Every boat buyers journey on Boatshop24.co.uk starts with a search, but to find the right boat for you, you need to know what you’re looking for.
You'll probably already know if you plan to use your boat inland, off the coast or possibly a bit of both, and if you've considered all of the points listed in our lifestyle checklist you will have already narrowed down your options substantially.
Here's a summary of the main categories of boats and their uses, just to help you make that final decision before hunting down ‘the one’.
Usually built of steel, the hulls can last a lifetime, if looked after. - Ideal for pottering peacefully about the canals and rivers at about 4mph, for days or weeks at a time (provided there are no strong tides). These boats are heavy and resistant to damage caused by dubious helmsmanship! They're also low in maintenance, very economic on fuel and often comprise many of the home comforts such as cooking facilities, heating, hot water, showers, toilets and sufficient power to operate televisions, computers and other electrical equipment. Narrowboats also incur one of the lowest depreciation rates of all boat types.
More often than not they are built of Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) and are therefore lighter than their steel counterparts. - They're also usually much more powerful and stable than narrowboats, so can be used comfortably in tidal rivers as well as the odd excursion out to sea, in calm conditions.
They are more expensive to operate and maintain than narrowboats, but are much more flexible in their use and can be easier to steer and control, especially in strong tides and choppy river water.
These are all different types of day boats, not suited for staying overnight on, but are the ultimate in flexibility whether its usage, power, speed, manoeuvrability and accessibility to land, coves and beaches. - These craft can be comfortable in calm and slight seas as well as a pleasure to cruise at the appropriate speed up rivers.
Compared to the river boats, they're more costly to run, since they are mainly powered by petrol-engined outboards. They are therefore ideal for shorter excursions but you can also take advantage of their speed to gain distance, allowing you voyage to remote beaches, perfect for swimming or fishing.
For those who simply enjoy being on the water with the exciting challenge of being powered by nature's elements there are sailing dinghies, which often have the secondary power of a small outboard engine and at the very least, oars. These are great boats to learn to sail in and very economic to operate.
Because of their lightness, these boats can usually be trailed and therefore have the advantage of being able to be towed to different locations, to slipways all over the United Kingdom, as well as abroad, to provide access to a multitude of sea, lake and river locations.
Very much in the same class as Bowriders and as such, described above, are powered in the same way, but have the added benefit of having a 'cuddy' or small cabin that comprises of a convertible bed, toilet and basic cooking facilities. These boats can therefore be used for overnight stays and long weekends.
These are the high powered, high speed boats, great at riding the waves out at sea, but always suited to river use. They are ideal for delivering the thrills and spills of water sports, whether it's water skiing, wakeboarding, keeping up with the fish or simply the excitement of speed.
Whether, they're powered by heavyweight outboard, inboard, or water jet engines they can consume fuel very quickly and be more expensive to run if they're petrol engines as opposed to diesel. As a result, you should make sure that you take the running costs of these types of craft into account when buying.
These are the motor boats that are built more for the sea as opposed to the river and are typically the power boats that you would find moored in the marinas on any coastline of the United Kingdom. Generally, they fall into five categories:
Designed to rise up and ride on top of the water, ideally operating at a speed that enables it to move across the tops of the waves. They usually operate best in the speed range of between 25 and 40 knots, depending upon the power output of the engines – they usually have two engines. At slow, 'displacement' speeds (15 knots or less) they tend to be uncomfortable, especially in any rougher seas that force all boats to drive at slower speeds.
These boats are made to move you quickly from marina to marina and to spend overnight on, whether it's along the coast of England or across to the Channel Islands or even to France. They're also ideal for day use to find those calm bays and anchor off by a quiet beach for a lunch and a swim or maybe a visit on land, using a small on-board dinghy.
These are designed to glide through the water at slow speeds, moving the water sideways and down, out of the way. They are one of the most stable of boats and one of the most comfortable to be on, in moderate or rough seas. However, they travel relatively slowly at up to 10-12 knots and they have a deeper draft. Because they generally have inboard engines with an external, protruding propeller, these are not boats that you can easily beach.
They are usually traditional in design and because they travel slowly, they are economic on fuel. Many are single diesel engined, others are twin engined but either way, a single tank of fuel enables you to travel a long way. Built for overnight stays and sometimes 'liveaboard' use, whether in a marina or at anchor, or on a buoy these boats are ideal for those who wish to travel distances and don't mind how long it takes to get there.
They are expensive boats to buy and it would have to be an old model boat, possibly in need of refurbishment to find one for sale, at around £50,000.
These boats fall between the planing and displacement boats. Comfortable and stable, with fewer tendencies to roll than the often-built steel displacement boats, the semi displacement boat is intended to give you the best of both worlds. They are designed to operate at low speeds (10-12 knots) and they are also capable of getting on the plane and operating at higher speeds (18-25 knots).
Once more, it depends on the power output of the engines as to what speeds can be achieved. This depends on what the original owners specify. Usually these types of boats have two engines but some have one, with a 'wing' or smaller engine as a backup.
As with displacement boats, single engined models are less expensive than twin engined craft. But don't be put off by the boat of your dreams having only a single engine. On the odd occasion that a boat breaks down at sea, it is rarely because of engine failure; by far the most common causes are fishing nets (or other debris) jammed around propellers, or contaminated fuel.
Another benefit of this type of boat is that they are often designed for river use as well as for offshore. They have smaller drafts and tend to produce less wash than displacement boats and are just as comfortable at the slower speeds. But, like displacement boats, they can be expensive to buy.
Perhaps more commonly known as catamarans (with two hulls) or trimarans (with three hulls), these types of boats are extremely stable out at sea, often providing good accommodation and can be found powered by motor, or by sail.
Trimarans perhaps provide the better accommodation on boats of less than 30ft, compared to catamarans, but then catamarans will be cheaper, because there are only two hulls as opposed to three. There are also types available which are 'trailerable'.
Because of their width, which in part gives them their great stability, they're not so practical on the smaller rivers. Marina charges are often one and a half times as much compared to the same length single hull (monohull) boat. But when it comes to space and comfort, Multihulls have the advantage, albeit at a price.
These boats are designed to obtain their power from the wind with the use of sails, but usually have a small engine as a backup when the sea is becalmed (when there is no wind at all) and to navigate rivers (where 'sailing' is restricted or not allowed) or manoeuvre in harbours and marinas.
There are many different types of sailing boats, but what they have in common is that they provide a peaceful, comfortable, yet exhilarating experience on the water that can also be very economic. Of course a prerequisite is that you know how to sail and you need to be prepared to travel slowly (about 6 knots). For many there is nothing better or invigorating; there is little protection from the elements on a sailing boat and that's all part of the experience.
But you don't have to be out at sea on your own. There are opportunities to race your chosen boat as well as join in regattas and cruises with other sailors.
Because sailing boats have less mechanics and can have less electrical systems than motor boats, they are often significantly cheaper for a similar sized boat.
Sailing does require you to understand and deal with many of the elements be it wind, tide and prevailing currents and requires you to plan your journeys carefully to ensure that you don't get caught out by the weather and tidal gates. For those who enjoy sailing though, this is all part of the fun and challenge of the sport.