26 Different Types of Boats | Common Boat Types and Their Uses

Different Types of Boats and Their Uses

Whether you are a water sports enthusiast, casually looking around to buy a boat, or know the different types of boats but do not know the type that suits your needs best, you have come to the right place.

After reading this article, you can decide what type of boat to choose the next time you enjoy a sunny day on the water while renting or even buying one. Or at least you will have new knowledge about boats and have something extra to talk about standing around the grill at your next friends and family gathering.


Boats Classification


Ever since its invention, the boat has been an irreplaceable form of inland waterways and nearshore navigation. Although it is commonly mistaken, there is an actual difference between a boat and a ship, mainly in their size, operation areas, needed crew for operation, and cargo capacity.


Throughout Its existence, the concept has stayed consistent, even though the design has varied depending on the actual use of the boat, such as passenger transport boats, cargo transport boats, recreational and leisure boats, and even speed racing-high performance boats. There are a lot of boat types with an enormous number of designs and sub-classes, but the most primal and all-round classification is dividing the boats into three main sections as shown:


A. Man-powered or unpowered boats

These types of boats utilize human resources in order to move through the water and were used in the early stages of boating history. Today, man-powered boats are mainly used as recreational vessels like rafts, kayaks, gondolas, etc.


B. Sailboats

Boats that have a sail and navigate through the water using the power of the wind are called sailboats. In history, sailboats have had a wide range of use, but since they rely on wind, which is not that constant, most modern sailboats come with an engine to help them in windless situations.


C. Engine-powered boats

These boats are commonly known as motorboats, and as the actual name gives it up, they are driven with the power of an internal combustion engine. With the help of modern technology, motorboats exist with more than one engine, engines with fins, jet engines that are most commonly used in Jet Ski, and other types of combinations of all to get the better performance of the vessel.


Aside from the general boat classification mentioned above, we will look into a broader list of the most common boat types and discuss their characteristics.


1. Canoes boats


We are starting off with the simplest type of boat, the canoe. The canoe is basically a long and narrow boat that uses paddles to move. The person, or people, propelling the boat are facing the direction of movement using single-bladed paddles while either sitting or kneeling on the bottom of the boat. Most canoes are an open-top type, and their body is made out of fiberglass, molded plastic, or aluminum in order to have a lightweight body, but in the old days, most canoes were made out of wood or wooden frames wrapped in canvas which had a far bigger weight.


Canoes boat


2. Kayaks boats


Some might say that kayaks and canoes are the same things, but we would like to point out the differences and the fact that they are actually two very different types of boats, although they look very similar. Kayaks are canoe-like boats that are smaller than an actual canoe and usually are made out of the same materials.


One of the key differences is that the kayak can fit only one person, who is always sitting down, and the other difference is the closed-top, which means the legs of the person sitting are covered, or to be precise, inside the body of the kayak. This is because of the main use of kayaks, which is whitewater kayaking, and the closed body plays a big role in not letting water inside the boat and keeping the person as dry as possible.


Kayaks can also be used for fishing, ecotourism tours, and even diving and their design is dependent on their intent of use. Because it can only be propelled by rowing, and it can only fit one person, a double-bladed paddle is used to act as a steering mechanism.


Related article: Paddleboard Kayak Hybrid (SUP Kayak) | Reviews & Buying Tips


Kayaks boat


3. Dinghy boats


Dinghy boats are a type of boat that is most used as helpers to larger boats and ships to navigate through tight water areas or as transport vessels for larger ships docked near the shore. They have a flat bottom which allows them to move freely in shallow waters without the risk of getting stuck.


These boats are also known as rowboats (because they rely on paddles and rowing for movement), but some are a bit more advanced and can be equipped with outboard motors, and some even have small sails, although those types are very rare.


Along the most common type is inflatable boats; however, these boats can be made from aluminum, fiberglass, or marine plywood. Because of their small size, lightweight body, and affordable prices, recreational users are often drawn to this type of boat for satisfying their needs, often fishing, exploring, camping and research expeditions, and much more.


Dinghy boat


4. Fishing boats


The sole reason boats are built to be used on water, so it’s expected to be a specific type of boats made for a water-based activity that has been around for centuries, fishing. Since there are many types of fishing boats specific to a certain catch, the boat design varies to satisfy the need of the fishermen. Because fish can be found in every type of waterway or area, the body of the fishing boat goes from a flat body used for shallow, inland waterways, all the way to offshore fishing boats that have a more significant body and taller so they can withstand the rough conditions present in open waters.


