Tracker Boats is a brand of aluminum boats established over 40 years ago.
They are an entry-level brand of Jon and fishing boats, sold primarily through Bass Pro Shops.
If you are looking at buying a Tracker and wondering if they are any good, here are some things you should know!
Here’s how good Tracker Boats are:
Tracker Boats is an entry-level brand through the White River Marine Group and Bass Pro Shops. As a less expensive brand, they do have construction or even design problems. Overall, though, they are generally considered a good value for the money.
A Brief History of Tracker Boats
Johnny Morris had been operating his company Bass Pro Shops for several years when he identified a need in the market for a one-stop, complete fishing package among many of his customers.
This “turn-key” package would include the boat, the motor, a trolling motor, a trailer, and a fish finder. With that, the customer would be ready to go fishing the moment they walked out the door.
The Tracker brand was introduced around 1980, after several years of design and development. The boats and the complete package concept proved to be an immediate hit with Bass Pro Shop’s customers.
Ever since they were introduced at Bass Pro, the Tracker brand has been a pillar of the company’s existence.
Several years later, Morris and Bass Pro bought out the White River Marine Group. This company had roots stretching back to the 1960s. Tracker Boats was brought under their banner and management.
The White River Marine Group is now the largest-selling manufacturer of boats in the world by sales volume, and Tracker is a cornerstone of that success. They are sold not only at bass Pro Shops and Cabella’s, but many other dealerships as well.
Tracker Boat Welding Vs. Riveting:
The great debate in aluminum boats is this: Is it better to have seams welded or riveted?
Welded seams are more time-consuming to manufacture but generally seen to be better resistant to leaks.
As far as repairing, rivets are far easier: you drill them out and put a new rivet in. Welded seams that fracture or otherwise fail require a degree of skill and more complicated equipment to repair.
While the jury is still (and will probably always be) out on which is ultimately better, there is a general consensus that welded seams do leak less than riveted seams.
Tracker boats are built by welding the seams together. This is done mostly using robotics for greater precision. The parts are cut out by lasers, again for the precision that results from their use.
Tracker uses manufacturing principles known as Lean Sigma. This is a method of continually upgrading the manufacturing process to increase efficiency and eliminate excess waste.
This all goes back to the original idea of tracker Boats that Morris had to produce efficiently and in volume to reduce the costs to everyone.
How Durable Are Tracker Boats?
Aluminum has good strength and durability by its very nature.
If properly made, it is simply not going to deteriorate. It can survive significant impacts against submerged objects like logs or rocks, though it may need to be forced back into shape.
It is important to remember that Tracker is an entry-level brand; they are made to a price point.
While the company uses several principles and techniques and processes to be as efficient as possible, they also cut back on some amenities and will take a less expensive route to finishing out their boats.
The very nature of manufacturing to keep costs down means that you will occasionally have problems with a particular boat in a particular situation, as you get what you pay for. This is particularly true in the entry-level market that Tracker Boats operates in.
One aspect of Tracker Boats’ manufacturing process that is received favorably is the welded longitudinal stringer system built into the hull. This makes the hull more resistant to impacts, and also it flexes less when pounding over waves.
The bane of all aluminum boat brands are leaks, and while Tracker uses welded seams in the manufacturing process, some owners still report having these leaks. They are usually the result of a fractured or failed weld at a seam.
These failed welds may or may not be covered by the warranty, depending on the boat’s age and how it happened. There are some reports on websites like Consumer Affairs of customers not being satisfied with how their problems were handled by the company.
What do the Reviews Say?
Welds are a common complaint of those who dislike their Tracker.
There are even some reports of missing welds on new boats, but these do seem to be the exception rather than the rule with Tracker Boats.
There is also a fairly common perception that Tracker boats are a bit underpowered. The motors that come standard with the package do not always meet the desire for speed that the owner has after using the boat for a while.
Some owners commenting on forums have a list of failures with their Tracker. One owner said:
“I owned an 08 model pro guide v17…I had everything from ripped seats to steering failure and even the splash pan eyelets pop out from transom flex. A slow leak followed. Mine had an odd list (never rode flat, and didn’t steer linear from right to left turns)…With all this said, I do know more happy owners that run ’em harder than we ever did.”
All this being said, many owners are satisfied and more with their Tracker boat and the company behind it, as the end of the quote above indicates. Most recognize that it is entry-level and that the value of the boat for what is paid is very high.
“I love the boat for its price, storage, layout, and fuel economy. It’s a very complete fishing package for a bargain price; just add gas, load your gear and go! The only thing I’ve felt needed upgrading was the fish-finder. I love fishing all day on a couple of gallons of gas.”
While evaluating the durability of Tracker Boats from online forums with testimony from owners, it is clear that while there are many complaints, the number of satisfied owners does seem to be much higher. While there do seem to be occasional problems with some of Tracker’s manufacturing, most owners appreciate what they are getting for the cost they put into it.
So everything being considered, it is safe to say that the durability of a Tracker is what you would expect it to be for the low price paid.
How Long Do Tracker Boats Typically Last?
