Boston Whaler Vs. Grady-White

When it comes to mainstream family-friendly fishing boats few builders command such legendary status as Boston Whaler and Grady-White. The long-term reputation of these companies and the boats they build is second to none, they retain their value on the used boat market better than most competitors, and they each feature some unique traits that other builders can’t match. So, what happens when they go head-to-head? It’s going to be a tough competition, but let’s look at Boston Whaler versus Grady-White in these categories:

boston whaler versus grady white
It’s Boston Whaler Vs. Grady-White! Photos via Gull Lake Marine and Grady-White.

Boston Whaler Boat Construction Vs. Grady White Boat Construction

Boston Whaler Construction

Unique and rather awesome construction is undoubtedly one of the major perks Boston Whalers offer, and in fact, is the company’s claim to fame. They advertise their boats as “unsinkable,” and it’s an accurate assertion. Chop a Boston Whaler up into 1,000 pieces and each and every one of them will continue to float. More than once, Boston Whaler has sawed one of their boats in half and then driven the aft end around on the water to prove the point.

So, how do they do it? Boston Whaler calls their construction the “Unibond” process. Like other boats, the hull and deck are laid up with fiberglass, in open molds. From there on the similarity with other boat construction techniques ends, because the hull and deck are mated and then placed inside of another mold. This mold is bolted shut, and closed-cell foam is then pumped between the hull and deck under intense pressure. As the foam expands and solidifies it fills each and every cavity between the hull and deck to form a glass-foam-glass sandwich. At the same time the foam adheres to the fiberglass, chemically bonding the hull and deck into one solid structure. The resulting boat is not only unsinkable, but the foam sandwich also absorbs and deadens sounds and vibration, improving the experience for the boat’s occupant. Another unique perk is that each and every compartment in the boat is incredibly well-insulated and is fully finished inside and out. The integrated coolers and fishboxes on Boston Whalers tend to be a whole lot chillier than those on other boats, while bilge areas feature the same smooth, glossy gel-coated surfaces as the topsides.

boston whaler 280 outrage
The Unibond process results in a fiberglass-foam-fiberglass sandwich that’s bonded together throughout. Photo via Gulf Lake Marine.

Along with Unibond, Boston Whaler uses premium pieces and parts like 316-L grade stainless-steel hardware and rails. Large hatches swing open on beefy gas-assisted struts, and hinges are blatantly oversized. On their larger models countertops are Corian and handcrafted teak is common, but perhaps more importantly, the boat’s systems are put together with cutting edge tech. CZone digital switching and control systems, electrically-actuated furniture, and advanced navigational packages are just a few of the items you’ll commonly see on Boston Whaler’s larger, more complex boats.

Grady-White Construction

Grady-White prides itself on attention to detail, and it shows in every aspect of their boat. It also shows in the Grady-White team — many of their employees have been with the company for decades, the entire executive team is made up of people who have each been with the company for 30-plus years, and Grady-White President (and National Marine Manufacturers Association Hall-of-Famer) Kris Carroll started at Grady-White all the way back in 1975. When you set foot on a Grady-White you know the boat was built by a team of people who really care about what they’re creating, and are dedicated to their work.

Net result? The difference can be felt underfoot when a Grady-White hits rough seas. Vibrations, rattling parts, and visibly shifting fiberglass components seen on lesser boats are nowhere to be found. Additionally, all Grady-White boats have basic foam flotation, meaning that, similar to Boston Whaler, they are often referred to as “unsinkable boats”.

grady-white canyon 271
Rugged? Youbetcha. Grady-White boats like this Canyon 271 are known for being built far tougher than the norm. Photo via Grady-White Boats.

The core of the boat’s structure begins to take form before the hull is even laid up, with digitally drawn patterns created for each piece of fiberglass cloth in the laminate cut by a computer-programmed router. Hulls and decks are then hand-laid. Patterned stringers are bonded to the interior of the hull and PVC chases are incorporated for wiring and control cables. Everything is allowed to fully cure before the hull is removed from the mold, to ensure a perfect fit. Closed-cell polyurethane foam floatation is then added to voids below deck level — in all of their boats, not just those under 20 feet as mandated by US Coast Guard requirements. When ready, the hull and deck are fitted together in the “shoe-box” style with the edges of each overlapping. The two major parts are then both mechanically and chemically bonded, before being capped with a stainless-steel rubrail which is fastened with 316 stainless-steel screws to create yet another mechanical bond.

Other pieces and parts used to finish off a Grady-White are top-shelf. Hard tops, T-tops, bow pulpits, hatches, and individual fiberglass pieces are “RTM,” or resin transfer molded, which produces a strong, light fiberglass part with a gel coat finish on both sides. Large hatches rise up on gas-assist struts, seats are upholstered with quick-dry foam, and items like fishing rod holders and cup holders are plumbed to drain overboard, not into the bilge.

