Summer is just around the corner, and here’s to hoping it’s a more social summer than the one we experienced last year. With more normal and unprecedented times upon us, almost everyone is going to want to enjoy the great outdoors as much as possible in the warmer months this year. Of course, one of the best ways to do that is by enjoying a nice boat ride on the water. But if you don’t already have a boat, you could be at a bit of a loss. You also might not want to buy something super bulky that’s hard to fit in your car. If that’s the case, then inflatable boats are an amazing option for you. Just take the air out before you leave, and they’ll hardly take up any space at all. We want to help you find the best inflatable boat possible that will make sure this upcoming summer is the best and most relaxing one yet.
Carry on reading to see our full list of the best inflatable boats, followed by a recap breaking down what makes each product on our list stand out. Or jump straight to our number #1 pick on Amazon here.
Table of Contents
- What Should You Look For in an Inflatable Boat?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Inflatable Boats
- #1: Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat (Best Value – All-Purpose)
- #2: Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat (Best Overall Inflatable Boats)
- #3: Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat (Best Small Option)
- #4: Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat (Best Low Cost)
- #5: Intex Challenger Inflatable Boat (Best Small Budget Option)
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Verdict: Your Best Inflatable Boats
What Should You Look For in an Inflatable Boat?
The most important part of buying any product is knowing what to look for. What separates the good inflatable boats from the bad ones? Of course, if you don’t have an expert’s eye, then making that distinction isn’t always so simple, especially with more niche products like inflatable boats. But don’t worry; that’s what we’re here for. We’re going to give you the crash course guide in everything to look for so that you can feel like an expert in no time! Just read the short rubric we’ve added below and you’ll know which traits are most important in your inflatable boat. This will help you follow along with our list, and it’ll help you conduct your own further research if you so desire.
Criteria #1: Design – We want you to be comfortable during your boat ride, and that means finding the most convenient and well-designed inflatable boat out there. Imagine living in the lap of luxury while you drift along the water with an inflatable boat that has everything from cup holders to comfy chairs. Luckily, that’s more than possible. The best inflatable boat will have all of those fancy features and more, and it will feature a build that makes it easy to inflate and deflate. Design is more than just a pretty package.
Criteria #2: Durability – If you don’t want to replace your inflatable boat every summer, we suggest you get something that’s a little more durable. Durability of course mostly refers to a frame that isn’t going to break on you, but it also refers to a strong boat that can handle a lot of weight. For something that feels like a big balloon, you’d be amazed at how much weight some inflatable boats can handle. With the right boat, you’ll be able to bring all of your possessions out onto the water with you without worrying about your vessel taking any damage.
Criteria #3: Size – Our third criterion is somewhat subjective, as, depending on your needs, you may want a bigger or smaller boat to get you through the summer. If you plan on sailing solo, then you’ll want to keep things small. If you want to be able to party on the water, you’ll obviously need a bit more room so your friends can join. We can’t pretend to know which size you’re looking for, but we can make sure to include the dimensions of every boat we review, as well as its seating capacity. We want to make sure that introverts and extroverts alike can find the perfect inflatable boat for their needs.
Criteria #4: Price – We’re not here to make you spend a ton of money for no reason. Meeting this criterion is less about being cheap and more about justifying your price. We’d rather buy an expensive product that’s cheaper than it should be than waste money on a cheaper product that isn’t worth the money and that will just break on you or not perform well.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Inflatable Boats
We measured the specs of the top products on the market against our listed criteria to see how they held up and if they’re worth buying. We then checked customer reviews, blog posts, and “best inflatable boats” articles to see if the products on our list performed as advertised. We’ll also make sure to include a wide variety of products that covers different niches and price points. This way, everyone can find the perfect product that will satisfy their needs and their budget.
And without further ado, here is our list – tailored to your specific needs – of the best inflatable boats.
#1: Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat (Best Value – All-Purpose)
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Intext starts off our list, and theirs is a brand name that you should get used to hearing. Intex is just about the biggest name on the market when it comes to inflatable boats, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat top off our list. It’s also not too hard to see why this 4-seater earned our number one spot.
The Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat boasts a weight limit of 880 pounds and a frame of 10.7′ L x 4.75′ W x 1.5′ H that’s sure to make sure all 4 passengers are nice and comfy. It also features 4 Boston valves that make for quick and easy inflation and deflation. Next, the best inflatable boat on our list is made from structurally secure plastic that is highly resistant to damage from abrasion, impact, and sunlight.
