We spend a lot of time reviewing bowriders and discussing the bowrider design (see Bowriders and Runabouts to learn more), because as a boater you have choices. Lots of them. Maybe too many. The editors at boats.com recognized that and asked me to come up with a Top 10 list that might help you focus in on some prime picks. So, what follows is a wild stab at 10 of the best bowriders on the market today. I'm sure someone will point out something I missed, or object to one of my choices, and that’s fine. At least you’ll be thinking and talking about it—and what’s better than talking about boats, right?
First, some insight into the selection process. Top notch doesn't have to mean top dollar. In fact, it shouldn't, which is why I chose some entry-level boats that are genuinely affordable and provide new boaters a way to get into the hobby with the comfort of warranties on the boat and engine. I also chose some top-of-the line stuff, representing the best of the best. As you might expect, I filled in the middle of the market, too. Remember that the pricing varies somewhat depending on where you are and when you buy, prices shown are as of the publication date, and those seen here should be thought of only as guidelines. I also tried to include some nuggets of wisdom and some boats and brands you might not have considered. They are presented in no particular order other than to vary the mix for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.
Bayliner VR6 Bowrider
It would be impossible to talk about the best bowriders of 2018 without mentioning Bayliner, which is likely the company that has put more people into affordable new boats than any other.
To that end, the VR6 bowrider isn’t necessarily an entry-level product — Bayliner offers less expensive models — but it is a lot of boat for the money. With a base price of $36,049, which includes destination charges, the Bayliner VR6, has design cues such as “Beam Forward” which opens up the bow area and “Aft Advantage” which increases interior room in the cockpit.
It comes standard with an enclosed changing room, a generious swim platform and a swivel bucket helm seat. The standard waterproof 120-watt stereo system is fitted with inputs for iPod and MP3 players.
See our Bayliner VR6 review and check out our Bayliner VR6 Bowrider listings.
The Bryant 210 is one of the models that helped the company establish its reputation for building solid, wood-free runabouts. The company has added a new twist to the 210 by creating a Surf Edition.
Like many other sterndrive runabout manufacturers getting into the wakesurfing market, Bryant uses the Volvo Penta Forward Drive to create the driving dynamics that can create a usable wake for surfing.
The upside is that it just looks like a regular runabout with a towing tower, and that will appeal to a lot of buyers. The Forward Drive also lets owners use the boat for other things, like going to dinner and getting home in a hurry. Trim it out and it drives like a regular runabout and achieves greater cruising and top speeds than an inboard.
See Bryant 210 listings.
Chaparral 191 Suncoast
Chaparral debuted its Suncoast series a few years ago with the 250. The 191 Suncoast is a continuation of that line, and it has a lot of similarities to a deckboat, but at this length, it could be considered an outboard-powered runabout.
Because of its wide bow, the seating up front is spacious and inviting, with lots of stowage underneath. The anchor locker is tucked beneath a large deck area that doubles as a casting platform when you outfit it for fishing.
There’s a sink on the portside dash and a long aft-facing lounge that wraps around to two jump seats ahead of aft swim platform, which has stowage compartments to either side. It’s a pretty trick little package that works for inland or coastal environments. Retail prices start at $29,995.
See our full review of the 191's big brother, the Chaparral Suncoast 250, and check out our Chaparral 191 Suncoast listings.
Cobalt CS23 Surf
If you’ve got a family of watersports nuts, but you don’t want to have to own a boat that looks the part, the Cobalt CS23 Surf is certainly worth a look.
It provides wakes for surfing and wakeboarding, but has the tasteful and reserved demeanor you expect from a Cobalt. No tribal graphics or glittery gelcoat here. Just a single splash of color and the elegant interior appointments Cobalt is known for.
The CS23 is driven by a sterndrive, but it’s the Forward Drive from Volvo Penta, which has the dual propellers in front of the skeg rather behind like every other sterndrive on the market. That’s what makes it possible.
The CS23’s Truwave Surf System does practically everything for you, but the driver still has a large measure of control. For example, the surf tabs lower into the water automatically, but also lift up when the boat is exceeding wakesurfing speeds. The CS23’s ballast system holds 1,433 pounds of water weight, which in addition to the boat’s 3,700 pounds and the leverage of the Forward Drive, it adds up to a very convincing package.
See Cobalt CS23 Surf listings.
Crownline E 295 XS
The Crownline E 295 XS is the newest and largest model in the outboard Eclipse series, and it’s a real gem. For starters, the boat comes standard with the aluminum hardtop, and maybe a boat that costs $215, 377 should, but it also comes with a number of other features that make a standout.
Standard power is twin Mercury 200-horse outboards with digital throttle joystick controls. It also comes standard with color matched bow and cockpit canvas, a drawer refrigerator in the cockpit in addition to a 36-quart removable cooler in the bow.