The main feature every fishing boat must have is rod lockers used to position the fishing rods while the fishermen enjoy their time. Besides this feature, many fishing boats have a front bow and broad platforms that allow movement while having a fish on the hook. Another great part of fishing boats is having a trolling motor system, usually electric, that moves the boat very slowly and quietly through the water without scaring any fish in the area. Still, this feature is a bit high-end and not available on all types of fishing boats.


Fishing boat


5. Skiff boats


Skiff boats, or short skiffs, are the weekend fisherman’s top choice when it comes to cheap and portable boats. Skiffs have a small body made of aluminum with a flat bottom and a small to mid-sized engine ideal for nearshore fishing. Because of their size, they can be easily transported end even stored indoors, which is why they are the top choice for an entry-level inshore fishing boat.


Skiff boat


6. Rescue boats


Although boats are meant for fun and adventurous times, some boats are meant for doing serious work in all kinds of situations. Rescue boats are the type of boats that come to the rescue in time of need and emergency, and because of that crucial role in keeping the safety of the boating community, they earn respect and honorable mention in this list.


They are small vessels usually attached or aboard bigger vessels to carry passengers to safety if a dangerous situation occurs. Still, they can also be individual vessels that operate in nearshore conditions. All of them are equipped with first aid kits and life jackets and carry some food and water supplies to be ready for all kinds of disasters.


Depending on the area of use, they can be in very different sizes and carry different people’s capacities. They are usually made of fiberglass or inflatable type and either towed by a bigger boat or lowered down into the water by a crane or a davit, if aboard one. Besides these two variants, modern ships have closed lifeboats that hang on the sides. If a disaster occurs, passengers can quickly enter the lifeboat, which is then immediately lowered or pushed into the water to save precious time in these types of situations.


Rescue boat


7. Center console boats


The name of these types of boats comes from the position of the steering console, which comes in the center of the boat. Because of this placement and the boat’s deep V-shaped hull, center console boats have a lot of room for movement and seating, making them great boats for day cruising and suitable for sport fishing while providing a smooth ride in offshore waters and some more giant waves.


Center console boat


8. Hovercrafts


Hovercrafts are iconic fishing vessels that are especially nourished in the South of the US. They feature a flat aluminum body and an enormous and ridiculously loud engine with an air propeller matching its look.


The driver sits on a chair that is higher than the other seating arrangements to have better visibility. The hovercraft is used for fishing and crocodile hunting because of its ability to move through shallow waters and swamps. Still, mainly they are used as entertaining boats because they are fast and fun, and they can provide a thrilling ride most would not forget.




9. Deck boats


A slick, modern design with a reasonably big seating capacity and, of course, an open deck area makes this type of boat ideal for entertaining a small group of people and enjoy a sunny day on the water.

With a hull that is almost always V-shaped, usually around 30 ft. in length, and a stern power drive makes deck boats popular amongst recreational users that find joy in activities like swimming, water sports, and friendly gatherings on the water.




10. Bowrider boats


They are considered the most popular type of powerboat amongst families. With their extensive open space bow area, Bowrider boats offer seating space for eight or even more people. With the help of a sterndrive or outboard engines, the V-shaped hull provides a smooth ride across almost any type of water condition. Nearly all of them contain a swim platform for all kinds of recreational swimming activities and relaxed boating adventures.


Bowrider boat


11. Cabin cruisers


All the essential features of a home designed into a boat that is great for travelling overnight. Cabin cruisers offer a sleeping area, kitchen, bathroom in addition to modern comforts like air conditions and heaters.  With their wide, V-shaped body, the cabin cruisers provide a smooth ride across all water conditions and are perfect for travelling mid-range distances.


Cabin cruiser


12. Trawler boats


With a round displacement hull to ensure smooth maneuvering through water and large cabins, the trawler boats are ideal for long-range cruising. Because of its design, the boat uses less horsepower to move through the water, which means less fuel is burned and leaves the ability to cover longer distances.


Like cabin cruisers, the trawler boat includes many modern amenities like a sleeping area, a bathroom, and a kitchen to ensure a more pleasant cruising. However, these types of boats are larger and more comfortable, and spacious.


