Bigger is not always better. In the article, we will explore the best small boats for maximum portability and maneuverability. Small boats offer boaters the freedom to explore shallow waters and tote their boat along for road trip adventures.
However, if the thought of a small boat conjures up the image of a tiny aluminum boat bobbing in the water, think again. Small boats are becoming big business as their popularity continues to surge and boat manufacturers are responding.
Even large boat manufacturers tapping into the personal watercraft or small boat market by coming out with unique hybrid boats and mini versions of their full-scale lineups. We are seeing entirely new types of boats carve out their place in the boating marketplace.
Continue reading to discover 15 different types of small boats.
- Mini Pontoon (Mini Toon)
- Supercharged Mini Jet Boat
- Stik Boat (Jet Angler or Jey Kayak)
- Personal Watercraft (PWC)
- Wave Boat (Jet Ski Attachment)
- Mini Bass Boat
- Jon Boat
- Skiff Boat
- Bay Boat
- Inflatable Boat
- Aluminum Fishing Boats
- Drift Boat
- Car-Topper Boat
Mini Pontoon (Mini Toon)
Mini Pontoons (also know as Small Pontoons or Compact Pontoons) are just what you think they are – a pontoon, only mini. These boats are super cute and surprisingly versatile. The originator of the “Mini Toon” is Kennedy Boats out of Wisconsin who bills them as powered pedal boats.
This category of boat, however, has gotten so popular that you can find them made by many boat manufacturers including Pond King, Direct Boats, Hotwoods, Pond Tini, Qwest Pontoons, Tahoe Pontoon Boats, and more.
Small pontoons range in size from mini one-seaters up to compact 4-seat options, and sometimes with seating for even a little more. They can be powered by an electric motor, outboard motor, or there are packable and rowable options.
Supercharged Mini Jet Boat
Another Mini-Me boat you can get is a Mini Jet Boat. Mini Jet boats have lightweight aluminum hulls paired with supercharged jet ski engines. That hardly sounds like any fun. 😉
Mini Jet Boats are fast! They can charge rapids, weave through tight spaces, and skip across sandbars.
Another fun aspect of the Mini Jet Boat is that you can buy them as a kit and build it yourself. Jetstream Adventure Boats out of British Columbia, Canada has some awesome CNC kits that are ready to be welded. If you're not down with welding your boat together by hand, MotoJet's Pioneer comes fully assembled and is the original mini jet boat from the USA.
Learning to drive a Mini Jet Boat does have a learning curve. It is not as easy as YouTube would have you believe. Mini Jet Boats are jet-propelled and do not have a rudder, which can make steering a little more difficult. Once you get the hang of it though, these boats can do a lot.
Stik Boat (Jet Angler or Jet Kayak)
Stik Boats are designated as the world's first Personal Fishing Craft. They are a new hybrid-type boat that sits at the crossroads between a kayak, skiff, and bass boat with a streamlined hull.
They have a small size that looks a lot like a kayak but is stable enough to stand on turning the entire boat into a casting platform. They are engine-powered and steer with a joystick, which is a lot of fun for solo anglers.
At a very shallow draft of only 3 inches, a Stik Boat will get you into the most remote fishing spots with unrivaled stik handling (pun intended).
Personal Watercraft (PWC)
A Personal Watercraft, sometimes referred to as Jet Ski (which is Kawasaki's brand name for these), is one of the most popular types of small boats.
There are two main styles of personal watercraft including sit-down and stand-up. The sit-down style is referred to as a runabout. In this style, the rider steers from a seated position and can hold two or more people.
On the stand-up style, the rider steers from a stand-up position. Stand-up PWC's are for one rider and are typically used for racing and tricks.
In both styles, the craft is propelled by an inboard engine driving a pump jet.
Wave Boat (Jet Ski Boat Attachment)
With a Wave Boat, you can turn your Jet Ski into a boat. The Jet Ski locks into a boat frame and uses the PWC's engine and steering. This allows you to bring more people aboard and get double-duty out of your Jet Ski.
The finished product looks like a small bowrider, where the Jet Ski becomes the center console. The Wave Boat is compatible with Yamaha models from 2004 and newer and Sea-Doo models from 2009 and newer.
The Wave Boat is made by Sealver Canada. It is the attachment or addition portion (you must already have a personal watercraft). You drive your jet ski into the docking space, attach your ski to the back of the boat in seconds via 2 boat buckles, and take off.
Mini Bass Boat
Bass Boats are purpose-built fishing boats that prioritize casting decks and fishing functions above all else. They have a flat deck, a low profile to the water, and most have aerated livewells for your catch.
Bass Boats are powered by an outboard motor and standard sizes range from about 14 to 25 feet. However, they are small and mini bass boat options that pack a lot of fishing action into an even smaller space.
The Twin Troller x10 is a mini bass boat at only 10 feet long and 4 feet wide. This little guy has a lot of features though including hands-free control, incredible stability, 8″ shallow draft, premium seating, and single or tandem fishing.
