What is a cheap powerboat? Good value is not just about price. After all, a bad or unsuitable boat is never a bargain, however cheap it might be. But if you stumble upon a genuinely good boat that also happens to be more accessibly priced than the competition, it demands a closer look. If you are absolutely stuck on a budget, try these features: 5 of the best new powerboats for £20K, 5 new powerboats under £5,000, 5 of the best used powerboats for £10K.
1. Piscator 580
This Chinese-built 19-footer takes quite a conventional approach to the fast fisher format and it works very well. In addition to the broad open cockpit and compact covered bow, you get a workmanlike fit-out allied to a driving experience that’s remarkably dry, soft, dextrous and entertaining. Visibility from the helm is not great and the ergonomics of the helm station are a bit of a disaster but at less than £22,000 for the 90hp package (not much more than a grand a foot), it has to be on your shortlist.
2. Olympic 520C
Olympic specialises in small affordable sports boats in Open, Centre Console and Cabin formats – and all of them offer the leisure boater more than the platform size or the price bracket suggest (see my Olympic 500C review from 2012).
The 520 is a particularly popular platform, which in cabin set-up offers a useful blend of broad, squared-off cockpit space and sheltered accommodation. You also get a deepset helm station beneath a safety glass screen, broad walkways to access the bow and a bulging forward structure that generates very decent headroom down below. Add in swivelling seats, a step-through forepeak and a five-year hull warranty and its value is beyond doubt.
3. Sea-Doo Spark
With its ‘skeletal’ Polytec construction, its easy upgrade routes and its low price, the Sea-Doo Spark was designed to generate an altogether new form of personal watercraft. It didn’t achieve quite that (see my Sea-Doo Spark review), but what it did do is sidestep the PW race for ever greater pace and power and create an option that was easier to buy, simpler to customise and less troublesome to own. By stripping away the frivolous trinkets, toning down the power and radically reducing both the size and weight, it offers a practical, useable and thoroughly enjoyable real world watercraft that can be yours for the unimaginably accessible price of just five grand.
4. AB Oceanus 28 VST
The AB Oceanus 28 VST is a very simple boat with a big deck that can be configured however you choose. As a result, the basic platform really has to impress - and it does. This is a super-tough, long-range, offshore RIB that can carry 25 people and travel more than 500 nautical miles without a refill.
The robust build quality will keep you safe on exposed passages; the running efficiency on twin 125s is astonishing; and the comfort of that soft, dry, commercial-style ride is a real pleasure. Of course, in its most basic form, the styling is quite dull, but with a base price of £43,000 plus engines, it’s a bit of a gift.
5. Warrior 175 Export
Warrior’s 175 Export is a more basic and affordable version of the much-acclaimed 175. It uses an extremely large, fully self-draining deck with twin scuppers and a short cuddy section with storage inside the seat mouldings on both sides.
The use of a larger console enables flexibility in your choice of electronics; a very deep internal freeboard means the big cockpit is safe for kids as well as keen anglers; and careful attention to the storage solutions keeps the deck clutter-free. It’s not the cheapest fast fisher you can buy but sturdy residuals are a major bonus.
6. AMT Hard Top
AMT’s 190 HT is an outstanding general-purpose day cruiser, with space for seven, sleeping for two and an excellent spread of family talents (see my review of the smaller AMT 150R from 2014).
With great visibility, useful shelter, well considered storage options, excellent use of space and a generous features list, the practicalities are very much taken care of. But it’s her remarkable helming acumen that really steals the show, easily outweighing the rather modest looks of this unassuming little boat. Even a brief test drive will quickly illustrate that its mid-range price represents top value for money.
7. Quicksilver Activ 675 Open
The Activ 675 is very much in tune with the modern drive for spacious, versatile, multi-purpose craft. In fact, its combination of useable deck space, passenger security, helming fun, attractive looks and accessible pricing won it the title of ‘European Powerboat of the Year’ in 2011 the moment it hit the market – and its merits continue to hit the mark (see my Quicksilver Activ 675 review from 2012).
Equipped with the top-rated 200hp outboard, this eight-man boat is a very useful watersports platform and while it can also be specced with the Med-style Sundeck fit-out, the more affordable, pared back Open layout represents a particularly rewarding package.
8. Galeon 500 Fly
This remarkable three-berth flybridge cruiser might seem extravagant, given the constraints of this list, but the 500 Fly is arguably one of the best value boats in the world (see my Galeon 500 Fly review). From the multiple positions of the electronically controlled foredeck furniture to the rotating aft cockpit seating unit, it is an object lesson in how to use space well.
The inclusive helm station enables you to join a dinner party without leaving the Skipper’s seat and the two fold-out terraces, with bar and outward facing settee can quickly expand the beam of the main deck saloon to an astonishing 20 feet. The fact that it is also more affordable than most comparable 50-footers is truly extraordinary.
9. Aquarius Thundercat
Unless you plan to fight your way through angry surf or rescue people for a living, a Thundercat is an extremely impractical piece of equipment – particularly as you need to employ a second man as ballast simply in order to keep the nose in check. However, a price of just £8,170 will buy you the full package, including a tiller-steered Tohatsu 50hp outboard and stainless steel prop, granting you access (should you fancy it) to the very friendly UK race circuit. For such modest money, it’s an astonishing amount of fun.
For more on multihulls, see my feature on the advantages of twin-hulled powerboats.
10. Sting 610
The Sting 610 is the premier craft in an entirely new fleet of compact sports boats. Conceived by Norwegian designer, Espen Thorup, and built at the same Polish factory as the highly acclaimed XO brand, it offers Scandinavian-style practicality, alongside over-achieving build quality and finish.
Despite modest prices, the boat package is also designed to provide a much more comprehensive features list than you usually see on the affordable market. If the production models fulfill the rich promise of the preliminary concepts, the Sting line in general, and the Sting 610 in particular, will achieve very big things.
See our feature on cheap sailing boats.