Once you’ve made the decision to become a boat owner, the exciting hunt for the perfect vessel begins – but choosing a boat isn’t quite as straightforward as one might first think.

There are so many different types of boats, from ribs, fishing vessels and barges to superyachts. Even when you’re sure about the type of boat you want, there are lots of differentials, such as capacity and engine size to consider.

So, how do you ensure you get the perfect boat to suit your exact needs?

Without further ado, to help get your boat search started, our guide summarises the most popular boat types and their uses.

Table of Contents

What are the different types of boats
What is the most popular type of boat
—>>Open day boats
—>> Bowrider boats
—>> Cabin cruisers
—>> Jet boats
—>> Pontoon boats
—>> Fishing boats
—>> Centre console boats
—>> Cuddy cabin boats
What are the four classes of boats
What are the four basic types of engines
How to make the right choice when buying a boat

What are the different types of boats?

Type ‘different types of boats’ into Google, and you’ll find lists citing 30 or more. If you’re new to the boating world, such lists can be a tad confusing, especially as they’ll likely include boat types you’ve not heard of before.

These include open day boats, bowrider boats, pontoon boats, centre console boats, cuddy cabin boats, jet boats, and cabin cruisers.

Read on to sort your bowriders from your cuddy cabins.

Boats come in all shapes and sizes and have many different uses, so there isn’t really a single popular boat type. Perhaps the most popular boats for families are bowriders and open day boats. For real boat enthusiasts with money to spend, then cabin cruisers are a popular choice.

Much like when people purchase cars, some buyers will start their search with a particular brand in mind. Many brokers have partnerships with reputable boat brands. For instance, Val Wyatt has long-standing partnerships with builders such as Corsiva, Interboat and Haines Boats – and we discuss what type of boats these brands offer below.

Open day boats

The open day boat (sometimes called a deck boat in the US) is designed with a focus on deck space. The main feature is an open-deck area with a good amount of seating. This style of the boat often has a V-shaped fibreglass hull with a wide beam.

Typically, this type of boat is big and comfortable enough for families or groups of friends to enjoy relaxing short cruises. They’re not bad for a spot of fishing either, so open day boats really do offer a versatile choice.
Prices vary considerably, ranging up to £150,000. Of course, second-hand/used boats can be picked up a bit cheaper – in this case, it is best to work with a boat broker.

Bowrider boats

Bowrider boats, named so because of the seating area in the front (bow), provide a decent option for families. The trailer-able power boat with a swim platform for putting on wakeboards is perfect for short leisure trips, water skiing and water sports. Bowriders are typically between 16-35ft long and larger options can carry up to 10 passengers. Best suited to wave-free water, this isn’t the boat for the high seas!
As with most other boat types, prices vary considerably. As a benchmark, a brand new 2023 18ft Corsiva Bowrider with 115hp engine costs in the region of £42,000.

Cabin cruisers

A cabin cruiser is a spacious and comfortable power boat you can live on. Equipped with sleeping facilities, a kitchen and a toilet, cabin cruisers offer plenty of seating and a smooth ride. Many manufacturers offer separate models for inland and coastal sailing – for instance, the Haines range features Sedan and Offshore vessels.

A meaty step up from run-arounds such as bowriders and open day boats, the cabin cruiser is a superior vessel suitable for use on inland lakes, rivers and oceans, which can be used for fishing, water sports and day or overnight cruising.

Prices vary considerably depending on size and berths. A new-to-order (2023) Haines 40ft cabin cruiser costs £486,600, whereas a second-hand Broom 29ft (1995 model) inland cruiser currently costs in the region of £67,000, depending on condition.

Jet boats

Often touted as being safer than propellor driven (stern drive) boats, jet boats are one of the most popular types of speedboats. The boat is powered by a conventional piston engine, but it is linked to a water jet rather than a propellor. Propelled by a jet of water, because there’s no rudder or propellor, it’s safe to use in shallower waters.
Jet boats offer excellent agility, are highly efficient, and are extremely low maintenance. The boat, which is most known for its use as a run-around and suitability for water sports, can be easily beached for picnic stop offs.

Used jet boats can be bought for as little as a few thousand pounds. The most expensive speedboat on the market is the Hinckley Picnic Boat, which is priced at US$ 1.7 million!

