There are several types of boats for fishing, all of which have different uses and benefits. Thus, new anglers may find it difficult to determine which types of fishing boats are best suited for their needs. When choosing between boats for fishing, you must also be mindful of your budget and preferred fishing habitat. For instance, jon boats are typically optimal for freshwater environments, whereas cuddy cabin boats are best suited for saltwater habitats.

However, determining a budget for buying a boat is only one of the many steps anglers need to take as they prepare to purchase a new vessel. The cost of fishing boats must also take into account maintenance expenses and the price of additional equipment such as life jackets, flares and marine VHF radios. To learn more about how to buy or rent a fishing boat, read the sections below.

Different Types of Boats Used for Fishing

The many types of boats for fishing are divided into four main categories that relate to their sizes. Thus, take the following types of fishing vessels into consideration:

  • Class A Vessels – Class A boats for fishing are less than 16 feet in length
  • Class I Vessels – Class I Vessels are more than 16 feet in length, but less than 26 feet.
  • Class II Vessels – Class II Vessels for fishing, are in between 26 and 40 feet in length.
  • Class III Vessels – Class III Vessels are longer than 40 feet in length, but less than 65 feet in length.

A beginner’s boat for fishing must be easy to operate. For that reason, the following boats are recommended for beginning fishermen:

  • All-purpose boatsAll-purpose fishing boats can withstand a wide variety of water conditions. Additionally, these boats are suitable for freshwater and saltwater habitats. In general, all-purpose boats are classified as either Class A or Class I vessels. Thus, they are relatively small and easy to operate.
  • Pontoons – A pontoon is a popular type of fishing boat for casual and/or recreational use. Pontoons have enough room to comfortably carry multiple passengers in cushioned seats. Thus, this is the perfect boat for family activities or trips that include multiple people. However, unlike other types of fishing boats, pontoons are not as sleek or easily maneuverable due to their extra passenger space.
  • Jon boatsJon boats, often referred to as aluminum fishing boats, are lightweight vessels that are relatively easy to maneuver. Because these sleek fishing boats are typically small, they allow you to fish in shallow areas that other boats have trouble navigating in. Additionally, these types of fishing boats are often used in freshwater habitats as they are deemed too light to withstand ocean waves.
  • Bowriders – Bowriders are compact fishing boats used for fishing, cruising and Despite being small, these boats have an adequate seating area and generally come equipped with a ladder to enter and exit bodies of water. Additionally, bowriders typically have a tow eye that can be used to pull skiers or tubers.

Do You Need a License to Operate a Boat?

Only certain states require you to have a boat license to operate a boat. For instance, California does not require you to obtain a boating license to operate non-commercial vessels. Conversely, Alabama requires you to have a license before operating any motorized boat.

If you need a license to operate a boat, you should obtain one before you begin searching for a vessel.  Typically, individuals who are certified by the Coast Guard to operate boats are not required to obtain state-specific boating licenses. To learn what boating license you require, you may contact your local boating license agency.

Are Boating Courses Needed for a Fishing License?

You must undergo a boating course in order to operate a motorized vessel that travels more than 10 miles per hour, even in states where boating licenses are not required. After passing a boater safety course, you receive a boating certification that is valid across state lines. In general, the minimum age requirement for taking a boating safety course is 15 years of age. However, age requirements vary from state to state. Boat training courses are not required if you have one of the following:

  • A commercial boating license
  • A military boating certification
  • A vessel operating license
  • A boating license or certification from another state

A boating class varies according to the size of the boat you intend to operate and the state requirements established for that particular vessel. You can take any boat operator course available online or in person, as long as it is approved by your state’s boating administration and meets the criteria for your boating class. For more information on boating courses, studying materials and specific boating qualifications, contact your local boating office.

Things to Consider When Buying a Boat

Buying a fishing boat typically requires a lot of research. For instance, when exploring how to buy a fishing boat, be mindful that the vessel must adhere to the boating regulations in your state. Learn what to consider when buying a fishing boat by reading the sections below.

Where will you be fishing?

