Top 10 Best Family Boats – How to Choose the Right Boats for Families!

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best family boat

Are you looking for the best family boat? Choosing a boat that is suitable for the whole family can be a bit overwhelming, especially with so many options available on the market today. 

As a boater, I know how important it is to find the right vessel that fits your family’s needs and preferences. That’s why I’m excited to share with you some of the factors to consider when choosing a boat and the different boat types that are perfect for families.

Whether you are an experienced boater or just starting out, read on for a comprehensive guide to finding the perfect family boat for your needs.

So, let’s set sail and dive into the sections of this article.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Boat for your Family

When choosing the best boat for families, there are several things to consider that will help you narrow down your options and make the right choice. But with so many different boat types, it can be challenging to navigate through all the choices and find the one that meets your family’s needs.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of key factors to consider when selecting a family boat. So you can overcome the challenges and make an informed decision that you and your family will enjoy for years to come.

Type of Activities Will you be Doing

The type of activities your family enjoys will play a big role in determining the type of boat that is best suited for your needs. If you plan to use your boat for cruising, fishing, water skiing, diving, or other water sports, you’ll want to choose a boat that is designed for those activities. 

You’ll also need to consider how long you plan to spend on the boat. If you plan to spend nights or weekends on it, you’ll need more space for storage. Also, you will need amenities like a kitchen, toilets (head), and sleeping quarters.

Family Size

Another important factor to consider when choosing a boat is the size of your family. 

If you have a large family, you’ll need a larger boat that can accommodate everyone comfortably. Also account for friends who may join you on your boating adventures.

Location

Where you live and where you plan to boat also plays a key role in determining the type of boat that is best for your family. If you live within driving distance of the water, you may be able to trailer your boat to your local boat ramps

If you plan to spend nights or weekends on your boat, you might need a bigger boat and should consider searching for marinas in your area to find a provider that can accommodate and store your vessel.

Also consider the type of water you’ll be boating in, as different boats are designed for different types of water, such as lakes, rivers, or the ocean.

Budget

Your budget is another important consideration when choosing a family boat. 

Boats can range in price from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size, features, and quality. 

You’ll need to determine how much you’re willing to spend and choose a boat that fits within your budget.

Interested in learning more about the costs associated with owning and operating a boat? Check our article How Much Does a Boat Cost?

Safety Features

Safety should always be a top priority when choosing a family boat. Consider the mobility levels of your family members and the ease of access from/to the water or dock they may need. 

Consider features like non-slip surfaces, handrails, and grab handles to prevent slips and falls on board. 

Additionally, make sure the boat is outfitted not only with proper navigation and communication equipment, but also crucial safety gear like a life jackets for each passenger. This is to guarantee that you can navigate safely, communicate when needed, and maintain personal safety in the event of an emergency.

Best Boat Types for families

Bowriders

bowrider boat

Bowriders are designed for recreational use and are perfect for a variety of activities, including water sports, fishing, and cruising.

The name “bowrider” comes from the open bow area at the front of the boat, which provides more seating and storage space, these boats are also called runabouts.

They are popular with families because they offer a great balance of space, comfort, and performance. 

Bowriders are versatile, and maneuverable, with a design that can accommodate a range of activities.

  • Great for: Family, water activities, day cruising in lakes and coastal waterways. 
  • Key Benefits: Plenty of seating and storage space, easy access to the water, and comfortable and versatile design.
  • Number of passengers: Typically 6-10, but up to 13 in some larger models. 
  • Size Range: 16-28 ft.
  • Trailerable: Yes, most of them.
  • Average Price: From around $20K to over $100K

One potential downside of Bowriders is that the open bow area can make them less suitable for use in rough or choppy water conditions. 

Some of the top brands and models of Bowriders include the Sea Ray SPX series, Bayliner VR series, Yamaha SX series, Four Winns Horizon series, and the Chaparral SSi series.

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Pontoon Boats

pontoon boat

Pontoon boats have gained popularity in recent years as a top choice for family boating. These boats have a flat, wide deck that rests on pontoons or tubes. They provide stability and plenty of space for seating, storage, and activities.

Pontoons offer a spacious, wide layout and capacity for large groups. They are also less expensive to operate than larger, more complex boats, and need less maintenance and upkeep.

