Deck Boat or Bowrider? 11 Important Facts (For Beginners)

Are you trying to decide between a bowrider boat or a deck boat? Do you want to know the pros and cons of each?

This article highlights the strengths and weaknesses of both boat types.

A Quick Introduction To The Two Boat Types

About Deck Boats

These boats have a maximum passenger load of about 8-12 people. The length is from 18-28 ft, and more commonly from 25-35 ft. They have an outboard or stern power drive. They’re commonly used for freshwater fishing, water sports, and day cruising. Deck boats are commonly used in bays, oceans, and lakes.

They are limited to use on nice weather days. Deck boats are newer than bowriders and can be described as a crossover between a bowrider and a pontoon boat.

Deck boats typically have a fiberglass hull. You can check out the Monterey brand, they do classic deck boats.

These are a type of boat that is excellent to “do it all” on the water. You can find deck boats that come pre-equipped with a topper, life jackets, and additional safety equipment.

Most deck boats share similar features. The first is spacious seating. Many can accommodate five or more people at a time.

The second feature that you’ll see with deck boats is that they have easy access for getting on and off the boat.

There is generous storage on the boat to fit everything that you and your family need, including gear or snacks. They also have quick on-plane stability and shallow draft.

These boats are similar in their function and design. The deck boat has a wider front, or bow, which is essentially a wider deck on top of the v shape of the hull on a bowrider.

Both of these boats are agile, and they are made from fiberglass.

A common analogy with deck boats and bowriders is the similarity to a minivan or a sportscar. The deck boat has the bulky dependability of a minivan, while bowriders have the sleek design of a sportscar.

About Bowriders

Bowrider boats are so-called because there is an option to sit in the front. There are a few different styles.

These are among the most popular powerboats for families. They range in length from 16-35 feet. Maximum passenger load is about 10.

Bowriders are commonly used for fishing, water sports, and day cruising. They are used in oceans, lakes, and shallow saltwater bays.

Some pros of the bowriders are that they are easy to transport.

Bowriders have an open bow boat that is pointed. There is also a cockpit that is protected by a windshield. These types typically measure 21′ or less. Smaller bowriders are made to be used on smaller bodies of water.

Small bowriders will have a bench seat behind the cockpit, and two captain’s chairs and bench seats in the front. Between brands, the biggest difference that you will find is the width.

Larger bowriders are 22′ and larger.

This gives more room for creative layouts and designs. These can have a U-shaped seating layout, which will fit more people comfortably.

As the boats increase in size to 30′, they become an entirely different class of boats. With the increase in width, they can exceed the legal limit to haul down the road without first securing a permit. These larger boats are ideal for handling rougher waters.

Mid-size Cabin Bowriders

This style of bowriders emerged as a solution to customers who want a large bowrider that also has a cabin.

Inside the cabin, there is room to sleep, as well as the potential to add heat or air conditioning, a galley for cooking and other amenities, like a flatscreen tv.

Ski and Fish Bowriders

This type of bowrider is made for fishing in mind. They have removable seats that will also work as fishing chairs. They’ll have features like rod holders, trolling motor, livewell, and a fishfinder.

1. General Layout Comparison

One of the first things you can see about both kinds of boats is that they are equipped with plenty of room.

The spacious design probably is a significant factor in wanting to choose them for your boating.

Deck boats have more room for you and your fellow passengers.

There is more room overall in the entire design of the boat. The open and wide floor plan gives it a considerable advantage for many. This open-concept design for a boat provides more leisure and freedom to many boaters.

The front of deck boats has a wide-bow layout.

Bowriders also have space in the front, but the square footage is likely less than that of a deck boat. They will make up for this in more space in the back. In some instances, they will also have more cabin space.

2. Performance of Deck Boats Vs. Bowriders

Bowriders are often faster than deck boats. This is because the design of the boat lends itself to be faster.

Both boat designs have outboard motors, and you will be more likely to find a powerful outboard motor in a deck boat. Bowriders often have stern-drive motors that are quite powerful.

At higher speeds, because of their design, bowriders will often perform better.

These higher speeds can also make them a better choice on rough waters. On clearer days, a deck boat would be a superior choice.

Both boats are solid as far as it comes to maneuvering capabilities. Deck boats might have a slightly higher advantage, and this is because they handle better at reduced speeds.

The shapes of the boats mean that they are made to perform in certain conditions. Deck boats have bottoms that are flatter and will have slightly less bow rise. Bowriders come to a V in the front and rise higher.

3. Better Fishing Boat

The open design and roomier layout make deck boats the winning choice for fishing. However, if you like to go fast on the water to reach your favorite fishing spot in no time, then a bowrider could be the top choice.

It depends on the type of fishing that you do and how comfortable you are with sitting or standing. For people interested in deep-sea fishing, they might prefer a bowrider.

People who want to fish on a lake might want to choose a deck boat.

With flat water, there is relatively no difference between the two boat types, or even with a slight chop. The bowrider’s V-shape design is made for slicing through incoming waves.

4. Styling Options Vary

While the boats are designed differently, they both can be customized with gel coat colors and hull graphics. As you look through the various options for boats, you may find that one that suits your family’s style.

Bowriders have a slight edge in terms of styling, because of their sleek build.

Many deck boats do not have windshields. Most bowriders do. This can be an important point to keep in mind when thinking about which boat’s style fits you.

Educate yourself before buying a boat to compare construction materials. This will help you to select the right boat for you. There is a big difference between polyester and epoxy/vinyl ester or vinyl ester construction processes.

Learn the details about the construction of the hull, the materials used in the upholstery and stitching, the foam in the seats, and other materials that were used when building the boat.

Also, ask about specifics, so you have all the information you need when you are hauling the boat.

This includes the trailer frame size, tire size, additional support, or brakes.

