5 Worst Boat Brands To Avoid

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5 Worst Boat Brands To Avoid

If you’re interested in adding a motorized watercraft to your life, there are good and bad boat brands just like you’ll find with canoes and kayaks. Some of the worst boat brands to avoid should be common knowledge amongst water sports enthusiasts.

Whether it’s your intention to buy a new boat for wakeboarding, offshore fishing, or just spending casual afternoons on the water, you’ll want to be sure that your investment is going to last for years to come.

All boats require maintenance, but you’ll spend a lot more trying to maintain your boat if you choose a crappy one. Fortunately, we’re here today to clearly define the five worst boat brands to avoid for you!

Worst Boat Brands To Avoid

  1. Luhr
  2. Kingfisher
  3. Renkin
  4. Bayliner

Jargon Buster

As you know, we have mainly covered human-powered watercraft in the past, so there are a few important terms that we’d like to highlight before we get started. These definitions will give you more context for some of the reviews and buying suggestions below.

Transom

The transom on a boat is the cross-section at the stern (back) of the boat where you’d attach an outboard motor.

Some boats with inboard motors (like those used for skiing and wakeboarding) have a swim platform at the stern where you’d find the transom on fishing boats (which more commonly use outboard motors).

Cleats

Cleats are metal fittings that are bolted to the gunwales (sides) of most boats. While each boat will differ as to the exact location of cleat placement, these are essential for attaching ropes to the boat to secure it to a dock or an anchor.

Draft

A boat’s draft is a measurement of the distance from the waterline to the keel (bottom) of the boat. This measurement is useful to boat owners because it signifies the minimum depth of water in which the boat will float freely.

Float Plan

A float plan is a written or electronic document that details the intended agenda for your boat for the upcoming day (or days).

It usually includes information on your vessel, crewmembers, onboard equipment, departure and arrival dates, intended stops, and anchorage reservations.

While float plans are more common for sailing vessels that are undertaking multi-day trips, they are a good policy for day boaters and even kayakers/canoers.

They can usually be filed with authorities at your local marina or left with a trusted confidant who can signal the authorities if you don’t return within your intended timeframe.

Buying Guide

Even though a big part of this guide is about helping you avoid bad boat brands, it’s also important to know what to look for in a good boat.

So we’re going to use this buying guide to discuss a few boat features and specifications you should look for when choosing a good boat.

Boat Type

There are many different types of boats out there and they are all designed with varying recreational purposes in mind. So the first important decision you’ll need to make is how you’ll primarily be using your new (or used) boat.

Some of the common boat types you’ll find include:

  • All-purpose fishing boats
  • Aluminum boats
  • Bass fishing boats
  • Bay boats
  • Bowriders
  • Cabin cruisers
  • Cuddy cabins
  • Center consoles
  • Deck boats
  • Fish-and-ski boats
  • High-performance boats
  • Jet boats
  • Yachts
  • Catamarans
  • Sailboats
  • Pontoon boats
  • Ski/wakeboard boats
  • Sportfishing yachts
  • Trawlers
  • Walkarounds

As you can see, there are almost more boat types to choose from than the many different types of kayaks we’ve already discussed on this site.

That’s why learning a bit more about these boat types is the best place to start when you’re interested in buying a new boat.

New or Used

Once you’ve started to narrow down your choices to a specific type of boat (or a couple), it’s time to decide whether a new or used boat is best for you.

Of course, buying new is going to require a larger budget than buying used, so if your budget is limited, you may be relegated to used options only.

Used options aren’t a terrible choice at all, but it can be useful to find someone with boating experience to help you look over any used boats that you’re interested in.

Just like with buying anything used, there are many components of a used boat that you should check to make sure it’s a decent investment.

If you have a higher budget, however, we definitely recommend buying new because you’ll be able to more easily trust that you’re getting a quality boat.

You’ll also have the benefit of having your boat under the manufacturer’s warranty for the immediate future.

Some companies even offer extended warranties on new boats, but it’s hard to find them for used vessels. If you don’t have a lot of boating experience, having a warranty in place if anything breaks or malfunctions will give you peace of mind.

Capacity

Next, you will need to decide how many people you’ll typically be having on your boat at one time. If you’re interested in a smaller boat for fishing or skiing purposes, for example, your capacity will probably be limited to a handful of passengers.

