Best Boats for Beginners

best boats for beginners

If you’re just jumping into the boating world, hopefully you’ve spent plenty of time perusing your options on our Boat Finder tool, learning all about the different kinds of boats out there. We can promise you one thing: buy a new boat and you’re in for exciting adventures, closer family connections, and one heck of a lot of fun. Now, of course, you’re faced with the important decision of which boat will be best for you and your family. Before we begin digging into the details about beginner boats, we have one suggestion. Try a site search for Beginners right here on Discover Boating, because we have a slew of information available on all sorts of boating subjects ranging from beginner wakeboarding tips, to beginner sailing tips, to a beginner's guide to boat boats for beginners

But first, let's look at some of the best boat types for new boaters.

5 Best Starter Boats

  1. Dinghies
  2. Aluminum Fishing Boat
  3. Pontoon Boat
  4. Fish-and-Ski
  5. Bowrider

Explore All Boat Types


Keep It Simple (KISS) Boating

When it comes to choosing the best boats for beginners, one overall theme should be in your mind: keep it simple. This naturally means different things to different people, but what’s important is that a beginner boater doesn’t bite off more than he or she can chew. Start with a large motor yacht or power cruiser, for example, and you’ll need to learn how to operate complex propulsion and electrical systems, electronics, and accessories. At the same time you’ll have to get your feet wet when it comes to things like docking a boat (see our step-by-step guide for the basics), marine navigation, and boat maintenance. That doesn’t mean first-time boat buyers never start off big—sometimes they do—but the learning curve can be very steep and if you go that route you should be confident you have the time and ability to handle it.

Start off with a very simple boat, however, and you’ll be able to master captaining it in no time. At the far end of the KISS spectrum consider a dinghy, for example. Its propulsion system can be as simple as a small outboard engine, a sail, or even a pair of oars. There’s nothing more to take care of than a hull and some seats, and while your capabilities may be limited, you should feel comfortable operating the boat after just a few trips. Of course, many of us will want to experience a bit more flexibility on when, where, and how we go boating than a dinghy can afford. There are still plenty of relatively simple boats to choose from, like aluminum fishing boats or small pontoon boats, which take no more than a season or two to learn from stem to stern.

Costs of Boats for Beginners

Another major thing to consider is the cost of boat ownership. While boating on the whole is surprisingly affordable compared to many other recreational activities, there can be some expenses beginner boaters don’t necessarily foresee. Variables like maintenance costs, insurance, and off-season storage can come into play, and no one likes to be surprised by unexpected expenditures.

For some people this will be a non-issue. But if you have a family on a budget, be sure to calculate out as many potential costs as you can before choosing a specific boat to begin with. That way, the surprises can be kept to a minimum.

Learn More About the Costs of Boat Ownership

best starter boats


All-Purpose Boats for Beginners

Beginner boaters may also want to consider flexibility and versatility as an important factor. Let’s say you know you love watersports, and you’re looking at dedicated ski or wake boats. That may well be the best move for you. But on the other hand, if you haven’t experienced other waterborne activities like fishing, and you think that may be of interest down the line, a fish-and-ski might be a better choice. Now let’s broaden things out ever farther. Let’s say you went wakeboarding once and enjoyed it, tried fishing another time and enjoyed that too, and are intrigued by the idea of taking the family out for a swim in the lake or taking a bunch of friends out for a day of coving. In that case, an even more versatile boat like a bowrider or a deck boat might be a smart pick.

The bottom line? As someone new to boating there’s a good chance you’re about to be exposed to a world of possibilities you never knew existed. And the best boats for beginners will allow that to happen quickly, easily, and economically. Before you know it, you won’t be a beginner boater anymore and when you decide to upgrade, you’ll have a much better idea of which size and type of boat is perfect for your needs and desires. And yes, we’re sure that you will, in fact, decide to upgrade and buy another new boat down the line. Because like we said, this is going to be fun – really fun.

Read Next: First-Time Boat Owner's Checklist

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