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How to Choose the Right Recreational Boat
How to Choose the Right Recreational Boat

There's nothing quite like being out on the water. It creates a sense of adventure that you can't get anywhere else. Not to mention that it's very freeing to get to choose where you want to go or if you just want to ride around for a while aimlessly.

But how do you choose the best recreational boat for you? What features make the boat ideal for your use?

It can start to feel like a compromise when you're looking for your perfect boat. Narrowing down your options might just make it easier for you.

Read on to learn how to choose the best recreational watercraft for you.

Sport or Leisure Boat

When shopping for a new boat, the first thing you need to ask yourself is why you want one. Each type of boat is going to have its own specialty that determines who might want it. These reasons can be broken down into two categories: leisure or sport.

A leisure boat is generally bigger and slightly slower. These boats are for people who want to take it easy and just enjoy being on the water. Some don't have a destination in mind, and those that do are in no rush to get there.

So these boats are ideal for entertaining family and friends. Some can even go days before they need to be refueled and serviced. You might consider yachts, cabin cruisers, or pontoon boats if this sounds like you.

Other boats are ideal for those who enjoy watersports. Maybe you like waterskiing or fishing, for example. These are meant for thrill-seekers rather than those who want to spend time sunbathing on the deck.

Many of these boats focus on speed, storage, or both. They're generally smaller and have less seating. They also are usually named after the sportsmen they target such as fishing or ski boats.

But maybe you're interested in a little bit of both sport and leisure with your boat. The good news is that nothing is saying you can't entertain on a fishing boat or go fishing on a yacht. It's just not the main focus that the boat manufacturer had in mind when it was made.

Your Sport of Choice

If watersports are your main interest, then you have a few decisions to make. Which sports are you interested in? Where and how do you like to participate in them?


Waterskiing is a great test of strength and balance. You have to stay standing up on your skis while holding onto the boat as it's moving. This is a challenging and exhilarating rush for many people who enjoy the sport.

If you like waterskiing, then you probably want something that can move fast. Part of the thrill is moving at high speeds while trying to maintain your balance. 

But you're also being towed behind the boat, so you might not want something with a propeller that the line might get tangled up in. This keeps both you and your new boat safe when you're out enjoying yourself.

Ski boats, wake boats, and surf boats are all designed for watersports like waterskiing. They move fast and are designed for towing a waterskier safely.

If you're someone who enjoys both waterskiing and fishing, then there's also a boat for you. A fish-and-ski is designed for both sports. It has the speed for waterskiing and the storage for fishing. 

Keep in mind that there's a difference between freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing that will be discussed later. A fish-and-ski is better for freshwater fishing.


Sailing is an ancient boating method that doesn't require an engine. Throughout history, there have been many types of sailboats.

All sailing requires is the wind's cooperation. Those who enjoy this sport say that it's liberating to feel the wind hit the sails and take you in the right direction.

It's also a complicated skill to learn. Sailing can take years to master, but those who do say it's well worth the effort. Many even participate in competitions against other sailors.

Some people just like the idea of drifting on the water for the day. It doesn't matter which way the wind blows them until it's time to go home. So it's great for a day of both sport and leisure.

Of course, you need a boat with sails if sailing is your sport. A sailboat is a general term for these vessels.

Sailboats can also double as many other kinds of boats. You can go fishing on them, for example. Some yachts even have large sails on them for gentle cruising. 

Or you might go for something a little smaller and faster for competitive sailing. There are no wrong choices when you're buying a new sailboat.

Freshwater Fishing

Fishing also has a very long history. Almost every culture around the world has had some kind of fishing. The main difference is where and how they fish.

Today, there are several types of boats for fishing. But where and what you're fishing for determines what kind of boat you should get. Are you fishing in saltwater or freshwater?

Freshwater fishing means that you'll be taking your boat out on lakes or rivers. This means the water will usually be more calm and shallow than if you were going deep sea fishing out in the ocean. 

Of course, there's also going to be a big difference between fishing in a river and fishing in a lake too. You also need to consider the size and depth of the river or lake. 

A shallower river might do better with a smaller aluminum fishing boat, for example. But a large lake could probably handle a larger bay boat or flatboat. You just want something that can store the fish you catch unless you plan to release them afterward.