One of the most significant factors to consider when purchasing a boat is related to where it will be used. For instance, saltwater fishing boats are typically larger, more powerful and more expensive, because they must have the size and motor power to navigate strong ocean currents. Conversely, freshwater fishing boats are generally sleek, easy to maneuver and less expensive than vessels made for saltwater.

What kind of fish are you trying to catch?

Other factors to consider when purchasing a boat relate to the types of fishing you will be doing and types of fish you will be catching. For instance, deep sea fishing boats have heftier engines and are equipped for open ocean navigation. In contrast, shore fishing boats are much smaller and have propellers designed to navigate shallow waters. If you are looking for large fish such as marlins or even sharks, you must opt for a larger vessel. Conversely, a smaller boat may be best suited to catch a flounder or mackerel in shallow waters.

What is your budget?

If you are buying a fishing boat on a budget, you need to do as much research as possible in order to calculate a reasonable budget that is based on your findings. For instance, boat shows are often a great place for researching prices. If you have already set up a fishing boat budget, boat shows can be great places to find discounts on boats. In order to calculate a fishing boat budget, consider the following additional expenses:

  • Gas and operational costs
  • Insurance costs
  • Registration fees
  • Maintenance costs

How much do fishing boats cost?

The cost of fishing boats can vary significantly depending on their size, speed, utility and design. Additionally, the cost of a new boat is generally significantly higher than the cost of a used vessel. Thus, the cost to own a fishing boat can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Consider the following price ranges related to boats:

  • A non-motorized inflatable boat can cost from $25 to $100.
  • A non-motorized vessel, such as a jon boat, can cost between $400 and $1,000.
  • A motorized boat under 30 feet can cost from $19,000 to $90,000.
  • A motorized boat between 40 and 50 feet can cost between $250,000 and $750,000.
  • A yacht between 100 and 200 feet can cost from $8,000,000 to $24,000,000.

Buying a Used or New Boat

Because used fishing boats typically require regular maintenance to keep the older parts running properly, purchasing a used fishing boat requires just as much research as buying a new one. Thus, additional costs may also include the prompt replacement of defective parts. If you do not have mechanical experience, buying a used fishing boat may become an expensive experience over time. On the other hand, buying a new fishing boat includes high upfront costs, which may be challenging for certain individuals.

Where To Buy a New Or Used Boat?

You can buy a new fishing boat, or a used one, from multiple retailers in your area. The following are a few options for where to buy a new fishing boat and used vessel:

  • Boating shows – Boating shows are a great place to buy a new fishing boat for a great price. Many local retailers and big-name retailers display their products and offer exclusive sale prices only available at the boating show. However, you need to do research before you go to a boating show if your intention is to buy a vessel there.
  • Major retailers – New and used fishing boats for sale are also available through major retailers. For instance, Walmart sells cheap non-motorized vessels, and Bass Pro Shops carries most major boating brands. However, these major retailed often have a limited inventory of boats.
  • Specialized boat retailers – Buying a new or used fishing boat from a local or specialized retailer is advantageous due to the fact that you can negotiate prices in person. However, buying a new or used boat from these stores can limit your options, as they typically do not have a large inventory.
  • Online – New and used fishing boats for sale can be purchased online. However, this purchasing method is generally not recommended. Unless you are able to assess a boat in person before the purchase, you should not buy a boat online. On the other hand, you should use online resources to compare prices and conduct research on different types of boats.

The Best Cheap and Affordable Fishing Boat Options

The best cheap fishing boats are typically optimal for freshwater fishing. Because the best fishing boats for cheap tend to be small, they are best suited for navigating narrow rivers and shallow lakes. Here are a few tips on buying a cheap fishing boat that new anglers should keep in mind:

