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Best Runabout Boat Brands for Value, Luxury, Fishing, and More

There are many different types of boats on the water, but runabouts are among the most popular no matter where you do your boating nor what sort of waterborne fun you enjoy most. “Runabout” is a catchall phrase that includes a huge swath of different types of watercraft, ranging from bowrider boats to wakeboard boats to fishing boats. In fact, any boat that’s relatively small and affordable but has enough power to get on plane and zip around a lake or bay can accurately be called a runabout.


While different people will have different definitions of what is “small” and “affordable,” most boaters would cap the runabout size range at about 26 feet in length. Pricing is an even tougher call, but we do need to draw a line somewhere. Since it’s a nice round figure, we’ll use $100,000, so remember that if your checkbook is fatter than most, there will be plenty of brands building runabout-like boats that we won’t cover here yet might be of interest.



Best Runabout Boat Brands for the Money

There are plenty of stresses on family finances, so the best family runabout boats may be ones that you can afford without making any serious sacrifices. Remember, however, that the best runabout boats for the money aren’t necessarily the cheapest boats. Just how much boat you get for the buck, longevity, and resale value are all factors that can be just as important.



Bayliner boats has bowriders, deck boats, and center consoles ranging from 15’2” to 24’0”. Their entire lineup qualifies as runabouts, and there’s no doubt that between the feature-rich outfitting, quality construction, and easy affordability they deliver, Bayliners are among the best runabout boats for the money. They also have some unique offerings with the one-of-a-kind M-hull design on their deckboats, which boosts stability and smooths out the chop. Bayliner boats for sale


Bayliner M19

Bayliner M19. Bayliner photo. 



Some of Lund’s models are more expensive than others, but their Sport line in particular delivers fully featured aluminum runabouts at very reasonable price points. These are available in both side- and full-console versions and have a surprising number of niceties for a budget-minded boat like folding jump seats, gas-assist struts on some of the larger hatches, USB ports, and mobile phone holders. Lund boats for sale


Lund 1775 Adventure

Lund 1775 Adventure. Lund photo.



Stingray Boats offers a lineup of center consoles, deck boats, dual consoles, and sport boats, almost all of which fall into the parameters we’ve set up for a builder to be considered among the best runabout boat brands. As a rule they’re priced below most of the competition, yet they also feature a better fit and finish than many boats that offer low pricing. Added bonus: Stingray is an environmentally conscious company, using low-styrene resins and recycling over 100,000 pounds of cardboard alone, per year. Stingray boats for sale


Stingray 191 DC

Stingray 191 DC. Stingray Boats photo.


Best Outboard Runabout Boats

There was a time when many different types of small boats that fit into the runabout mold were sold only with stern-drive power. As outboards became more and more popular, however, manufacturers began adopting them on more and more runabouts. Today, they’ve come to dominate the market and the race to build the best outboard runabout boats has plenty of competition.



The Glastron lineup offers four different bowriders and a deck boat, each of which is available in either outboard or stern-drive power. They have sporty attitudes with plenty of power, hull sides with two or more colors, and lots of options to semi-customize the boat’s looks and features. Glastron boats for sale


Glastron GX 190 Sport

Glastron GX 190 Sport. Glastron photo. 



One of the few aluminum boat builders to make our roundup of top runabouts, the Princecraft Ventura line ranges from 19’2” to 23’1” and is powered with Mercury Marine outboards. These boats are designed to be multipurpose fun machines, with hybrid designs that cater equally to watersports, cruising, and fishing. Critically, they are constructed with high-end H36 aluminum parts that are CNC-cut. Princecraft boats for sale


Princecraft Ventura 230 RL

Princecraft Ventura 230 RL. Princecraft photo. 



One of the builders previously focused entirely on stern-drive boats, Regal now offers a number of bowrider and watersports boats that fit into the outboard runabout category (as well larger, more expensive boats that go beyond it). While they aren’t going to be the least expensive runabouts to choose from, they offer a higher level of fit, finish, and comfort than most competitors. Regal boats for sale


Regal 21 OBX

Regal 21 OBX. Regal photo. 


Best Small Runabout Boat Brands

Small runabouts can be even more fun than the larger ones. They’re easy to maintain, handle, and afford. They can be towed from lake to lake with a relatively small vehicle. And they still get you out on the water where you can enjoy a multitude of aquatic activities. Here are some of our top picks.



Can a boat that’s pontoon-like in nature be counted as a contender among the best small runabout boats? Maybe and maybe not, but a 13-foot boat with a triple-log, molded polyethylene hull, jet power, motorcycle-style handlebar steering, and gobs of seating will definitely make the grade. Sea-Doo’s Switch line runs from 13 to 21 feet and may be quite unusual, but thrill-seekers will love this one-of-a-kind offering and find that from a runabout-lover’s perspective, it gets the job done in a way no other runabout can match. Sea-Doo for sale


Sea-Doo Switch 13

Sea-Doo Switch 13. Sea-Doo photo. 