Trawler boat


13. Yachts


The most luxurious and modern design of boats. Yachts are primarily used for cruising and leisure activities. Motor yachts are the perfect boats for any family trip, from day cruising to a multiple-day, long-range cruise. All yachts are equipped with state-of-the-art navigational systems and radars to ensure safe travel, whether it is nearshore or open water conditions.


Yacht’s size can vary depending on the amenities they have and the extra features, and the number of engines is in correlation with the weight it needs to propel. Some of the luxurious additional features that make them stand out from the rest of the boats are optional pools, helicopter pads, lifeboats, garages for a car inside the hull, underwater see-through glass floors, and so much more. Starting from 12m and above, yachts can cost from a few hundred thousand dollars up to double-digit millions depending on the selected luxuries.




14. Pontoon boats


Pontoon boats have a large deck placed on top of tubes called pontoons that keep the body afloat. These types of boats are used mostly for inland waters and waterways of very nearshore boating.


Because of their design, pontoon boats are not made for high speed and long-distance travel but maximum pleasure during short-range relaxing cruises. Leisure activities, entertaining, and even water sports and fishing are the pontoon boats’ main uses in a not intense way. The usual size of most pontoon boats is in the range between 16 and 30 ft. Depending on the seating arrangements, the deck can carry a passenger load of up to 25 people.


Pontoon boat


15. Sedan bridge boats


A hybrid vessel between a few types of boats makes sedan bridge boats very popular for long-range cruises and nearshore voyages that require excellent navigations skills. The hull of the boat is somewhat similar to a yacht and all of the features and amenities. Still, the actual bridge is extended to allow the navigator better visibility in any condition.


Because of the high position of the bridge, sedan bridge boats give the impression of a very large boat. The depth of the boat’s hull needs to be deep enough as a counter-balance for the height of the bridge to ensure stable movement through the water. As a bonus, it gives the boat more room for accommodations below to satisfy longer cruises with more people.


Sedan bridge boat


16. High-performance boats


Designed for professional racing or to satisfy the need of speed-hungry adventurists, high-performance boats are the waterways’ Ferraris. Streamlined and with a futuristic design, these boats grab the attention of all nearby viewers while providing an enormous adrenalin rush for the driver and passengers. In order to be fast, high-performance boats have big engines with a lot of horsepowers and have deep V-shaped hulls and narrow beams made from durable and lightweight materials to increase drag and reach peak performance.


Professional boat racing is a world-famous sport, and high-performance boats are used, along with a few modifications to satisfy some rules and regulations and, of course, increase driver’s safety. In this type of racing, usually, the boat is operated by one person stationed in a closed cabin that, in the event of a crash, detaches from the hull and remains in the water until official race safety officials reach the pod. Even if this pod sinks, the actual cabin has breathable air tanks to keep the driver safe until he or she is pulled from the water.


High performance boat


17. Tow-sports boats


Whether it is a wakeboard boat, surf boat, or ski boat, the design is almost the same, and the only difference is their field of use. They come in very sleek designs and are very versatile, ideal for families or thrill-seekers who like to ride big and bumpy waves.


The key difference between the tow-sports boats is the engine types and propulsion arrangement. Wakeboard boats have engines in the back that create big waves and make the ride more fun and wavy for the person being towed, whether ski and surf boats have powerful engines placed in the center to provide a smoother ride and to have enough power and acceleration that is required.


Tow-sports boat


18. Banana boats


There is no man, woman, or child who has not ridden or wanted to ride a banana boat at least once. This type of watercraft is used for recreational activities and entertainment from a single person to a whole group of people or family. The design of the inflatable boat is, you guessed it, a banana shape that floats on the water, which has a lot of hooks and straps for the people sitting on top of it to hold on to.


It does not have any motor, so it relies on other motorboats to tow it, usually some of the before-mentioned tow sport boats. No matter how simple the design and function, the banana boat can turn any family holiday into a never-ending joy ride.


Banana boat


19. Personal watercrafts


Since we are getting into the more fun and thrilling types of boats, we must mention the PWCs or personal watercraft boats. Commonly known as Jet Ski or water scooters, these types of boats are easily customizable for any water adventure. They allow the rider to travel at high speed throughout the water, and due to the lightweight and small size, sharp and sudden cornering is as much fun as it is easy.


