Helpful and unbiased advice from current boat owners
To help you find the boat that is right for you, BoaterInput.com surveyed 151 aluminum fishing boat owners to get their unbiased opinions on what you should look for when shopping for a new boat.
Most Important Items
The results were not very surprising – items like “Quality of Construction”, having a good “Layout/Configuration” and the “Ride/Handling” were rated most important. But what makes for a quality boat, a nice ride or a good layout? Let’s examine what Aluminum Fishing boat owners had to say about these and other areas.
1). Quality of Construction
To assess whether a boat is well-built, the most common suggestions were to look for a welded boat or one with quality welds or rivets, a thicker gauge of aluminum, and a boat made with quality parts or components. The absence of wood in the construction is also a major consideration to many.
In addition to the above items, other quality considerations that I have heard from decades of boater studies include: Fit ‘n finish (do compartment lids fit properly? Are there any sharp edges? Are wires/cables tucked away neatly?), the exterior finish (paint is uniform, welds are smooth), and the types of components/materials used (quality carpets and upholstery, quality of gauges and electronics).
A common sentiment expressed by boaters of all types is that you can never have enough storage. For Aluminum Fishing boat owners, this means having an abundance of space for multiple rods and other equipment. Also, storage areas should be dry, organized and easily accessible. A spacious interior and large casting deck are also important.
Besides storage, what makes an ideal layout/configuration is largely a matter of personal taste and the style of fishing that you do. For example, if you tend to stand and fish from the front or rear, then large casting decks are important. However, if you prefer to troll, then you may want more space in the main cockpit area.
Also, though the size of fishing poles has increased dramatically over the years, some boat designs have been slow to catch up. Be sure the boat you are looking at can accommodate the size of rods you typically use.
Livewells are another important consideration. Tournament anglers often want a larger and divisible livewell in the rear of the boat (which is easier on the fish). It also needs a good aerator system to keep their catch alive. On the other hand, recreational or panfish anglers often want a livewell in the front and rear of the boat that is easily accessible.
The preferred type of windshield varies too. Northern anglers often want a larger windshield to protect from cold winds and spray. However, southern anglers often prefer a smaller windscreen for less obstruction when casting.
Finally, if you plan on using your boat for other things besides fishing, you might want to look for convertible bow seats or rear jump seats to hold additional passengers, an optional ski tow pylon, a good sound system and the maximum horsepower you can get (for skiing, tubing).
In terms of ride quality, aluminum fishing boat owners look for a boat that can handle rough water to deliver a smooth, comfortable ride and a boat that provides a “dry ride”.
- “Smooth ride in rough water. Easy to handle when running. High freeboard.” (Richard N., Rock Island, IL)
- “Deep hull, capable of handling rough waters.” (Robert T., Poland Springs, ME)
- “Handling waves when fishing slowly.” (Bryan P., Moorhead, MN)
- “Capability of handling heavy water with softest/driest (in that order) ride, minimal yaw/pitch at all speeds and conditions. While maximum speed is not an issue, speed is important. I fish both inland waters and Great Lakes, and while I don’t go out in heavy water, if it does come up I want to be able to get to shore quickly without being pounded or soaked.” (Timothy B., Manton, MI)
- “Since I bought my boat, I have learned about different hulls and know that this is a huge factor in ride. Mine leans too far with everyone to one side of the boat. It also doesn’t handle large waves very good with only one person in the boat.” (Josh M., Fort Atkinson, WI)
- “Stable at higher speeds and in rough water.” (Dennis C., Battle Mountain, NV)
- “Rough water smoothness and staying dry in the boat.” (Chris H., Lindstrom, MN)
- “Easy planing and reasonably smooth ride in rough water. Stability in wind.” (Jim B., Chassell, MI)
- “How it performs in rough water, water spray, hangs tight when turning boat hard, gets on top of water quick, view above or through windshield, comfort and ease with controls.” (Kim N., Channahon, IL)
- “Modified v hull with good rough water capability and good stability at rest with shallow draft.” (Harold H., Eugene, OR)
The type of hull has a huge impact on ride quality and characteristics. However, there is no one “best” type– each has its tradeoffs. Generally speaking, the flatter the hull (i.e., the lesser amount of deadrise), the greater the speed and stability at rest. Plus, you will be better able to navigate “skinny” water. However, hulls with very little deadrise may shake your teeth loose in rough water or make for a very wet ride. This might be acceptable if you are fishing Lake Fork in Texas but not so great on Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota in the fall (or most anytime other than July).