  • Great for:  Leisurely day cruising, entertaining guests, fishing, and water sports.
  • Key Benefits: Plenty of seating, capacity to accommodate large groups,  easy access to the water, and built-in amenities such as grills, sinks, and coolers. 
  • Number of passengers: Typically 8-20 depending on models. 
  • Size Range: Typically 16 to 30 feet.
  • Trailerable: Only smaller ones.
  • Average Price: From around $20K to over $100K

One potential downside of pontoon boats is their speed. Compared to other types of boats, pontoon boats’ speed is quite limited, which in turn affects their maneuverability. This makes them less than ideal for activities that require high speed and swift responses, such as wakeboarding or racing. Additionally, they may struggle in rough waters due to these limitations.

Also, larger pontoon boats may be more difficult to transport and store and may need special docking accommodations.

Some of the top brands and models of pontoon boats include BenningtonPrincecraft, Harris, and Sun Tracker, among others. 

When choosing a pontoon boat, consider factors such as size, layout, features, and price to find the best option for your family’s needs.

Fish & Ski Boats

fish & ski boat

Fish & Ski boats are a popular choice for families who enjoy both fishing and watersports. These boats allow families to fish in the morning and then enjoy a day of watersports with the family later in the day. 

They have a similar layout to a bowrider, but they also have extra accouterments to cater to fishing lovers. This includes: rod holders, trolling motors, livewells, fish finders, flip-up seats, and removable cushions to allow for a larger fishing deck area. 

Fish & Ski boats also have features designed for skiing and tubing, such as ski tows and ski lockers. And entertainment, including robust sound systems with marine speakers.

  • Great for:  Families who enjoy fishing and water sports
  • Key Benefits: Versatile and can be used for a variety of water activities: fishing, skiing, tubing.
  • Number of passengers: Typically 6-8. 
  • Size Range: Typically 16-24 ft.
  • Trailerable: Yes.
  • Average Price: From around $25K to over $50K

Fish & Ski boats are primarily designed for freshwater use. They mix and expand the base function of a fishing boat with a bowrider to extend the time on the water and enjoyment with the whole family. 

One potential downside of Fish & Ski boats is that they are not really intended for rough open water, so fishing will be limited to lakes and rivers.

Some of the top fish-and-ski boat brands include Tracker, Lund, Nitro, and Ranger. Popular family models include the Tracker Pro Team 190, Lund 1775 Crossover XS, Nitro ZV19 Sport, and Ranger Reata 1850MS.

If you are looking for a versatile and fun watersports boat, a fish and ski boat might be the right choice for you.

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Deck Boats

deck boat

Deck boats are a popular type of recreational boat that offer a versatile and comfortable platform for a wide range of activities on the water. 

These boats are designed with an open deck layout, typically with a wide beam and a V-shaped hull. They are often used for day trips, watersports, and fishing, and are a popular choice for families and larger groups of people.

While deck boats and bowriders share some similarities, deck boats typically have a wider beam, wider bow, and a larger cockpit area. This makes them great for larger groups of people and more spacious than bowriders. 

The wide and spacious open deck layout of Deck boats also makes them ideal for socializing and relaxing. Many models come with amenities like a head compartment, and a refreshment center with a sink and cooler.

  • Great for:  Family and groups, water activities, and day cruising in lakes and coastal waterways. 
  • Key Benefits: Plenty of seating and storage space, easy access, and comfortable and versatile design.
  • Number of passengers: Typically 8-12
  • Size Range: 20-30 ft.
  • Trailerable: Yes, most of them.
  • Average Price: From around $30K to over $100K

One potential downside of deck boats is that their wider beam can make them less efficient on the water and slower than other types of boats. Additionally, they may not handle rough water conditions as well as deeper V-hulled boats.

Some popular deck boat brands include Bayliner, Chaparral, Hurricane, and Regal. Top models in the deck boat category include the Bayliner DX series, Starcraft SVX series, and the Hurricane SunDeck series.

Jet Boats

jet boat

Jet boats are increasingly popular with families who are looking for an exciting and versatile watercraft. 

These boats are powered by jet propulsion, which means that they are propelled by water that is forced through a nozzle at the back of the boat. 

This type of propulsion system provides a number of benefits, including not having a propeller, which makes Jet boats safer for families with children who may be swimming or playing in the water around the boat. 

In addition to not having a propeller, the jet propulsion system provides improved maneuverability and the ability to operate in shallower water, which can be a big plus when skiing or tubing with kids.

Jet boats are great for those who enjoy water sports, such as wakeboarding, waterskiing, and tubing. They are also a good choice for families who like to cruise and explore the waterways. 

