Best Powerboat Classes

There’s a huge number of powerboats for sale on Boat Trader, and while it’s true that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” boat, among those listings you can almost certainly find the boat that’s as close to perfect as possible for you. A big part of doing so is deciding just how you’ll use your boat, and what class of boat will best fit the bill for those uses. The top 10 powerboat classes you’ll be choosing from include:

  1. Saltwater Fishing Boats
  2. Freshwater Fishing Boats
  3. Pleasure Boats
  4. High Performance Boats
  5. Ski and Wakeboard Boats
  6. Pontoon and Deck Boats
  7. Personal Watercraft and Jet Boats
  8. Motor Yachts
  9. Houseboats
  10. Inflatables and RIBs

Saltwater Fishing Boats

scout saltwater fishing boat
Center consoles like this Scout 330 LXF are extremely popular for saltwater fishing. Photo via Scout Boats.

Saltwater fishing boats can range from small outboard-powered fishing skiffs that fit in your garage to large offshore fishing boats that weigh many tons and have huge diesel inboard engines. What they all share in common is that they’re designed for fishing, so you’ll find accouterments like rod holders, livewells, and fishboxes. They’ll also have hardware and fittings designed to withstand the harsh saltwater marine environment, which is absolutely critical to prevent corrosion from setting in.

Learn more about this class of boat in our Saltwater Fishing Boats Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some saltwater fishing boats for sale.

Freshwater Fishing Boats

lowe freshwater fishing boat
Freshwater fishing boats account for a huge number of hulls on the water today. Photo via Lowe Boats.

Fishing boats intended for freshwater anglers come in many shapes and sizes, though at the upper end of the scale most freshwater fishing boats top out at 30 feet or so, and they more commonly range from 14 to 26 feet. These boats have plenty of fishing features, too. And some makes and models are designed for specific fisheries, like bass boats, while others are designed to be adaptable to multiple uses, like Jon boats.

Learn more about this class of boat in our Freshwater Fishing Boats Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some freshwater fishing boats for sale.

Pleasure Boats

formula pleasure boat
If you like diverse waterborne activities and a dose of luxury, a boat like this Formula may be just the ticket. Photo via Formula Boats.

The pleasure boat class is massive, and incorporates all sorts of different boats which are all designed to maximize the enjoyment of your leisure time on the water. Bowriders, cabin cruisers, and express boats are just a few examples. Many people use pleasure boats for multiple types of boating, such as cruising one day, fishing the next, and watersports the day after that. So, most are designed to be adaptable as opposed to being intended for one specific purpose or another.

Learn more about this class of boat in our Pleasure Boats Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some pleasure boats for sale.

High Performance Boats

outer limits speed boat
If you feel the need for speed a high performance boat will be your pick. Photo via Outerlimits.

You’d like to feel your hair whipping around in the wind, experience neck-snapping acceleration, and get from Point A to Point B in record time? Then a high performance speed boat is the right pick for you. This genre of craft is designed with speed as the priority, and is commonly jam-packed with the most possible horsepower for the boat’s size.

Learn more about this class of boat in our High Performance Boats Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some high performance boats for sale.

Ski and Wakeboard Boats

tige wakeboard boat
Ready for some serious watersports? We have the boat for you! Photo via Tige Boats.

Boaters who enjoy watersports will naturally gravitate towards ski and wakeboard boats. Some are very specialized and are appropriate for a single sport only, such as ski boats that make as little wake as possible. At the other end of the spectrum, there are wake boats designed to make the large, sculpted waves for surfing. There are also plenty of multi-use ski and wakeboard boats out there with ballast tanks, special hull designs, and huge trim tabs, which allow you to throw a wake appropriate for whatever watersports you may decide to try on any given day.

Learn more about this class of boat in our Ski and Wakeboard Boats Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some ski and wakeboard boats for sale.

Pontoon and Deck Boats

bennington pontoon boat
Pontoon boats, tri-toons, and deck boats maximize the space and seating aboard. Photo via Bennington.