  • Canoes and kayaks – These non-motorized boats are typically very small, ranging between 12 and 16 feet in length. Their prices can go from $100 to $1,000.
  • Dinghies and inflatables – Dinghies and inflatables are cheap fishing boats that you may or may not attach motors to. However, the motors must be low in power for those vessels to sustain the speed output. These boats range from 16 to 20 feet and can cost between $25 and $100 without a motor. With motors, they can cost over $200.
  • Jon boats – Jon boats are some of the best fishing boats for your money, as they are durable and easy to use motorized vessels. These small boats, which are about 16 feet in length, cost between $400 and $1,000. However, the cost of a jon boat can change depending on the material you desire. For instance, vessels made of aluminum are cheaper than models made of fiberglass.
  • Utility boats – Utility boats are budget-friendly fishing boats typically made of aluminum. These boats range from 12 to 20 feet in length and can cost from $1,000 to $5,000.
  • Bass boats – Despite the fact that bass boats are considered cheap fishing boats, they are comparatively less affordable than other cheap vessels. Thus, these boats range from $5,000 to $20,000. A bass boat is typically between 14 and 24 feet in length and has more motor power than other affordable boats. For that reason, it is one of the few affordable vessels that can withstand ocean currents.

Best Luxury Boat Options

The best luxury fishing boats on the market can anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. Below is a list of popular luxury boat types and their approximate price range.

  • Yacht – Yachts are some of the best luxury fishing boats on the market because of their size, engine power and Yachts easily reach 30 to 40 feet in length and can hold a significant number of passengers. Depending on the size and added customization of the vessel, a yacht can be worth millions of dollars.
  • Sport-fishing boats – Sport fishing boats are some of the best luxurious fishing boats for avid anglers. These vessels are typically outfitted with fishing gear docks and have convenient cooking areas that are useful for preparing fish after they were caught. Thus, a boat in this category can start around $40,000, but a top of the line fishing boat can easily reach $100,000.
  • Cabin cruisers – Cabin cruisers have cabin space for anglers to sleep in and an integrated plumbing system. The cost of these boats typically starts at $50,000.
  • Pontoons – Perfect for carrying multiple passengers, pontoons are bordered on all sides, thus making it difficult for anyone to fall overboard. Additionally, pontoons have plenty of comfortable seating and stereo capabilities, and can be used for most recreational water activities. This luxury boat has a starting price of $30,000 and is considered one of the more affordable top-notch fishing boats on the market.

Safety Equipment Every Boat Needs:

Certain types of additional fishing boat equipment are important to have on hand in the case of an emergency. Additionally, other types of equipment for fishing boats can provide more convenience to anglers. Thus, consider acquiring the following products to enhance your experience of fishing from a boat:

  • Life jackets – According to boating regulations in several states, your fishing boat equipment must always include enough life jackets for every passenger aboard your vessel. However, this regulation is not strictly enforced on small non-motorized vessels, as they do not tend to travel on open waters. In any case, having life jackets on hand is always a wise decision when traveling on or fishing from a boat.
  • Whistles, horns and bells – While equipping your fishing boat, you must include sound producing devices such as whistles, horns and bells. These are devices that can assist you in calling for help in the case of an emergency. Thus, it is recommended for you to keep a whistle attached to each life jacket on board to ensure that every passenger has a sound device. Additionally, a boat should include a blow horn or bell that can be heard for at least one nautical mile.
  • Flares – Flares are an essential part of your fishing boat equipment and should be kept on your vessel at all times. These are visual signals of distress that allow you to call for help in case of emergencies. Additionally, you should have both daytime and nighttime flares, both of which can be seen from a distance.
  • Fire extinguisher – All motorized vessels must be equipped with a fire extinguisher in case there is an engine fire at sea. However, small motorized fishing boats may not be required to carry fire extinguishers if they only navigate close to the shore.
  • First aid kit – Equipment for fishing boat safety must also include a first aid kit. These kits are commonly used for situations such as accidentally hooking yourself or someone else while fishing. Thus, a first aid kit must enable you to disinfect and bandage an incidental wound.
  • Marine VHF radio – A marine VHF radio can transmit direct weather updates and allow you to call for help if anything should happen. Thus, if you are planning to travel on the open sea, having a marine VHF radio is an essential boat equipment to your safety.
  • Anchor and extra docking line – Equipping your fishing vessel with extra docking line can help secure the boat during harsh weather. Additionally, extra line can serve as a backup if anything happens to your main docking line. Moreover, all fishing boats should be equipped with an anchor that can keep the vessels stalled in one place.
  • Vessel lighting – All vessels traveling at night must have their vessel lights on from sunset to sunrise. Additionally, depending on the size of your vessel, you will need to include adequate illumination that can be seen from long distances.

