Latest models show why this is a popular starter boat
Our US correspondent Elliott Maurice explains why deck boats are so popular and picks out 5 of the best deck boats currently on the market…
The question most often asked by those who want to get into boating is: what is the best boat to start? The answer, in my opinion, is a very versatile ship that’s easy to own, easy to drive, and doesn’t cost a fortune. Namely, a decked boat.
Boating, for me, is time on the water, so a first boat must be usable as often as possible and above all spacious enough to receive friends and family. That’s why deck boats are a great solution.
Think of the deck boat as the Ford F-Series of the boating world – produced in high volume and equipped with everything you need to take your family and friends on a safe and fun day.
They are easy to launch and ride, offer plenty of space and comfort, offer plenty of performance and safety and represent excellent value for money.
The deck boat began life in the 1970s when Hurricane decided to make an outboard with an extra wide bow section and a simple helm station moved further aft and to one side.
This created a layout similar to a pontoon boat with plenty of open cockpit space, plenty of seating for family and friends, and a single sociable deck area that allowed the driver and guests to be part of the action.
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Importantly, it also drove like a regular speedboat – at that time, pontoon boats couldn’t offer a high-performance driving experience.
The Hurricane deck boat became an immediate success and is still manufactured today, as the Sundeck. It’s still a good proposition for ownership too, but it now has competition from mass market and custom builders.
So how much do the best deck boats cost and how fast do they go? Well, you can hit the water for as little as $14,775 in the form of a Bayliner M15 with a 40hp outboard motor and trailer.
It’s a perfectly decent boat with reliable mechanics and a simple but sturdy build quality; by manufacturing in volume, Bayliner can reduce costs without compromise.
At the other end of the scale, you can easily spend over a million dollars buying a luxurious Sea Ray SLX400 or, if speed is your thing, a powercat DCB SD30 that will exceed 120 mph right out of the gate. factory!
But these are extremes, in the mid range segment you can expect to pay around $50,000 to $100,000 for a 24 foot deck boat with a 150 to 200 hp outboard that will run at 30 to 40 mph without burning excessive amounts of fuel. Step up to the performance level with a 300hp engine and you can expect over 50mph from the same 24ft hull.
Everything sounds good so far, but what’s the problem? Here is the compromise. These are not big seagoing boats. With their large open cockpits, square bows, low freeboard and shallow M-profile hulls, you’re set for a wet, bumpy ride through the waves at least up to until you reach about 28 feet in length.
If you plan to sail at sea, a center console or closed bow deep-V hull will likely be a better option. However, as a lake or back bay boat, the deck boat is pound for pound as good as it gets.
5 of the best deck boats
Best Value Deck Boat: Bayliner E18
Starting at a penny under $19,000 and going up to just over $34,000 with a trailer and a 115hp Mercury outboard motor, the Bayliner E18 seats up to nine people and can be chosen to meet almost all the navigation needs of the day.
This includes a live bait well, rod holders, fishing chairs, and trolling motor for a fishing-focused boat, or a sports arch with wakeboard mounts for watersports enthusiasts. .
The M-shaped hull is stable and quick to plan, while offering excellent handling at high and low speeds. With its engine out, the Bayliner E18 draws just 2ft 5in, making it perfect for trips to the sandbar or a day cruising with family and friends. Offering excellent value for money, the Bayliner is a winner in its class.
Best Luxury Deck Boat: Sea Ray SLX 350 Outboard
Although sporting a deep V-bow, the $500,000 Sea Ray SLX 350 is still considered one of the best deck boats, despite being very luxurious in this segment.
It’s available with two inboard or outboard V8s, but the outboard version with its pair of 350hp Mercury Verados is the better choice in my opinion.
With a capacity of 18 and a top speed of 50 mph, the Sea Ray SLX 350 is an exceptional day boat with the amenities to match its price.
A 40ft version is available at nearly twice the price, but the SLX 350’s 10’6″ beam makes it towable within wide load limits and therefore easier to move across country.
It’s a serious cruising boat with all the friendliness you’ll find on the best deck boats. Drawing just 2’6″ with the engines out, the SLX 350 is suited for lounging on the sandbar or anchoring in shallow spots.
As you’d expect at this price, there’s a huge inventory of luxury options available, including state-of-the-art Simrad 9-inch dual touchscreens, a premium Fusion 3-zone audio system, and more sun visors than you’d expect. a luxury hotel.
Optional joystick control makes docking easy, and a dedicated air-conditioned head, plus a separate day cabin make this a highly civilized proposition and an excellent all-rounder.
Best performing deck boat: Eliminator 28 Fundeck
Not your average deck boat but a deck boat nonetheless, the ultra-capable Eliminator is available with up to 1,050 hp for a top speed of over 120 mph. Even the quieter end of the performance options (a single 565hp Mercury Racing inboard/outboard engine) will still have you cracking at 80 mph.
This boat is a high-performance leisure factory that can accommodate up to eight people. Equipped as standard with ten 6.5-inch RGB Kicker speakers and two subwoofers, its sound system is as powerful as its direct exhausts and custom paint job.
The layout is a pure decked boat with open bow loungers, a central gangway and a large integrated bathing platform. It also has a removable dining table and a large cooler under the rear seats.
At a starting price of $180,000, it’s an expensive boat, but with so much performance on the line and knowing it was designed and built by a thoroughbred boat builder producing hulls of the most high quality and custom finishes, there’s very little to match the Eliminator in terms of speed and looks.
Best Deck Boat for Watersports: Starcraft SCX I/O 211 Surf
Want to take 12 people wake surf? Here is the solution. Out of the box, the Starcraft SCX comes with a 1,385 lb ballast system to create the perfect wake.
This deck boat is designed as a water sports boat from the keel up. With inboard power only, the stern is safely located below the swim platform for easy boarding. Up to 300hp is available for a serious punch and the layout couldn’t be better for its purpose.
The starboard helm pod is aft of midships with most seating forward forward. The wake tower with rack also sits behind the rider, allowing riders and skiers easy access to their gear for faster, safer changes.
Starting at around $75,000 and with a six-year warranty, the Starcraft is great value as a serious watersports boat, and with its decked boat layout, plenty of interior space and a system optional high power kicker audio, this is a great dayboat to start.
Best All-Round Deck Boat: Hurricane Sun Deck 2200 BC OB
The original Hurricane is still a king of deck boats. Starting at just under $70,000, there are interior options and multiple seating arrangements available in this hull length.
The extensive list of options makes it possible to have a boat suited to your needs, whether it’s fishing, water sports or simply cruising. With up to 250 hp available from the big four outboard manufacturers, you can expect a realistic $100,000 price tag for a top-of-the-line nearly 50 mph boat with top-of-the-line stereo, chartplotter Garmin, underwater lights and sea mat covering.
The build quality is excellent and Hurricane even offers boating lessons for kids. The original and in many ways still the best way to get the most out of being on the water.