Pontoon boats and deck boats have very different hulls, but quite often they have very similar topsides. In both cases the boats are more rectangular in shape than most others and tend not to come to a point at the bow like a V-hull boat. This maximizes deck space, which allows the builder to incorporate a top priority for this class of boat: plenty of comfy seating. That deck sits atop two or three “logs” in the case of a pontoon boat, while a deckboat generally has a single fiberglass hull below the waterline. Since these hullforms are so different many people categorize pontoon and deck boats separately, but from a user’s standpoint their similarities lead us to classify them together.

Learn more about this class of boat in our Pontoon and Deck Boats Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some pontoon and deck boats for sale.

Personal Watercraft and Jet Boats

yamaha jetblaster pwc
PWCs are all about one thing: fun, fun, and more fun! Photo via Lake Cumberland Marine.

It’s hard not to have an ear-to-ear grin plastered across your face when you’re on a personal watercraft (PWC) or their bigger brethren, a jet boat. PWCs range in size from single-person watercraft up to three-seaters, and if you want to haul a bigger crew than three, you’ll need to look at jet boats. In both cases you’ll discover that the jet drives offer extreme performance including high speeds and unmatched handling. And as an added bonus, you never have to worry about having a propeller spinning beneath the waterline.

Learn more about this class of boat in our PWC and Jet Boats Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some PWC and jet boats for sale.

Motor Yachts

cruisers yachts motoryacht
Motoryachts like this Cruisers Yachts 60 Cantius offer some serious luxury aboard. Photo via Cruisers Yachts.

Whether you’d like to enjoy maximum comfort levels on a boat or you’re thinking about living aboard, in both cases a motor yacht could be your perfect pick. There’s no defined line where a cruiser or pleasure boat officially becomes a motor yacht, but most people would consider boats with complete living quarters averaging about 45 feet and up to be considered a motor yacht. Many feature all the comforts of home, and while boats this large and luxurious can certainly cost more than many other types of boats, you can find plenty which cost a lot less than a house — and virtually always offer a far, far better view at sunset.

Learn more about this class of boat in our Motor Yachts Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some motor yacht boats for sale.

Houseboats

houseboat on a lake
Houseboats maximize living space and comfort. Photo via Pop Yachts.

Like motor yachts, houseboats generally have all the comforts of home. Unlike motor yachts, however, houseboats are generally designed more for maximizing the amenities and living space, and place less emphasis on the cruising abilities. Most are fairly slow and some don’t do well in rough water, as they generally have flat bottoms and relatively low bows and decks. On the flip side of the coin, they’re about as roomy a type of boat as you’ll ever find. In fact, many have living rooms, full gallies, and multiple private staterooms. Our favorites, however, also have goodies like water slides, sun loungers, and second-level decks.

Learn more about this class of boat in our Houseboat Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some houseboat boats for sale.

Inflatables and RIBs

sacs inflatable rib
RIBs like this Sacs Rebel have rigid hulls ringed by an inflatable collar, while inflatables usually have inflatable hulls and decks. Photo via Sacs.

Inflatables and rigid inflatable boats, or RIBs, both have an inflatable ring surrounding the boat. On regular inflatables the hull and deck are generally inflatable as well, while on RIBs the hull is formed from a rigid material like fiberglass or aluminum. As one might guess these boats have excellent buoyancy, and the rubbery, air-filled hullsides cushion impacts with both waves and solid structure. That’s why inflatables and RIBs are often favored by search and rescue personnel and as sailboat racing tenders. They’re also quite popular for use as dinghies or tenders on large boats, since they can be tied alongside without causing damage and also can be deflated for easier storage.

Learn more about this class of boat in our Inflatables and RIB Guide, at the bottom of the page after scrolling through some inflatable and RIB boats for sale.

Visit our Types of Boats page to see these classes and the top manufacturer brands for each, as well as sailboats, small boats, commercial vessels, boat engines, and parts and trailers.

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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