In terms of design, the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat features inflatable cushions and two fishing rod holders, which you can certainly find another use for if you’re not the fishing type. It also comes with two oars, and it’s even compatible with certain small motors if you want something a bit more luxurious. Finally, the keel is inflatable, which makes the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat easier to handle than ever.
The Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat comes in at a great price, and despite its amazing quality, it’s actually one of the cheaper inflatable boats on the market. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a list of the best inflatable boats that doesn’t include an Intex boat, and the Mariner is no exception. This boat is featured on several lists, and it’s earned stellar reviews on Amazon. Customers and professional reviewers alike praised the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat for being easy to use, portable, and durable.
Of course, its price is just the cherry on top, and that ratio of price to quality makes the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat the best value out there. It also makes this boat an easy choice as our best inflatable boat on the market.
#2: Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat (Best Overall Inflatable Boats)
I told you to get used to the Intex name. The fact that our first two products are both from Intext should tell you everything you need to know about this brand. The Mariner 4-person inflatable boat may be the best value, but if you’re willing to splurge for something special, then you’ll probably be more interested in the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat. It’s more expensive than our number one pick, but you’ll be rewarded for your decision to spend a few extra bucks.
The Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat offers some specs and features that you just can’t get from its sibling in the Mariner. Here are the big features that might convince you to whip out your credit card and buy the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat.
Reason #1 to Choose This Product: Extra Seating
The first big perk of the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat is pretty self-explanatory – it has one more seat than its Intex Mariner counterpart. And while the Intex Mariner 4-seater has plenty of room, this Intex Excursion inflatable boat has room for the whole nuclear family. Of course, the added perk of the extra seat is more legroom and space in general, as the 24.3 x 21.2 x 16.35 frame of our second-overall inflatable boat is much bigger than our top pick. Whether you have five people in mind for your big boating trip or you just want to make sure that everyone isn’t shoulder-to-shoulder the whole time, you’ll have to pass on the Mariner for now, because the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat is the perfect companion for your next big summer vacation.
Reason #2 to Choose This Product: Higher Weight Limit
Our second big selling point for this luxurious inflatable boat is definitely related to its predecessor, as more people will, obviously, mean more weight. Luckily, the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat has no problem handling that extra weight, and our second Intex product can bear up to 1300 pounds of weight. Even with four of your friends and your belongings, you’ll have to try hard to go over the weight limit of the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat. This inflatable boat is perfect for any fan of the water who doesn’t want to worry about putting too much strain on their vessel.
On top of the extra size and strength, the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat comes with four fishing rod holders and 2 inflatable seats with back rests. Combine those seats with the extra room of this large boat, and you’ll be sitting in the lap of luxury while you’re out on the water. This inflatable boat also boasts heavy-duty, puncture-resistant PVC that’s sure to give you both security and comfort, and an inflatable I-beam floor that will make sure you have some stability underneath you. There’s really just no beating the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat when it comes to design.
And just in case you were still nervous, the Excursion features almost 5,000 high-praise Amazon reviews, so you know you’re getting a boat that’s earned the crowd’s approval. In terms of price, the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat is a little more expensive than the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat, but not by enough that the price should really influence your decision. That means that the big factor for you to weigh is if a massive 5-seater boat like this is just more baggage than you want to deal with.
If you prefer to keep things to a more moderate size, then the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat is definitely the choice for you. But if you want to go all out, then the Intex Excursion 5-Person Boat is the best inflatable boat for you, and for your friends and family. There’s room for everyone.
#3: Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat (Best Small Option)
While it may be smaller than our second pick, even the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat isn’t exactly small, and if you only plan on going out on the water with your best friend or significant other, you probably don’t want to deal with such a large boat. Bigger isn’t always better, and we want to make sure the more private and personal customers out there find the inflatable boat that’s best for them. And that’s probably the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat.
With a weight capacity of 600 pounds, the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat can probably support both you and any one of your friends, unless you’re both NFL linebackers. This small personal-sized boat also comes with a pair of 57-inch aluminum oars, a hand pump, a repair kit, a 33-foot tow rope, and a pressure gauge, so you have everything you need to get started. That full bundle service really adds to the value of this boat, and it makes Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat one of the best products for any customer who appreciates one-stop shopping.
The hull of our third-best inflatable boat is made from puncture-resistant, 1100-dinier, PVC plastic so you can have some peace of mind while you’re out on the water. This boat is more than capable of handling some faster river currents. Just as both of the Intex boats on our list, the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat features a motor mount, so it can be outfitted with a sold-separately motor to help you really feel like you’re the king of the seas.
Finally, the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat has 3 different air chambers, which means you’ll be able to inflate it and deflate it nice and quickly. Of course, the fact that its frame measures just 90 x 51 x 13 inches will also certainly speed things up.
