What Size Boat Do I Need? (Family size Chart)

Owning a boat is an exciting experience, but many novices question what size boat do I need? Boat dimensions are only one of many doubts you will face when deciding to purchase one.

You should consider a few factors, including your preferences, the number of people who will use a boat, its type, and future purpose. It is also vital to determine how long you plan to use it during a year and what distance you plan to travel regularly.

What Is The Best Boat Size For Me?


The boat size you should choose will depend on several factors, including:

Boat size classes

You can pick out a boat belonging to one of the four classes:

  • Class A includes boats less than 16 feet (5 m) long
  • Class 1 includes boats with a length of 16 to 26 feet (5 – 7.9 m)
  • Class 2 includes boats ranging between 26 and 40 feet (7.9 – 12.2 m)
  • Class 3 includes boats with a length from 40 to 65 feet (12.2 – 19.8 m)

Your experience level

The ideal boat size for you primarily depends on your experience level. Only that way, you can enjoy safe sailing without unwanted surprises. Novices should always pick out smaller vessels that are more comfortable for maneuver.


The next thing to consider is the environment you expect to sail in. If you prefer spending time in calm waters, you should buy a smaller boat. Do the homework and determine the ideal boat length for the lake, river, or open sea and particular models limitations.

The rule of thumb is that you need a 17 to 22 feet (5.2 – 6.7 m) long vessel for calm bodies of water, like rivers and shallow lakes. If you plan to sail big lakes, seas, or the ocean, you will need a boat approximately 23 to 28 feet (7 – 8.5 m) in length.

Keep in mind that some protected locations restrict the boat types and sizes. Therefore, it is wise to check local safety rules and regulations regarding boat size restrictions.

Boating activity

As you can guess, a boat size directly depends on the activity you want to use it for. The primary thing to consider is accessories for watersports or necessary fishing gear besides the people on board.

Towing and storage

The boat length you want can be limited with the storage space at your disposal. Plus, it should fit a trailer you have, and your vehicle needs to be strong enough to tow the boat effortlessly.

Dock space

Always check the available slip space in a nearby marina since it can be a limiting factor for the boat size you want to buy. For instance, you can’t buy a 40 feet (12.2 m) long vessel if there is no available dock space for this particular size.

Your budget

Regardless of your wishes, the budget will always be a limiting factor when it comes to the boat length. Remember that the price is higher for longer vessels, so you should calculate your possibilities before shopping.

The Boat Size per Purpose


As you can guess, you should look for different boat sizes, depending on their purpose. For instance, you will need a more sizable vessel if you plan to carry additional equipment besides passengers. Let’s see.

Off-shore fishing boat size

If you need a boat for off-shore fishing, you should look for at least 30 feet (9 m) long model. Such a robust vessel can handle rough weather conditions and heavy waves. You should look for a luxurious and comfortable model with enough space for fishing accessories.

Inshore fishing boat size

The best boat for inshore and river fishing needs to be 17 to 22 feet (5.2 – 6.7 m) long. It should have a shallow draft to reach shallow areas without deprivation passengers of comfort effortlessly.

Bay and lake fishing boat size

Bay and lake fishing requires a versatile boat designed with more horsepower and additional room for a comfortable, longer family stay. In most cases, a 20 to 30 feet (6 – 9 m) long model will fulfill all your needs even in rough bay waters.

Cruising boat size

Cruising and pleasure sailing boats are typically 20 to 30 feet (6 – 9 m) long. It should include comfortable lounge seating, sizable deck space for sunbathing, a handy fiberglass hardtop, and a grill.

On the other hand, you will need a vessel longer than 30 feet (9 m) if you plan ocean crossing. In that case, it needs to handle longer off-shore trips through the currents and unpredictable water.

When enjoying day cruising, you should look for a model with convenient viewing areas and more seating space. Overnight cruising requires a cabin cruiser with a sleeping area, galley, and toilet.

Water sports boat size

An ideal water sports boat size is 15 to 25 feet (4.6 – 7.6 m). This small boat should have a powerful engine of great horsepower. Since this vessel type has no storage space, you can quickly determine the necessary length by counting the people they will use it.

The Boat Size per Passenger Number


The crucial factor you should consider when choosing a boat of appropriate size is the number of people that will use it. The vessel length that fits most families ranges 15 to 30 feet (4.6 – 9 m). The rule of thumb is to pick out a bit sizable model to make all passengers feel comfortable.

Remember that boats are not the same, and seating capacity varies significantly. For instance, a full-size, 20 to 21 feet (6 – 6.4 m) long bass boat is of appropriate length for a family of five. However, the same-sized pontoon will be cozy enough for 10 to 13 passengers.

Boat size per family members

Family size Boat length
Manageable Recommended
3 10 to 15 feet (3 – 4.6 m) 12 feet (3.65 m)
4 13 to 18 feet (4 – 5.5 m) 15 feet (4.6 m)
5 16 to 20 feet (5 – 6 m) 18 feet (5.5 m)
6 18 to 23 feet (5.5 – 7 m) 20 feet (6 m)
8 22 to 30 feet (6.7 – 9 m) 24 feet (7.3 m)
10 25 to 30 feet (7.6 – 9 m) 26 feet (7.9 m)
12 27 to 32 feet (8.2 – 9.7 m) 28 feet (8.5 m)

Some experts recommend novices to collect all the family and visit the store. That way, you can climb in available models and see how they fit your needs.

Keep in mind that people won’t sit all the time, so you should also calculate space for moving. Therefore, you should buy a boat 2 to 3 feet (61 – 91.5 cm) longer than your family’s current needs.

Family of three

One small family of three will enjoy in a 12 feet (3.65 m) boat. However, you should remember that its dimensions can vary from 10 to 15 feet (3 – 4.6 m), depending on the vessel type.

Family of four

An average family of four will need at least 15 feet (4.6 m) long boat. However, that size can vary from 13 to 18 feet (4 – 5.5 m), depending on its type and purpose.

Family of five

A family of five will feel comfortable in an 18 feet (5.5 m) boat, with a variation from 16 to 20 feet (5 – 6 m). Besides the boat type and activity you want to use it for, you should also consider the planned travel length.

Family of six

One 20 feet (6 m) long boat will be big enough for a family of six. Before determining the exact length, you should think about the boat type. That will be a crucial factor that will make your new vessel comfortable.

Some models will require shifting the recommended size, so their length can range from 18 to 23 feet (5.5 – 7 m), sometimes even more.

Family of eight

Depending on the purpose you need a boat for, a 24 feet (7.3 m) long model will be appropriate for most families of eight members. However, you can choose a 22 to 30 feet (6.7 – 9 m) boat related to its type.

Family of ten

A large family with ten members will need at least 26 feet (7.9 m) long boat, but that size can vary, depending on the boat type. So, it is wise to consider different models ranging from 25 to 30 feet (7.6 – 9 m) or even longer.

Family of twelve

If you are happy and have a family of twelve, you should think of a boat that can provide enough space and be comfortable for every member. One 28 feet (8.5 m) long vessel is a typical choice in this case, but you can consider various models ranging from 27 to 32 feet (8.2 – 9.7 m).


Once you decide to buy a boat, you should determine the size to fulfill your needs. In most cases, you should pick out a 15  to 30 feet (4.6 – 9 m) long model, depending on your family members and the boat’s purpose. The best option is to buy a vessel 2 to 3 feet (61 – 91.5 cm) larger than your current needs.

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