Are you thinking about buying a boat? The thought of getting out onto the water for some fun is exciting. Boating is a great pastime for families and friends and a great way to strengthen your relationships while you enjoy the fresh air and natural surroundings.
However, choosing a boat is like buying a car. Some manufacturing brands have a better reputation in the market than others. For instance, we all know the prestige of buying a Mercedes-Benz versus a VW Golf or an F150 truck.
It’s the same with boats; some brands offer you a more premium boating experience than others. If you have no experience in the boating industry, you probably have no idea about the difference between boating brands. So, which offers you the best balance of performance, design, reliability, and luxury for your time out on the water.
That’s okay; we did the research for you. This guide unpacks our choices for the best boat brands available. Each brand has a different approach to building boats and the prices they ask for their models.
We’ll make our recommendations on the best model to suit your activities out on the water and your budget. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
If you’re looking for the best boat brand available, then we have to say that Boston Whaler is one of the leading brands at the top of the heap. Boston Whaler offers you a wide range of models and lengths, with boats anywhere from 11′ to 42′ and 38 models to choose from for your preferred activities.
Whether you’re keen on fishing, watersports, or you want a watercraft suitable as an all-rounder, Boston Whaler has the boat for you. The brand has a 60-year legacy as one of the best boat-building brands in the world, with a reputation for manufacturing “unsinkable” boats.
While the build quality in Boston Whaler watercraft is nothing short of excellent, there are plenty of other boat brands out there that offer you the same level of design and performance, so why go with BW over others?
One of the main reasons we recommend you get a BW is the brand’s excellent retention of its resale value. Boats depreciate in value like cars, but Boston Whaler vessels seem to hold their retail value better than many other brands.
Take a look in the pre-owned market, and you’ll find that a 24-footer that’s in good condition at around a $60,000 price point. An 18-footer could retail in pre-owned condition for as much as $25,000. That’s almost the same retail price as a new model.
BW has an excellent industry reputation, and they boast an astounding 15 consecutive CSIA awards, with seven NMMA Innovation awards over the last decade.
Bertram is another leading boat brand with an excellent range and world-class build quality. If you drive into a marina, you’re likely to see more than a few of the legendary Bertram 35 models floating in the slips.
Bertram doesn’t offer you the extensive range of models that you get with Boston Whaler. Instead, it focuses its energy on refining its three models, the 35, 50, and 61. As a result, you get a boat engineered to perfection, offering you the best balance of performance and efficiency, with long service life and high build quality.
This iconic boatbuilder won the Boat Trader “Boating Madness” customer popularity showdown, showing a huge loyal following for the brand.
While Bertram reduced its range of boats to just three models, you can find plenty of the older 28 and 31 models available on the pre-owned market, and Bertram still produces spares for these models. Like BW, Bertram boats also hold their value in the secondary market.
Chaparral is one of the most popular boating brands in the world. Pull into a marina, and you’re likely to see more than a few of the legendary 257 SSX waiting to go out to sea. Chaparral has a wide range of models, from bowriders to bay boats and dedicated watersports and cruiser models in lengths from 19′ to 33′.
The balance of affordability and performance offered with the Chaparral range makes it one of the best-selling brands in the world. The brand scored big in the Boat Trader Boating Madness tournament, and it’s one of the most searched boating brands online.
Chris-Craft is one of the more established boat brands in the market. Founded in 1874, the company has nearly a century and a half of building some of the most revered watercraft in the business. The Chris-Craft Corsair 34 is a great example of a top model from this brand.
The Chris-Craft Launch 36 won the award for Boat of the Year in 2014, and it’s one of the brand’s top-selling models. You get a combination of the best characteristics of a cruiser, with an open-plan and elegant design.
The new models from the brand, like the Chris-Craft Catalina 26, are an example of a class-leading boat with outstanding design and build quality. The range doesn’t hold its resale value as well as BW or Bertram, but they do better than most other brands in the pre-owned market.
Wellcraft is a leading manufacturing brand in boats, with an excellent reputation.
You get plenty of features and excellent performance from all the boats in the Wellcraft range. The Wellcraft 352 Fisherman is our choice for one of the best-dedicated fishing boats available. If you want to get out for some angling in deep waters or on the lake, this model is a top choice.
Boat owners choose Wellcraft boats for simplistic operation, high safety standards, and top-quality finishes.
Wellcraft hand-builds its boats to the highest quality standards, with four models in its range. Wellcraft gives you options for its Sportsman, Coastal, Scarab, and Fisherman models for specific use out on the water.
The Coastal is an express cruiser offering you world-class features and a level of luxury that satisfies the most demanding needs for any boating enthusiast. The 290 Coastal is one of the top-selling boats in Florida, and you’ll find them in almost every marina across the state’s coastline.
Wellcraft also excels in its Fisherman range, producing a range of boats for sports-specific fishing offshore or in inland waters.