Boston Whaler Design Traits Vs. Grady-White Design Traits

Boston Whaler Design Traits

boston whaler vantage 320
Boston Whalers, like this 320 Vantage, enjoy advanced design traits. Photo via Gulf Lake Marine.

Boston Whaler’s wide range of models — almost 30 in all ranging from 13 to 42 feet in length — means that their designs can be quite different from one model to the next. Some models will have hulls with as little as 13 degrees of transom deadrise, for example, while others will have as much as 24. It’s above-decks design, however, where Boston Whaler makes some serious waves. The company is famous throughout the industry for coming up with some of the most creative solutions ever dreamed up, like seating arrangements that can face forward, face aft, face each other, and/or convert half of the cockpit into a huge sun lounger. They’ve created leaning posts that turn into rigging stations, and helm stations that transform into dining areas.

boston whaler convertible table
Is it a seatback, or is it a table? Yes. You never know just what transforming item you’ll find on a Boston Whaler. Photo via Gulf Lake Marine.

Again, every model is different. But you’ll experience the benefit of heavy-duty innovation aboard just about every one of their models.

Grady-White Design Traits

Grady-White bases its hulls on a C. Raymond Hunt and Associates variable-degree deadrise design. While the transom and entry deadrise will vary by model (Grady-White builds them from 18 to 45 feet), the deadrise is always increasing from the stern of the boat to the bow. If a model has 20 degrees of transom deadrise, for example, it will transition to about 30 degrees by the time you get amidships. The idea is to maximize wave-busting ability with maximum stability and tracking, and while there’s no way to quantify the effect, the best way to comprehend just how well it works is to take one for a sea trial and feel it for yourself. The smart money says you won’t be disappointed.

grady white canyon 456
From their Canyon 456 queen-of-the-fleet on down, Grady-Whites feature the C. Raymond Hunt and Associates variable-degree deadrise hull. Photo via Grady-White.

Topsides a Grady-White boat enjoys some unique design benefit, as well. A big highlight is their deck design, which is not only self-bailing but is sealed, with every compartment and accessory plumbed to drain directly overboard via gravity. Sure, there are bilge pumps inside a Grady-White. But they’re very lonely and underworked bilge pumps. Another example can be found in their livewells, which are designed to keep baitfish alive better than most thanks to rounded interiors and full-column water inlets that prevent low-oxygen areas from forming in the water. And in their cabins, Grady-Whites benefit from decades of boatbuilding experience plus owner feedback; few would argue that their interiors aren’t among the best.

grady-white express 370 cabin
Inside the cabin on an Express 370 there’s ample evidence of the experience and depth of the Grady-White design team. Photo via Grady-White.

Boston Whaler Performance Versus Grady-White Performance

Boston Whaler Performance

Boston Whaler boats are factory rigged with Mercury Marine outboards, which gets you access to the latest and greatest powerplants including Mercury’s new V-12 Verado 600. Of course, outboard size, top-end, and cruising speeds will differ quite a bit from model to model. We can sum up Boston Whaler performance, however, by saying that these boats perform at or near the top of the class when compared to similar boats. Even the 13-footer breaks 30 mph (with a 40-horsepower outboard), many of their models surpass 40 or 50 mph, and some even exceed the 60-mph mark.

boston whaler 250 dauntless
All of the Boston Whalers, including this 250 Dauntless, offer sporty performance. Photo via Gulf Lake Marine.

Grady-White Performance

Grady-White boats are also quite competitive with similar boats in the marketplace. Their smallest boat gets up into the mid-40s with a 150-horsepower engine, many models can break 50 mph, and some can top 60 as well. There is, however, one big difference between Boston Whaler and Grady-White in this regard: Grady-Whites leave the factory with Yamaha outboards on the transom.

grady-white fisherman 216
Even Grady-White’s smaller models, like this Fisherman 216, have plenty of zip. Photo via Port Harbor Marine.

Boston Whaler Cost Versus Grady-White Cost

Which will cost you more, a Boston Whaler or a Grady-White? The answer is simply yes — they will cost you more. Neither of these boats are known for being inexpensive, and the cost for any one model can vary tremendously depending on how it’s powered and equipped. They both have a cult-like following with very loyal owners. When you try your best to line up apples against apples, which is not at all easy because each manufacturer may offer different standard features and different options on different models, you’ll find that their prices are quite competitive with each other. They’re also well above the industry average, which shouldn’t come as any surprise since both are top-of-the-heap builders.

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to putting up Boston Whaler against Grady-White: If you’re a buyer looking for a top-end boat and these two seem to be neck and neck, well, that’s because in many ways they are. You have a tough call to make before signing on any dotted lines — and it’s a call that we’re not even going to try to make for you.

See Boston Whaler boats for sale on Boat Trader.

See Grady-White boats for sale on Boat Trader.

And… good luck trying to decide which one to pick!

Written by: Lenny Rudow

With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.

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