If you’re in the market for a new or used small motor boat, the sheer variety on the market can be overwhelming. The thousands of different models, finishes, and styles from dozens of different boat manufacturers can make finding the perfect one like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Whether you’re on the hunt for a weekend cruiser, a sporty motorboat, a nifty RIB, or a sturdy fishing boat, a wide range of different small boat manufacturers will pop up on your radar.
Creating a best-of list of manufacturers comes with its limitations, and it’s important to remember that there are many smaller and more bespoke brands out there that might just make the perfect boat for you. That said, we can take a look (in no particular order) at some top manufacturers of smaller sized motorboats which fit within the categories of fishing boats, wakeboard boats, bowriders, and more, to come up with some top picks.
No list is complete without Sea Ray, which is undoubtedly one of the best-known and best-loved small boat manufacturers of sport boats, deck boats, and bowriders in the world. With 27 models in today’s impressive repertoire and a legion of happy and loyal customers, Sea Ray is one of the biggest players in this category of boat. Their current models range from the 19 foot SPX 190 to the 40 foot SLX 400, some older models stretched to over 60 feet, and both new and used Sea Ray boats feature highly on Rightboat.com. In fact, we currently have over 700 for sale.
Photo credit: Sea Ray
With a history dating back 65 years, Boston Whaler’s catalog of fishing boats, center consoles, cruisers, and tenders is one of the most impressive on the market. Renowned for their sturdiness, excellent build quality, and durability, they maintain their price in the second-hand market and are highly sought after. From the towable Boston 13 to the sleek 420 Outrage sport fishing boat, there are currently 24 models to choose from.
Photo credit: Boston Whaler
Established in 1957 Bayliner has been on the scene for many decades, creating some of the most popular deck boats, center console boats, and bowriders on the market. Today it continues its legacy as part of the Brunswick Corporation, offering customers a sleek and sporty range of boats which stretches from the 15-foot Element at one end to a 24-foot center console at the other. On the used boat market, you’ll also find older Bayliners that are cruisers with full cabins and amenities.
Photo credit: Bayliner
Chaparral prides themselves on their range of sporty, fun and sophisticated-looking sports boats. With both outboard and inboard models, they are well-loved by runabout enthusiasts who value an elegant profile as much as they do the very latest in technology. While Chaparral’s offerings include cabin boats up to 33-foot family express cruisers, their Surf Series and Outboard models are top choices for watersports and day boats.
Photo credit: Chaparral
Yamaha needs little introduction, with these world-famous jet boats often seen whizzing across the seas especially in their main market in the United States. Well respected for their range of 22 different bowriders and watersports boats, Yamaha also entered the fishing boat market with jet-powered center console models and now offers eight models of these from 19 to 25 feet.
Photo credit: Yamaha
American powerhouse manufacturer Chris-Craft has been building boats since 1874, an impressive accolade in its own right. Their current range of motorboats focuses on a passion for luxury and the boating lifestyle, and while their model line has included everything from runabouts to yachts through the centuries, today it consists of high-end luxury open day-boats from 24 to 35 feet.
Photo credit: Chris Craft
When it comes to adventurous, well-equipped, sturdy fishing boats, Grady-White is a big player in the market. Extremely popular in the United States, their saltwater range of dual console, center console, and express cabin models are some of the best family boats for the money - and they maintain excellent second-hand resale prices. Described as rugged yet elegant, their latest center console models range from the 18-foot Fisherman to the 45-foot Canyon. Walkaround cabin models and the dual console Freedom models range from 21 to 37 feet.
Photo credit: Grady White
Tracker boats aren’t merely popular, they’re uber-popular and Tracker claims to be America’s number-one selling aluminum fishing boat. Their lineup has shrunk in recent years (they used to offer many more small Jon boats) but you’ll see a wide range of offerings on the used market, as well as their current lineup of 19 deep-V, modified-V, and Jon boats ranging from 16 feet to 21 feet, five inches long. Regardless of the model, they’re known for delivering a strong bang for the buck with comprehensive boat-motor-trailer packages sold in turnkey form.
Photo credit: Tracker Boats
Leaders in pontoon boats (and on our list of the Best Pontoon Boat Brands Priced Under $30,000) along with an impressive range of fishing and small pleasure boats, Starcraft boats pack fun, adventure and reliability into all of their models. Often considered among the most popular types of lake boats, Starcraft’s range appeals to families, fishing aficionados, and watersports junkies. All of their models are easily towable, making them perfect for weekend forays to the inland waterways or launching in different coastal areas for exploring. These models can all be customized while you will also find a huge variety of used models on Rightboat.com.
Photo credit: Stacraft Marine
For over 60 years, Jeanneau has been crafting a wide array of motorboats and sailing yachts. Their partnerships with world acclaimed interior designer Andrew Winch, and the technical expertise of Philippe Briand, has put them in the very top of small boat manufacturers and rightly so. Their motorboats range from 22 to 40 feet, with the new smaller Leader (in North America) and Cap Camarat (in Europe) range perfect for fishing, water skiing, and cruising. They also have a wider range of cabin boats than most modern builders of small motor boats with innovative interior designs that make them as perfect for family coastal cruises as they are for fishing.
Photo credit: Jeanneau
This article was published in November 2021 and was last updated in September 2023 by Lenny Rudow.
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