You don’t need to spend six digits in order to get a great boat.
Boating can be expensive, but it is only as expensive as you make it. There are some great boats out on the market right now, which don’t go over the $30,000 mark.
They don’t skimp on the amenities either.
Let’s look at a few different options!
3 Center Console Boats
There are some wonderful options out there. Center console boats aren’t always found under the price tag of $50,000 but you can often find some under $35,000 when buying second hand. These used center console boats start under 30k.
The prices listed in this section are the lowest prices found for these specific models when this article was published.
1 Bayliner Element F21 ($29,145+)
The F21 is a great center console boat which comes ready to catch something as early in the day as you want, unlike some of your fishing buddies.
It comes stock with a raised bow and casting (stern) deck full of storage. There is some flip-up seating in the aft, accommodating a couple of the max occupancy of 10 people.
2) The 2014 Mako 18 LTS ($22,500+)
This boat is a great boat for lounging, trolling, and fishing.
The Rapid Planing System transom with the MAKO hull is a great combination which allows her to be agile on top of the water. She has an aerated forward-console live well, huge storage areas, non-skid casting decks, rod storage, helm coolers which double as seats, and all while drafting only 11’ of water.
This means you can get to the shallowest waters to catch the sneakiest fish.
3) 2016 20’ Yamaha 190 FSH Deluxe ($26,000+)
With the model only coming out a couple of years ago, this is quite the steal for a center console boat.
This Yamaha boat offers bow storage, an 18 gallon live well, Helm featuring Connext (their award-winning helm control system), and bow pedestal seats.
It also has chrome cupholders, a bow cushion on an insulated fish box for extra seating, a lockable glovebox and console compartment, a changing area with a light and curtain, and stainless-steel corrosion-resistant hardware.
Fish and Ski Boats
There are fishing boats, there are boats for water skiing, then there are “fish and ski” boats, which combine some of our favorite past-times.
Unfortunately, not all of the boats in this category hit the nail on the head.
There are a lot of things to consider when you have to worry about wakes, engine placement, engine horsepower, and air dynamics.
4) Chaparral 18 H20 Ski & Fish ($23,995)
The H2o offers some great flexibility without the hassle. This is a great boat to have out on the lake if you just want to enjoy the weather and lounge around.
But if you want to bring the kids and the water skis out, there is no need to get a different boat. Want to go out with your fishing buddies?
Yep, the H20 will do that too.
This baby boasts a comfortable bow cockpit, an aft bench with two jump seats, a comfy sun pad, and a couple of dual captain’s chairs. There is plenty of seating and plenty of space in the 70’quart cooler for a cold drink on a hot day.
2 Bass Boats
Not only are these Bass boats not the only fishing section on this list (there is also a generic fishing boat section as well as an aluminum boat section at the end), there is also mention of a Ranger boat, which makes an appearance on each of the fishing boat categories.
Rangers are one of the best names in the fishing boat market.
5) Nitro Z-6 ($21,995)
This is the shortest boat in this section but it has the personality and the accouterments of a bigger boat. The price quoted above also includes a few extra pieces of gear that not every boat thinks of. Mainly fire extinguishers, a horn, and a paddle. Way to be prepared, Nitro!
She has a max hp of 115 with a fuel capacity of 22 gallons and a live well capacity of 32 gallons.
6) Ranger Z117 (under $30,000)
Okay, this might be a bit of a stretch. Ranger (the company) states that you can buy this boat for under $30,000 but the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) puts the price tag at $30,560. So if you look into this one, be aware.
None the less, this bass boat is rugged and beefy with sturdy lids, gas-assist struts, a Road Armor finish trailer with stainless-steel fenders.
It has a max hp of 115 with a fuel capacity of 23 gallons and a live well capacity of 15 gallons.
A bowrider is a boat while allows passengers to sit on the bow (or the forward portion of the boat).
They are generally recreational boats and are good for water skiing, day cruising, and sometimes fishing boats.
7) Bayliner VR5 ($26,999)
This is a classic bowrider.
It has been a trusted boat for families for a long time. Older versions of this boat were rather tight-fitting because they only catered to families with children. That means that most of the compartments were small since they intended to only have kids in those areas. However, the VR5 has opened it up a bit.
They’ve since widened the bow and placed a swimming platform a little further back, making more room for an L-shaped bench and a bigger main cockpit.
Roomier boat with the same trusted name and model.
The VR5 has a beam of eight feet and a dry weight of 3,400 lbs. It seats nine people comfortably and has a fuel capacity for 33 gallons, which means you can take your large family or a group of friends out for a fun day trip out in the lake or down the shore, in search of adventure.
2 Fishing Boats
There are some wonderful options out there.
These used fishing boats start under 30k:
8) Crestliner’s 1750 Fish Hawk ($28,580)
This versatile fishing boat can either haul your kids out on the water in their innertubes or haul your fishing buddies out of bed. We love a versatile boat. It has a 12-gallon aerated live well (in the bow) and a 15-gallon aerated live well (in the stern).
