Eight Great Boats Under $30,000

These examples prove that boating can be an affordable hobby.

It’s a refrain we hear all the time in our travels: New boats have gotten so expensive that they’re no longer accessible to most people. To that, we offer the following rejoinder: There are plenty of great boats out there that will get you on the water at a reasonable cost if you know where to look. The following eight boats provide solid evidence that there’s a new boat out there for you, no matter your budget.

Bayliner Element M15
Bayliner Element M15 Courtesy Bayliner

Bayliner Element M15

Bayliner was on the forefront of building affordable boats for first-time buyers a few years back when it introduced the first Element E16. These boats are designed to bring families onto the water for an entertaining day of boating with little to no hassle and expense. The M15 continues that concept with another solid winner in the affordable new-boat market.

The fiberglass M15 has a deep cockpit and a bow lounge with high freeboard to keep the crew secure underway. Bayliner placed the helm aft along the starboard side, so the driver sits on the transom bench. Doing this allowed for a larger bow lounge for the crew to socialize. All told, the M15 can handle a crew of five. While it’s not going to set any speed records (we hit 31.3 mph with the 50 hp Mercury outboard), the M hull is designed to be a stable and predictable platform that doesn’t lean to one side or the other depending on weight distribution.

Dry Weight:1,385 lb.
Seat/Weight Capacity:5/700 lb.
Fuel Capacity:12 gal.
Max Horsepower:50
Price:$16,980 (with 40 hp Mercury FourStroke outboard)

Bayliner Boats – Knoxville, Tennessee; 865-971-6311; bayliner.com

Satellite beacons such as EPIRBs or PLBs allow boaters to transmit distress signals and their exact coordinates from anywhere on the planet, no cell service required. It may be the best $400 you ever spend.

Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard
Veer X13
Veer X13 Courtesy Veer

Veer X13

Veer is a roto-molded craft -specifically targeted at first-time boat buyers, with the aim of being affordable and easy to maintain and operate. It’s ideally suited to pair with Mercury’s Avator 7.5e electric outboard, or you can order it with a tiller-steered 9.9 hp Mercury gasoline FourStroke. The gas outboard comes with a 3-gallon fuel tank, and the electric outboard is powered by a 1 kW battery. Both choices are economical and lightweight, giving the boat a shallow 6.3-inch draft, so you can sneak into the skinniest water. The roto-molded plastic body is easy to maintain and can survive rookie mistakes around the docks or boat ramp without needing a fiberglass repair kit.

The X13 features an aft two-seat bench and a shallow cockpit with a SportTrak mounting system to add accessories to your liking. The bow serves as a forward casting deck or observation platform when you’re not under power. A removable standing bar provides a handhold while standing or transiting from stern to bow.

The X13 comes standard with a galvanized trailer. The combined boat, trailer and engine weight measures 835 pounds, so you don’t need a big rig to tow it. It’s a great choice to get started on the water.

Dry Weight:382 lb.
Seat/Weight Capacity:2/550 lb.
Fuel Capacity:3 gal. gasoline or 1 kW battery
Max Horsepower:9.9 (gasoline outboard)
Price:$11,995 (with 9.9 hp Mercury FourStroke)

Veer Boats – New York Mills, Minnesota; veerboats.com

Starcraft Renegade 168 SC
Starcraft Renegade 168 SC Courtesy Starcraft

Starcraft Renegade 168 SC

Here you can buy a fully functional aluminum-hulled multi-species boat to chase after bass, walleye or whatever floats your boat. The boat has twin bucket seats—one at the starboard helm station protected by a windshield on the console, and one for the co-angler on the port side. A third seat mounts just aft of the portside seat, so you can bring along another friend.

The boat features fore and aft casting decks with pedestal seat mounts, a bow mount for an electric trolling motor, a rod storage locker, and a livewell in the transom casting deck. The gunwale topsides have a tracking groove system so you can mount accessories and customize your rig with extra rod holders, downriggers or other amenities. Set it up how you like to create your own lean, mean fishing machine.

Dry Weight:1,783 lb.
Seat/Weight Capacity:6/900 lb.
Fuel Capacity:22 gal.
Max Horsepower:90
Price:$28,285 (with 50 hp Yamaha outboard)

Starcraft Marine – New Paris, Indiana; 574-831-2950starcraftmarine.com

Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, and in many states a citation for boating under the influence goes on your driving record.

Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard
Tahoe T16
Tahoe T16 Courtesy Tahoe

Tahoe T16

There’s no haggling when you buy this 16-foot-5-inch runabout from Tahoe Marine. Its nationally advertised price includes a custom trailer, a 60 hp outboard motor, a Bimini top, and a TurboSwing on the transom. The TurboSwing is an expensive option on most boats but standard on this one. It balances the load as the skier cuts back and forth, giving the passengers a much better ride and a more fun one for the rider. The seating inside is spacious, with seats that convert forward to aft-facing at the bow, and a swim platform for getting on your skis or reboarding with the ladder. The dashboard includes a sporty three-spoke wheel and a 7-inch digital display for reporting engine functions like temperature, water pressure and voltage, and operating the Kicker KMC1 stereo. It also reports water depth and boatspeed. An optional 75 hp outboard motor is available for $24,595, and we think you might appreciate that extra oomph for watersports. The T16 is sporty-looking and available in six different color schemes, with stainless-steel hardware and durable hinges on the deck hatch.