  • Great for:  Family, water sports, and day cruising. 
  • Key Benefits: Comfortable and versatile design, no propeller 
  • Number of passengers: Up to 10
  • Size Range: 16-28 ft.
  • Trailerable: Yes, most of them.
  • Average Price: From around $35K to over $100K

Jet boats do have some downsides to consider, such as the noise level and the potential for higher fuel consumption compared to other types of boats. They also have limited storage capacity due to the location of the engine and jet pump.

Some top brands and models of jet boats include Yamaha’s SX220 and Scarab’s 195 Open ID.

Cabin Cruisers

cabin cruiser

If you’re looking for a family boat that provides comfortable living space for extended stays on the water, a cabin cruiser may be the right choice for you. These boats offer a range of amenities and comforts that make them a popular choice for families who want to spend extended periods of time on the water.

Cabin cruiser boats are great for families who want to spend a weekend or longer on the water, as they provide a spacious and comfortable living space. They are also ideal for boaters who want to explore distant ports and anchor out overnight.

Cabin cruiser boats offer a range of amenities, such as a full galley (kitchen), enclosed head (toilet), shower, and sleeping quarters, which make them ideal for extended stays on the water. Boats with cabins are also equipped with features such as air conditioning and heating, which provide added comfort during hot or cold weather.

  • Great for:  Families, day or overnight cruising.
  • Key Benefits: spacious and comfortable.Built-in amenities for extended stays. 
  • Number of passengers: typically up to 10 passengers. 
  • Size Range: Typically 20 – 40 ft.
  • Trailerable: Only smallest models.
  • Average Price: From about $100K to over $600K

One potential downside to cabin cruiser boats is their size, which makes them more difficult to transport and to maneuver and dock in tight spaces. They also require regular maintenance and upkeep to ensure they are in good condition.

Some top brands and models of cabin cruiser boats include Sea Ray Sundancer Series, Regal Express, Bayliner Cruiser, and Chaparral Signature.

Center Console Boats

center console boat

Center Console boats are a popular choice for families who love to fish and enjoy water sports. These boats are designed with an open deck layout and a center console helm station that provides easy access to all areas of the boat. They are versatile and can be used for a variety of activities on the water.

Center Console boats are great for saltwater fishing, diving, and water sports such as wakeboarding and tubing. They are also good for cruising and exploring different waterways. Their open deck layout provides plenty of room for passengers to move around and enjoy the scenery.

Center Console boats are known for their stability and agility on the water. They can handle rough conditions and are often used for offshore fishing, making the one of the best saltwater boats for families. They also provide easy access to the water for diving or swimming.

  • Great for:  Families, fishing, watersports, and day cruising.
  • Key Benefits: Stability and agility on open water, spaciousness, ease of access to water.
  • Number of passengers: typically up to 12 passengers. 
  • Size Range: Typically 18 to over 40 ft.
  • Trailerable: Yes, except for larger models.
  • Average Price: From about $20K (used) to over $500K. The average for a new one is around $100K

One potential downside of Center Console boats is that they do not provide too much shelter from the elements. This means that passengers can be exposed to the sun and rain, which can be uncomfortable. They also tend to have less storage space compared to other types of boats.

Some of the top brands for Center Console boats include Boston Whaler, Grady-White, Robalo, and Scout. Popular models include boats like the Boston Whaler Outrage, Grady-White Fisherman, Robalo R230, and Scout 255 LXF.

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Walkarounds

walk around boat

Walkaround Boats are a popular type of family boat due to their versatility and functionality. These powerboats are designed with a cabin or cuddy area for sleeping or taking shelter, and an open deck for fishing, entertaining, or enjoying watersports. 

The deep side decks in walkarounds allow for easy access to the bow, making them ideal for anglers and families who enjoy fishing. Their open decks provide ample space for socializing and entertainment.

The cabin provides a comfortable and private place to relax or sleep, making them suitable for extended trips. Some walkarounds feature a hard top or a bimini over the deck area to protect passengers from the sun. 

  • Great for:  Families, offshore fishing, day and overnight cruising.
  • Key Benefits: Versatility, functionality, and comfort.Secure area to relax or sleep.
  • Number of passengers: Typically up to 10 passengers. 
  • Size Range: Typically 20 to over 40 feet.
  • Trailerable: Yes for smaller models.
  • Average Price: From about $20K (used) to over $500K. 