Jon Boats are beloved sport-fishing boats. They are a favorite of anglers and hunters for getting into remote locations with shallow water.
Jon boats are characterized by their shallow draft, flat bottom, and squared-off bow. The hull length of a Jon Boat ranges in size from approximately 8 to 24 feet. The smaller versions tend to be utility in their construction with nothing more than an open hull and basic bench seating.
Small Jon Boats are typically very lightweight, portable, and affordable. Popular small Jon Boats include the Lund 1040 Jon Boat and Sun Dolphin American 12 Jon Boat. Both of these models weigh less than 100 lbs. and can easily be transported in the bed of a truck.
The functionality of a Jon Boat can easily be ramped up with the addition of some Jon Boat accessories. Jon Boats are known for how customizable they are.
Skiff boats are characterized by a shallow draft, pointed or curved bow, and square-cut stern. This makes them excellent boats for shallow water.
Skiffs are often confused with Jon Boats because they share a lot of features. One of the differentiators is that Skiffs are typically center console controlled, where Jon Boats are typically tiller controlled. Another differentiator is that although a Skiff is a shallow draft boat, it is not always flat-bottomed like a Jon Boat.
Skiffs are most often used for inshore saltwater fishing and inshore freshwater fishing. They make excellent fishing boats because they are extremely stable on calm waters.
The hull length of most Skiff Boats ranges from approximately 17 feet up to 34 feet, so these boats can also be on the larger side as well. In the smaller boat category, you will find Microskiffs that are small and highly versatile fishing boats.
Bay Boats range in size but have some great small versions that are perfect for use in bays and nearshore areas. They can handle a little more wake than flatboats, while still staying at a comfortable size.
Bay Boats are primarily used for fishing shallow waters but are stable enough to handle deeper areas. Bay Boats have a center console design that makes it easy to fish from all angles of the boat.
The term Dinghy is used to describe a few different types of small boats. A Dinghy can be a small boat carried on or towed behind a larger boat as a tender or lifeboat, a small sailboat, a rubber life raft, or a towboat used to carry passengers or cargo.
What all of these have in common is that it is a small boat with some sort of utility purpose. They are usually rowboats or have an outboard motor. However, in the case of Dinghy sailing, they are wind-powered and typically used for sailing training or racing.
Inflatable boats are boats whose sides and bow are made out of rubberized, inflatable tubes. The rubberized tubes are made from synthetic fabrics like PVC and polyurethane.
The two main styles of inflatable boats include flexible hull and rigid full.
Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) are reinforced with marine-grade plywood or aluminum. You typically see this when the boat is 3-9 meters long and that extra support is needed.
The transom of an inflatable can also be rigid allowing for the attachment of an outboard motor.
Some other common types of inflatable boats include inflatable rafts, inflatable pontoon boats, inflatable kayaks, inflatable dinghies, and rigid inflatable boats.
Aluminum Fishing Boats
Aluminum fishing boats are one of the most popular styles of small fishing boats. The smaller versions of these are perfect for remote fishing spots and can easily be transported in the bed of a truck.
Aluminum fishing boats are a bit of a broad category and can include Jon Boats, Mod V (Modified V), and Deep V. They are constructed from aluminum and come in a side console or center console configuration.
Aluminum is a preferred material for fishing boats because it tends to be more durable than fiberglass and more resistant to puncture. It is also lightweight, less expensive, and fuel-efficient.
Aluminum fishing boats are also excellent for trolling and many come with added fishing features like fishfinders and built-in livewells.
Drift boats are characterized by a wide, flat bottom, flared sides, a narrow, flat bow, and a pointed stern. Drift boats evolved from the ocean dory boats that were used for cod fishing and modified for inland waters.
Similar to Jon Boats, Drift Boats have a flat bottom and shallow draft. This provides a very stable platform for fishing in calm, shallow waters.
The curved bow allows the boat to also cut through some chop. They are even sometimes used in rapids by fly fishermen.
As the name suggests, a Car-Topper Boat is very simply defined as a small, open boat that can be carried on top of a car.
Sometimes referred to as car-top boating, some boats you will find in this category include canoes, kayaks, small rowboats, foldaway, and inflatable boats.
Car-Topper Boats are preferred by recreational enthusiasts who may already be towing something like a camper, or by anyone looking for an easy way to transport watercraft with just your vehicle.
Weight is a major factor in a Car-Topper Boat because you need to be able to lift it on and off the vehicle. Due to this, you will see the use of lightweight materials like aluminum in the construction of Car-Topper Boats. Boats like the EzyTopper Ultimate Boat are manufactured specifically for this purpose.
Small boats are a very versatile boat type with a ton of options based on what activities you want to do with your boat.
Boat manufacturers continue to come out with new and innovative boats in this category as more and more people are opting to explore the water in smaller-sized boats.
Big or small, the point is to get out onto the open water and experience the joy of boating in whatever form it takes.