5. Which Is Better For Families?

It depends on your family!

The age range and experience of those who will be on the boat will play a big part in selecting the right boat for you.

Are your family members more mellow, younger children, or less experienced in boating? Then they would probably be more comfortable in still waters on a deck boat.

Deck boats have width and stability that make them particularly well suited for families with young children.

Do you and your relatives enjoy adrenaline-pumping adventures? Does the thought of flying at high speeds over open waters excite you? Then your family might prefer a bowrider. Think about your families experience and comfort, and find the right boat for them based on what you know they will like (versus what you imagine).

Overall, deck boats are a better choice for families.

They seat more people and have comfortable options that new and experienced boats alike will appreciate.

6. Better Boat to Entertain

Both boat types are great for entertaining friends or families. They both perform amazingly when it comes to water-skiing, tubing, or wakeboarding.

They can both also have superior towing abilities. Bowriders can have an advantage because they can go faster, so those who are into extreme sports will appreciate the faster speeds.

Each boat will have a tow eye in the back of the boat so you can tie a tow rope. There is also an option to add an elevated point or tower.

Take a look at these features, as well as the ease of use or size of the swim platform or deck.

There are packages designed for each style of boat that will help in your entertainment. Take a look at things like boat access. Find designs with entertainment features like sound packages or lighting as well as cup holders. You can also find seating and handrails available so everyone can feel comfortable.

Most of the time, bowriders are better for entertaining. They have swim decks in the back where you can put on wakeboards.

They have typically stern drive motors, but can also have outboard motors as demand for them rises.

On a deck boat, most of the seats are facing forward. Larger bowriders have u-shaped seats that allow people to gather around. You can look into options for swivel chairs to accommodate your seating needs.

7. Stern Drive vs Outboard Motors

The two most common engine types you’ll see in bowriders, and deck boats are the stern drive and outboard motors.

These will play a big role in how powerful the boat is, as well as the total cost of the boat and the fuel efficiency of it. Knowing more about these engine types will help in selecting the right type for your boat.

An outboard engine attaches high on the transom, which is outside of the boat. The location of the engine is accessible and visible. It can be adjusted to be out of the water, which will make maintaining it a lot easier. Outboard engines are known to be easy to maneuver and steer.

Having more than one outboard engine on your boat can help you to increase the power.

Sterndrive engines are also known as inboard/outboard. They are a combination of outboard and inboard engines. With this engine type, the motor is in the back, and it is under the transom. Tucked beneath the swim deck is the drive unit.

Outboard engines have the potential to pack in a lot more horsepower than in the past. While stern drives and outboard engines can be matched for power, outboard engines have the advantage because they are a lot lighter, sometimes by hundreds of pounds.

This difference in weight can help contribute to better fuel usage. While outboard engines can reach higher RPMs, they might still be better than stern engines in terms of fuel efficiency because of this difference in weight.

A modern four-stroke outboard might be the best choice when finding a boat motor that is the most fuel-efficient.

Also, when selecting the motor, try to keep in mind how much space you have. A stern drive underneath the boat will help you to have a full swim deck on the boat. If you’re going to use your boat to host family and friends, then this is a consideration that you need to make. If you want more space in the cockpit, then an outboard motor might be the right choice.

When choosing a motor for aesthetics, a stern motor is often the more popular choice. This is because they are kept out of view.

Outboard motors are able to tilt, while stern-drive motors do not so much.

This will be crucial when you are navigating in shallow waters. Tilting can help reduce exposure to corrosion from salt water and marine growth. It also allows you to drain the water out of the engine to protect it from a freeze overnight.

Outboard motors also cost less upfront than stern-drive motors. They use catalytic converters, much like car engines, and this drives up the cost. Sterndrive motors are under an engine box,  and these can be awkward to deal with for maintenance.

Both engines have similar noise levels.

8. Differences In Capacity

Most of the time, a deck boat will have more storage and seating. The width of the deck boat is carried forward, unlike the bowriders which taper off to a point.

Deck boats have more legroom and options to store goods.

For more room for more people, at comparable sizes, the deck boat is the superior choice. However, as bowrider boats get larger, they can also expand to fit more people.

9. Price Differences

In general, deck boats are more costly than bowriders.

They have a combination of form and function that might make their price point be higher. They offer both aesthetics and comfort. However, there are many options that are cost-efficient.

Bowriders are often more affordable to keep.

They have lower insurance costs and lower maintenance costs. The engine you choose will account for up to 50% of the total cost of the boat, so keep that in mind when selecting one over the other.

Both boats have a fiberglass hull and deck, and need to be wiped down after use.

It all depends on the size of the boat and how old it is. Also, different upgrade features and packages can place comparable boats at varying price points.

10. Ease of Use

Bowriders, as well as deck boats, are considered beginner boats. They are great choices for families, and they have many fans who enjoy taking them out for fun and leisure.

As far as ease of use goes, they are suitable for beginners as well as more experienced boaters.

11. More Fuel Efficient

Deck boats are designed with fuel efficiency in mind.

Because they’re typically driven at lower speeds, they will use less fuel.

However, bowriders can be more fuel-efficient because they weigh less. A deck boat can weigh up to a 1000 lbs more than a bowrider for the same length.

Deck boats can hold more fuel than bowriders. Fuel efficiency can vary depending on the weight of the load the boat is carrying.

This list highlights 11 key points that you may want to consider when you are selecting a boat for your family to use. Deck boats and bowriders are both popular choices, with each having their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The boat that you choose should be one that you are comfortable with, and it is in your price range.

Whether you’re buying a new boat or a used boat, consider which ones will make a more environmentally friendly and affordable choice.

Also, be sure to ask your friends or family with boats which type they would recommend and go out on the water with them, if possible, to get more familiar with different boats.

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