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Whether you’re spending a weekend at the family’s lakefront cottage or floating the river with friends, you’ll need a quality boat. Problem is, most people aren’t out boating every weekend.
We don’t have time and space to store a large canoe or a kayak at our apartments. Not to mention the car in the driveway can’t fit a full size boat!
I’m going to help guide you through the process of choosing a new inflatable boat. We’ll talk about some things to consider when purchasing a new boat.
Best Inflatable Boats
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Rated Inflatable Boats For 2021
- Intex Mariner 4 Person Inflatable Boat
- Intex Excursion 5 Inflatable Boat
- Bestway Hydro Force Caspian Pro Inflatable Boat
- AIRHEAD Angler Bay 6 Person Inflatable Boat
- Bris Marine Inflatable Dinghy Tender Boat
- Shark Inflatable Dinghy 9.8
- Newport Vessels Dana Inflatable Sport Dinghy
Now I’ll recommend a few top rated inflatable boats, with our reviews you’ll have a handful of great inflatable boats to choose from!
Inflatable Boat Reviews
- Passengers: 4
- Max Weight: 880 Pounds
- 4 Boston valves for quick inflation and fast-deflation
- 2 Fishing rod holders
- 3 Inflatable seat cushions
- Includes 2 54-inch deluxe aluminum oars and high-output hand pump
For the price, it’s pretty hard to argue with this inflatable boat that has room for plenty of people, gear, and mounted equipment.
Overall I think it’s a slight improvement over the Excursion 5 as it features rugged and durable 3-ply construction and a slightly smaller frame. With a reduced footprint the boat is able to hold more solidly in form and function.
I love that they prominently feature the reinforced rock and abrasion guard around the inflatable hull.
This is an area of significantly increased durability where the boat is made to handle bumps, scrapes, and scratches.
Overall the 4 person inflatable boat features two rod holders for fishing, two rotating oar locks, and battery and gear pouches.
It’s outfitted and engineered to handle a small transom trolling motor which mounts up to preinstalled holes on the exterior of the inflatable boat.
Because of the lightweight nature of the boat and relatively short frame, it makes a great candidate for a small electric trolling motor.
It’s a little smaller than the Excursion 5 and equipped with plenty of accessories, this boat is really a do-it-all system.
If you want a boat that can float with a group of people or take you and your friend fishing for the evening, this is the best inflatable boat for the money that can wear all the hats!
Best For: Keeping one boat that can fit any task.
- Passengers: 5
- Max Weight: 1,100 Pounds
- 3 Air chambers safety and buoyancy
- 3 Inflatable seats with 2 with backrests
- 4 Built-in fishing rod holders
- Includes 2, 54-inch aluminum oars and hand pump
Intex makes the Excursion 5 ready out of the box to support a crew of up to 5 people. With enough space for tons of gear, beer, and all the required daily goodies there’s a lot to like.
The boat comes with 4 fishing rod holders on each side of the boat. These are placed next to bench seating that faces inward for conversation or spending time together whether you’re landing fish or drifting the lake.
The Intex inflatable boat is made of three inflatable chambers which independently hold air.
No need to worry about having your boat “pop” and sink to the bottom like the titanic.
Of course with an inflatable boat you’ll need some way to pump it up. That’s why there’s an included high pressure manual operated pump.
There are aftermarket electric pumps, but with the stock Intex pump you’ll be pumping by hand.
While there are motor mount fittings included with the boat, some users worry that this PVC boat just isn’t quite sturdy enough to handle a motor. This may not be the cheapest inflatable boat you can get, but its pretty close!
Best For: Large groups on a lazy journey!
- Passengers: Up to 2
- Max Weight: 600 Pounds
- Hand pump and two rope
- Two 7-foot two-piece aluminum oars
- Motor mount for trolling
This 7.5’ long inflatable boat is made to outperform most boats when it comes to load bearing, motor mounting, fish slaying fun!
With a huge weight capacity of 600 pounds or 2 people, it’s a beast of a boat. There are 3 separate air chambers for safety and made from almost tear and with a puncture resistant 1100 diner PVC hull you can feel safe out on the water.
