You say you’ve fallen in love with the boating lifestyle, you’ve researched how to buy a boat, and you’re now searching for the best beginner boats on the market? Congratulations — you’re in for one heck of a cool adventure. But before it can begin you’ll need to find the ideal boat for you and your family, and one that also fits your budget. We’re hip-deep in the boat marketplace here at Boat Trader, so we’ve perused the options to come up with three top choices for exceedingly affordable beginner boats in 2023.
- Bayliner Element M15
- Mako Pro Skiff 13 CC
- Sea Doo Switch
Bayliner Element M15
The Element M15 is Bayliner’s smallest deck boat, but it has a surprising amount of room and can comfortably seat five passengers. With the helm aft and to starboard the forward section of the boat is dedicated to a U-shaped seating area with stowage compartments beneath. Gunwales are bolstered for backrests, and there are cup holders and grab rails within easy reach.
The starting point for a base package including a trailer is listed at $16,980, which results in a monthly payment of slightly over $150 — significantly less than the average American household’s cable bill. And with a standard 40-hp Mercury Marine outboard engine (which can be upgraded to 50 horses) and a 12-gallon fuel tank, the M15 isn’t just affordable to buy it’s also affordable to run. Easy maintenance is a high point, too, because there aren’t a ton of complex systems, wiring, or hydraulics to deal with. And, with a 17’5” storage length on the trailer, this is a garage-ready package that can be easily parked at home.
Some notable features one might want to add include the EX or EXL packages (with Bimini top, stereo, cover, and pump options), and a ski tow pylon. Below the waterline the M15 features Bayliner’s M Hull design, which is reminiscent of a tri-hull but has a larger center section to help smooth out a chop. Its biggest advantage is enhanced stability, which can be lacking in some V-hull boats of this size.
See Bayliner M15 boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Mako Pro Skiff 13 CC
The Mako Pro Skiff line has offered up various models through the years but was recently whittled down to the always-popular 17 CC, one of the boats that made our list of Best Fishing Skiffs for 2022. Now, however, they’ve expanded the line again and today that includes the Pro Skiff 13 CC. Though it’s small it’s a full-fledged saltwater center console fishing boat, which comes rigged with a 25-hp Mercury outboard and a trailer at the base MSRP of $17,995. Up the ante by $1,300 and you can trade out that 25-horse powerplant for 40 horses, which brings speeds from the 20 mph range up into the 30 mph range.
For such a small boat the list of features is rather extensive, and the 13 CC has fore and aft casting decks with stowage below, an anchor locker forward, three vertical rodholders in the console, a console stowage compartment, cup holders, full navigational lights, and a 700-gph bilge pump. Critical for anglers who enjoy light-tackle casting, the boat can float in a mere eight inches of water to access even the skinniest flats and backcountry cuts.
All of the boats in the Pro Skiff line, the 13 CC included, have Mako’s “Advanced Inverted V” hull design. The hull has a shallow tunnel-like area in the middle, which aids in smoothing out the chop and significantly enhances static stability.
See Mako Pro Skiff 13 CC boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Sea Doo Switch
The Switch made our list of Best Pontoon Boats for 2022, and with a starting MSRP of a mere $21,799 with a trailer and a 1630 Rotax ACE waterjet engine, it certainly makes the grade as a top pick for beginner boats, too. The Switch comes in a number of flavors including the 13’ Compact, a 13’, 18’, or 21’ Sport model ($27,399) which is designed and equipped for watersports, and an 18’ or 21’ Cruise ($31,399) which is designed to maximize comfort aboard.
The Switch is a tri-toon pontoon boat made from Sea Doo’s Polytec material (similar to rotomolded polyethylene), which is also used for the construction of their Spark PWC. And like their PWCs the Switch has handlebars rather than a wheel at the helm. The iBR “intelligent brake and reverse” system is incorporated as well. So, think of this one like a pontoon boat that you operate like a personal watercraft.
A big stand-out feature on the Switch is the modular decking system. The deck is made up of interlocking tiles with receiver mounts, which can be used to secure everything from furniture to coolers to stowage boxes. That makes the entire boat customizable, by you, at any time and with no tools necessary.
See Sea Doo Switch Compact boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Keep your eyes out for the new Veer X13, an all-new model announced recently by the Brunswick Boat Group. As of this publication it isn’t yet listed for sale, but is scheduled to be released in 2023. It’s a two-person rotomolded boat which can be packaged with Mercury’s Avator electric outboard or a gasoline motor to 9.9-hp, and is expected to list with power and a trailer at an $11,995 starting point.