Can I Rent a Fishing Boat?

It is common for out-of-state anglers to rent a fishing boat when intending to fish in open water. Additionally, renting a fishing boat is much more cost-beneficial for beginners or casual fishermen than buying a vessel. In general, fishing boat rentals are particularly easy to find in touristic areas such as Hawaii or the Florida Keys.

However, boat rentals in touristic areas can become expensive if you intend on renting large vessels for extended periods of time. On the other hand, small river boats are typically much more affordable to rent and can be easily found near great lakes. Moreover, non-motorized fishing boats for rent are generally the cheapest vessels available for rental. Thus, non-motorized boats are great options for casual freshwater fishing involving small groups.

Maintaining a Fishing Boat

When learning how to maintain a fishing boat, it is important to remember to run simple maintenance as well as complex maintenance checks. Thus, simple fishing boat maintenance consists of:

  • Washing the boat.
  • Changing the boat’s oil.
  • Checking the boat’s propeller.
  • Checking the boat’s fuel lines for damage or clogging.
  • Checking the boat’s electrical wires for any damage.
  • Checking and replacing the boat’s engine filters.
  • Protecting and maintaining the boat’s wax coating.

To wash and maintain your fishing boat properly, make sure to use cleaning products that will not damage the boat’s paint or carcass. Additionally, these products should protect and maintain the boat’s wax coating instead of washing it away. In any case, you will need to reapply a wax coating every so often in order to maintain it properly.

Different Types of Fishing Boats:

Walkaround Boats

Walkaround boats are versatile types of vessels for families and serious anglers. The best walkaround boats can be operated on large inland waterways, as well as the open ocean, due to their size and fuel tank capacity. This vessel typically comes with various standard features that fishermen enjoy. For instance, most walkaround boats contain live well storage, rod storage and coolers. Typically, a walk around boat is also a good choice for those fishing on a budget, as it is more affordable than various other similar vessels on the market.

Trawler Boats

Trawler boats are great vessels for cruising. Thus, the best trawler boat will allow you to take extended trips on the ocean due to its large size and fuel capacity. Additionally, these boats have large cabins with several amenities, which makes them optimal boats for vacations and weekend trips. Despite not being specifically designed for fishing, trawler yachts can function as fishing boats once equipped with the proper gear. Thus, keep in mind that fishing with trawlers tends to be an expensive activity.

Runabout Boats

A runabout boat is a popular vessel for families and fishermen who want a versatile boat. In general, runabout boats manufacturers produce affordable vessels that are well-suited for individuals who are new to boating. Moreover, the term “runabout” applies to several different types of vessels, such as bowriders, deck boats or fish and ski boats. Thus, a runabout boat can be virtually any small powerboat meant for recreational activities like fishing, jet skiing and tubing.

Jon Boats

Jon boats are popular low-cost fishing vessels. The best jon boats are capable of navigating various freshwater environments, allowing you to catch bass, pan fish and other species. Additionally, these versatile utilitarian boats can even serve for duck hunting. In general, aluminum jon boats have flat bottoms and rectangular or V-shaped hulls. Due to their flat bottoms, these boats generally do not perform well in choppy water, which limits their usability to calmer, shallower bodies of water. However, despite this limitation, these boats are great choices for beginners and experienced anglers.

Game Boats

The best game boat is a rugged fishing vessel designed for offshore fishing. Thus, game fishing boats are optimal for catching large fish such as tuna, marlin and sail fish. Additionally, these boats can carry a wide variety of fishing gear, such as outriggers, coolers, live well storages and rod holders. Because game boats typically contain large cabins, they are also well-suited for long trips or overnight stays.