Both of which are controlled by timers so you can keep an eye on your line instead of what you’ve already caught.
9) Ranger Z175 ($26,000)
The Z175 has features for days. It comes stock with tournament-ready rod storage, rod and tackle lockers, Dual-Pro chargers, the signature Ranger fish ruler (located amidships for your convenience), tie-downs which are retractable, and aerated live and baitwell.
Without the engine, it weighs 1,250 lbs and has a weight capacity of 1,200 lbs. Its beam sits at seven and a half feet and has a fuel capacity of 23 gallons.
4 Pontoon Boats
There are some wonderful options out there.
These pontoon boats start under 30k:
10) Princecraft Jazz 180 ($15,364)
This pontoon boat is more than just a snazzy name. While it is a conservative 19 and a half feet long, there is enough room for eight passengers to lounge and/or party comfortably.
There are a couple of parallel couches, an aft lounge, a captain’s chair (that swivels), this baby has some personality!
The beam sits at eight-foot one inch with a max 60 hp. It has a dry weight of 1,465 lb before the engine. It comes with aluminum skirting (full length), an aft storage pod, a roto-molded helm console, a canvas camper enclosure, and a convertible Bimini top.
11) Lowe SS230 CL ($26,049)
This pontoon boat is a new model in Lowe’s successful SuperSport 230 line of pontoons. This iteration comes with a swing back conversion lounge which allows the passengers to choose forward or aft-facing seating. There are plenty of storage nooks and plenty of cup holders.
No spilling on this ride. The swim ladder is generously wide. Not to mention, the flooring and color options are varied and just as wide as their ladder.
The beam of this baby sits above 23 feet. It has a dry weight of 2,760 lbs with a passenger capacity of 12 and a fuel capacity of 24 gallons.
12) Lowe SS210 ($ 16,391)
It is often a surprise to see this premium pontoon boat at under $30,000. Let’s not look a gift-horse in the mouth, however.
The SS210 boasts plush seating, plenty of storage space, ample amenities, a 24-gallon fuel tank, round pedestal table, and a heavy-duty nine-foot bimini top with a boot and quick disconnects.
It is made with 1 4th inch anodized raised rails with Quietride fencing, seven-ply pressure treated plywood floors (with a limited lifetime warranty), stainless steel hardware to keep corrosion at bay. And twenty-four-inch cross member centers and gat floor stops at the fence.
It can seat eleven people with a max weight capacity of 1,538 lbs. The deck is 19 feet long and has a max hp capacity of 115 hp. The beam sits at 8’6”.
13) The Avalon GS Cruise (used starts at $26,749)
The 2018 GS Cruise is a wonderful luxury pontoon which offers two front benches for seating, a curved rear bench for some easy conversation on a chilly afternoon. The back houses an aluminum ladder. It also comes with a Bimini Top with one and a fourth-inch square anodized aluminum frame, SST quick release mounts and some transport position brackets for easy movement and security.
Sailboats can be intimidating to some but for the avid sailboat aficionado, sailboats aren’t just a boat but a lifestyle. Of course, just because they can be beautiful and majestic, that doesn’t mean that they have to be expensive.
Below are a few sailboats which cost less than $30,000 but don’t skimp on storage, tracking, manageable rig, or tankage.
14) Sabre 28 ($27,000)
The Sabre might seem a bit small as it sits at 28 feet, but don’t let it’s little stature thwart you. It’s a hearty thing with a moderate displacement/length ration of 278. This means decent stowage and an average sail area ratio (SA/D) of 16.6.
This is a pretty decent performance under sail. It handles easily, even if the mainsail is a bit smaller than the foretriangle.
15) Cape Dory 30 ($22,000 average)
Depending on the features and upgrades you choose, the Cape Dory 30 can run you anywhere from $12,000 to $32,000. While the hull/deck joint isn’t continuously through-bolted, it has robust construction otherwise. It has a solid single-skin hull.
The hardware is a heavy bronze from Vavolotis’ Spartan Marine foundry. The teak exterior is generous and classy.
16) Tartan 37 ($ 23,000 low end)
Depending on what extras you want to feature on your Tartan 37, it can run you anywhere from $23,000 to $49,000. Yes, this one might be pushing it a bit (to get it under the $30,000 price tag), but—even with the bare minimum—this sailboat is both beautiful and fantastically constructed.
With its teak trim and veneered plywood external lead ballast, the balsa-cored hull, the construction is exquisitely done. The deck is tabbed with the bulkheads.
The fiberglass headliners are molded with grooves so the bulkheads fit well before they are glued and/or bolted.
Aluminum boats are known for being surprisingly expensive, but with good reason. They are balanced, made with much better materials (than when first arriving on the fishing boat scene), have better stability, and have a great riding surface. They are lightweight with unique paint schemes. The best part? They are versatile: aluminum boats can be made as an inshore boat, a hunting boat, or a mid-range boat.