Two oarlocks hold the included paddles in place and can be adjusted into three separate positions.
The boat weighs a very moderate 38 pounds and features a drop stitch floor that when fully inflated is amazingly rigid, similar to a boat with a plywood floor.
Unlike most inflatable boats, the Hydro Force Caspian has two floor drain plugs, a nice feature to have.
The key feature of the Hydro Force Caspian is versatility! You can use it for river rafting, fishing or leisurely day on the water.
Best For: Someone who wants the best inflatable fishing boat or two people to enjoy a day on the water.
- Passengers: 6
- Max Weight: 900 Pounds
- 2 Rod holders and multiple molded drink holders
- 32-Guage heavy-duty vinyl
- Swiveling oar locks and side mounted oar holders
- Trolling motor transom mounts
With a 6-person capacity you’d think this inflatable boat would hulk like a behemoth. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.
This olive and yellow boat is ready to handle fishing, paddling, or floating with any number of people. I love that they included several rotating oar locks so that people in the middle or rear of the boat can paddle.
There are plenty of drink holders sprinkled around the boat and 4 separate drain plugs to dry out the boat when you pull it up for the night.
I like that the movable seat can be adjusted around the boat. That helps get it in the right spot so that you can put a transom trolling motor in the back and paddle from the front set of oar locks.
Of course you’ll want to leave room for fishing tackle and space for the kids to cast their lines without hooking you on the back swing!
So don’t pack the boat too full. Its a tough call but this may be the best inflatable boat because it does everything pretty well at a reasonable price.
Best For: Versatility and multiple options for motors and rowing.
- Passengers: 4 +1 Child
- Max Weight: 1200 Pounds
- Rigid aluminum deck floor + inflatable keel
- 3 Air chambers for safety and buoyancy
- Dual action foot pump and 2 aluminum oars
- Triple layered 0.9 mm PVC outer skin
Unlike the Intex and Airhead boats we reviewed earlier, Bris Marine makes this boat in a true dinghy fashion.
The four air tub design is resilient and redundant so there’s no need to worry about sinking or failure of the air baffles – there are four of them to back you up!
By far the dinghy style with the hard backed transom is ideal for mounting up a motor. With a max load of over 1200 pounds you can safely mount up to 10 horsepower motors on to this dinghy.
There’s no problem loading on a two stroke outboard motor to zip across the lake.
With a full crash barrier and triple layered PVC Brine Marine is trying to make users feel super safe when loading this boat up and heading out fishing.
Unlike the other boats, this inflatable dinghy is more purpose built. It belongs on the water with a small outboard motor and makes a perfect boat for the angler.
There’s no reason you can’t use it for transportation though!
Make no mistake, the Intex boats reviewed above make better “party boats” for lazy days and lots of people. But if you want a high quality fishing boat that you can count on, the Bris Marine is a far superior choice to anything we’ve reviewed so far.
Best For: Mounting an outboard and a more traditional hard bodied boat feel.
- Passengers: 4
- Max Weight: 1158 Pounds
- 2 Aluminum bench seats
- 2 Aluminum oars with lock-in holders
- Made from 0.9 mm/1100 denier thick PVC
- Compatible with either 2 or 4 stroke motors
Like the GoPlus dinghy, this inflatable boat is made to handle smaller loads with a focus on the ability to handle higher output motors.
This time we can plug in a motor up to 15 horsepower! With a 15 horse motor on this lightweight 70 pound boat, you’ll be flying out to your favorite fishing spot each morning.
Like most dinghy type inflatable boats, there is minimal storage when compared to the raft style boats for 5-6 people like the Intex boats above.
However, you gain significant improvements in rigidity and capacity. With nearly 1,200 pounds of max load and welded 1100 denier PVC construction this boat will hold up to just about anything.
I like the removable seat bag and cushion. It makes it easy to add a little extra storage for taking another person in the boat or zipping across the lake for a dinner picnic.
When there’s just one person in the boat, however, you can easily remove the seat and gain tons of storage space for tackle and gear.
The seats on the boat are made from aluminum and lend to a much more traditional feeling style compared the inflatable rafts. I like the solid aluminum floor and included oars with oarlocks.