Dry Weight:2,200 lb.
Seat/Weight Capacity:5/825 lb.
Fuel Capacity:13 gal.
Max Horsepower:75
Price:$22,995 (with 50 hp Mercury FourStroke)

Tahoe Boats – Springfield, Missouri; 417-873-4555tahoeboats.com

Sea-Doo Switch 13 Sport
Sea-Doo Switch 13 Sport Bill Doster

Sea-Doo Switch 13 Sport

The smallest version of our 2022 Boat of the Year, the 13 Sport offers the same handle-bar-style controls. Punch the trigger throttle as you crank into a turn, and it displays much of a PWC’s excitement and quick-reflex maneuverability. Approach a dock or launch ramp, and Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Brake and -Reverse (iBR) system provides intuitive, low-speed maneuverability and control not found on pontoons. You can load this boat on a trailer or place it into its slip with precision and ease. 

The trademark feature of the Sea-Doo Switch is the reconfigurable floor plan. Nearly all seating and components can release from the deck in Lego-like fashion and reposition elsewhere around the boat in seconds. This approach allows the owner to change the boat’s focus, going for social-cruise seating one day or a cleared-out fishing floor plan the next. A variety of accessories, like coolers and storage caddies, can attach with ease. With the 170 hp Rotax engine, the boat is capable of hitting 38.7 mph.

Dry Weight:1,783 lb.
Seat/Weight Capacity:6/950 lb.
Fuel Capacity:29 gal.
Max Horsepower:170

Sea-Doo – Valcourt, Quebec; 888-272–9222sea-doo.com

A boating course is a great way to gain confidence and boat-handling skills. A little practice now will make it look easy when everyone is watching.

Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard
Tracker Classic XL
Tracker Classic XL Courtesy Tracker

Tracker Classic XL

When Tracker Marine introduced the first Tracker Classic bass boat in the late ’70s, it was a revolutionary concept. Before Tracker, boaters had to buy a boat, buy a matching motor, buy a matching trailer, buy a matching trolling motor, and get all of that assembled by a dealer. They even had to mount and install their own sonar. But Johnny Morris, who co-founded Tracker Marine, believed this should all be done before the boat owner ever walks into the showroom. That’s why the Tracker Classic was the first ready-to-fish bass boat on the marketplace. And Morris did it at a bargain price. Today he’s introduced the new Tracker Classic XL, a 16-foot-8-inch bass boat with a 50 hp Mercury ELT outboard, an electric trolling motor, and a custom matching trailer all rigged up and ready to hitch to your truck or car and go to the water and fish. The 50 hp Mercury ELT outboard motor maxes out the horsepower and, in our opinion, is the optimal amount for this fun little boat. The Tracker Classic XL comes with a lifetime hull warranty. It features bucket folding seats, swivel pedestal seats, livewells, tackle storage, a rod locker, and easy access to all the plumbing and pumps on board through hatches. There’s also an aft casting deck and a sonar chart plotter at the helm. It’s as big a bargain today as it was 50 years ago.

Dry Weight:1,706 lb.
Seat/Weight Capacity:3/555 lb.
Fuel Capacity:6 gal.
Max Horsepower:50
Price:$14,995 (with 50 hp Mercury FourStroke)

Tracker Boats – Springfield, Missouri; 417-873-4555trackerboats.com

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Also Check Out

Old Town Sportsman Autopilot 120
Old Town Sportsman Autopilot 120 Courtesy Old Town

Old Town Sportsman Autopilot 120

Although technically a kayak, we’re going to grant this Old Town powerboat status since it’s propelled by a 12-volt Minn Kota trolling motor with 45 pounds of thrust. The motor is mounted through the bow, where it won’t interfere with your fishing spread.

Price: $4,349.99 (with 12-volt Minn Kota)

Old Town Genuine Watercraft – Old Town, Maine; 800-343-1555; oldtowncanoe.com

Carolina Skiff 162 JLS
Carolina Skiff 162 JLS Courtesy Carolina Skiff

Carolina Skiff 162 JLS

With the Carolina Skiff 162 JLS, you get a certifiable saltwater center-console at a reasonable price. It comes with an aft livewell, fore and aft casting platforms, vertical rod holders along both sides of the console, and gunwale rod racks. It comes in over $30,000 when you add the engine, but still represents an affordable boat in today’s market.

Price: $26,000 (base boat)

Carolina Skiff – Waycross, Georgia; 800-422-7282; carolinaskiff.com