You also get docking lights, a head compartment with a real commode and an 9-inch Raymarine touch screen multifunction display. These are all standard!
Crownline includes other goodies like a Kicker stereo, which seems to go well with the underwater transom lighting. And we haven’t even gotten to the options list. You can explore that for yourself here by visiting Crownline.
See Crownline listings.
Four Winns Freedom 190
It’s nice to know you can still get a Four Winns for less than $30,000. Well, $29,419 if you don’t check any options boxes on the Freedom 190, which isn’t new, but it’s nonetheless an impressive package that lets a buyer get into something new rather than used.
Standard power is MerCruiser’s proprietary 4.5-liter marine V6, which is good for 200 horsepower, and that’s enough to push the 2,800-pound Freedom 190 nicely, as in, you won’t have to wish you had more power, which is good because the 200-horsepower V6 is the max. . That low weight means you can tow the boat with a small pickup or SUV. No need to upgrade your family vehicle.
Inside, the Freedom 190 is somewhat Spartan, but the build quality is as apparent as it is on any other Four Winns model. One of the cool standard features is the custom trailer, built in-house at Four Winns. The bunks in the trailer match up with the boat’s stringer system, so it’s supported in the right places. You can delete the trailer and save $1,900 if you’re so inclined.
There are a few options such as a bimini top and a canvas package and a stereo, too.
See Four Winns Freedom 190 listings.
Monterey 385 SE
It’s a bit of a stretch to call the Monterey 385SE a bowrider. It also would be a shame not to include it in a “top 10” feature lie this because the 385SE is so groundbreaking.
First, it is a bowrider because, well, you can ride in the bow, using either the standard filler cushion or the removable dinette table. But it is so much more, and it exceeds what we can describe here.
Using outboard power, the designers were able to extend the cockpit of the 385SE farther aft than they could using sterndrive power. In doing so, the aft cockpit is versatile and convertible, from a conversation pit to an aft-facing lounge to a dining area.
The 385SE also has two cabins. The one on the port side conceals the head compartment, complete with a porcelain head and a shower. To starboard, there’s a sitting room with a berth tucked beneath the cockpit sole. You access these rooms from the center walkway rather than behind the windshield.
There’s more to the 385SE. Lots more, and you can find it by visiting Monterey Boats.
See Monterey 385 SE listings.
Rinker Q7 OB
If you take comfort in buying from companies with a long history in a given industry, Rinker is your kind of boat manufacturer. In business since the 1930s, Rinker has been creating and building solid product that families have relied on for their summer fun.
The new Q7 OB is a great example. It employs fresh thinking and showcases Rinker’s ability to think beyond what it has in the past and expand its product line with innovative new materials and interior designs.
In standard trim, the Q7 OB comes with a bimini top with a boot, a built in blender—margaritas!—a sink and a portable cooler. In terms of function, the anchor locker is fitted with a cradle for the anchor. The Q7 OB also comes with a transom walk-through, stainless-steel cleats and digital controls for the 250 HP outboard. Learn more by visiting Rinker Boats.
See Rinker Q7 OB listings.
Sea Ray SLX 280
Sea Ray has long had the advantage of putting the design cues and features it uses in its big boats to use in some of its smaller runabouts, and the 280 SLX is a perfect example.
It uses the “glass dash” Sea Ray first pioneered on its big cruisers and yachts. The two-up helm seat also trickled down from big boats, and it doesn’t end there.
For example, the swim platform features an aft deck that’s practically at water level. What’s more the walk-through from the cockpit leads to an aft lounge with flip-up backrests for sitting upright or headrests for lounging on a sunny afternoon.
Inside, the smartly crafted cockpit offers plenty of seating a stowage and a removable dinette that never feels like it’s in the way. There’s a lot of innovation here.
Read our full review of the Sea Ray SLX 280, and check out our Sea Ray SLX 280 listings.
Stingray 208LS Sport Deck
The hallmark of a Stingray boat is the cleanliness of its design. That’s part of the company’s continued appeal year after year. For 2018, Stingray has introduced the 208LS Sport Deck, a runabout that starts ta $35,326.
At that price, you get MerCruiser’s proprietary fuel-injected 4.5-liter V6, which makes 200 horsepower, which should push the 3,000-pound boat along nicely.
In standard trim, the 208LS Sport Deck includes an anchor locker, a built-in cooler that drains overboard, an hour meter and a 12-volt accessory power outlet on the dash. The marine-grade stereo also comes standard as do stainless-steel cleats at the bow, stern and amidships.
Another standard feature? That famous Stingray cleanliness and build quality.
See Stingray 208LS Sport Deck listings.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2013 and updated in August 2018.