However, these heavier and more sturdy features make the boat harder to pack. You might not want to have to break down this boat every day. The Shark 9.8 has my vote as the best inflatable dinghy!
Best For: Places where you can leave the boat assembled between trips and carrying a much larger outboard motor than other inflatable options.
- Passengers: 3
- Max Weight: 1,067 Pounds
- Made from 0.9 mm/1100 denier thick PVC
- Includes aluminum bench seat and 2 aluminum oars
- Compatible with either 2 or 4 stroke motors
- Includes carrying & storage bag and high volume foot pump
Newport is bringing us the last boat on our list which is another addition to the Dinghy class of boats.
Like the Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8, the Dana Dinghy is made from advanced, tough materials and supports tons of load, options, and power. .There are a few differences though.
This Newport boat comes in quite a bit cheaper than the Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8. For that cheaper price you get the same sturdy 1100 denier construction, aluminum floor and decking, and aluminum seats.
However, you lose the ability to handle some horsepower. This boat is rated for a maximum of 10 HP versus the Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8 which can handle 15.
If that sounds trivial then perhaps the cheaper price and lower motor output is a good choice for you. But when you consider that 15 HP is 150% more power and speed than a 10 HP motor you may want to spring for the more expensive boat.
In general they offer most of the same competitive features. Users with tighter budgets will probably prefer the cost savings of the Newport Vessels dinghy.
Best For: Boaters on a budget looking for an inflatable boat that can handle a moderate outboard motor.
Inflatable Boat Comparison Table
|Inflatable Boat||Passengers||Capacity||Includes||Boat Weight||Trolling Motor Compatible|
|Intex Mariner Person Inflatable Boat||4 People||880 lbs||Oars, hand pump, 3 seats||70 lbs||Yes|
|AIRHEAD Angler Bay Boat||6 People||900 lbs||1 moveable seat, 2 rod holders||45 lbs||Yes|
|Intex Excursion Inflatable Boat||5 People||N/A||Oars, hand pump, 3 seats||50 lbs||Yes|
|Bestway Hydro Force Caspian Pro||2 People||600 lbs||Oars, hand pump||45 lbs||Yes|
|BRIS Inflatable Dinghy Boat||5 People||1200 lbs||Oars, 2 seats||120 lbs||Yes|
|Shark Inflatable Dinghy||5 People||1160 lbs||Oars, 2 alum seats. foot pump||70 lbs||Yes|
|Newport Vessels Dana Dinghy||3 People||1,060 lbs||Oars, alum bench seat, foot pump||101 lbs||Yes|
How to Choose the Best Inflatable Boat
- What Type of Inflatable Boat is Right for You?
- How Often Will You Use Your Boat?
- Catarafts or Regular Inflatable Boats?
- Construction Materials
- Decking Material and Design
Inflatable boats are a relatively new addition to the options available who want to get out on the water. Traditionally only hard bodied canoes and kayaks were easy to find and buy.
Not to mention the best inflatable rafts have to be sturdy, resilient, and puncture proof. With newer and better inflatable boats on the market today it’s easier to find a boat to fit your needs.
If you’ve never considered purchasing a new inflatable boat, there are a few things you might miss that are quite important!
What Type of Inflatable Boat is Right for You?
Just like traditional hard bodied boats, inflatable boats come in many varieties. Whether you want a kayak, canoe, single or tandem there’s an option out there. But how do you know where to start?
Canoe-type inflatable boats are generally a good choice for 1-2 people with some gear. A canoe can handle enough gear to comfortably go out on a fishing trip or multi-day canoe camping trip.
These boats aren’t as small and agile as a kayak but the greater storage space provides more flexibility for boaters to choose their favorite activity.
Kayak inflatables are the smallest and most nimble boat available. They’re lightweight and will very easily fit in any vehicle when packed down.
The smallest and lightest inflatable kayaks can even be packed into a backpack!
Rafts and larger inflatable boats can handle up to half a dozen people or more. These boats are usually “party boats”. Unless, of course, you upgrade to a full-on river raft.
Most inflatable rafts for recreational use feature additions such as coolers, cup holders, and often mounted oars.
