Serious watersports fans know that water skiing boats can be expensive, but these five affordable ski boats prove that you can own a finely-honed tow-boat without breaking the bank. Each boat has features, performance, or a price-point that sets it apart from the pack, and there’s almost sure to be one on this list that whets your appetite for some waterborne fun.
Ready, get set, let’s go look at some high quality, high performing, affordable ski boats.
1. Malibu Response TXi
While the price for this boat hovers right around the six-digit point that will mark the affordability ceiling for many people, the Malibu Response TXi gets you into a proven tournament-winning machine that’s credited with 13 world records. Triple tracking fins and a tow bit mounted forward of the motorbox ensure topnotch handling and straight tracking even as the skier tracks anything but straight, and the hull is designed to produce minimum wakes even when the Malibu Monsoon M5Di (360 HP) or M6Di (430 HP) direct-drive inboard runs full-tilt.
The Response TXi is available in both open bow (with seating) and closed bow configurations. Unlike many boats of this genre, it also features a split aft seating arrangement with a large open walkthrough in the middle, for easy access to the water. Additional features of note include billet aluminum ski racks, a 4.5” Zero Off touch screen display, and Malibu “Soft Grip” flooring.
Visit Malibu Boats to learn more.
2. MasterCraft ProStar
MasterCraft is a storied name among ski boat aficionados, and the ProStar is the latest and greatest example of why. For 2021 the builder added tracking fins and hull rails to make it easier to drive, integrated a 10.6” touchscreen control, and gave it a starting price of $74,995—the lowest of any tournament-level dedicated ski boats around. With a length of 20’ and a beam of 8’ the boat has seating for seven people, a traditional center-motorbox/direct drive system, and optional ski racks on the inwales. It creates an ideal flat slalom wake and has a forward centered tow bit which lets the skier have a full range of motion while minimizing the effect on the boat’s tracking or wakes.
The standard powerplant is an Ilmor 6.0L MPI DD 1.26 (which puts out 373 horsepower at 5200 RPM) which can be upgraded to a 6.2L GDI DD 1.22 (430 HP at 5400 RPM). A feature that will be appreciated by skiers who enjoy both family fun and serious competition is the optional fiberglass cover which caps off the open bow seating arrangement.
Visit MasterCraft Boats to learn more.
3. Nautique 200
Starting at $83,174, although the Nautique 200 is billed as a multi-sports platform it carries this builder’s traditional open-bow and V entry. But it also has a long list of modern perks. A Linc Panoray touchscreen display is complemented by a Helm Command rotary dial for easy menu access to features like the Zero-Off GPS speed control; a Hydro-Gate allows for modification of the running surface to match your style; and you can even get heated seats. The centered motorbox has a forward center tow bit in front of it and a flip-down rear-facing seat swings out providing extra aft-facing seating, for the best possible tournament performance.
Standard power is a PCM ZR4 6.0L 400-horsepower direct-drive inboard, and optional powerplants of 355 and 450 horsepower are also available. All can be linked up with a freshwater flush system for those who enjoy the sport in a salty environment. There’s also an available tower, which can greatly expand your variety of watersports options.
Visit Nautique Boats to learn more.
4. Scarab Jet 255 ID
We need to be clear right up front that the Scarab Jet 255 ID is more of an all-around watersports bowrider than it is a serious ski boat. However, between its jet propulsion (be sure to read Jet Boats vs. Sterndrive (Prop) Boats) and its light weight for its size (3660 pounds) its wakes aren’t as overwhelming as those of most other runabouts and countless water skiing fans are sure to get their start on a boat of this nature.
Plus, with a starting sticker price of $65,366 you can get more boat for your buck with this option than you can with any other in this mix.
Visit Scarab Boats to learn more.
5. Yamaha AR190
Like the other jet boat in this roundup, the Yamaha AR190 isn’t intended for full-blown water skiing pros, but will provide a great platform for starter skiers. Plus, it’s a small and straightforward boat that’s an unintimidating choice for starter boaters and starter captains.
List price starts at $33,149 which makes it the most easily affordable boat in this entire group, and the package includes all the basics you need to get started with watersports: a swim platform, a stern tow-eye, a ski locker, a rearview mirror, the Connext touchscreen control with Speed Assist cruise control, and even a single axel trailer with brakes.
Visit Yamaha Boats to learn more.
Bonus Boat: Varatti Z22
Varatti has only been around for a few years, the Varatti Z22 does exceed the pricing of these other contenders, and it’s not a 100-percent dedicated ski boat, but we wanted to include it here since many people may not be familiar with the brand. The Z22 has a V entry with a pickle-fork at the bow, but tapers back to a wide tri-hull-like bottom that curves down at the sides to provide a ski-suitable wake.
It’s billed as a multi-sport boat that can be used for both towed watersports and surfing as well (2,400 pounds of water ballast switches it into wave-making mode), and it gets its power from either a 320- or 370-horsepower MerCruiser V-drive.
Visit Varatti Boats to learn more.
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