If you’re a beginner boater and looking for your first boat, it’s important to note that there are various types of vessels for different applications. Choosing the right boat for your interests can be a challenging exercise, given the amount of choices available to you. When researching what is a good starter boat, the information can become quite overwhelming! Fear not, we’re here to help!
Here are our recommendations for the best six starter boats.
- Axis A20 in the watersports class.
- Lund 2070 Predator in the hunting and fishing class
- Ranger Z175 in the bass fishing starter class.
- Bayliner 170 Bowrider in the bowrider class.
- Stingray 208CR in the cuddy cabin class.
- Sun Tracker 20 DLX in the pontoon boat class.
To assist you in finding not only a good new boat but the right beginner boat that matches your particular interests, we have done some of the research work for you. Below are our suggestions for great starter boats that will give you good service and provide a quality but cost-effective means to begin enjoying your favorite water activities.
1. Best Starter Watersport Boat
One of the primary reasons that many people buy a boat is water skiing, wakeboarding, and other water sports that involve towing something behind the boat that someone else rides. Water sports have become very popular in recent years, and consequently, the type of ships that have come on the market to cater to this increase in demand has grown considerably.
These boats are generally purpose-built for the function of watersports and they are termed ski boats or wakeboarding boats. They also have hulls and designs made to accentuate the wake or wave generated behind the boat.
These boats’ key features are low-end power to lift a skier out of the water and good top-end speed.
Because of the powerful engines required on these boats and the specific adaptations to produce an enhanced wake for watersports, these boats are generally quite expensive, even in the starter boat category.
One of the best that we have found is the Axis A20, compact enough to store in your garage during the off-season. Don’t let its compact nature fool you, however, since the A20 comes packed with features that are more common on larger, more expensive boats.
This smaller boat is a pleasure to drive. The digital controls are intuitive and easy to use, and the finishes inside the ship are luxurious. It can carry 11 passengers, and at the price of a little under $74,000, this well-priced boat is a great starter watersport boat.
2. Best Starter All-Purpose Hunting And Fishing Boat
A versatile hunting and fishing boat requires ample space on deck for moving around with rods or rifles and a place to load your quarry once the hunting or fishing day comes to an end. The boat needs to be able to negotiate both shallow and deep lake water to get to the prime hunting or fishing spots.
When hunting and fishing from a boat, you want a stable platform, maneuverability, and plenty of storage space for your gear, be it rifle storage, rod, and tackle storage, or both.
Boat manufacturer Lund has an ideal range of boats in this category suitable for a dedicated hunter or angler.
The Lund 1660 Predator, coming in at $15,000, is a very basic design boat where the outboard motor is tiller controlled. For a little more versatility, we would recommend the Lund 2070 for $25,800, which is a larger boat with a center console control arrangement that is more versatile and popular, especially from a resale point of view.
The Mod-V hull on the Predator series is excellent for shallow water but still provides good stability in choppy water. The boats have steady, predictable handling and offer a comfortable ride. For these reasons, they are our recommended entry-level choice for an all-purpose hunting and fishing application.
3. Best Starter Bass Fishing Boat
If you are looking for a dedicated bass boat that is both versatile and compact, and that comes with an affordable price tag, then the Ranger Z175 is the boat that we highly recommend.
Ranger boats are renowned in the bass fishing community for making superb boats for this application. Their reputation is for great ships and boats that hold their resale value better than most other equivalent boats.
The features required for a bass fishing boat are speed, a stable fishing platform, the ability to negotiate shallow and deep, wide-open water, a trolling motor, live well for fish storage, and reliability.
The Ranger Z175 offers all these features and more, including its ease of towing and storage. The boat will fit comfortably with its trailer in a standard garage at your home, which eliminates the need to spend money on additional boat storage fees.
The Ranger Z175 comes in at a price of just under $33,000, and with the value for money you get in quality with this boat, it makes it one of the best starter bass boats available.
4. Beginner Bowrider Boat
Bowriders are so named because they can carry passengers in a compartment at the boat’s bow end. These boats are generally made for cruising and can also find use as a general water sport boat.
They are considered versatile all-rounder boats and can even be used for general fishing applications as long as they are not too shallow.
Many bowriders are made for pleasure cruising (i.e. family boat), so many do not have the specialized wake generation designs that a ski boat may have. However, they are still respectable boats for general family recreation, such as fishing and towing the family behind the ship on toys or skis.
Most vessels in this class have premium upholstery and large amounts of packing space to cater to their people carrying capacity.
Bayliner is a famous manufacturer in the bowrider type of boats, and their Bayliner 170 Bowrider fits the bill in this category. It comfortably fits six people in the boat and, with the 130hp capacity, works very well for towing-type watersports.
These boats are general-purpose family fun boats, making them popular with families who enjoy many different water activities.
The affordable price of the Bayliner 170 Bowrider at $22,300 and its multi-purpose capability make it a perfect choice as a recreational boat that will provide fun for the whole family.
5. Cuddy Cabin Boat For Beginners
Cuddy cabin boats come in all shapes, sizes, and price tags. A cuddy cabin gives some covered, sheltered space in the hull of the ship. This space can be as simple as providing an onboard head or spacious enough to accommodate a sleeping bunk or two.
The more space in the cuddy, the larger the boat needs to be. The larger the ship, the larger the price, in most circumstances.
If you spend nights out on the water, such as for late-night fishing, then a cuddy cabin boat is ideal for providing some shelter, especially in the cold early morning hours before dawn.
For this purpose, the Stingray 208CR Cuddy Cabin is a tremendous starter-type boat! It is a perfect boat for the boat owner that wants an all-round vessel that can go for a great day out on the water and into the night. While it may not be a full-sized cabin cruiser, the cuddy cabin can easily accommodate two adults who may want to catch a few hours of rest. On the boat deck, you can rearrange the cushions to make space for a third person to sleep behind the cockpit’s dual bucket seats.
The suggested retail price on the Stingray 208CR is a little under $45,500. For a boat in this class with the capacity to sleep two people in the cuddy, this is a reasonable price for an entry-level boat.
6. Starter Pontoon Boat
A pontoon boat is a type of ship that floats on two pontoons, and is a perfect choice as a cruising and family boat. A pontoon boat can be used for many water activities including fishing, towing inflatables, and pleasure cruising.
If you want to hit the water with friends and extended family, this may be the boat for you. Pontoon boats have plenty of deck space and the larger ones can carry up to 15 passengers. This is the ultimate party boat!
One of the best things about pontoon boats is that a great entry-level boat won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you’re looking for pontoon boat for fishing and cruising, we recommend the Sun Tracker Party Barge 20 DLX.
This boat is just under 22 feet long and can carry up to ten passengers at a time with plenty of seating and storage. There’s a nice swim platform area at the rear of the boat, and it also has a 7 foot Bimini top for when you want to get out of the sun.
The suggested retail price of the 20 DLX is just $19,995, making it the least expensive starter boat on our list.
Taking the step of buying a boat can be somewhat intimidating, especially for a first-time boat buyer. The best strategy to follow is to examine the purpose you want the boat for and then find an excellent entry-level boat within that class.
Most first-time boat buyers would be looking for something with some multi-purpose functionality to cater to a few different recreational activities focused around the water. However, if you intend to use the boat for one particular role more than others, it would be wise to choose a starter boat with a bias toward that type of function.
Whatever your boating needs, the best advice we can give you is to choose the best boat that you can for your budget. It is why the ships we have selected may not be the cheapest, but the ones that we felt give the best all-round value for money as starter boats.