17) Ranger VS1782 SC ($28,595)
The aluminum on this baby is a beefy .125-inch thick hull. It is both durable and safe with vinyl flooring in the cockpit, which can take a beating. Meanwhile, there is actually a marine-grade carpet in the front.
There is a 12-gallon baitwell in the front and a 29-gallon live well in the rear. And yes, both come standard.
Sometimes all you want to do is go out and feel the wind in your hair and the water splashed across your face.
18) Tahoe 1950 ($27,995)
The standard features on this boat are like a laundry list of boating wishlist items: ski pylons, Bluetooth stereo, removable cockpit tables, insulated coolers, and rod holders.
The options list includes electric motors and sonar fishing packages, filler cushions for the bow, a refreshment center (with a sink) and stereo upgrades.
She can seat ten passengers comfortably, has a maximum horsepower of 150, a beam of eight and a half feet, and is 19 and a half feet long. Is this the perfect boat for you?
19) Starcraft Limited 1915 OB ($20,001)
No, this isn’t a video game from Blizzard Entertainment. This is a 19-foot boat with a beam of eight and a half feet, which has a maximum power of 200 hp. It might look smaller than it is but—believe it or not—this baby can seat 10 people.
Between the various options (beverage holders, cockpit table, swim platforms, boarding ladders, a love well, stereo upgrades and a portable bathroom) this boat has it all.
20) Hurricane SS188 OB ($26,714)
At 18’ and 10” and with full wrap-around seating, it can accommodate around 10 people comfortably. It comes with two swim platforms (bow and stern) and a retractable boarding ladder.
The stereo has Bluetooth capabilities and there is even a live well if you want to go fishing.
Depending on why you want a boat, you might find it’s extensive options list interesting as well: sink, canvas tops, various fishing packages, etc.
4 tips for negotiating the price of a boat?
When it comes to negotiating the price of a boat, you may find that it is similar to buying a car. It can be both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. You want to be able to walk away with the boat of your dreams, but you don’t want to pay too much.
There are some things you can do to ensure that those things happen.
1) Do Your Homework
The first tip when it comes to buying boats is to make sure you do your homework. You want to make sure you know exactly what you want and what you don’t need.
Dealers will often try to talk you into something you don’t need or want.
Know the information. Look up the new and used prices. Find the book value, find other dealers and get their prices as well.
2) Don’t even think about the electronics.
This might be a gimmick that’s been overdone but it is worth a try. The tip is to pretend as though the electronics in the boat are outdated. Explain that you’ll be replacing them anyway. This takes the value out of the electronics.
Tell them you don’t even want what electronics (stereo system) is in there.
The trick is that sometimes (sometimes) if it is flush-mounted into the boat, it will be more trouble to pull the system than to leave it in. So they’ll just leave it but subtract the price of the stereo. You do run the risk that they may pull the stereo all together and patch the fiberglass.
That doesn’t happen often, however.
3) Make repair lists.
If you’re going to see a used boat dealer or a privately-owned boat, walk around the boat and jot down all of the repairs and upgrades that you want to make.
Make sure you are assigning a fairly reasonable price to each of the items on that list.
Look at gouges in the fiberglass, split wood, canvas with holes, etc. In the end, they will have a difficult time arguing for full price if you show them the damage that is done. Hopefully, it is all cosmetic, but don’t tell them that.
4) Seasonal storage.
If it is winter and you’re looking to buy a used boat, ask about the option of having the boat stay in the current winter storage until the official launch in the spring.
If it’s in the summer and it’s in the water, ask if it can stay there until it is time to winterize it and haul it off for the cold weather storage.
Chances are, the owner will have no problem with it since it will probably be paid for already. It’ll be no issue for them and it’ll save you a couple of bucks in storage or mooring fees.
When you think of rich people, living life to the fullest, what do you think of? You might think of lavish parties and mansions filled with gaudy chandeliers. You might think of them living it up on a yacht also. But nothing says that boating is only for the rich. In actuality, boating can be for anyone.
Between personal watercraft, secondhand yachts, and the boats on this list, you can find incredible boats in your budget. You just need to know where to look and to keep your eyes peeled for a good deal.
Often, you can find a good deal with a boat that is a few years old, when new models are coming out in the same line.
That being said, it’s important to note that the prices in this article are suggested MSRPs only, except for the prices which were found on secondhand boating sites (which are marked as such). Since they are just suggested MSRPs, you may find the price a little different when you go to a local dealer.
This is why prices are often difficult to find online when you are searching for a specific boat in mind. When going treasure hunting like that online, you will often be redirected to a local dealer to find a more exact price.
A good suggestion is to jot down a list of boats which you are interested in (including the MSRP) and take it with you when you check out your local boat dealers.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.