Pontoon boats

Whilst pontoon boats are very popular in the United States of America, you’re unlikely to see many of them in the UK. The large flat deck is mounted on two long air-filled tubes called pontoons. Some models may have a third tube located under the centre of the boat. The most common use for pontoon boats is leisurely cruising on lakes and inland waters throughout the US.

Fishing boats

Fishing boats come in a variety of sizes and many different types of boats lend themselves to fishing activities. The most popular boats for deep sea fishing are centre console boats.

For small bodies of water, or inland water, pontoon boats are popular, but many small run-around boats double up as fishing vessels, and even all types of rowing boats can be used for both leisure or fishing on calm waters. In fact, virtually all types of small boats can be used for fishing in the right circumstances.

Key traits of any fishing boat are strength, durability and stability.

Centre console boats

The centre console boat is a single deck boat with the helm or steering station situated in the middle of the boat and open deck or seating areas at the front (bow) and back (stern). While there are many types of fishing boats, the centre console is ideal thanks to the 360-degree access to the water and maximum deck space. While primarily a fishing boat, these boats also double up for family fun and are great for exploring.

Centre console boats vary considerably in size – you’ll find huge multi-engine centre console boats that cost as much as a home, but more modest single engine ones (around the 20ft mark) can be picked up for around the same price as a new car.

Many offshore fishing boats are open centre console boats with multiple high-powered outboard or inboard engines. This enables them to quickly get to fishing grounds or return home when bad weather is looming. They are suitable for use on lakes, rivers and offshore ocean waters.

Cuddy cabin boats

Cuddy cabin boats are a family-friendly boat with a closed-deck cabin on the bow. These sea-faring vessels are well-suited for both fishing and water sports and ideal for swim stops in hard-to-reach coves.

A natural step up from the typical bowrider or day boat, but more modest than a cabin cruiser, these boats offer both manoeuvrability and versatility. Depending on the size of the vessel, the cabin can offer families space to take a nap, whilst the smaller models will still offer shelter from the elements.

Cuddy cabin boats, powered by either sterndrive or outboard propulsion, are usually built of fibreglass and aluminium, are sized between 18 and 30 feet, and can carry up to eight passengers.

What are the four classes of boats?

In 1998 the EU introduced the Recreational Craft Directive to determine design standards for recreational boats. It determined that all new and used boats being sold in Europe would conform to standards within one of four categories. Following Brexit, the UK has transitioned to UKCA categories, which remain broadly the same. Read more about CE/UKCA categories here.

The categories are:

Category A: Ocean

Category B: Offshore

Category C: Inland and Estuary

Category D: Sheltered waters

Essentially, the categories are based on the wind force and typical wave height a boat would be expected to encounter and navigate. Category A, for example, includes boats expected to take long voyages in high seas. Such vessels would be expected to withstand winds of more than Beaufort Force 8, as well as waves above 4 metres. By contrast, Category D covers vessels suitable for small lakes, canals and rivers. These boats must be able to withstand Beaufort Force 4 winds, and waves of up to and including 0.3 metres.

What are the four basic types of engines?

As you would expect, the engines in boats vary considerably. The different types of engines and propulsion systems include outboard engines, inboard engines, stern drive, and jet drive (or jet propulsion). There are also different fuel delivery systems, including direct fuel injection, electronic fuel injection and carburettor fuel systems.

A big determining factor on engine type and size will be the weight and size of the boat and its use.

How to make the right choice when buying a boat

With so much to think about when buying a boat, a process of elimination can help to narrow down the field.

Are you looking for a boat to do a spot of the quiet weekend fishing on a nearby lake? Is it your dream to explore the UK’s beautiful network of rivers and canals? Perhaps you want a small boat for your family to enjoy at the beach? Or are your sights set on sailing around the Mediterranean? Do you want an open day boat or one with a cabin? If so, how many berths? Do you require a seafaring vessel, or will it be for use on water inland?

How you intend to use your boat is the best place to start when honing down choices, since most boats aren’t suitable for multiple uses or different sailing terrains. Determining your goal(s) will define the type of boat best suited to you.

Even if you’re clear on what type of boat you think you need, it’s still a good idea to seek expert advice before you buy.

If you would like to chat to our boat experts about your next (or first) boat purchase, get in touch now. We’ll talk you through the various types of boats we have on offer – from small open day boats through to a 42ft cabin cruiser.