How Often Will You Use Your Boat?
For those who may use their inflatable boat only occasionally, skimping on quality might be fine. Spending a few extra bucks to get a durable, high quality boat for regular use, however, is critical.
If you plan to use your inflatable boat regularly, consider increasing your budget to accommodate. Getting an extra inflatable kayak for when the kids visit the cottage doesn’t need to break the bank.
Catarafts or Regular Inflatable Boats?
Catarafts deserve to be in a category of their own. While they are technically inflatable boats, they don’t quite fit the same bill. Catarafts are made of two inflatable bodies joined by a network of aluminum tubing and webbing.
Catarafts are generally more agile and responsive than their equivalent sized raft counterparts. They’re inherently self bailing since they do not feature a full floor on the boat bottom. Instead the bottom of the raft is usually open and sits up off the water.
While some traditional rafts can handle a motor, catarafts generally have an superior load bearing performance. They can be easily balanced and loaded with supplies or heavy objects like an outboard motor.
Catarafts make a superior choice of inflatable boat if you have enough room to transport them.
Inflatable boats are generally made of just two materials. Fortunately it makes things easy to distinguish when choosing. If you’re on a tight budget and need to keep prices as low as possible, you may prefer PVC boats.
PVC inflatable boats are constructed with a coated PVC fabric. These fabrics are durable and dependable although they fail to maintain the excellent properties of the superior Hypalon fabrics. There’s nothing wrong with PVC and it will work great for occasional, gentle use.
Hypalon, on the other hand, is an advanced synthetic material which can be used to improve the performance of inflatable boats.
Boats made with hypalon are heavier but significantly more robust than those made with PVC. If you want to keep your boat assembled and docked, say, all summer at the cottage, then Hypalon might be a better choice for you.
Trade offs include the increased price of hypalon versus the lower cost of PVC. Hypalon is heavier and thus harder to pack and transport.
PVC might be a better choice for packing into the back of the car on a regular basis. Hypalon will withstand more use and abuse than PVC.
Decking Material and Design
Decking underfoot in inflatable boats is usually designed either as a high pressure inflatable floor, or as solid aluminum planks that snap into place.
Aluminum planks offer the added benefits of being more sturdy and rigid. They will perform more closely to an aluminum flat bottom boat compared to inflatable bottoms.
These interlocking aluminum ribs or tubes form a solid feeling bottom that might just make many users feel safer in general.
Inflatable bottoms are generally high pressure tubes that provide structure and rigidity to the boat. These floors can be a little “squishy” underfoot and may feel a little unsafe at first.
Usually the bottom of these floors is protected by design or material from being easily punctured or abraded from underneath. Nonetheless, you should be careful not to beach on sharp objects with abrupt force!
Inflatable bottom boats tend to be more forgiving and absorb more of the shock of waves. If having a gentle ride or being easy on the knees is important, consider using an inflatable bottom raft.
Storing Your Inflatable Boat
Making sure your boat lasts long enough to enjoy is probably important, right? I mean, afterall, you invested a lot of money into your boat so it stands to reason that you’d want to take care of it.
Your boat should be stored out of the sun. As we’ve mentioned, sunlight can be harmful to inflatable boats.
On top of that, storing your boat in a cool and dry area is important. Make sure that there is some ventilation to allow air movement. This will help prevent mildew which can severely damage inflatable boats.
Before storing you should clean your boat and let it dry. Be certain to only use cleaners approved for PVC use. Harsh chemicals like bleach can quickly cause the rubber on these boats to decay and crack.
Taking care of your boat can dramatically increase its lifespan!
FAQs About Inflatable Boats
Q: Are inflatable boats in danger of sinking?
This can be a little bit daunting for many. I mean, pool toys pop every day and then they’re junk. Isn’t an inflatable boat just a big pool toy?
Actually, not so much. In fact, whitewater rafts are often made from similar materials as these inflatable boats. Those rafts are designed to withstand hard impacts on sharp rocks and they rarely have problems.
For those reasons your inflatable boat is probably a lot more durable than you might imagine.
