Above: The Ford F-150 pick up truck has been the best selling pickup truck in the United State since 1977. Photo by kenishirotie on Pond5.
The Ford F-150 was not only America’s favorite tow vehicle last year, the F-series was actually the best-selling automobile in the country, overall. Well-outfitted, the average cost for an F-150 ready to tow your boat to the lake or bay is right around $60,000. (MSRP ranged from $34,585 to $84,910). And while we would heartily endorse the notion of spending more on your boat than on any wheeled land vehicle, you could get any five of these cool new boats for less — and then hitch them up behind the truck and head directly for the boat ramp.
- Bayliner VR6
- Beneteau First 14 SE and 18 SE
- Lowe Stinger 175C
- Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 RF XP3 Pontoon Boat
- Yamaha AR190
2023 Bayliner VR6
A traditionally styled bowrider powered by a 200 hp MerCruiser ECT 4.5 Alpha One stern drive, the Bayliner VR6 gives you a ton of LOA for the $49,830 sticker price. The price can be expected to build a bit from that starting point as you add your own personal must-have features (even items like interior lighting, a ski tow pylon, and an automatic bilge pump are considered optional) but you won’t even come close to the cost of that F-150 and you’ll get a 22’7” runabout with the capacity to carry 10 people, an enclosed head compartment in the passenger’s side console, and a huge aft sunpad and swim platform.
It’s important to note that the new Bayliner VR line is wood-free and self-bailing, unlike some of the old Bayliner models you’ll see on the used boat market. If you want the largest bowrider possible for the buck, this one will be a top option. It also enjoys what Bayliner calls the “AftAdvantage” design, which essentially boils down to incorporating very narrow gunwales which allow Bayliner to push the internal beam as far as possible out to the sides, increasing interior volume. This explains why the VR6 feels quite roomy inside even though it’s just 8’0” wide. Many other boats with this much LOA will have an 8’6” beam, but they won’t necessarily have more interior volume.
View Bayliner VR6 boats for sale on Boat Trader today.
2023 Beneteau First 14 SE and 18 SE
A top option for the racing sailors interested in one-design competition will be the Beneteau First 14 and 18 SE models. Pricing runs the $15,000 to $35,000 range, with the main difference between these models obviously size but also that the 18 SE has a (very) small cabin while the 14 SE is completely open. Critical to their mission, retractable keels, removable rudders, and light carbon fiber masts make it easy to pack up and put these boats on a trailer, then tow to new race venues behind vehicles just like the F-150. But with a displacement of barely over 1,000 pounds for the 18 and just a few hundred pounds for the 14, that F-150 probably won’t even know the boat is back there. Note that these are some of the most popular sailboats on the water and have recognized international classes, so competitors sailing these boats can enter racing events all across the nation.
View Beneteau First 14 SE and First 18 SE sailboats for sale on Boat Trader today.
2023 Lowe Stinger 175C
Anglers looking for a fishing boat that can serve multiple fisheries but keeps cost low will be checking out the Lowe Stinger 175C. Rigged with a stock 25-horsepower Mercury Marine FourStroke and sitting atop a single axel bunk trailer with a swing-away tongue it lists at a mere $21,595. You could go with max power (a 75-hp FourStroke) and pay closer to $26K, or you could pocket all the cash you won’t be spending and your fuel budget will be covered for the next five years — for both the boat and the Ford.
The Stinger 175C has a maximum capacity of four anglers, and is laid out with a forward casting deck and pedestal seat that will work well for bass anglers. A 23-gallon livewell (with a lift-out bait bucket) lives in the aft deck, and is flanked by tackle stowage compartments for three boxes per side. There’s a second livewell with bait bucket in the bowdeck, too, which will be convenient for walleye and crappie fishing. Construction is all-welded aluminum (.100” gauge in the modified-V hull), with extruded gunwales and an extruded one-piece keel.
We ran this boat and with max power it broke 38-mph, but what really impressed us was the sporty handling; crank the wheel and the hull grips the water and carves out hair-pins with no problem. We also felt that the baked-on enamel paint job made the boat look far better than old-school aluminum rigs.
View Lowe Stinger 175C boats for sale on Boat Trader today.
2023 Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 RF XP3 Pontoon Boat
If owning the ultimate pontoon boat party machine sounds like a fun way to get out on the water, the Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 RF XP3 will be a must-see model. Equipped with a 150-horsepower Mercury 150 FourStroke, the “No Haggle No Hassle” list price of $51,995 leaves room in the budget for the $5,250 optional tandem-axel trailer with brakes on both axels plus a spare tire.
Importantly, note that this is a tri-toon model. Many builders tease you with a low price tag, then charge thousands more to get that extra log down the middle. And that third pontoon makes a big difference, too, boosting max capacity by 900 pounds and max horsepower to 200, improving handling and seakeeping abilities, and enhancing stability. Top end with the stock 150 hp outboard is estimated to reach the 40 mph mark. Additional key features include a 10’ SureShade powered Bimini top, a four-speaker Bluetooth stereo system, a full-width swim platform, and comfy multi-density foam in the four couches.
View Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 RF XP3 pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader today.
2023 Yamaha AR190
With a starting MSRP of $39,299 and a jet drive below the waterline, the Yamaha AR190 will be a top propeller-free choice for boaters with young children who love watersports and fun in the sun. And, with a hull weight of 2,441 pounds, the AR190 will also be a piece of cake to launch, load, and tow. Layout is a straightforward bowrider design with a flip-back center windshield, a large in-deck stowage compartment for water skis and wakeboards, and a large swim platform with aft-facing seating molded in. The stock model isn’t stripped, either, with major features like a 4.3” Connext touchscreen helm control system with a phone holder, an aluminum tow-tower, snap-in carpet, a four-speaker Jensen stereo system, and a single axel trailer all included standard.
We’d always recommend a boater searching for a new ride take any potential purchase for a sea trial to get a feeling for how it runs. Do so with this boat and we can make one prediction right here, right now: you’re going to discover that the AR190 has sportier handling than any prop-driven boat you’ve ever had off the dock. The articulating keel system enhances control and at fast speeds the boat feels more or less as nimble as a big PWC. As is true with most jet boats, handling it at slow speeds can be a bit more challenging. But Yamaha outfits the AR190 with its “No Wake Mode” system for micro-managed control. The AR190 also has Cruise Assist (which is a cruise control system that allows you to set engine speed then increase or decrease it in small increments), which will be particularly handy when you’re towing the kids around the lake for hours on end. Another important detail to note about the AR190 is that sitting on its standard trailer, it’s a “garage-ready” package with a folding tongue on the trailer.
View Yamaha AR190 boats for sale on Boat Trader today.
5 Family Friendly Easily Towable Boats To Choose From
Which of these five options would be the best for you and your family? That, we can’t say. But one thing is for sure: when you hitch up to your F-150 and hit the road with your boat in tow, everyone inside the truck’s cab will be grinning from ear to ear.
Editor’s Note: This article was last updated in August of 2023.