Did you know that around 17% of American households own a boat? From waterskiing to wakesurfing, you can take a boat on the water and have fun with your family. Choose the watersport you love or want to try, and then show your loved ones the fun of watersports.
The biggest obstacle to your watersports adventure is buying a boat. The best watersports boat for you and your family will depend on your watersport of choice. Some boats are made for specific sports while others prioritize size for large gatherings.
If you want a beautiful day on the water with your family, don’t let the boat buying process intimidate you. We have the ultimate watersports boat guide to help you through the process. Read below for information on what to consider when buying the best watersports boat.
Before we get into specific boat types, there are important factors to consider for any type of boat. Let’s have a quick overview of the basics for buying your boat.
Cost may be the most important factor in your boat buying experience. Look through listed boat prices to get an idea of price ranges. Boats are an investment, so look for good quality and durability while staying realistic about your budget.
Though price varies widely by boat type and brand, you can find a reasonably priced speed boat for around $20,000. This cost does not include boat insurance, fuel cost, or any other boat necessities like lifejackets and flares.
Decide on your boat’s primary purpose before you look for a watersports boat. A ski boat won’t be very useful if your family would rather surf over big wakes.
Most of the boats in this watersports boat buying guide are made for specific watersports. Others offer versatility for our more adventurous families. Find the watersport you and your family love the most so that your future boat will be a fun vessel for everyone.
Where is your favorite watersports spot? It’s important to decide on the right body of water for your boat. Ocean, rivers, and lakes all provide different advantages and disadvantages for recreational boating.
Heavier boats that ride lower in the water are ideal for saltwater boating with stronger currents. Be careful when deciding on a location because not every boat is safe for the ocean.
When you buy a boat, you will need to decide between three main types of propulsion systems: sterndrive, inboard motors, and outboard motors.
Inboard motors are a popular choice for watersports boats. Because of the motor’s position, boats with this propulsion system are able to make small and clean wakes. Inboard motors have powerful engines, but they also take up the most space.
Outboard motors are great for easy maintenance and shallow boating because of their rear position. They offer power and big wakes that are great for wakeboarding. These motors also tend to be lightweight compared to other motors, so boats with outboard motors are the easiest to maneuver.
Lastly, the sterndrive propulsion system is a combination inboard/outboard motor. This motor provides a powerful engine similar to an inboard motor with a convenient rear position similar to an outboard motor. Sterndrive is a popular choice for people who want to use their boat for many different purposes.
Ski boats are a great option for, as the name suggests, waterskiing. If your family just wants to lean back and ride on wakes, a ski boat is probably the boat for you.
The main attraction of ski boats is the propeller. Builders carefully position the propeller on ski boats so that there is minimal turbulence to interfere with your wake shape.
Waterskiers want slow speeds and flat wakes. While other watersports boats like to advertise fast speeds and wild rides, ski boat manufacturers understand the specific needs of waterskiers and optimize these boats for the smoothest ride.
These boats have inboard motors positioned near the center of the boat. As a result, the engine is powerful and brings the boat up to optimal speed quickly. A typical ski boat will have a maximum speed of around 25 to 35 mph.
The ski boat’s inboard motor has two types: the direct drive and the V-drive.
The direct drive provides the best weight distribution for optimal handling and clean wake shapes. On the other hand, ski boats with direct-drive inboard motors have limited space for seating and storage because they are positioned in the center of the boat.
The V-drive has become the more popular option recently. Most people are willing to sacrifice the perfect wake for more space. Unless you’re a hardcore or professional waterskier, the V-drive is a convenient option for family waterskiing.
You and your family can waterski to your hearts’ content with a ski boat. Keep in mind that ski boats tend to run small, so make sure that you find a boat with enough space for your family and other boating essentials.
If wakeboarding sounds more exciting, you may want to search for a wakeboard boat. Wakeboarding is the perfect watersport for families who want to strap into their board and ride wakes. You just hold the rope, feel the breeze, and try to stay upright.
These boats are designed to give passengers air time. The best part about this boat for wakeboarders is the elevated tow point. It encourages the boat to pull upward, taking wakeboarders off the water and into the air.
Wakeboard boats usually have V-drive engines which are ideal for bigger wakes. They may also have a built-in ballast system that adds extra weight to the back of the boat. Between the rear-positioned V-drive engine and the ballast system, this rear heavy boat is optimized for making wakes as large as possible.
