As outdoor activities continue to soar in popularity, boat sales are at a fever pitch, with the NMMA report for 2021 predicting sales above 300,000 units.

Are you ready to seal the deal on your boating adventures by buying a boat of your own? You don’t need to splurge on something resembling a mini ocean liner to enjoy your time on the water.

Check out this small boat guide, which outlines the types of small boats available for recreational users.

Car Toppers

You can still enjoy boating if you don’t have a towing vehicle. These types of small boats are easy to transport on a roof rack above your car. They’re also easy to launch, lightweight, and ideal for two people.

The following small boat types fall into this catch-all category:

Canoes and Kayaks

Despite their lack of an engine, these small crafts are still boats. They’re a fun option for exploring waterways, fishing, and romantic outings.

Many avid boaters develop their love for the water while paddling along in these boats. Incidentally, rowing is an excellent form of exercise and a highly competitive sport too.

Jon Boats

Jon Boats are some of the most popular boats around. They’re small and simple with an aluminum hull, squared-off bow, bench seat, and an outboard engine.

They’re affordable and easy to launch, load, and store. You can choose from very many options when you buy one of these vessels.

They’re essentially a type of utility boat, used for fishing, hauling lumber, and hunting.

Due to their flat hull, low sides, and blunt nose, they sit on top of the water and don’t suit choppy waters. They do work exceptionally well for fishing in shallow, muddy water, though.


Dinghies are the smallest versions of inflatable boats. They’re constructed out of rubber, with rowlocks and cross thwarts for rowing and seating.

These small, manageable watercraft are often taken along on sailing expeditions as a nifty way to explore your surroundings or head off on snorkeling or scuba diving adventures.

They’re also commonly used to transport people and gear between a larger boat and the shore.

Inflatable Boats

Another type of inflatable boat is the rigid hull craft. These are too large to transport without a trailer.

They consist of a rigid hull with an inflatable collar made of PVC material or Hypalon. These hardy boats can bounce off anything they encounter, including waves.

For this reason, they’re highly seaworthy and used for search-and-rescue operations as well as recreation.


The term, ‘skiff’ refers to any kind of boat that’s small and open. They’re a low maintenance option, due to the absence of moving parts and additional systems.

All that’s required at the end of the day is removing the outboard motor and a good rinse with a hosepipe.

You can tow a skiff with the average tow truck, they’re easy to steer and affordable, too. Due to a skiff’s small size, you can park it in your driveway or garage when you’re not using it.

The small size does limit how many people you can take with you, and you’ll need to stick to calm waters for safety’s sake in such a small vessel.

Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats come in both large and small sizes, usually between 15 and 30 ft long.  They have a flat shape with pontoons (tubes) to keep them afloat on the water.

It’s a great option for both fishing and cruising and allows more passengers than all the previous types of boats.

Fishing Boats

Like Jon boats, aluminum fishing boats are light, fuel-efficient, and inexpensive, but you can find fishing boats in all shapes and sizes. Most comprise a durable fiberglass hull.

The key characteristics of these boats are their strength and stability that allow you to fish on a variety of waterways. Some come with live wells, outboard motors, a trolling motor system, a front bow, and rod lockers.

You can buy fishing boats designed for river or sea fishing or for catching bass.

Jet Boats

Most jet boats are large, powerful machines, but you can also get them in smaller varieties. They’re propelled by inboard jet engines that blast high pressure through a nozzle to create thrust.

Jet boats provide a thrilling ride.

Personal Watercraft

Jet skis fall into this category and are some of the most exciting small boats to drive and enjoy. You can seat either one or two people, depending on whether you choose a stand-up or sit-down model.

PWCs are fantastic for buzzing around at high speed, and you can even use them for water-skiing and wakeboarding. Serious enthusiasts are better off considering a larger craft like a ski boat or wakeboard boat for water sports.

Deciding Between the Types of Small Boats

Naturally, the first thing you’ll think about when buying a small boat is what you want to use it for. While this narrows down your choices, you’ll still need to decide between one or more types. These small boat tips can help you make the right choice:

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Budget

Put aside a fixed amount for buying your small boat and never waver from it. It’s easy to feel tempted when viewing the latest shiny models of boats.

A boat is a luxury item, so it’s unwise to create unnecessary debt when you buy one.

Keep Your Requirements and Experience in Mind

It’s tempting to buy a powerful boat that looks good on the water and produces a satisfying roar when you start it up. Yet, it’s vital to take your experience into account when choosing a boat.

Buying a boat that’s too powerful for your experience, is dangerous and wasteful.

Remember the Cost of Boat Ownership

If you decide to apply for finance to pay for your boat, you must work out your monthly budget taking a few other boat expenses into account.

These include:

  • Fuel

  • Storage

  • Insurance

You’ll also need to spend money on routine maintenance, repairs, and safety equipment.

Finding Your Perfect Boat

The internet is a great tool for researching the best types of small boats, but it’s always best to explore your options in person. It’s the best way to make an informed decision.

Visit boat shows and dealers where you can compare different models side by side, and ask for advice on each boat from an experienced salesperson.

Would you like some more top lifestyle tips and advice? Browse our blog for snippets on a wide variety of topics.

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  • I like that you talked about skiff boats which are easy to maintain because you just need to remove the outboard motor and rinse the vessel with a hose pipe. I will suggest this type of vessel to my brother who moved into a house near the lake this year which is why he plans to get one for himself. He might only be able to afford a secondhand boat because of his limited budget, so this is a good option for him. But he needs to check as well if he needs outboard replacement motors or other parts as well to help him decide if it is a good deal for his money.

  • Rachel Frampton

    I want to buy a boat where I can hold parties and entertain guests, which is why I’m currently looking for a boat dealer because I’m not familiar with the current boat market. Anyhow, I’ll keep in mind to check its size first. Thank you for also suggesting the skiffs boat and its low maintenance costs.

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