With a range of bowriders and deck boats from 16’5” to 21’1” the entire Tahoe lineup is on the small side, but they come as complete boat-motor-trailer packages. One of the nice things about comparison shopping them against others vying for position as best runabout boat brands is that Tahoe boats come well equipped with lots of standard features, and there are few cost-adding options to worry about. Tahoe boats for sale


Tahoe 210 S Limited

Tahoe 210 S Limited. Tahoe photo. 


Walker Bay

The Walker Bay lineup starts at 10 feet, which is about as small a runabout as there ever was—but these rigid inflatables (RIB boats) certainly make the grade as runabouts. Like more traditional molded fiberglass boats they offer plenty of seating, steering consoles with wheels and remote controls, and on some models even perks like Bimini tops and integrated stowage. Walker Bay boats for sale


Walker Bay 10 LTE

Walker Bay 10 LTE. Walker Bay photo. 


Best Luxury Runabout Boats

Is it an oxymoron to claim there’s such a thing as a luxury runabout? Heck no—in this day and age many runabouts have numerous comfort touches, and although they may be relatively small boats, they still land you squarely in the lap of luxury.



Cobalt has long been known for building high-end luxury boats, and although many in their model line wouldn’t fit into our classification of a runabout due to the price, several of their smaller models make the grade. And they make it in fine form, with uber-luxury options like electric-powered folding swim steps, Fresco Chil vinyls that cool interior surfaces, cockpit heaters, and Sof-Trac cushioning cockpit mats. Cobalt boats for sale


Cobalt R4

Cobalt R4. Cobalt Boats photo. 



Most of Crownline’s model line is too large and/or expensive to fit our parameters, but they do have several bowriders on offer which are lower cost. And these are no common craft, fitted with goodies like flip-down arm rests, Wet Sounds stereo systems, full-beam swim platforms, and aft sun loungers. Step aboard a Crownline (or more to the point, sit down in one of its seats), and you’ll have no doubt it’s in the running as one of the best luxury runabout boats around. Crownline boats for sale


Crownline 210 SS

Crownline 210 SS. Crownline photo. 


Sea Ray

Sea Ray has been building boats for so long and their bowriders and deckboats are so popular that this brand is just about synonymous with the term runabout. Today’s Sea Rays are particularly well-known for being infused with a high level of luxury, and their models enjoy such perks as plush seating, large swim platforms, freshwater systems, and booming stereos. Sea Ray boats for sale


Sea Ray SLX 260

Sea Ray SLX 260. Sea Ray photo. 


Best Runabout Boats for Fishing

You want a runabout, but you also want a fishing boat? No worries. There are plenty of builders out there who cater to both desires at the very same time, and these top brands are among them.


Boston Whaler

Boston Whaler come in all shapes and sizes, many of which are certainly not runabouts, but they do have an extensive selection of center and dual consoles that fit the bill as both runabouts and fishing boats. They all share one stand-out feature: their unsinkable nature, due to fiberglass-foam-fiberglass construction. Chop a Boston Whaler into multiple pieces-parts, and each of them will continue to float on the water’s surface. Boston Whaler boats for sale


Boston Whaler 190 Montauk

Boston Whaler 190 Montauk. Boston Whaler photo. 



In the world of fishing boats, few builders have a rock-solid reputation and long history that can compete with Grady-White. Though much of their lineup cruises in different waters, several of their dual console and center console boats fall into the runabout category. All are fully equipped to fish with flush-mount fishing rod holders, under-gunwale rod racks, available livewells, integrated fishboxes, and more. Even if you don’t fish you’re going to enjoy time spent aboard a Grady-White, and there’s no doubt they qualify as one of the best runabout boats for fishing no matter where you cast your lines. Grady-White boats for sale


Grady White Freedom 215Grady White Freedom 215. Grady White Boats photo. 



Although Lowe is an aluminum boat builder featuring boats designed and equipped for fishing and other specific on-water activities, they have a selection of models that readily qualify as runabouts. Their lightweight nature and the easy trailering that goes along with it also makes them among the most popular types of lake boats on the water—and on the highway—today. Lowe boats for sale


Lowe Stinger 198

Lowe Stinger 198. Lowe boats photo. 


Which of these best runabout boat brands would be ideal for you? Will you choose the best luxury runabout boats, or at the opposite end of the spectrum be searching for the best runabout boats for the money? These are questions that you and you alone can answer. But hopefully, with these top picks now front and center you’ll soon find the runabout boat of your dreams.


Written By: Lenny Rudow

With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites. Rudow lives in Annapolis, Maryland, and is currently Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk; he is a past president of Boating Writers International (BWI), a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.


More from: Lenny Rudow

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