Runabout Roundup: Three Top Picks for 2016

What the heck is a runabout, anyway? Well, according to Chapman Piloting and Seamanship (a must-have book if you’re new to boats) it’s any smaller-sized boat that’s suited for hauling folks around the water, primarily for day cruising.

So while that could mean anything from a center-console boat to a bowrider, for our purposes we chose three excellent boats under 25 feet that are primarily designed for day use, but also have modest facilities for the occasional Bohemian overnight. With that in mind, let’s see what notable runabouts we came up with for the 2016 boating season.

If you’re looking for an incredibly good blend of luxury, looks, and performance, the Chris-Craft Capri 25 is difficult to beat. Photo courtesy of Chris-Craft

If you’re looking for an incredibly good blend of luxury, looks, and performance, the Chris-Craft Capri 25 is difficult to beat. Photo courtesy of Chris-Craft.


Chris-Craft Capri 25

Chris-Craft virtually created the runabout market more than 100 years ago with its fast, relatively economical cockpit-oriented powerboats. Today the company builds everything from center-consoles to bowriders, but a model it introduced just under a year ago definitely ticks all the right boxes in the runabout category.

There was no doubt in our minds that this 25-footer has a luxury theme when we got our first look at it in Sarasota, FL, last year. Smothered in many board feet of beautiful teak and upholstered with yards of buttery, sumptuous vinyl, the Capri 25 definitely makes a statement. Her lines make her a looker, too, having a retro runabout motif featuring lots of tumblehome, a graceful reverse sheer, and a stunning bronze topside paint scheme that goes great with her off-white decks and teak trim.


  • Length: 26’7”
  • Beam: 8’6”
  • Draft (hull): 1’5”
  • Deadrise: 20 deg.
  • Displacement: 5,700 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 77 gal.

Hopping aboard we spotted a lot of cleverness in the cockpit. One place where runabouts tend to fall down is in their lack of entertainment space. More specifically, it’s difficult to serve beverages, snacks, or lunchtime sandwiches when there’s no place for your food and drink—other than in your lap. Chris-Craft solves this problem with two teak tables that flip up from under the gunwales into the cockpit. Two captain’s chairs in the forward end of the cockpit can then be swiveled around to create a cozy eating and drinking area for around four people. Deploy a foldaway bimini top to keep things cool as you eat and drink. Forward is a utilitarian cuddy cabin with a V-berth and a neatly concealed porta-potty.

Standard power in the Chris-Craft Capri 25 is a 300-horsepower Mercury 6.2-liter gasoline inboard with a Bravo III sterndrive, but optional engine choices are almost limitless. You can power up the Capri 25 with up to 430 horses from either Mercury or Volvo Penta, and with Bravo drives or DuoProps.

If luxury, performance, and comfort are at the top of your list of runabout requirements, then the Chris-Craft Capri 25 is definitely worth a sea trial.

The Bayliner 642 Cuddy packs a lot of value in a clever, good-looking package. Photo courtesy of Bayliner

The Bayliner 642 Cuddy packs a lot of value in a clever, good-looking package. Photo courtesy of Bayliner.

Bayliner 642 Cuddy

Say what you will about Bayliners, but if you haven’t been paying attention to the builder over the last 10 years then your impression may be skewed. Today the company is churning out some really clever and innovative boats, all with an eye toward economic accessibility. Starting out at only $38,199, the Bayliner 642 Cuddy is an excellent example of the company’s newfound and innovative budget-oriented DNA.

Though Bayliner lists this boat under its “Overnighters” category in the model lineup, we feel like the 642 Cuddy is more runabout than it is true overnighter. The cockpit speaks to that theme, with a large L-shaped lounge aft, a cushioned sunpad over the engine bay, and a swiveling captain’s chair aft of the helm. The port side companion bench seatback can be swiveled forward to create a chaise lounge, and a teak pedestal table slips easily into the cockpit for dining and entertaining. It’s a much nicer layout than you’d expect for the price. And this boat looks great, too. A wraparound windshield, forward stainless-steel bow railing, and a smart-looking standard paint scheme give this boat presence on the water.


  • Length: 21’4”
  • Beam: 8’0”
  • Draft: 3’2”
  • Deadrise: 19 deg.
  • Displacement: 3,084 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 33 gal.

Below is a very basic V-berth setup, but it’s got some elements that lots of budget-minded boats wouldn’t include, such as opening ports in the hull sides, twin inset portlights above, and a neatly hidden porta-potty under the companionway step. It’s much more comfy and spacious down here than we expected, but keep in mind that we’re still in sleeping bags and camp pillow territory instead of custom sheets and comforters.

There’s a very robust powerplant under the engine hatch for the 642’s low starting price—a 135-horsepower MerCruiser 3.0-liter gasoline inboard that should push it up to around 30 mph. If you’re looking for more speed and performance, you can choose up to 220 ponies, which should produce top speeds around 40 mph. That’s a lot of performance for the buck.

Folks who are looking for a runabout with lots of features and fun at the right price will want to give the 642 Cuddy a closer look.

The Four Winns S215 can blast up into the 40-mph range with its standard powerplant, providing a lot of fun for the buck. Photo courtesy of Four Winns.

The Four Winns S215 can blast up into the 40-mph range with its standard powerplant, providing a lot of fun for the buck. Photo courtesy of Four Winns.

Four Winns Sundowner S215

Four Winns has a solid reputation when it comes to building quality runabouts, deck boats, and towing craft. And there’s a lot to like about the smallest member of its Sundowner series, the S215. Let’s have a look at what we found when we recently took one out for a spin.

The S215 has a lot of dock appeal. What makes Four Winns boats look great is the unique way that the company’s designers mix angular deck elements and graceful hull lines to create a look that is both modern and elegant. You’ll see lots of these cues on the S215, including a sinewy wraparound windshield, triangular in-deck portlights, and a trapezoidal sunpad over the engine bay. Add a striking two-tone paint scheme and you’ve got a truly good-looking runabout.

The cockpit is a little less spacious than other runabouts in this size class, but there’s still plenty of space for a family of four, or for two couples. There’s a three-person bench in the aft end of the cockpit and two swiveling captain’s chairs just aft of the wraparound windshield. Simply drop in an easily stowable pedestal table and you’ve got plenty of room to lay out a happy hour or dinner spread for four. Speaking of lying about, there’s an insanely expansive sunpad aft, for you sun worshippers.


  • Length: 21’7”
  • Beam: 8’5”
  • Draft (hull): 1’4”
  • Deadrise: 20 deg.
  • Displacement: 3,600 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 40 gal.

Access to the belowdecks V-berth space is through a really clever accordion-style aluminum slider that conveniently rolls up and out of the way under the foredeck. Below is the sort of space you’d expect on a boat this size, but Four Winns has added some extra cushions to create two upright seats at the aft bulkhead that look as if they’d be great place to curl up with a book. We’d even go so far to say it feels luxurious down there.

Standard power on the Four Winns S215 is a 4.3-liter 220-horsepower MerCruiser gasoline engine with Alpha outdrive that should propel this boat right up into the 40s. Volvo Penta power is also available, and the maximum fun factor you can strap into the S215 is 300 horsepower. The S215 rides on Four Winns’ Stable Vee hull, which provides a smooth ride and great tracking.

The S215 does a lot of things well. It’s good-looking, has comfy accommodations, and is fun to drive. Add in the quality and luxury Four Winns is known for and you’ve got a heck of a runabout. And you can have all this good stuff starting out at under 50 grand.