As a material, aluminum has an almost indefinite lifespan. As long as it is properly made, it will last.
Boats made from aluminum will last as long as the method of manufacturing will allow it to. Welds will generally last a long time if they are done properly.
Many of the complaints online about the Tracker boats discuss the welding.
There are several reports of improper or incomplete welds. While these can usually be repaired, sometimes they are not detected until other damage has been done to the boat, such as corrosion, which can destroy it.
Tracker is not the only brand that has owners with this complaint; other entry-level and even some aluminum brands with better reputations run into this problem, but because of the sheer number of tracker boats on the market, they stand out with failed welds.
There are also testimonials from owners that have been using their Trackers for over 20 years.
This adds to the perception that there is a hit-or-miss aspect that many commenters online push regarding buying a Tracker.
It is also important to keep in mind the importance of properly maintaining your boat. Any quality boat will deteriorate if ignored, and any cheaper boat can be made to last for decades if taken care of. This cannot be overstated.
Considering all of the available evidence through online forums and recalls and websites like Consumer Affairs, it seems fair to say once again that the longevity of a Tracker boat is what you would expect from an entry-level boat.
Has Tracker Made Any Recalls?
Tracker Boats has been the subject of many recalls going back to 1983.
The United States Coast Guard recall site lists 33 recalls made to the Tracker group.
These recalls are spread out more or less evenly throughout Tracker’s existence, so it is difficult to determine that any era of their manufacture was particularly prone to problems.
Many of the recalls related to “level flotation” refer to a boat remaining level while swamped. This prevents capsizing and allows the occupants to bail water safely while remaining in the boat.
A boat that does not have proper level flotation will overturn while swamped, endangering the occupants. The last such recall was in 2009.
There have been several recalls because of fuel tank and fuel system failures. Electrical failures have been the basis for a high percentage of recalls as well.
The remaining recalls involve steering, passenger capacity, and structural failure, among other singular problems.
What Are the Most Popular Tracker Boats?
There have been a number of popular models from Tracker Boats over the years, given their history of over 40 years.
According to Bass Pro Shop data, the Pro Team 195 TXW is one of their best-selling models. It is the largest and most powerful bass boat that Tracker makes, and it is one of the flagships of the Bass Pro boating lineup.
It is from their Modified V-Hull line and features a variable deadrise for a cleaner ride.
The Targa V-20 WT is one of the company’s deep-V multi-species fishing boats. It is designed for performance on bays and sounds and has the storage to handle a successful day of fishing. The boat has a reputation for quick acceleration and solid handling.
The Topper series features some of Tracker’s most popular Jon boats. The 1436 and 1652 seem to be the best sellers in this range.
The grizzly line of Jon boats is also popular, being larger than the Toppers and with storage compartments and a hull for longer range. The 1648 model is the top-selling Grizzly.
Finally, among current models, the Tracker PRO 170 is a favorite all-around fishing model. It features two recessed seats for running and two elevated swivel chairs for trolling. It has a favorable price point for the package and is a manageable size for towing.
Where Are Tracker Boats Manufactured?
Nine manufacturing plants are making Tracker Boats and their associated parts, all located in the Ozark Mountains.
All of these locations are in Missouri. They all employ the Lean Sigma technique to maximize efficiency and output while minimizing waste.
They also employ a concept they refer to as Vertical Integration. This means that they manufacture many of the components in the boats, such as seats, livewells, fuel tanks, and trailers.
This reduces the cost by not having to buy from outside manufacturers and adding the price of the middle man. This also goes back to the original tracker concept of providing the best boat at the lowest cost.
How Is the Warranty On Tracker Boats?
The company touts its Tracker Promise 5+Life warranty as one of the best in the aluminum boat industry.
The highlight of this is the limited lifetime structural and deck warranty. While most owners who have needed this report satisfaction, it does not take much to uncover owners who claim that the warranty was not upheld.
The warranty also features 5 years bow to stern coverage, including everything on the interior from seats to livewells.
The powder coat on the exterior is warrantied for 3 years, as is the trolling motor.
For an entry-level boat, this is a good warranty.
Which Brands Produce Boats Similar to Tracker Boats?
There are many manufacturers of aluminum boats, and there is a broad range of quality as well.
In considering the brands similar to Tracker, you must consider those generally considered to be entry-level.
This list features four brands: Lund, Alumacraft, Crestliner, and Smoker Craft. These brands all have boats that compete head-to-head with Tracker in features and function.
And just like with Tracker, it is easy to find die-hard partisans and detractors for each brand online, backed up by personal experience.
If you are looking at an entry-level brand of an aluminum boat, you will probably want to research these four brands in addition to Tracker.
In the world of entry-level aluminum boats, competition is fierce.
The boats will generally be decent overall, but there will be features missing and some compromises made in design and manufacturing so that the boat can meet the price point.
Tracker has been around for over 4 decades now, and while its reputation is not spotless, it is known for providing good value for the money you put into it.
While you would be hard-pressed to call Tracker a great brand, you can certainly classify it as a good boat brand for the favorable cost.