You can use a wakeboard boat for waterskiing, but the boat won’t create small wakes like a ski boat. You can also wakesurf with a wakeboard boat; but as you’ll see, wakesurf boats are more ideal for wakesurfing.
If you and your family enjoy wakeboarding more than other watersports, a wakeboard boat may be worth the investment. It also offers some versatility when you want to experiment with other watersports.
Wakesurf boats are perfect for passengers who want to surf the water. These boats are similar to waterboard boats, but there are a few important differences.
The purpose of wakesurfing is to create an experience as close to surfing as possible. Because of this, wakesurfers want to create the biggest wakes.
Some builders even add adjustable plates to transoms which push down into the water and out the sides of the boat to make wakes taller. Manufacturers frequently innovate new systems to increase wake size, so you should shop around and decide how important big wakes are for your experience.
Wakesurf boats should always have an inboard motor for safety. While most wakeboard boats will have an inboard motor, it isn’t necessary. However, for wakesurfing, the propeller needs to be underneath the boat to prevent accidents.
These boats also tend to be shorter and have a lower speed than wakeboard boats. Since wafesurfing ropes are shorter and wakesurfers aren’t strapped into their board, wakesurf boats consider important safety measures specific to wakesurfing.
If you plan to take your family wakesurfing, consider buying this type of boat.
Jet boats are made for speed, simple as that! Give your family a fun, fast-paced ride in a jet boat.
This boat is unique because, unlike the other boats on this list, it is powered by a jet engine. The jet engine can power the boat in shallower water compared to the other listed engines.
These boats sit high on the water to quickly pick up speed and prevent wakes. They also turn quickly which makes them easy to navigate.
If you want more than a fast ride, you can also use a jet boat for tubing. Tubing is a family-friendly watersport that can still be intense with a rowdier crowd. When you tube with your younger children, be careful to limit your speed because jet boats are built to go fast.
Because jet boats are lighter, they don’t do well in more turbulent water. Jet boats also tend to be louder than other boats.
If you want a versatile boat on calm water, you should consider buying a jet boat. While these boats aren’t optimized for any specific watersport, they can be used for waterskiing, tubing, and more as long as you proceed with caution.
Are you more interested in diving than catching waves? Rigid inflatable boats are made for water exploration.
Rigid inflatable boats don’t prioritize speed or wakes. They have inflatable siding for comfortably entering and exiting the boat. You won’t have to worry about your family hurting themselves as they go in and out of the water.
Rigid inflatable boats are known for safety - even the Coast Guard uses them! They’re good for absorbing the impact of waves, so they are stable and sturdy boats.
Despite their stability, the light weight of rigid inflatable boats allows for easy maneuvering. They also run very fast which makes them great contenders for watersports.
These boats are often used for scuba diving and snorkeling. You won’t have much luck on a rigid inflatable boat with watersports that require towing. Don't expect to do any extreme watersports with this boat, especially if you want room for the whole family.
For the peak of watersports boat versatility, you should look into buying a crossover boat. Don’t limit yourself if you want to explore the world of watersports.
These boats are usually rigid inflatable boats that have been modified for watersports potential. Can’t decide between extreme sports and a relaxing day on the water? You can do it all with crossover boats.
Crossover boats tend to come with a V-drive engine. However, if you’re not interested in wakesurfing, some crossover boats do have an outboard engine.
It’s easy to find a crossover with room for the family as they are usually built for space. Be careful though because some crossover boats do use a direct drive engine that sits in the center of the boat.
These boats have a lot of features to make switching between riding, waterskiing, and wakeboarding easy. This can include an optional ballast system that creates bigger wakes when you fill it with water.
Let’s be honest. You’re probably not a watersports professional: you’re a recreationalist. This means that you want a safe, reliable boat that has the function you need for the watersports you want.
Buy a crossover boat if you’re looking for versatility. Your family will love the options and the safety that comes with it.
Use our watersports boat guide to find the perfect boat for you, your family, and even your dog. Whether you want big wakes or room for a crowd, there are a variety of boats that can cater to you and your family’s water adventure goals. Grab your gear and set sail!
Not ready to splurge on a boat? Want to test your options before you commit? We have waterside spots and rental boats across the US to give you and your family a fun experience without the commitment of buying your own boat.