Best Family Boats: 3 Top Picks
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  • Post last modified:August 3, 2021

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There’s no ifs ands or buts about it: Buying a boat is a major commitment, so you want to make sure you get the right one for your needs. When you have a family, however, the complexities of buying a boat are even greater as you want to be sure that you select a vessel that will still work for your needs as your family grows and changes over time.

That being said, there are so many different boats out there, so we understand if you’re a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of landing on the right boat for your family. Thankfully, we’re here to help walk you through the process so you understand what your options are when it comes to buying the best boat for years to come.

Up next, we’ll discuss the basics of choosing a family boat, including specific things to look out for. Then, we’ll give you an idea of what some of the best family boat models are so you can spend less time researching your boat and more time out on the water. Let’s get to it!

How to Choose a Family Boat

While choosing any boat is a challenge in its own right, finding the right family boat is even more difficult because you have many more factors to juggle. Indeed, a good family boat needs to tick a lot of boxes to ensure that it’s right for your family’s needs.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Activities You Will Be Doing

Perhaps the most important factor when deciding on a particular kind of boat is the activities you hope to use it for. If you just want to go out on day cruises, the type of boat you’ll want will be much different than someone who hopes to do a lot of fishing or a lot of water sports. Once you decide on the kinds of activities you like to do, then you can start narrowing down your options to a particular kind of boat.

2. Boat Type

Boats come in many different shapes and sizes, and not all are made equal. Here are some kinds you might consider:

Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats are incredibly popular thanks to their great stability and buoyancy. They tend to have a lot of deck space, which is an advantage for families and large groups. Although you’ll find most pontoons on freshwater rivers and lakes, they are quite versatile and can be used for day cruising and even some watersports.


A bowrider is a boat that has most of its seating in the area forward of the helm – the bow. Bowriders are most popular amongst watersports enthusiasts or day cruisers but they’re best used in a lake or a river because they’re not very comfortable in rough seas.


As the name suggests, a cruiser is designed for, well, cruising, and they are perfect for people who want to get offshore, perhaps for some fishing. Generally, a cruiser will have a deep V-shaped hull that can take on rougher seas. If you’re buying a new boat, you can often decide on the kind of outboard engine you want so you can get a cruiser made to your specifications.

Deck boats

If you think that the open space of a pontoon is pretty awesome, but you want the speed and versatility of a bowrider, then we have good news for you: It’s possible to have the best of both worlds with a deck boat. A deck boat basically combines a larger open air deck space of a pontoon with the speed and maneuverability of a bowrider, so you can have plenty of seating space while also taking the family out for some fun on the water. What could be better?

3. Boat Size

After you decide what kind of boat you want, it’s time to decide on the size. As you can imagine, smaller boats (17-25ft) will be more nimble and capable of faster speeds, which is ideal for watersports. However, a smaller boat will have less deck and seating space, so is less ideal for fishing and cruising.

Alternatively, if you want to get offshore and out into rougher water, a larger boat (18-30 feet) will provide more deck space and more control of the vessel. Finally, most cruisers will be 30 feet and upward, so it’s really up to you to decide how much space you want and how large of a boat you’re comfortable handling.

4. Price

Last but not least in our list of important things to consider when buying a boat, is the price. For the vast majority of us, the cost is a major limiting factor in deciding what boat we will buy. Of course, you can save some money by buying a used boat, but its important to keep in mind that boats will always require maintenance, so you don’t want to spend all of your savings on a vessel only to find that it needs costly repairs down the line.

Our advice? Spend as much as your comfortable with, but don’t blow all your savings just on buying the vessel. You’ll need some money in reserve for registration and insurance fees, mooring fees, repairs, fuel, and other maintenance costs and you don’t want to be in the red before you even really get started.

Best Family Boats

Here are the best family boats for all occasions:

Best Starter Boat for Families: Bennington S Model

Like a home, a boat is a major investment, so it’s understandable if you want to go with a lower-cost starter option at first and then think about upgrading in the future. If you’re looking for a starter boat that’s good for a wide range of activities, we’d recommend a sturdy pontoon boat, such as the Bennington S Model.

For around $20,000, you can get a quality pontoon boat that’s perfect for the whole family. With plenty of space and lots of comfortable seating, the Bennington S Model allows families the room they need to grow. Plus, with a pontoon boat, there’s enough seating space for everyone to enjoy a day out on the water without feeling too cramped.

Best Family Boat Under $20,000: Bayliner Element E18

Okay, while the Bayliner Element E18 technically costs just over $20,000, we think the extra few hundred dollars are worth it, especially when you consider all that this boat has to offer.

This highly versatile 18.2 foot boat has space for up to nine people to hang out and relax in three different seating areas. Plus, the boat comes standard with a 90 horsepower engine and a trailer, so you can get out and enjoy a whole host of activities, such as watersports, day cruising, and enjoying time out on the water with the Bayliner Element E18.

Best Boat for Family Activities: Glastron GS 259 OB

If you really want to get out and cruise, it’s definitely worth checking out the Glastron GS 259 OB. This highly versatile cruiser has a shockingly large cabin for a 25 foot boat and has a stand-up head, a full-sized galley, a saloon, and a twin berth. Plus, the deck space has seating for about six people, so you can get out and enjoy a weekend away with the family on the water with the Glastron GS 259.

Finding the Family Boat That’s Right for You

At the end of the day, getting a new family boat is no easy decision. You have to carefully balance all of the different needs and desires of your family with the variety of options available to you – and your budget.

Choosing the right family boat is about knowing what you’re willing to compromise on while also understanding that your family’s needs will grow and change, especially as your kids get older. Thus, while a family boat is an investment, do keep in mind that the time may come where you’ll want to sell your boat and find a new one that fits your family as the years fly by.

If you’re still not sure what kind of boat is right for your family, consider joining a boat club for a couple of years and testing out their different offerings. This way, you can see what your family actually enjoys when it’s out on the water and make an educated purchasing decision using this information. Happy boating!

John Allen

With more than a decade of experience cruising the lakes in my Crestliner Grand Cayman pontoon boat and my Boston Whaler, I now want to share everything I've learned with my community here at Boating Hub.

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