Better Family Boat: Deck Boat or Bowrider?

If you’re in the market for a family boat, you’ll likely end up choosing between a deck boat or a bowrider. 

Deck boat vs bowrider family boat

Deck boats and bowriders are both considered runabouts — nimble motor boats typically between 20’ to 35’ in length capable of holding about 10 people — used for leisure activities such as water skiing, wakeboarding or fishing. However, there are subtle differences between deck boats and bowriders, which could impact your decision to go with one or the other. Let’s compare deck boats with bowriders to see which is best for your family.

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider - Hull Design

A boat’s hull design has a major impact on how it handles on the water. 

Boat hull types infographic

The deeper the V of a hull and the narrower the bow, the better the boat cuts through water. This means a boat with a deep-V hull has higher top speed; can make tighter turns; and cuts through waves instead of slamming into them. A hull with a shallower V shape and a broader, blunter bow provides a much more stable platform at the expense of outright performance. However, the wider bow allows for more deck space on the boat.


Deeper V hulls and narrower bows, making them faster and more maneuverable than deck boats in rougher waters, but less stable on flat water.

Deck Boats 

Flatter hulls and wider bows, giving them greater stability in calm waters, but less suitable for use in rough conditions.

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider - Styling & Layout

The main difference between deck boats and bowriders is the bow area. Deck boats have a wider bow area and an expansive deck space at the front, hence the name. 

Family boating bowrider

Bowriders retain the classic styling that narrows to a point at the bow, which limits the amount of deck space forward of the helm. Both boat types have similar styling, including gelcoat colors, graphics and trim.


Typically smaller than deck boats, in the 18’ to 25’ range, but can be as large as 35’. Most are powered by outboard motors, but some rely on sterndrives.

Deck Boats 

Typically larger to accommodate the extra deck area up front. Can start at about 18’, but most are in the 25’ to 35’ range. Powered either by outboards or sterndrives in equal measure.

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider - Performance

As mentioned earlier, the classic V shape of a bowrider’s hull makes it more efficient at slicing through water. 

Choosing a family boat

This enables bowriders to make sharper turns, reach higher speeds and track better in a straight line. The flatter hull of a deck boat can’t match the high speed performance of the bowrider, but is more stable at slow speeds or when stationary.


More suitable in rougher conditions such as coastal waters and larger lakes that experience waves.

Deck Boats 

More suitable in calmer conditions such as lakes and rivers, or inner coastal waters with very little swell.

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider - Capacity

The wider beam (width of the boat) at the front of a deck boat enables it to have more deck space, which of course means more room for passengers. 

Deck boat vs bowrider

Deck boats have a higher passenger capacity than bowriders of the same length. The bigger deck area also means more storage space for personal items, safety gear and watersports equipment beneath the decks.


Easily accommodate a family of five with plenty of space for everyone to move around. Larger bowriders are capable of carrying up to 10 people onboard.

Deck Boats 

Easily accommodate a family of five with plenty of space for everyone to move around. However, larger deck boats can carry a dozen people onboard.

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider - Watersports

Family boats are typically accompanied by watersports of some kind — wakeboarding, waterskiing, tubing, etc. Both bowriders and deck boats have a towing eye fixed to the rear deck or transom, and can accommodate a wakeboard or ski tower.

Bowrider vs deck boat watersports


Better performance suitable for more experienced skiers or wakeboarders.

Deck Boat

Slower but more stable platform, better for novice skiers or wakeboarders, and for towing a tube.

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider - Fishing

Both boat types can be used for fishing, although they don’t have the maneuverability or ability to get into extremely shallow waters like bass boats or flat boats.

Deck boat vs bowrider fishing


Better suited for sea fishing in rougher conditions, but it’s more restrictive to move about on the deck, which can make fishing harder.

Deck Boats 

Better suited to fishing in calmer waters and easier to move about, which makes fishing easier.

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider - Price

A deck boat is typically more expensive than a bowrider, largely because it can accommodate more people, which is appealing to family boat buyers.

Family deck boat


Typically less expensive than deck boats, with cheaper maintenance costs and lower insurance premiums.

Deck Boats 

Typically more expensive than bowriders, with greater maintenance costs and higher insurance premiums.

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider - Final Word

For a buyer interested in a family vessel, a deck boat offers a happy compromise between the exciting speed and performance of a runabout, plus the capacity for bigger social gatherings. 

Deck boat vs bowrider watersports

However, a bowrider easily accommodates six people with seating and plenty of legroom for all of them, which is fine if it’s just going to be a few adults and kids on board. At the end of the day, the decision on which type of boat to buy will probably come down to the features and of course, the price



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