Pop quiz: How many adult Americans go boating every year?
Would you believe more than one in three? According to BoatUS, some 90 million Americans want to feel the wind in their hair as they explore America’s 95,000 miles of shoreline and 25,000 miles of navigable inland waters.
About 1.5 million people buy boats every year, according to BoatUS. Whether you want to dip your toes or trade up, odds are there’s a boat with your name (and budget) on it. But what kind of craft is right for you? The answer depends on what you want to do. Race in regattas? Hang out with family and friends? Reel in a big one?
There’s a sea of choices, and many people opt for boats that multitask. Even so, think about whether you love communing with nature or just want to get to where you’re going. “For many people, sailboats are all about the the voyage,” says Charles Fort, associate editor of BoatUS Magazine. “For many powerboaters, it’s all about the destination.”
Get help finding the best boat for your lifestyle below:
Great For Beginners: Powerboats
Ease and convenience have made motorboats the top watercraft around, representing some 75percent of boats registered in the U.S., says Fort. While large models—say, 26 feet or longer—typically must be stored on the water, small boats are simple to maneuver and, thanks to trailers, easy to take home.
- For day trips: Flat-bottom johnboats and skiffs are small, inexpensive and meant for shallow inland waters. Meanwhile, all-purpose, family-friendly bow riders, which feature seating up front as well as in back, are quick, maneuverable and great for water sports.
- For overnighters: Cuddy cabins take bow riders and add extra space for storage, beds and maybe even a bathroom.
- For playtime: Consider personal watercraft (PWC). These gasoline-powered jet drive, one- to three-seat “motorcycles of the sea” are easy to transport, store and insure through GEICO.
Sustainable Ships: Sailboats
Boats that are powered by wind and sail can be cheaper to own and easier to maintain—not to mention being more eco-friendly—than powerboats.
- Speedy and smooth: Known for efficient dual hulls, smaller “beach” catamarans take skill to maneuver, while larger “cruising” cats offer smooth, stable rides.
- Fun in the sun: One- or two-seat sailing dinghies are great for newbies. They come in versions for recreation and racing. Daysailers can seat up to four and have cuddy cabins for storage—and sometimes sleeping quarters.
Multitasking Vessels: Fishing Boats
Depending on what you’re angling for, these can be fitted for fishing equipment and come in all shapes and sizes.
- All access: As their names suggest, center console and walkarounds let you safely move along every side of the boat without obstruction.
- Gear up: Meant for freshwater fishing, bass boats’ built-in equipment, like specialized coolers, electric trolling motors, GPS and sonar, can make them pricey.
- Go long: For offshore fishing in deeper waters, many anglers opt for express boats equipped with powerful engines.
Read more: In the market for a boat? Check out BoatU.S.’s Boat Buyers Toolbox.
By Ira Hellman