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Four Key Boat Types: What You Need to Know Before Buying

Buying a boat is undoubtedly a huge decision, maybe not quite at the level of having children or getting a dog, but it’s a big investment nevertheless. While it can potentially be a life-changing decision, there are many factors to consider before you take the plunge. You need to be well-informed about your boating options and what is suitable for you in terms of price, model, and condition.

Let’s outline the key styles of boats that you can choose from and their main advantages and disadvantages.

Wakeboard/Surf boats

Wakeboard boats first came on the market in the mid-90s and are designed to aid the sport of—yep, you guessed it—wakeboarding. They are usually between 20-26 feet in length and can have either V-drive (engine located in the back) or traditional direct drive systems (engine located centrally). One of their major advantages is the cockpit seating they provide and a big sun deck, enabling supreme comfort on board.

For a top-of-the-range model, prices are around the $400,000 mark, whereas an older wakeboard boat can cost around $25,000. It’s an ideal boat for entry-level boaters, provided that it has a broad hull and excellent speed. This will generate fantastic wakes for getting air, doing tricks, or simply enjoying the ride.

Waterski Boats

Waterski boats are similar to wakeboard boats, except they are designed to create a flatter and softer wake ideal for waterskiing. They typically have a bigger, centrally located engine and are more compact than their wakeboard counterparts. The main advantage of waterski boats is that they are very versatile and maneuverable.

Because they have been around for many years, there are some great deals to be uncovered. For example, the classic ‘89 Mastercraft’ can sell nowadays for $10,000-12,000. One aspect to be cautious about with older boats is their stringers—are they made of fiberglass or wood? Stringers run vertically down the boat and provide the primary support for the key components. They may have rotted over time if they are made from wood, so we recommend purchasing a waterski boat with fiberglass stringers.

Inboard-outboard Boats

As the name implies, an inboard motor is located within the boat, generally near the hull. Whereas the outboard motor is mounted outside the boat, usually at the rear or stern. This category encompasses a huge variety of prices and sizes—from 16-42 feet and just a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands.

Taking a couple of examples, the 1984 Bayliner Capri is available for under $5,000 and would be a perfect casual boat provided that it was still mechanically sound for such an old model. On the other end of the spectrum, the 2020 Cobalt is a high-performance, luxury boat with a wakeboard tower and even loudspeakers.

The main downside of outboard boats is that they are not useful for watersports, but they are significantly cheaper than inboard boats and are also far easier to maintain, as you can simply lift the engine out of the water when it’s moored. Two-stroke outboards are now no longer being manufactured, and we would recommend purchasing a four-stroke for reliability.

Jet boats

Thanks to recent developments in hull designs, motor systems, and wake-enhancing technologies, there are virtually no limits to what you can accomplish with a jet boat. It’s tricky to enter the jet boat market with older models, as they are one of the newest types available. They fall in the mid-range category with prices ranging from $20,000-50,000.

Jet boats will give you handling like no other and can corner seamlessly even with sharp movements. This is because they are very lightweight, weighing around 4000 pounds on a trailer, whereas most other boats would be at least double that size. They can also drive in very shallow waters, giving you the option to take them out in various sea conditions.

If all this information seems overwhelming, rest assured that a boat is out there that’s perfect for your needs. It’s crucial to tie down what kind of activities you’d like to do with your vessel, your budget, and how accessible you want it to be. Once you’ve had a long and hard think, you’ll be ready to make the call and hit the water in no time.

For more advisory blogs from Komodo, head over to our hub!

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