That said, however, it is possible that your inflatable boat could be punctured. Most inflatable boats are made from multiple chambers of air which prevent the entire boat from losing air if a puncture does happen.
If your boat does have a problem like this, repairs are relatively easy. Most inflatable boats come with their own repair kits so you can get things working again in no-time!
Q: Who should own an inflatable boat?
A: Inflatable boats have a few major advantages:
- Lower cost
- Higher portability
- Smaller storage size
For these reasons if you have a low budget but still need a boat, inflatables are a good consideration. If you don’t have a lot of storage space, or if you don’t have a way to transports a full size boat, look to inflatables for the answers.
Keep things within reason, though. These boats aren’t high-performance vehicles or premier fishing boats. Inflatable boats have inherent limitations and as long as you work within them, you’ll be much more likely to be satisfied!
Q: Can I leave my inflatable boat out in the sun?
A: Not if you want it to keep working!
Plastics of any kind are almost universally susceptible to UV degradation. Unfortunately, those UV rays are an integral part of the sunlight we enjoy all summer long.
In order to keep your boat in good condition for seasons of use, you need to get it out of the sun unless it’s in use. One of the worst things you could do would be to store your boat in sunlight.
So, if you’re not using the boat for more than 24 hours, pack it up and put it away or drag it up on the lawn under a shade tree until you want to use it again.
At the very least, you could buy one of those cheap blue tarps and throw it over the boat if you don’t want to deflate it. This would be great if, say, you’re at the beach house for a week and won’t be using it every day.
Q: Can I transport these boats in my car?
A: Truck? Yes.
Sedan? Most likely.
Compact car? Maybe.
First, let me say that each of these boats is different in size and weight. On top of that, their packed size is quite a bit different.
For small cars the best boats will be fully inflatable such as many of the Intex boats. These boats don’t have rigid components so they can be folded down smaller.
Boats with rigid components, like catrafts and many inflatables, may not fit in smaller cars. These rigid seats, floorboards, and transom mounts may not fold down in size. For that reason they may or may not fit in smaller cars or SUVs.
Any of these boats will most certainly be transportable with your average truck, however.
Q: Can I attach a gasoline engine to my inflatable boat?
A: There’s a really good chance that you can!
Not all inflatable boats can have an engine attached, though so don’t jump the gun.
To mount a motor or engine, you’ll need a transom board or transom mount. This is just a big mounting board at the back of the boat where a motor or engine can be attached.
Of course, there’s a limit to how much power can be added to any given boat. Make sure to check your owner’s manual for horsepower limits before you just strap up that 25 horse outboard and rip your boat in half!
Another thing to keep in mind is that the motor on your boat (including gas or batteries) counts toward the weight limit of your boat.
Ultimately boaters have three main choices in the world of inflatable boats. Choose an inflatable raft style boats, such as the Intex models, for more relaxed and group fun at an affordable price.
Consider a cataraft style boat for the option to choose between lakes, rivers, and other hard to navigate places when it’s just one person and their fishing gear.
For the heaviest loads and the largest motors possible with an inflatable boat you’ll want a dinghy style boat.
No matter what boat you choose, remember to start by consider how you’ll use it. Whether you’ll transport it daily, or once a year. How many people will be in the boat and what types of activities might you want to do with it?
Some of the boats on our list are great for more than one type of fun. Others are meant just for fishing. At the end of the day, just remember to have fun!
I hope this guide was helpful in picking the best inflatable boat to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a boat I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Have fun and be safe out there!
How We Researched
To come up with the top inflatable boats, we researched a variety of sources for reviews such as REI, Dicks Sporting Goods, Cabelas and Backcountry along with our own personal experience.
We also consulted online magazines for product research and reviews to get as much unbiased information as we could. To help weed out fake reviews we used Fakespot.com to make sure we only looked at genuine reviews.
With so much quality gear available, we had to narrow it down based on what we felt were the best options for the price. The author, Casey Fiedler has been an avid kayaker and leads kayak camping trips during the summer months in his native state of Michigan, so he has a broad range of experience with watercraft.
To help narrow down the selection he used his personal experience along with recommendations from outdoor activity organizers.
After extensive research, we came up with our list to help you choose the right one for you.