Center console boats are amazingly popular, and today there’s a huge range of center console fishing boats that can do double-duty as family fun machines. At its core, a center console is simply a boat that has a steering station on a console in the center of the boat, with open deck space or seating in the front (called the “bow”) and the back (called the “stern”). This design is incredibly versatile and even though most people envision center console fishing boats when discussing the genre, in truth center consoles can be ideal for a wide range of activities.
Center Console Brands
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Center Console Overview
Activities You'll Most Enjoy
The fact that you can use a center console for fishing is a given, but beyond that, remember that the best center console boats are also designed to handle all sorts of sea conditions. Anglers tend to leave the dock whether conditions are ideal or not, so even small center console boats are usually designed to split open the seas and provide a safe, comfortable ride over long distances. And mid-sized or large center console boats carry the features and fuel capacity to venture far offshore where the big game swims.
What surprises some people, however, is just how good a family boat a center console can be. The open layout, smooth ride, and comfort level is ideal for pulling tow-toys or water skiers, taking a day-trip to a new port, or even just cruising to a quiet cove for a swim. Just how comfortable and family-friendly will a center console be?
Let’s say you’re shopping for the best center console boats under 25 feet. You’ll likely see bow seating for two people, a leaning post at the console for the captain and mate, and seating for at least two more people in the stern. Chances are the boat will have a swim platform, and a nearby freshwater shower. It will have stern eyes for towing, and if you opt for it, an elevated tow bit. And a stereo system, USB ports, cupholders, coolers, and all the other items you need for a fun day on the water will almost certainly be on the boat’s standard feature list. Finally, the vast majority of today’s center console boats also have a bathroom located inside the console, called a “head compartment.”
Now let’s say you’re looking at center console boat brands that offer even larger models. Instead of a head compartment inside the console, you may find an entire cabin—in some cases complete with a berth to sleep on and a galley to cook at. Entertainment centers, air conditioning, and dinette tables may be part of the mix, too.
Center Console Ownership Costs
While there are very large multi-engine center console boats that cost as much as a house, there are also plenty of easily affordable center consoles. In fact, when looking for the best center console boat for the money you’ll discover that single-engine boats in the 20-foot range are often priced similarly to a new car. If you’re wondering just how much you can afford to spend on a boat on a monthly basis, don’t forget to check out our Boat Loan Calculator, which breaks the cost down for you in simple terms.
Most modern boats are quite rugged and maintenance, at least through the first few years of ownership, is mostly about keeping them clean. Especially when used in saltwater your center console will need a good scrub-down at the end of the day. So you need to plan to purchase things like cleaning supplies, boat wax, and polishes for the vinyls and metals.
Most of the operational costs associated with a center console boat relate to fuel expenses. Naturally these will vary quite a bit depending on how often you use your boat, and whether it has a single engine or multiple outboards. Gas Saving Tips for Boaters lists out some ways to keep this expense minimized, but there’s one thing few people think about which can make a big difference: the lighter weight of aluminum center console boats. When it comes to boats, lighter weight translates into more efficiency, and since an aluminum center console usually weighs less than a fiberglass model of the same size, it can run faster and farther with the same amount of power and fuel.
In addition to fuel, you may also need to plan for insurance costs (see Insuring Your Boat, for more info).
Center Console Technology/Materials/Features
Modern center console boats tend to have all the features you’ll find on other sorts of boats, except that seats and loungers often fold away or their size may be reduced, to allow for more open deck space. Some of the most exciting technology to come with today’s center consoles relates to the electronics at their helms—new fishfinders can look off to the sides of your boat as well as straight down, and can even present imagery of what lays beneath the water’s surface in 3-D views.