Grady-White is another leading global boat brand worthy of a place in this review. The brand has an excellent reputation for building top-of-the-line expresses, center consoles, along with dual-consoles like the Freedom 307 model.
Grady-White has an impeccable customer service and satisfaction record and one of the industry’s best reputations for build quality and design. The brand also has several industry awards, including the J.D. Power and Associates, Marine Matrix, and NMMA CSI awards.
Like Boston Whaler, Grady-White has one of the best resale values on the pre-owned market.
Lund also deserves a spot on this list. The boating brand has one of the best industry names in the game, and the Lund Pro Guide is an excellent example of one of the flagship models from this manufacturing brand.
Founded in 1948, Lund has nearly 75-years of experience building high-quality aluminum watercraft. The brand frequently tops the rankings in customer service and satisfaction surveys, winning an NMMA Innovation Award in 2020, with BoatU.S. Magazine nominating the brand as “Best Boat For Your Money.”
Lund offers you a high-quality design and excellent performance in an affordable package. You get a complete range of models, from Jon boats to sports-specific, fishing, and pontoon models.
If you’re looking for a sports-specific model for wakeboarding or skiing, MasterCraft is an affordable and reliable boating brand.
MasterCraft earned the 6th place ranking on the Ranker Boat Brand rating system, and it’s the winner of five innovation awards in the last six years, making it a thoughtful and functional design.
We like the brand’s industry-leading 5-year “MasterCare” warranty offered on all its boats. You get full cover for any problems with your boat, and the warranty is also transferable when selling the vessel in the pre-owned market.
Sea Ray is another leading manufacturing brand deserving of a place on our list. Sea Ray produces award-winning boats in several categories, and it lands at the top of the list on Ranker, and it’s a dealer’s top choice in boating brands.
Sea Ray has headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. The brand manufacturers 40 boat models available in different lengths. You get boats ranging from 19′ bow-riders to 65′ luxury power yachts. Some of the top-selling models in the range include the Sundancer, a luxury cabin cruiser, and its “L-Class,” standing for “Luxury.
When it comes to a brand delivering top levels of performance, luxury, and value, you can’t beat Sea Ray. Sea Ray boat dealers frequent the Boating Industry’s Top-100 dealers list more than any other boat manufacturing brand.
Yamaha is one of the most trusted brands in watercraft., The company has a huge range, offering you everything from sports-specific models to PWCs. The AR190 model is a top-selling sports boat with an excellent industry reputation as one of the best models available for its price, performance, and value.
Yamaha produces the best range of jet-powered watercraft available, with innovative technology and a build-quality that you would expect from a leading Japanese manufacturing brand. The brand frequently lands at the top of customer satisfaction surveys for boats in the 19′ to 24′ range.
They are a top-searched boat brand online, and they hit #8 on the Ranker list. You get any model you could want from Yamaha, from bowriders and bay boats to dedicated watersports models for skiing and fishing. Yamaha builds its reputation around performance and reliability, and they hold its value in the secondary market.
While they previously had a reputation as a sports-specific brand, the company recently branched out into the world of fishing boats, offering you a pair of jet-powered center console models that are a ground-breaking innovation in fishing boat design.
Tracker is one of the most popular fishing boat brands on the market. The company also produces an exceptional line of pontoon boats, making them a great choice for anyone looking for a dedicated fishing vessel, dive boat, or party boat.
The Sun Tracker model is one of the best-selling ranges in pontoon boats, and they have several awards, including winning the NMMA CSI award for the last six consecutive years. This brand specializes in dedicated fishing vessels and utility boats, and it’s a great choice for an all-aluminum model.
Tracker gives you a 5-year warranty on all its boats, and the warranty is transferable into the secondary market. You also get a limited lifetime warranty on the frame for peace of mind.
Viking Yachts are a great choice if you’re looking for a luxury vessel. The Viking 68C is the flagship model from the brand and an indicator of what you can expect from Viking’s build quality and performance.
While Viking is an expensive brand, they make up for the high price tags on their vessels with outstanding build-quality, performance, and an excellent resale value on the secondary market. These boats are nothing short of beautiful to behold, but they are hard to find due to the high price tag associated with all models in the Viking range.
Viking manufactures yachts from 37′ to 93′ feet, and you have options for motor yacht and fishing boat designs.
Bayliner is one of the most popular entry-level boating brands on the market. They have a huge following, and you’ll probably see these boats at any marina you visit on either coast of the United States and around the Gulf of Mexico.
The Bayliner 2021 VR5 Bowrider is the companies flagship model, and the industry-standard all bowriders musty match if they want to gain recognition in the market. With a 60-year legacy in building high-quality, affordable watercraft, Bayliner has a trusted reputation in the United States and worldwide as a leading manufacturing brand.
The VR Series is a legendary range, offering you a high-performance bowrider suitable for use inland and offshore.