If you want the ability to host larger groups on your boat, you’ll probably be looking at a yacht or a larger bay boat. These boats are intended for hosting and simply enjoying time on the water and they are also made to handle more weight.

Boat Weight

As you can imagine, hosting more people on your boat will require a larger boat that’s also heavier than your smaller performance boats. These larger boats will weigh more and require a larger trailer for transportation.

Larger trailers will also require larger vehicles that are capable of safely towing them. Unless you plan on storing your boat at a dock slip full-time, you’ll need to make sure you have a vehicle that can tow the combined weight of your boat and your trailer.

Check out your vehicle’s current towing capacity and decide if you can tow the kind of boat you want with the vehicle you already have.

If the answer is no, you’ll need to decide whether or not you’re also willing to upgrade your vehicle selection so that you can safely transport your dream boat.

Safety Certification

As you read through our reviews below, you’ll find that some of the worst boat brands made our list because of major safety issues.

These safety issues are one of the reasons why the best boats are certified by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

When you’re buying a new or used boat, make sure to check its U.S. Coast Guard capacity plates for the NMMA Certification logo. This logo signals that the boat met industry safety and construction standards when it was manufactured.

Boat manufacturers are required to get NMMA Certification for each boat model that they produce and buying a boat from a brand that isn’t NMMA certified is a highly questionable decision.

These safety standards are put in place to protect consumers from less-than-satisfactory manufacturing quality.

Additionally, some boat dealerships elect to undergo a Marine Five Star Certification that helps them deliver a high-quality boat buying experience.

It also signals that the dealership will help you maintain your new or used boat during your initial period of ownership.

So if you want to be sure that the boat you’re getting has met both Coast Guard and American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) standards, don’t buy anything that doesn’t come with an NMMA Certification logo.

Furthermore, if you want to avoid sleazy marine dealerships that could push you into buying a boat that isn’t right for you and won’t stand by your side when you need maintenance, trust your buying process to a Marine Five Star Certified boat dealership.

Boat Brand Reviews

1. Luhr

After more than 60 years of production, Luhr boats closed up shop back in 2008. So you won’t find any new boats from them circulating on the market these days, but there are still plenty of used Lurh models out there.

The problem with investing in a Luhr boat is that the company is no longer in operation to provide technical or service-related support if you run into issues after buying a used Luhr boat.

This also means that finding replacement parts for boat components that break can be extremely difficult.

The owners of Luhr boats actually made an attempt to bring the company back in 2012, but it was short-lived and, ultimately, unsuccessful.

This means that you’ll be stuck trying to find compatible parts from other manufacturers if you buy a used Luhr boat and anything breaks.

The best path for finding replacement parts for Luhr boats is to take them off other used boat models from Luhr. The good news about this is that Luhr did, in fact, produce a solid number of boats annually while they were in business.

However, there’s no real system set up to help Luhr owners find other Luhr boats that are out of commission and, therefore, available to be parted out.

So you’ll most likely find yourself in a needle-in-a-haystack kind of situation when finding replacement parts for your boat.

Even in Luhr’s heyday, their boats didn’t have a reputation of being the most sturdy and durable options on the market. Many of their components and fixtures were made with a thin plastic material that easily broke or became brittle over time.

This lack of quality led many original Luhr boat owners to fabricate many of their own parts as replacements.

This means that you’ll often be subject to the quality (or lack thereof) of craftsmanship displayed by the previous owner if you buy a used Luhr boat model.

For all of these reasons, Luhr is one of the worst boat brands to avoid these days. The good news, however, is that you won’t really find any Luhr models on showroom floors if you’re looking to buy a brand new boat.

2. Kingfisher

Kingfisher is another boat brand that has a long production history, but not the best reputation for quality. In total, there are nearly 30 different Kingfisher models on the market these days and you’ll probably run into these boats anywhere from the coast of Alaska to the southern tip of Florida.

Despite their widespread use, Kingfisher boats have become known for being extremely loud during operation.

This is largely the result of the hull being manufacturing using aluminum instead of the fiberglass that you’ll find on many of the best boat brands.

Some of Kingfisher’s boat models come with more noise insulation than others. So if you want to be able to have a conversation while you’re leaving the marina, make sure you choose a model that comes with adequate insulation.

Another downside of Kingfisher boats is safety. These boats typically feature lower sides than many other boat models, which increases the risk of passengers falling overboard when they encounter rough conditions.

