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What Kind of Family Boat Should I Buy?

Updated on November 9, 2016

Choices, Choices, Choices

There is no better way to enjoy the summer than spending time on the water, and owning a boat will provide you with all kinds of opportunities to do just that. The tricky part is figuring out what type of boat works best for you and your family. There are so many different kinds of boats on the market that narrowing down your options can be frustrating. Asking some basic questions can really help in the process.

What Do You Want To Do?

Most people out there want a boat that can do everything well, but you have to be honest when it comes to application. If you are looking for a boat that is great for cruising, water skiing, & tubing, start looking at inboard/outboard (I/O) boats. If your family is just into cruising, and you have some smaller children, look towards cuddy cabin boats. For the athletic family, begin your search with inboard direct drive or v drive boats.

Inboard/Outboard Boat
Inboard/Outboard Boat

Inboard/Outboard (I/O) Boats

I/Os, or stern drive boats, are by far the most popular type of boats on the market. Because of their versatility, a family can go out on the water and cruise, ski, wakeboard, and tube with relative ease and enjoyment. Today’s I/O boats typically have a deep v or semi deep v hull design that provides a very smooth ride. For a family of four, a 20 ft. open bow with a 5.0 liter engine would be great place to start. Because of the popularity of inboard/outboards, resale values are normally very good, depending on make and model. Some of the main manufacturers for these types of boats are: Bayliner, Maxim, Searay, Larsen, Four Winns, Crownline, and Cobalt, to name just a few.

V Drive Boat
V Drive Boat
Direct Drive Boat
Direct Drive Boat

Inboard Boats

For the athletic family, inboard boats are the way to go. If you and your crew intend on spending a good amount of time water skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, or wake surfing, do yourself a favor and take a hard look at an inboard. There are two types of inboards: direct drive, and v drive. Direct drive boats have the engine near the middle of the boat, whereas v drives have the engine in the stern of the boat. With the engine in the middle, the wake generated by the boat is fairly flat, which is ideal for water skiing. With a v drive, the wake is demonstrably larger due to the stern placement of the engine. V drives are preferred by those that wakeboard, surf, and occasionally ski. Both types of inboards should offer a ballast system which allows you to add weight to the boat for additional wake size, and also have some sort of wake shaping device as well. Resale on v drives is excellent due to their popularity and high price tag new. Most inboards start at 20ft and go up, with a 5.7 liter V8 being the standard engine. Manufacturers include: Mastercraft, Malibu, Supra, Moomba, Tige, and Supreme, to name a few.

Pontoon Boat
Pontoon Boat

Other Types of Boats

The boats mentioned above represent the most popular in the market, but there are others as well. Cuddy cruisers are I/O boats that have a closed forward cabin, and are great for boat camping or families with small children. Outboard boats are very popular among fisherman or by boaters that spend time on rivers. Pontoon boats are great for non-athletic folks that spend time on lakes and like to float and do a little cruising.

Do Your Research

Being an educated consumer is key, so spend time online and research as much as you can about the types and brands of boats on the market. If you have friends that are boaters, pick their brains. Once you have figured out what type and make of boat you are interested in, go to a local dealer and have a look. A word here: For the first visit to a dealer, Mom and Dad should go alone. You need to pick through the different boats and ask a ton of questions, without the kids distracting you. Once you narrow your options down to 2 or 3 boats, then take the kids. At that point, schedule a test drive and find out which one works best for you!


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