You can find them in two different models, sit-down models that feature a seat or a bench that holds one or two people and a stand-up type that comes without a seat and is meant for just one rider. Although you are missing a seat on the stand-up kinds of personal watercraft, you gain extra maneuverability and excitement since you can push the vessel downwards with your legs, which sets the jet engine at an angle to propel the Jet Ski upward and sending the rider up in the air.


Personal watercrafts


20. Houseboats


As we continue down the list, the types of boats continue to get bigger and bigger, and what boat doesn’t scream size like the houseboat. From its name, houseboats are built and used to offer the same conditions of living in a house but with the added luxurious sparkle of doing it on the water.


Houseboats, or also known as float houses, come in various sizes and designs depending on their use. Still, all of them have a significant amount of space, have a sleeping arrangement, a kitchen, a full-sized bathroom, and even a dining room, basically everything you get in a typical house.


Most of these boats are motorized, which means they can also be used for relaxed cruising or even relocating your living area; some do lack the ability to move of their own and require the assistance of another boat when needed to be moved.




21. Sailboats


Sailboats used for leisure cruising and sport sailing use the wind as a primary power source for movement. Some of them feature outboard or inboard motors, along with the sails, as additional help in powering through the water. These vessels are available in many sizes and designs, but nevertheless, they are known for their beautiful looks and elegant designs.


Sailboats have a very distinct hull design, long and narrow, but a few types of sailboats move away from this typical design towards having two or more hulls connected together. Because of this unusual design, these types of boats gain more popularity every day. Due to their popularity, these boats earn their respect and the right to be mentioned in this article.




22. Catamaran boats


Catamarans are sailboats or motorboats that have two same-sized hulls connected in parallel to each other. All other features are mirrored from the typical one-hull boat, but because it has two hulls, it has less hull volume and shallower draft to be used for fishing along with the general purpose of leisure cruising.


Catamaran boat


23. Trimaran boats


From their name, trimarans are boats made with three hulls. The middle hull is always bigger and known as the main hull and is connected with smaller outer hulls, one of each side. These boats are more and more present in recent times and mainly used for recreational racing, tourist tour transport, and even as warships.


Trimaran boat


24. Tugboats


As you should have learned by now, not all boats have the ability to move on their own or need assistance from other vessels to change their location. In these cases, Tugboats, the heavy towing, hardworking boat of the boating community, comes to the rescue. Whether it’s by pushing other vessels or bulling them by a connected tow line, Tugboats help navigate boats of all types and sizes into crowded areas, such as harbors, piers, and even canals.


Do not be fooled by their size; tugboats are incredibly rugged and tough and can move vessels much larger by their size with the help of their powerful engines. Usually, on the outer body of the boat, they have tires or other soft materials to prevent damage to another boat during pushing, and some modern types even have firefighting monitors that allow them to assist in any firefighting situations.




25. Barge boats


Another type of hardworking boat is the barge boats or narrowboats, as they are known because of their distinctive long and narrow body. They have a flat bottom and a deep hull with high walls, so these boats are used mainly for canal or river transport of bulk goods, such as sand, rocks, salt, etc. Most of them cannot move on their own and use the help of tugboats.


Barge boat


26. Fireboats


Even with all that water around, fires can happen on any vessel or harbor, and as a first responder on the water are the fireboats. These boats are specialized vessels with pumps and nozzles for fighting fires, where the pumps use the water where the boat is in and transfers it to the nozzles, which means it is unlikely that the boat will run out of water to disperse.




Final thought


Do not get confused; this list is made out of some of the most popular types of boats, which a just a tiny part of the boats in existence. Other types of boats that exist are Log boats, Junk boats, Ferry boats, Cigarette boats, Folding boats, Rafts, and so much more.


Whether you are looking for leisure and relax cruising or maybe adrenalin seeking adventurer or even a fishing enthusiast looking to take the next step towards becoming a pro, the right type of boat is out there waiting for you, you have to understand the intended use before choosing one. Hopefully, this article has done just that.




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Workshop Insider

Workshop Insider

Founded on the core mission of connecting mechanical engineers globally to share knowledge and experience. Our Authors are qualified Mechanical Engineers, Marine Engineers, Welding Engineers "CSWIP Certified", Coating Inspectors "NACE CIP LII" & NDT Experts "ASNT NDT LIII Certified".
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