You just want to be sure that you aren't taking your boat somewhere so shallow that it might get damaged on rocks or other debris. The propeller is especially susceptible to damage in these areas.  

Saltwater Fishing

On the other hand, saltwater fishing takes place mostly on the ocean. The biggest thing you need to worry about here is how far from the coast you want to go. In other words, are you looking to go deep-sea fishing, or do you want to stay closer to home?

As with freshwater fishing, you want something with storage for whatever you catch. Bay boats or flatboats work just fine for this purpose. These are generally for fishing closer to shore but it isn't unheard of for anglers to go deep-sea fishing in them either.

If you have a preference for fishing for bass or other large fish, then a bass boat might not be a bad idea for you. These have a lot of space for storing large fish, but they are technically for bass in particular. 

Then there are also sportfishing yachts. These are perfect for those who want to spend some time relaxing in luxury and enjoy some fishing on the same trip. Some people might enjoy the idea of catching their dinner every night.

And of course, there's the all-purpose fishing boat that can handle just about any fishing you might do. These are perfect for those who like to fish for many different species.

Number of Guests and Storage

The next thing you need to think about when you're buying a boat is how many people are going to be joining you on the boat? Is it usually just you and one other friend to go fishing? Or are you getting together a huge party to go out for a luxurious evening?

Some types of boats are larger than others. A smaller boat means that you're not going to have as much room for entertaining. If you plan to throw large parties on your boat, then you might consider a larger yacht instead of a small aluminum fishing boat.

On the other hand, those that just want a nice afternoon for fishing by themselves will do just fine with a small boat. They won't need the extra space for entertaining.

You also need to think about storage. Whether you're planning on throwing parties or fishing, storage space is important. 

For those who want to host guests or have large parties, you need storage space for food and beverages. You might even want a galley for cooking or at least somewhere to serve food.

Those who are looking for some quiet fishing time will want storage. There should at least be space to put a cooler where you can keep the fish for you to take home.

Where You Will Use It

The next thing you need to consider is where you will use your new motorboat. Will you use it on the ocean? Will you go to a river or lake?

This is going to impact the size and shape of your new boat. 

If you want to go out onto open ocean waters, then you need something that can stand up to the waves. You might want to consider a trawler or yacht in these cases.

Staying closer to shore tends to mean gentler waves. A bay boat might be a good choice for you if this sounds more like you.

Those who want to go onto larger lakes or rivers may also do well with a bay boat.  They do well with cruising in gentler waters, and they do well for both speed and fishing.

Smaller rivers will of course need smaller boats. Aluminum fishing boats and smaller pontoon boats are probably better for these areas.

You might also consider a dinghy if you're looking for a smaller boat. These little boats are good for traveling shallow waters or getting you to shore when you need to leave your boat further out to sea.

So while you're looking for different boats, be thinking about where you want to take them. Is the water there shallow or deep? Is it rough seas or gentle waves?

This will help you narrow down exactly what type of boat you want.

Length of Voyage

It's important to take care of your body's basic needs while you're out enjoying the water too. You need to know how much food and water you need. Ask yourself if you're likely to need the bathroom while you're out.

This means that the next thing you need to think about is how long you want your excursions to be. The longer the excursion, the more fuel, food, and water you will need. If you plan on going out for long lengths at a time, you may also want to have a bathroom on your boat.

Those who are only planning to be out for a few hours at a time at the longest can probably do well with some water bottles and snacks until they get back. They won't need bathrooms or sleeping spaces on their boats.

Others might want to be out all day. This means you might want a place to use the restroom without getting out of the boat. They might also want a cooler to pack a lunch in as well as drinks and snacks.

And finally, maybe you want to travel on your boat for days on end. This is going to require a lot of fuel as well as basic amenities for food, water, waste, and sleep. Cabin cruisers and yachts are your best options here.

Get Your Own Recreational Boat Today

Thinking about these items will help you decide which type of recreational boat is the best one for you. Each boat will have its own advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider. 

And when you find your perfect boat, then you also need the perfect community to enjoy it with. That's why you should join Freedom Boat Club. We're the world's oldest and largest boat club.

So if you want to be a part of a massive community that's passionate about their boats, then join us today to get started.