Flats skiffs

Flats skiffs are small lightweight boats designed for navigating shallow bodies of water. In general, the best flats skiffs can operate in as little as one foot of water. For that reason, these boats are popular vessels for fishing in backwater areas, bays, flats, channels and inlets. The top flats skiff boats have a motor that ranges between 60 and 200 horsepower, thus offering plenty of speed for such small vessels. Additionally, this type of boat can also be propelled with a pole, which is optimal for stealth fishing.

Flats Scooters

A flat scooter is a small boat that is best suited for fishing in shallow waters. Thus, flats scooters can be navigated over just a few inches of water. Because numerous large fish live in these shallow habitats, anglers are known for taking advantage of the scooter’s optimal boat design. Additionally, you can build your own DIY scooter boat, which may be cheaper than buying a pre-assembled vessel.

Express Boats

Express boats are popular models for offshore and nearshore fishing, despite being generally expensive vessels. Moreover, express bay boats are well-suited for families and serious anglers. Additionally, the best express boat may also contain a spacious cabin and a step-up helm. Thus, fishermen can go on overnight or weekend trips and sleep comfortably inside an express boat’s cabin.

Bass Fishing Boats

Bass fishing boats are specially designed for anglers who intend on catching bass. A bass boat may not look very different in comparison to other freshwater fishing vessels, but it has a few unique features that make it well-suited for bass fishing. For instance, bass pro boats have wide hulls, which provide stability and a smooth ride. Additionally, these vessels have large and powerful motors that allow them to reach significant speeds. Moreover, a bass fishing boat typically contains trolling motors, which yield a quiet navigation that does not scare off fish.

Bay Fishing Boats

Bay fishing boats are optimal for fishing in shallow areas and flats, which are challenging bodies of water that require a highly-maneuverable vessel. Thus, these fiberglass or aluminum fishing boats are well-suited for both casual family outings and serious fishing tournaments. Equipped with an outboard motor and, in many cases, a trolling motor, this type of boat also yields a quiet navigation. Additionally, a bay fishing boat typically comes with various storage compartments such as live well storages and rod storage holsters. Moreover, bay fishing boats generally contain a center console design and a wide bow, offering plenty of room for anglers to move around.


A catamaran sailboat is a popular vessel for fishing and cruising on the ocean. Thus, catamaran manufacturers make a variety of boats designed for fishing, sailing, racing and cruising. In general, a catamaran boat is characterized by its dual-hull, which is connected with a frame and a flat deck. The design used for catamarans means that there is ample room on board for fishing and other recreational activities. For that reason, some catamarans are somewhat utilitarian, while other catamaran sailboats have high-end luxury features.

Center Console Boats

Center console boats are some of the most popular fishing boats available on the market. A center console boat has a helm in the center of the deck, which offers plenty for anglers to move around the vessel. Additionally, these boats come in a wide range of sizes. For instance, smaller center console boats are well-suited for inland and inshore fishing, whereas larger boats are designed to handle deep sea and offshore fishing. Center console fishing boats are sold by several different manufacturers, which makes it easy for anglers to find a vessel that suits their budget and needs.

Cuddy Cabin Boats

Cuddy cabin boats are great for fishing with large groups, as these vessels typically provide deck space for up to 10 people. The best small cuddy cabin boats may be confused with bowrider boats. However, cuddies have a forward-facing cabin that replaces the seating area. Inside the cabin, anglers have access to a small bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. Thus, the basic amenities in a cuddy cabin boat make it suitable for weekend trips or overnight stays. Additionally, expert anglers like these boats due to the fact that they can easily be modified to hold fishing gear.

Dual-Console Boats

Dual console boats are popular versatile boats that can be used for fishing and watersports. Additionally, dual console fishing boats can be upgraded to include gear and storage that will enhance your fishing trips. In general, these boats are optimal for families and fishermen who want an all-purpose vessel that is suited for various occasions. Moreover, a dual console boat is typically affordable when compared to similar boats on the market.