The fact that the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat is the most expensive boat on our list so far may be a bit off-putting to a lot of customers, and it definitely did knock this boat down a peg for us. That being said, as we’ve already mentioned, bigger isn’t always better, and it’s important to look past the instinct that you’re paying more for less. While you’re getting less physical material, you’re paying for the convenience of not needing to lug around a massive boat all day, and you’re also paying for the incredibly durable and comfortable design of this 2-person boat.
If you want to enjoy an intimate day out on the water in style, then go ahead and buy the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat.
#4: Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat (Best Low Cost)
Our more affordable options in the Intex Mariner and the Intex Excursion might not have met your definition of affordable. Don’t worry, I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like to be pinching your pennies and feeling like you’re missing out on all the fun. We haven’t forgotten about you, and we really made sure to find a product that will fit everyone’s budget, so that you can enjoy the water no matter what you’re willing to spend or what your bank account looks like.
With all of that being said, I introduce you to the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat, which is the best friend of any boater on a budget. You’re not really getting much more than the basics with this budget inflatable boat, but you are getting the basics, and you’re getting everything you need for a reliable boat ride.
The Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat seats 4 people and has a frame of 109 x 59 inches. Of course, unlike the rest of the boats in our article so far, the listed number of passengers is basically just a suggestion. The Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat doesn’t have proper seats, and thus how many passengers can fit comfortably will mostly be up to your discretion and the size of the people in your group. That’s a pretty big blow for some people who appreciate their comfort, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. There is one inflatable seat, so you’ll have to find a way to decide amongst your friends who gets to feel like the captain.
This is not to say that the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat doesn’t make up for its lack of seats in more quantitative ways. Our budget boat features a frame made from durable and welded vinyl, plus it has wrap-around grab lines to make sure you don’t fly around too much in rougher waters. This is also great for helping you get the boat in and out of the water.
The Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat also comes with rod holders and even cup holders, so you’ll always have a hand or two free when you’re manning the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat. Perhaps best of all, the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat weighs just 16 pounds, so it’s one of the lightest boats out there.
Finally, you have the option to splurge for a more expensive-but-larger, 6-person version of this boat, and it’d still be the cheapest product on our list by a sizable margin. Boating can feel like an activity for the rich, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Whether you want to go with the smaller option and have a more personal outing – this boat would be just as good as a solo or duo option – or party on the water with the 6-person boat, the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat is kind to your wallet. Enjoy the water without maxing out your credit card by purchasing the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat.
#5: Intex Challenger Inflatable Boat (Best Small Budget Option)
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You shouldn’t be too surprised to see yet another Intex inflatable boat on our list – this time with their Challenger series. If you wanted a smaller option and the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat was just too pricey for you, then the 2-person Intex Challenger Inflatable Boat will be just perfect for you.
The third and final Intext boat on our list features a solid maximum weight of 440 pounds, which is obviously more than enough for one person, but you could reasonably be cutting it pretty close if you have two people and some belongings in the boat. The Intex Challenger Inflatable Boat also boasts 3 air chambers and 2 quick-fill Boston valves to make inflation and deflation a breeze.
As you’ve probably come to expect from Intex by now, the Challenger has an inflatable floor to give you some stability below your feet while you hit the water. For a completely negligible price, you’re also getting welded-on oar holders and a wrap-around grab rope so you’ll never feel like this boat is leaving you to figure everything out on your own.
Of course, it also features a motor mount, so if you already have a motor at home, then the Intex Challenger Inflatable Boat might just be the cheapest way to speed across the water without putting your back into it.
In typical Intex fashion, the Intex Challenger Inflatable Boat gives you just about everything you can ask for from an inflatable boat, and it does it at a cheap price. The Challenger is actually much cheaper than either the Mariner or the Excursion, and it’s cheaper even than the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat. It’d probably be ahead of the Airhead boat if it weren’t for its smaller size.
That being said, there is a 3-person option that’s still insanely cheap and can hold a bit more weight, so that might be the real holy grail depending on what you’re looking for. But if you want something personal for just you and one other person, and you’re not trying to spend a whole ton of money, then the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat is the best inflatable boat for you. Split it with your partner on the water, and all of a sudden you won’t be spending anything at all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Everyone has some questions, and we understand that you’re probably not feeling like a nautical expert just yet. Questions are nothing to be ashamed of, and we want to do our best to answer those curiosities that we haven’t addressed over the course of our article.