One potential downside of walkaround boats is their lack of speed and agility compared to other types of powerboats. This may limit their use for water sports. Also, their enclosed cabin spaces may not be as spacious as larger boats or motor yachts.

Some best boat brands and models of walkaround boats include the Grady-White Adventure Series, Pursuit OS series, and Boston Whaler Conquest series

When choosing a walkaround boat, it is important to consider the manufacturer’s reputation for quality and customer service, as well as the boat’s specific features and capabilities.

Sailboats

sail boat for family

Sailboats are a popular choice for families who enjoy a slower and more leisurely pace on the water. They are also ideal for those who enjoy the sport of sailing, as they can be used for racing and other competitive events.

These boats are primarily powered by wind and offer a quiet, peaceful way to explore the waterways. Many larger sailboats have some form of auxiliary power in the form of an engine or electric motor. These provide the power to navigate in and out of marinas or handle unexpected weather conditions.

Sailboats come in a variety of sizes and styles, from small dinghies to large blue water or ocean-going yachts. Sailboats are not only great for enjoying the scenery, but they can also be used for racing, day trips, and overnight cruising. Sailing movies often capture the exhilarating moments of intense competition, and the tranquil beauty of peaceful voyages.

They are also a great option for families who want to take extended trips on the water, as they have the ability to carry enough supplies and gear for several days or even weeks.

Sailboats offer a quiet and environmentally-friendly way to explore the water. They are also a great way to disconnect from technology and enjoy the natural beauty of the water and surrounding landscapes.

  • Great for:  Families, cruising, racing, and extended trips.
  • Key Benefits: Spacious, comfortable, built-in amenities for extended stays, environmentally friendly.
  • Number of passengers: Varies significantly depending on sailboat size. From 1-2 people in smaller sailboats to 10 or more passengers for larger vessels. 
  • Size Range: Varies, from under 10 ft to 50 ft or more.
  • Trailerable: Only dinghies and smaller sailboats with folding masts.
  • Average Price: From a few thousand to over $1M. 

One possible downside is that sailboats require some level of skill and experience to operate, as they are powered by the wind and require knowledge of sailing techniques. They also need ongoing maintenance and upkeep. This includes regular cleaning and maintenance of sails, rigging, and other specialized equipment.

Some top sailboat brands include Catalina, Beneteau, Hunter, Jeanneau, and Oyster. 

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Motor Yachts

motor yacht

Motor yachts are luxurious and spacious vessels that are perfect for family cruising and entertaining. They have powerful engines and offer a high degree of comfort and convenience, making them ideal for extended trips and family vacations.

Motor Yachts are also known as Power Cruisers and are popular with families due to their ample space and luxurious features. They offer a comfortable and enjoyable way to explore the waterways providing plenty of room for relaxation, entertainment, and fun activities.

They are well-suited for exploring larger bodies of water, providing a smooth and comfortable ride during the passage. They are also ideal for hosting large groups of people, with plenty of seating and entertainment areas on board.

  • Great for:  Families and large groups, extended cruising.
  • Key Benefits: Spacious, comfortable, luxurious amenities for extended stays.
  • Number of passengers: Varies, from 6 to 20 people, and more for larger vessels. 
  • Size Range: Varies, typically from 40 feet to over 100 feet or more.
  • Trailerable: No.
  • Average Price: Can range from $500K to several million dollars.

One downside of motor yachts is their high cost, both in terms of the initial buy price and ongoing maintenance and operational costs. They also need a significant amount of knowledge and experience to operate safely. But this can be outsourced to a professional crew, increasing the cost further. 

Some of the top brands and models of motor yachts include the Azimut, Sunseeker, Princess, and Ferretti. These yachts are known for their luxurious features, high performance, and exceptional quality.

Final Words on the Best Family Boats

Choosing the best family boat can be an exciting but overwhelming experience at the same time. 

When considering different boats, it’s important to think about your family’s specific needs and preferences, as well as the intended use and budget. 

Whether you’re looking for a fishing boat, a watersports vessel, or a comfortable cruiser, there are plenty of options available to fit every family’s lifestyle and make unforgettable memories on the water.

Ready to buy your next boat? Make sure to check out our curated list of cool boat names for inspiration!

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AUTHOR

Hi, I'm Tim and I've been a boat enthusiast for as long as I can remember. I've spent countless hours on the water and love sharing my knowledge and experience with others. When I'm not working, you can usually find me out on my boat with my family, exploring new places and enjoying the beautiful scenery.