Sure, we’d all love to be king of the sea with a brand new rockin' cool boat like a Hydra-Sports 53 Suenos or a Boston Whaler 420 Outrage, but few of us have a million bucks to drop on a whim. Even a medium-sized fishing boat, like the Everglades 255cc, can cost as much as an average American’s home (MSRP: about $175K with standard power). And if you think going small is going to solve this problem, you have another thing coming—drop down under 20’ and you’ll find that fishing boats like the Robalo R18 still regularly break $30 grand.
So, what’s a financially-restricted angler (read: normal person) supposed to do? Fear not, fish-heads. There are still some deals out there on reasonably-priced new boats, and all 10 we’re going to discuss today are built by reputable American boat-builders, with a base price of less than $20,000.
Bayliner Element F18
Built on Bayliner’s unique “M” hull (think: cross between a V-hull and a tri-hull), the Element F18 starts out at a reasonable $19,199. That gets you the boat-motor-trailer package with a Mercury 90 FourStroke, which is exactly how our test boat was powered when we shot a Bayliner Element F18 Video Boat Review. And this package provides plenty of pep, with a 24 MPH cruise and a 35 MPH top-end. Sure, there are some minor signs of cost-cutting (some plastic latches where stainless-steel would be preferred, and hatches that are unfinished on the underside) but nothing major is amiss. Plus, the F18 has an all-fiberglass stringer system and is self-bailing.
For more information watch that video boat review, visit Bayliner, or check out some current F18 listings.
Carolina Skiff JVX 18CC
Carolina Skiffs are known for being about as simple and Spartan as boats get, but this can be a good thing—they’re also known for being rugged, easy to care for, and inexpensive. And in all of these cases, the Carolina Skiff reputation is well-deserved. In fact, the JVX 18CC provides one heck of a LOA-per-dollar bang for your buck. You’ll see it priced between $17,000 and $19,000, with a powerplant in the 50 to 70 HP range. That sounds surprising? Just check these Carolina Skiff JVX 18CC listings out for yourself.
Visit Carolina Skiff for more information.
Crestliner Kodiak 16 SC
Without a powerplant the Kodiak SC will run you $10,148, so the package deal will end up costing well under $20,000 even with max power (a 60 HP outboard). We shot a Crestliner Kodiak 16 SC Video Boat Review, so you can learn plenty of details about this rig. A few highlights: top-end with a 60 is 34 MPH, the reverse-chine hull does a great job of knocking down spray, and the boat is built with rugged touches like full-length piano hinges on the hatches, extruded aluminum gunwales, and a bedliner-like material covering the aluminum decking.
For more information visit Crestliner, or see some Kodiak 16 SC listings.
Key Largo 160 CC
The Key Largo 160 CC is advertised with a MSRP of $19,470 and a “no haggle” price of $15,999, so you’ll find plenty of listings for the boat at the lower end of that spectrum. The stock 40 HP outboard isn’t overwhelming, but it’s enough power to get the job done and considering the low price tag there’s plenty of room in the budget for an upgrade. Yes, the 160 CC does come with a galvanized trailer, and it also has an aerated livewell and a flip-back cooler seat (72 quart capacity). Added bonus: four vertical rodholders are built into the console (as opposed to the usual three) and there’s a pair of gunwale-mounted rodholders, too.
For more information, visit Caravelle Powerboats.
Mako Pro 17 Skiff CC
The Mako Pro Skiffs were big news when they first hit the water, and we reviewed both the smaller model (Mako Pro Skiff 16 Center Console: Small Wonder) and its larger sibling (Mako Pro Skiff 17 Center Console: A Hull New Innovation). In fact, when it was newly introduced this boat made our list of the Top 10 Fishing Boats of 2012. And yes, it still costs less than $20,000 today. A lot less. In fact, the Pro 17 Skiff CC MSRPs at $15,995 with a 60-horse Mercury outboard and a trailer. The console is rotomolded plastic instead of fiberglass and the livewell holds a meager eight gallons, but otherwise we love this boat from stem to stern. And foot for foot, the “inverted V” hull design is about as smooth as they come.
Visit Mako for more information, or see Pro 17 Skiff CC listings.
Just a drop of two feet in LOA from the Robalo R180 we mentioned earlier can get you under the $20,000 mark, with Robalo’s R160. Pricing starts at $19,795. The stock powerplant is a 50 HP Yamaha four-stroke (add a thousand to jump up to a 70) and although the boat is pretty basic at this price-point, it does come with must-haves like a battery switch, no-feedback steering, a flip-back cooler helm seat (70 quart capacity), and an aluminum trailer.
Visit Robalo to learn more, or see some R160 listings.
Starweld 1600 SC
For about $18,000 with a 60 horse outboard, you could have a Starweld 1600 SC. Surprise high-point: this boat has a whopping 25 gallon livewell capacity, which is huge for a 16-footer. It’s also pre-wired for a trolling motor, and has multiple seat bases in the cockpit, bow deck, and aft deck. You can learn a whole lot more about it by watching our Starweld 1600 Pro SC Video Boat Review. Another surprise: with just 50 horses, this boat comes close to breaking 30 MPH.
For more information visit Starweld, or take a look at some Starweld 1600 SC listings.
Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 DLX
Winning the prize as the least expensive boat in this round-up, the Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 DLX lists at an eye-popping $11,795. True, that price doesn’t include a trailer, which adds $1,995—but this is still a shockingly inexpensive rig. Also note that the standard powerplant at this price is a mere 20 horses, the smallest in this line-up. But if you like pontoon boats, you want one that’s fishing-oriented (yes, it does have rodholders and a nine-gallon livewell), and you need to keep price in check, this is an option you’ll want to consider.
For more information read our review of the Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16, or visit Sun Tracker.
Check out listings for the Bass Buggy 16 DLX here.
With a 50 horse outboard, the Sundance F17CCR MSRPs at $18,749, but we found it listed on boats.com for almost $1,000 less. That 50 HP powerplant gives it plenty of pep, too, with a cruise in the 25 MPH range and a top-end of almost 33 MPH. Like many of the other options in the running it’s a very simple skiff, however, it does have a nice deck cap that gives the boat an excellent look and a finish that’s better than several of the other contenders. That cap also has molded-in steps up to the foredeck, which will be appreciated by us old guys with bad knees. It has a (very small) 7.5 gallon livewell, and a 76 quart swing-back cooler seat at the helm.
For more information visit Sundance.
Tracker Pro Guide V-175 SC
The national “no haggle no hassle” price for this rig beats our price cap by five bucks. That may not sound like much, but note that it comes stock with a 90 HP Mercury FourStroke outboard, one of the largest standard powerplants in this mix. Plus, cost-adding options like a trailer, 55-lb thrust trolling motor, twin livewells (19 and 29 gallons) and built-in tackleboxes are all included. Some will be turned off by the fact that this is an aluminum rig, but in truth, aluminum is a great material for boats of this size and nature. Read Aluminum Fishing Boats: Light, Economical, and Seaworthy to learn why.
If you find yourself convinced, check out these Tracker Pro Guide V-175 SC listings, or visit Tracker for more info.
Editor's Note: To learn more about fishing boats in general, read the comprehensive Fishing Boats article in our Resources section. To study up on sweetwater fishing machines, check out Freshwater Fishing Boats 101. And you salty folks can sharpen your wits, too, by reading all about Saltwater Fishing Boats.
*Pricing information included in this article is current as of 1/1/2016.
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