No matter what’s picking at your brain, we want to do our best to make sure that, by the time we send you on your way, you feel like we’ve done our due diligence, and you know what’s what. In pursuit of that goal, we’ve included this FAQ section in our article to give you a crash course in everything you need to know before making your final decision.
What are the different uses for inflatable boats?
Depending on what you plan on using your inflatable boat for, you’ll probably want to double-check what most customers actually do with these sea vessels. To get straight to the point, there are three main purposes for an inflatable boat. It can either be an inflatable dinghy to bring you back to the dock from your yacht, a leisurely fishing boat, or a strong boat that can handle some running water.
Naturally, dinghy boats, which will be seeing the least action, won’t need to be as strong and definitely won’t need to be able to take too much abuse. Of course, you might still want a decent weight capacity from a good dinghy.
A fishing boat won’t need to move too much, but you’ll want to make sure it listens to your rowing without too much resistance. Other than that, it also doesn’t need to be able to take too much of a hit, but you’ll want some reinforcement. Since you’ll be spending a decent amount of time on these boats, you’ll want a good weight limit to let you bring all of your things along, including a hat, a good book, and maybe even some sort of power source.
Finally, we have running water inflatable boats, which will obviously need to be much more durable than our first two boats. Any inflatable boat will be able to serve all of these purposes to some extent, but if you’re feeling picky, you’ll want to make sure your inflatable boat is best served for your specific purpose.
What is PVC plastic?
We’ve mentioned PVC plastic a few times now, so you’re probably wondering what the heck it is. You deserve to know what your boat is made of, so we’re going to tell you. PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride. This plastic material is used for multiple construction purposes such as doors and windows, and it can come in both hard and malleable forms.
PVC isn’t very resistant to heat or fire, but since you’re using it for your boat, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. PVC is resistant to chemicals such as salts, acids, and bases, which makes it perfect for resisting water corrosion even in the saltiest oceans. For this reason, it’s also used in pipe construction as well as in inflatable boats.
Of course, like all plastics, it’s not exactly environmentally friendly, so if you’re looking for a green option, you should look elsewhere.
Verdict: Your Best Inflatable Boats
We’re reaching the end of our list, and you’re hopefully starting to get a good idea of which of our inflatable boats is best for you. But if you haven’t made up your mind yet, not to worry. We don’t want to rush, and we know how important it is to make sure you’re getting the inflatable boat that’s perfect for you. That’s why we’re going to recap all of our boats and focus on their standout features. This way, you’ll be able to see the highlights and really know what each product has to offer for you.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat.
Our first-overall pick is the best inflatable boat out there if you appreciate getting the best return on your dollar. It offers you everything you need to hit the water, and it manages to do so at an affordable and competitive price. The Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat has a weight limit of 880 pounds that will give you plenty of leeway, and it has a sturdy frame that can take its fair share of abuse.
This inflatable boat also has two fishing rod holders for convenient storage, and it’s even compatible with an external motor. The Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat can go from lazy boat to speed boat in the blink of an eye. The customers and the reviewers alike love the Intex Mariner 4-Person Boat, and it’s easy to see why. This 4-seater boat is the best value on the market.
If you need a smaller inflatable boat, pick the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat.
If you want to keep things exclusive, there’s no point in buying a big boat that you’ll have to lug around with you. The Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat is the best choice for anyone who wants a nice date out on the water with just one other person. It has a 600-pound weight capacity and comes with everything you’ll need to make sure absolutely nothing goes wrong. It’s also well-built and includes 3 different air chambers to make setup a breeze, so your date won’t get fed up waiting for you to get the boat ready. Have the perfect summer date with the Bestway 65046E Hydro-Force Caspian Pro 2-Person Boat.
If you want to keep the spending cheap, pick the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat.
Boating isn’t just for rich people anymore. The affordable Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat is an amazing option whether you need to save or not. If you are set on keeping things cheap, then this is one of the best inflatable boats out there, and it’s the only way to have 4-6 people out on the water without breaking the bank. The big selling point of the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat is definitely its size, which is amazing compared to its price. It also has cupholders, and I don’t think I need to say anything more on that. Keep things within your budget with the Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat.
You’re now officially an expert on inflatable boats, and you’ve seen all of the best options out there. If none of the highlighted products above were quite what you’re looking for, you may be more interested in the big and strong Intex Excursion boat for 5 people, or the lightweight and dirt-cheap Intex Challenger Inflatable Boat.
All of the inflatable boats on our list have one or two features that really set them apart from the crowd, so that’s what you’ll want to focus on before you make your big decision.
That’s all for now. We hope this list has helped, and we hope you enjoy the water!