If this article caught your eye, chances are you're hunting for an affordable, budget-friendly boat. You’re certainly not alone in that search, as this summer has seen a dramatic surge in boat purchases. Many of those purchases were by people brand new to boating who've quickly recognized that getting on the water is an ideal way to escape many of the travel safety issues and lifestyle limitations that COVID-19 has thrust upon all of us. In fact, on the Boat Trader marketplace, vessels priced below $25,000 and under 26-feet have been some of the most in-demand boats so far in 2020.

As you start your search for a boat under $25k, take heart that lower cost doesn’t necessarily mean "cheap". There are many great boats in this price range from brand new models to sturdy used options that are worth a look. So much of what determines a boat’s price is its propulsion, onboard systems and construction materials. Take a look at the following boat suggestions and consider which type of boat and specific features on certain models can best accomplish the kind of boating you want to do. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying life afloat!

Small Center Consoles

Robalo R160 Center Console

Robalo R160 Center Console Boat. Photo by Robalo.

Center consoles are among the most popular boats of today due to their versatility, fishability and family-friendly features that make them ideal for a wide variety of boating activities. While performance-minded manufacturers such as Contender, Everglades and Freeman (to name a few) have been pushing the boundaries of power and size in this class, other companies build smaller, more economical and family-oriented center consoles equipped for fishing and day boating on inshore coastal areas, rivers, lakes, marshes and bays. Examples include: Bayliner's Element F16 with a self-bailing, fast-planing hull featuring a comfortable 6-passenger layout (starting at $15k with a 60-HP Mercury outboard and trailer), Carolina Skiff's 162 JLS model (that delivers a comfortable, dry ride for family and friends at a great value) Scout's 177 Sport (a versatile fishing boat staring at $22k) and Robalo's sleek R160 that starts at $23,495 with a 70-HP Yamaha 4-stroke.

Length range: 16 to 20 feet (for a smaller center console)
Brands: Mako, Robalo, Bayliner, SeeVee, Carolina Skiff, Scout and many more...

Jon Boats

Lowe 1860 Jon Boat

Lowe Roughneck 1860 Tunnel Jet. Photo by Lowe Boats.

Jon boats are flat-bottom fishing boats and are among the most prevalent on the water. Models range from small and simple with virtually no accessories to larger versions with features like livewells, casting decks, and seats that swivel. If you’re looking to be close to the water, motor around and fish, or teach youngsters the ropes of boating, as the least expensive option on this list, a jon boat might be right on the money for your boating plans.

Length Range: 9 - 20 ft.
Average price: $5,400
Brands: Tracker, Lund, Lowe, SeaArk, Alumacraft, Crestliner, and many more...

Pontoon Boats

2021 Avalon VLS Quad Lounger 1880

2021 Avalon VLS Quad Lounger 1880. Photo: Avalon Boats via Germaine Marine.

It’s easy to picture the unmistakable pontoon design in your mind and all the seating and socializing that happens aboard these boats built for a good time. While there are very pricey high-end pontoon models on the market, pontoons have a spot in this roundup because there are also many modestly priced value options that are perfect for day cruising, freshwater fishing and watersports. You cannot beat the ease and versatility of a pontoon.

Length Range: 16 - 30 ft.
Value models start at around $17,000
Brands: Avalon, Bennington, Sun Tracker, Harris, Starcraft, Crest, Ranger, Premier, among others...

Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Today’s personal watercraft (boatercycles!) have fancy upgrades like cruise control, digital throttle and shifting, and even have entertainment systems. Whether you plan to ride solo or want room to seat three riders, there’s a PWC with your name on it. Newer models are also built for more extended use and many have the fuel capacity and efficiency to make long cruises and pull tow-toys like tubes and wakeboards. Hard to go wrong with a PWC, but for fun-loving families, you might need more than one.

Length Range: 8 - 13 ft.
Average price: $14,000
Brands: SeaDoo, Yamaha WaveRunner, Kawasaki, Polaris, and the list goes on…


Skiffs are another affordable option under $25k for day cruising and freshwater and saltwater fishing because of their simplicity and light weight. They can be powered with a single small engine and are easily towed. Besides the benefits of easy transport, once in the water they are easily beached at a sandy destination and then shoved back into the water without a sweat. Ask around, you’ll find that many boat owners who have multiple boats have a skiff in the mix.

Length Range: 17 - 25 ft.
Average price: $20,000
Brands: Bay Craft, Boston Whaler, Mako, Carolina Skiff, Sea Chaser, among others...

Aluminum Fishing Boats

Maybe you’re asking yourself, “Is an aluminum fishing boat a good, quality choice?” Here’s a classic example of how materials used can get you more bang for your buck. Generally speaking, aluminum fishing boats are significantly less expensive than fiberglass boats of the same size and the lighter weight of aluminum doesn’t mean these boats are any less safe. In fact, aluminum boats have a distinct advantage because unlike fiberglass, they tend to dent instead of shatter when rocks or obstructions are hit. For many anglers looking for a new boat, time and again, with all things considered, aluminum fishing boats often come out on top.

Activities: Freshwater and Saltwater Fishing
Length Range: 10 - 24 ft.
Average price: $26,000
Brands: Lund, Crestliner, Ranger, Tracker, G3, Lowe, and more...

Go Pre-Owned

The idea of a brand-new boat is hard to resist, but if you're after a bigger boat or a more expensive type of boat, you might find a better value by shopping for a used vessel that’s been lightly used. For example, the average price range of a new bay boat or ski/wake boat is, right off the bat, easily $40,000 - $75,000, but one way to fetch a bargain is to search the used inventory of private sellers or dealers.Plus, buying a used boat with improvements, equipment, or customizations added to it at below new price levels is another great reason to consider used over new.

We hope you find your search for your ideal boat under $25,000 exciting and filled with many options - and more than you ever thought possible!

Written by: Jennifer Burkett
Jenny is an avid boater who has worked in the marine industry for years. She developed a fondness for trawlers during her tenure at Kadey-Krogen Yachts and has an affinity for life-on-the-water, contributing articles regularly to Boat Trader, YachtWorld and boats.com. Originally from Chicago, she made her way to Maryland to escape the bone-chilling winter temperatures of the Midwest and to be close to the coastline. She's made Kent Island her home—a location that makes enjoying the Chesapeake Bay a part of her daily life.