The bottom line is if you live up north and use your boat on a large body of water, you will likely want to go with a Deep V hull. On the contrary, if you live down south and boat on a small to mid-sized lake, then a Mod V may be your best option. For any other combination (e.g., small lake up north, big lake down south), you will need to determine which tradeoffs are acceptable to you. Because bass fishing is often done in shallow areas, bass anglers often go with a Mod V design knowing that they may take a beating or get a “bath” from time to time. Conversely, walleye or musky anglers almost always go with Deep Vs. Panfish anglers could go either way. ..not that there is anything wrong with that 😉
Over the years, one of the biggest regrets I’ve heard from boat owners is not getting a large enough engine. So, it is no surprise that when we asked boaters what they look for in terms of propulsion, many suggested getting an engine that is at, or close to, the maximum horsepower rating for their boat. Several also recommended a specific brand of engine with Mercury being the most popular. However, Evinrude and Yamaha had a few advocates as well. A number of people in our survey recommended getting a four-stroke engine instead of a traditional two-stroke design. Anyone who has been around boating for a while knows that two-strokes used to be the mainstay engine type. However, environmental regulations starting in the mid 90’s greatly encouraged the development of four-stroke models. Over time, these engines have gotten lighter and better performing (in addition to being smooth, quiet and fuel efficient) making them the favored choice for most boating applications. The newer, clean, two-strokes have also improved greatly but the momentum has clearly swung in four-stroke’s favor. Nonetheless, Evinrude has “bet the farm” on two-stroke technology and has gained a small following with its ETEC product.
- “Maximum horse power for the boat design.” (Dennis , Battle Mountain, NV)
- “Proper engine size for boat model. Ensure that it is not under or over powered.” (Kyle , Humble, TX)
- “Enough horsepower to obtain maximum performance, reliability, four stroke.” (James , Jackson, AL)
- “High end and close to maximum range for type of boat.” (Jim , Wichita, KS)
- “Correct size motor for size of boat, don’t under power. “ (Don , Andover, MN)
- “The Mercury brand has stood the test of time.” (David , Manistee, MI)
- “You need the same quality in your engine as you do in your boat – that’s the reason why I picked Mercury overall.” (John , Pataskala, OH)
- “Mercury is my motor of choice, and I always put the max HP on for what the boat is rated for.” (Ray , Grafton, WI )
- “4-stroke, either Mercury or an Evinrude E-TEC.” (Ronald , Cochrane, WI)
- “I own three Yamaha Four Stroke engines; I will never own another two stroke. I had excellent luck over the years with Johnson, Evinrude & Tohatsu motors, none of them will compare to the Yamaha four-stroke. As a guide, I need reliability as a priority. Yamaha is the answer.” (Robert , Poland Spring, ME)
- “Quiet and reliable plus it has to be a 4-cycle motor.” (Philip , Fargo, ND)
- “4 cycle outboard with enough power to get on plane easily with a full load.” (Clyde , Page, AZ)
Most boaters don’t consider the warranty until they are pretty far along in the shopping process. But before pulling the trigger on a new boat, this is something you will definitely want to check out. According to many boaters in our survey, the length and terms of the warranty offered are indicative of the manufacturer’s confidence in their product and willingness to stand behind it. Several suggest that you look for a hull warranty of at least 10 years and an engine warranty of 3 to 5 years.
- “Reasonable warranty terms. 10-20 year hull warranty. 5 year motor warranty. Good customer service otherwise.” (Jim B., Chassell, MI)
- “Looking for a 10 year warranty on the hull.” (William W., Waseca, MN)
- “5 years on motor and welds.” (Troy T., Maumelle, AR )
- “Length of warranty and coverage. A 1 year warranty on a 4 Stroke outboard is absurd. Hull integrity should be lifetime.” (Jim P., Chandler, AZ)
- “At least three years on workmanship on the seats and carpeting, lifetime on the construction if aluminum.” (Kyle C., Humble, TX)
- “Covers everything bow to stern.” (Dennis C., Battle Mountain, NV)
- “Longer the warranty the more to me it seems that boat manufacturer has trust in their product.” (David B., McDonough, GA)
- “That the manufacturer is going to provide you with a reasonable warranty on all the major components on the boat. The hull should have a life time warranty and the decking should be made of materials that will provide years of service also.” (Gerald H., Salt Springs, FL )
- “Companies that stand by their products.” (Robert T., Poland Spring, ME)
- “I prefer a lifetime warranty on a hull because it says the manufacturer has full confidence in its construction. As far as engine /motor warranty I want all the warranty I can get because we all know the nature of an outboard engine or engines in general.” (Rodney P., Shelby, AL)
- “Comprehensive with great support from dealer.” (Don R., New Richmond, WI)
Price is a moderately important factor to Aluminum Fishing Boat buyers. This means that most are not willing to knowingly select a poor quality boat or one with a layout that doesn’t fit their needs simply to get the lowest price boat available. It is all about value (how high the quality is and how well it fits your needs relative to the price). And, when buying a new boat, no one likes to pay more than they need to in order to get the boat they want. Problem is, with the exception of the Tracker Marine Group brands, the purchase price of a boat is usually negotiated and information on the dealer cost of boats, unlike cars, is hard to come by.
However, most manufacturers do publish their MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price). In most cases, the MSRP is roughly 20% to 30% over dealer cost. Let’s assume 25% for estimating purposes. Additionally, dealers hope to get at least a 15% gross margin on new boat sales. This is to cover overhead and administrative expenses and, hopefully, deliver a little net profit at the end of the day. If we take these two percentages and apply a little algebra to it, then a ballpark purchase price estimate is roughly 88% to 90% of the MSRP.