For this reason, these boats are less popular in locations where rough seas are the norm rather than the exception. It also means that there is a higher likelihood of water filling up the cabin and cockpit of the boat when you’re underway in large waves.

Thankfully, Kingfisher does equip all of their boats with self-bailing decks that naturally shed water as you go. So if you’re looking for a boat that can guarantee everyone on board a dry, warm ride, Kingfisher probably isn’t the best choice for you.

3. Renken

The Renken Boat Manufacturing Company was originally based in Charleston, South Carolina, but they have been out of business since 1995. So buying a used boat that was made by a company that is no longer operating is your first red flag here.

That means no technical or service-related support if you’re trying to fix any mechanical or cosmetic issues with your boat. It also means that finding replacement parts is going to be much more difficult than it would be if you buy a boat from an operating manufacturer.

Even when Renken was still in business, however, many Charleston locals came to refer to their boats as ‘Stink’n Renkens’. One of the reasons these boats developed this reputation is that they were historically underpowered.

Renken’s boats were available for a more modest price tag than many of its competitors because they sacrificed engine quality. In fact, some boat owners reported replacing the entire engine 2-3 times over the lifetime of their Renken boat.

In addition, many of Renken’s earlier models had issues with construction quality and durability. They simply weren’t meant to handle rough ocean conditions but did hold up decently when only used on lakes or flatwater.

4. Bayliner

You might initially be surprised to find Bayliner on our list because of this brand’s widespread popularity. If you spend a lot of time on the water in some of the best kayak locations for beginners in the U.S., for example, you’ve probably seen a few Bayliner boats cruising by as you’re paddling.

Unfortunately, certain Bayliner models have more problems than others. While the company has done a lot to improve its reputation over the past decade, it’s safe to say that you should avoid any of their older boats built in the 1970s and 1980s (at the very least).

Some of the notable Bayliner modes to avoid include the Capri, Victoria Commander 1977, 873 Bowrider 160 and 180 BR, and the Motoryacht 3388.

Overall, it has been widely noted that Bayliner’s smaller models have encountered more issues than some of their larger yachts.

That being said, Bayliner has been in existence since 1976 and has had to recall more than 3,200 of their boats since then. These recalls have largely been the result of user complaints related to fuel circulation, engine ventilation, stability, and a host of other issues.

One of the biggest issues that Bayliner boats have across the board, however, is their resale value. These boats don’t retain their value very well and don’t command a high price point in the private market if you decide you want to sell in a few years.

This means that you won’t be able to recover as much of your investment as you might be able to by selling a used boat from a different brand.

Despite their less-than-favorable reputation, there are still a large number of used Bayliner boats out there, which further decreases their resale value because supply is much greater than demand.

One of the major issues that came with some of the older Bayline models relates to the placement of the battery. In these models, the battery was mounted far too close to the fuel lines for comfort.

As you’re running the boat and the battery is exposed to more heat, you can only imagine that this creates a much higher fire risk than we’d be comfortable with if we were purchasing a brand new boat.

Finally, Bayliner boats are one of the only brands out there that are known for having removable U.S. Coast Guard Capacity plates.

Displaying these plates is mandatory by law wherever you’re operating your boat and removal or amendment of the plates is against the law.

If you’re buying a used Bayliner, it can be a problem to tell whether or not the plate has been changed or altered. These plates display the total weight the boat can carry, the recommended number of passengers, and the boat’s maximum horsepower.

As you can imagine, many new boat owners rely on these plates when making important decisions about the safe operation of their vessel.

Knowing that the plates on Bayliners can be easily changed or removed just makes us worry about the overall safety of boats made by this brand.

Final Thoughts

We have based these choices for the worst boat brands on real-life consumer experience and reviews. So we feel confident that there are many other boat brand choices out there that will be better for you than one of these five selections.

That said, not all of the boat models that these brands produce are absolutely terrible. That’s why you can use the tips in our buying guide to make sure you’re getting a quality boat.

If you don’t want to muck around with maintaining a motorized watercraft, we’d recommend checking out some of our choices for the best kayaks and best canoes out there.

We hope you’ve found our reviews here insightful and helpful to your boat buying process. As always, we wish you the safest of water-based recreation outings in the coming months!

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Author: Peter SalisburyPete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.

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