cruisers: Sea Ray Sundancer 350 Coupe

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    The Criteria for Small Motor Boats. When selecting a small motor boat, there are a few key criteria to consider. These include: Size. Small motor boats can range in size from dinghies that are less than 10 feet long to boats that are up to 25 feet long. The size of the boat will impact its stability, speed, and maneuverability on the water.

  13. Small Outboard Motors: Top 5 Qualities & Best Picks in 2023

    Check out the top two electric small outboard motors models recommended by industry professional reviewers and customers from over 40 countries. #1. Spirit 1.0 Plus: 3 HP. As one of the most popular selling models, Spirit 1.0 Plus has everything you may expect from a small outboard motor, plus extended battery life and long range.

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  15. All Types of Small Boats Are Best

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  16. 6 Great Small Boats With Inboard Motors (With Pictures)

    1) Albemarle 32 Express. The 32 Express is one of the best inboard fishing boats out there. It is strong with a: Accessible Gel coated Bilge Areas. Bonded and Mechanically Fastened Hull, Deck, and Liner. Fiberglass Encapsulated Stringer System. Heavy Duty Vinyl Rub Rail with Stainless Steel Insert.

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    There are a variety of cuddy cabins which are both affordable and spunky while out on the water. You can find older models for sale between $20,000 and $30,000, and which are between 20' and 25' in length. Some of the best options you can find are: 20' Pro-Line Hard Top. 22' Sea Hunt 225 Victory. Sea Ray Sundeck.

  18. Best Types of Small Boats for Every Water Adventure

    Types of Small Motorboats. Small motorboats, collectively known as cruisers and runabouts, encompass various powerboats. These boats may employ inboard or outboard motors, with representations like bowriders, deck boats, and jet boats. Types of Small Sailing Boats Types of Small Sailing Boats. Small sailboats, usually under 25 feet long ...

  19. Best Outboard Motors and Brands

    The Yamaha T9.9 is one of today's smallest and lightest high-thrust 9.9 hp outboard motors and serves a perfect kicker outboard for a variety of boats. Weighing 102 pounds (20-inch model), the T9.9′s 212cc, two-cylinder, overhead-cam engine provides smooth, reliable power and torque with outstanding fuel efficiency.

  20. Best boats for beginners: 4 affordable options for your first boat

    Marex 310. Built: 2019. Price: £235,000. Almost a quarter of a million pounds might feel a little steep for a first boat, but it's important to understand that people have all sorts of different budgets, and this boat works so well as a first boat that if you have the means, it's actually a very sensible investment.

  21. 8 Best Small Outboard Motors

    Avoid starting the motor on the shore or using it when you come out of the water — this can result in irreparable damage. 6. Sky 2-Stroke 2.5HP Superior Engine Outboard Motor. This is a relatively cheap and compact outboard motor that comes with excellent features.

  22. Small boats for sale

    Find small boats for sale near you, including boat prices, photos, and more. Locate boat dealers and find your boat at Boat Trader! ... We'll check over 15 marine lenders to get you the best rate with the best terms. Loan Calculator. Pre-Qualify. 2,643 boats. Sort. sort-by. Recommended. sort-by. Recently Updated: Newest first. sort-by. Recently ...

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    We rate this autopilot system 9.9/10. This is the best autopilot for small motorboats. The Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot is designed for motorboats less than 30ft. with a single-engine outboard motor of 20 horsepower or less. Most retailers price the Garmin Compact Reactor40 Autopilot between $2,000 to $2,400.

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