It is important to note this is only a ballpark estimate. The MSRP to Dealer Cost ratio varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and even model to model within a brand. And, the gross margin dealers expect to make depends on many factors, including how well the model is moving, the time of year (they will typically accept a lower gross margin percentage on older models) and the dealer’s individual overhead cost structure. Nonetheless, this is a good starting point to give you a general sense of how much your dream rig may cost.
The dealer may not be the most important factor when determining which boat to purchase. However, it can have a major impact on your ongoing ownership experience. Boaters in our study recommend going with a dealer with a good reputation and who is knowledgeable and friendly/courteous.
- “I like to talk to the dealer and the person(s) doing the work on the boats or motors (If they allow me to). I talk to other customers that have had work done by the dealer and determine if they were satisfied with the charges and workmanship. Most probably the cheapest place to buy a boat or motor isn’t the best place to have it worked on! I prefer to go to a dealer that has a good record of workmanship – even if I have to drive out of my way to get there. Getting it done when they said it would be done is another important item I look for. I know there are times problems come up and can’t be helped – but keep the customer informed. He or she is what keeps your doors open.” (Lary F., Redwood Falls, MN)
- “That they have a good reputation of handling any warranty issues in a timely manner. Service after the sale including the willingness to give you a fair price for the boat you are purchasing.” (Gerald F., Salt Springs, FL)
- “A dealer must stand behind their boat after the sale is complete. The dealer must have a knowledgeable staff that is really familiar with all aspects of their brand boats.” (Philip F., Fargo, ND)
- “Honest, and understand what I’m looking for to set up boat, with NO surprise when we close on the boat. And stands with me on any warranty work on motor or boat. Not just a boat deal, but a friendship.” (Kim F., Channahon, IL)
- “Reputation and track record for customer service.” (Don F., Andover, MN)
- “Knowledgeable, friendly and take time to answer questions.” (Dean T., Muscatine, IA)
- “Professionalism, certified mechanics, and timely service.” (Jim F., Wichita, KS)
- “Knowledgeable, local, good selection.” (James F., Cape Coral, FL)
However, let’s face it, when looking to purchase a boat, the dealer will likely put their best foot forward. Whether they will be there for you after the sale may be difficult to discern. If possible, seek out others who have owned the type, or ideally, brand of boat you are considering to get their perspective. Additionally, check out the dealer’s service department to see whether they have certified mechanics. The N.M.M.A. (National Marine Manufacturers Association) has also started a dealer certification program. Dealers who have been certified as “Five Star” have met certain quality standards for facilities, operations and customer satisfaction. Though it is no guarantee of a positive experience, doing business with a Five Star dealer should provide additional peace of mind. You can identify Five Star dealers in your area from the Discover Boating website (http://www.discoverboating.com/buying/certified/dealers.aspx ).
As mentioned earlier, a key feature Aluminum Fishing boat owners look for is good storage for fishing rods and other gear. In addition, many want a quality fish finder, trolling motor and large and accessible livewell(s).
- “Rod storage. Modular rail for rod holders, etc. Sealed livewell (doesn’t overflow when filled). Storage.” (Jim F., Chassell, MI)
- “Rod storage, livewells, baitwells, placement of accessories, dash design and gauges, type GPS/fish finder available, electric trolling motor available, main engine types available.” (Ivan T., Walker, MN)
- “Adequate seating, storage space, walk-through windshield, easy to clean interior.” (Steve F., Oakland, AR)
- “Dry storage.” (Dominick F., Bullard, TX)
- “Fish finder, rod storage, live wells.” (William T., Peoria, AZ)
- “Depth finder. Instruments. Lights for night fishing. Trolling motor. Good areas for storage (fishing poles).” (Richie T., Cabot, AR)
Aluminum Fishing boat owners are more concerned about function over form. But, let’s be honest, no one wants to drive around in an unattractive boat. Though what is a stylish boat is largely a matter of personal taste, boaters in our study look for good color options/combinations and a sleek appearance.
- “Mostly, I don’t want to buy a boat that has all the features that I want and only comes in lime green or hot pink. Color choice is my biggest priority in this category.” (Raymond F., Leon, IA)
- “It’s like buying car or truck, you want to look the coolest on the water! Paint scheme and color options, logo’s, to make it look like you’re going 50 mph when you’re standing still. Can’t tell how many compliments I have gotten on my red Lund.” (Ray F., Grafton, WI)
- “A boat that will impress your buddies at the boat ramp!!! Also give me that feel good every time I climb in it!!” (Jerry F., Florence, AL)
- “Pattern layout of colors. Sleek looking lines.” (Ski T., Red Oak, TX)
These are some of the more common things boaters look for when shopping for an Aluminum Fishing boat. However, buying a boat is a very personal choice and so your needs and wants may differ. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below regarding what you would specifically look for given your needs and usage. Chances are, there are others out there who are in the “same boat” as you.