How To Choose A Pedal Boat?

I could not imagine my childhood without a pedal boat in it-in fact, some of my fondest memories include steering the pedal boat across some vast expanse of water.

Of course, while I was steering, my mother and father tirelessly pedaled along, fighting the currents to get back to the rental spot before being charged for an additional hour worth for returning past the allotted time.

Now, as a father of two, I understand all too well how ‘fun’ a pedal boat can be. But, all jokes aside, pedal boats are a fantastic way to enjoy the water with your friends and family.

In this article, I will help you choose the most suitable pedal boat so you will be ready for this year’s upcoming boating season.

What Is A Pedal Boat?

What Is A Pedal Boat

If you didn’t gather already from my sweet introduction, a pedal boat is a person-powered leisure watercraft that can accommodate one, two, or more people.

Good old-fashioned foot power propels the craft forward or aft by churning wheels that mount to the boat’s underside. You can control the boat’s direction by utilizing a lever between the forward seats.

The steering lever is attached to a drive shaft and ultimately the rudder that extends to the back of the pedal boat. The directional lever is similar to a tiller on a boat’s outboard motor.

Best Use For Pedal Boats

Best Use For Pedal Boats

You have likely seen pedal boat rentals if you have even been out to a recreational lake or pond. I have even rented pedal boats with my two sons along the Ionian coast in southern Italy.

I think pedal boats are arguably one of the top family-friendly activities you can enjoy with your entire family- young and old alike. These boats are much more than just a leisure-mobile.

The truth is that pedal boats are pretty versatile. They are suitable for family fun, picnic out on the water, or even fishing.

How Are Pedal Boats Made?

Though some pedal boat manufacturers use reinforced fiberglass, plastic polyethylene is the most common construction material. The latter is considerably more robust, has greater flexibility, is less expensive, and is more forgiving against bumps, scratches, nicks, and drags.

Various Features

Various Features

You wouldn’t be going anywhere if it wasn’t for two sets of two pedals- this is how the pedal boat gets its power. That said, even if you have the most fabulous calves running, do not expect a pedal boat to be a speedy sensation.

Standard features often include seating configurations of up to five people. In addition to being manageable by even only one peddler, most manufacturers will have a storage compartment to keep personal items dry that can double as a cooler to keep your favorite snacks and beverages fresh.

In addition to the cooler space, most pedal boats will include several cup holders that will keep your drink secure despite wavy conditions. For practical reasons (beyond spilling your favorite beverage by accident), please make sure any prospective pedal boat you are interested in has a drain plug to remove any water that has come inside the watercraft safely.

Depending on your intentions, you may be interested to know that some pedal boats, like the Pelican Voyage DLX, have been built with the angler in mind. The designers of this particular model have included two flush-mount rod holders, a storage platform, and a foldable canopy to protect enthusiasts from the sun.

Common to the pedal boat designs I have used overseas, H20 Pedalboats have a great selection of accessories to ensure you have a super fun time out on the water. Their two best add-ons, in my opinion, are the built-in wheel set that allows you to maneuver the boat on the sand and other surfaces and a slide complete with handrails.

For overall comfort, there are some accessories that I think are non-negotiable. First, an entry ladder makes getting in and out of the water from the pedal boat much more effortless. Also, think about seat cushions for extended pedal boat adventures- it’ll keep your toosh much more comfortable than the standard plastic seating.

Pedal boats should have a bow and stern-mounted carrying handle to make transport easier. Also, you may want to huddle up with a group of other pedal boat enthusiasts in the middle of the lake, so consider purchasing buffers (essentially corner fenders) to prevent damage when tieing up together.

Finally, if not already standard, consider purchasing a removable canopy to protect you from hours under the sun.

Best Brands

Although I have already referred to some unique brands, here is a more exhaustive list of the top 5 pedal boats money can buy:



I’m not sure anybody considers a pedal boat particularly dangerous upon first look. However, even though pedal boats are reasonably stable when operated according to manufacturer guidelines, you and your passengers should always keep safety as the top priority when planning your day in the fun.

First and foremost, please make sure that you and your passengers are wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket before launching your pedal boat into the water.

But before bringing your pedal boat down to the lake, take a moment to follow the local weather forecast and make sure no inclement weather is near. Pedal boats are great fun through calm waters in perfect summer conditions- not so much if conditions drastically should take a turn.

Even though operating the pedal boat by yourself should be relatively manageable, it would be preferable to never head out on the water alone. Therefore, do your best to accommodate at least one other person when planning your day out on the water.

Bring along a communication device if there is an emergency while out on the water and you need to call for help.

Other Considerations

1. Electric


Cruising around a lake or pond in a pedal boat is a sure way to have fun while hanging out and exploring new spots with your family and friends.

While the manual pedal boat is the most common option, you should know that some manufacturers even offer an electric power system. For instance, The Beston Group manufactures various electric power pedal boats.

These multi-system set-ups allow you to switch between form and function based on the water conditions you face.

Alternatively, you could equip a trolling motor to your pedal boat by yourself at a fraction of the cost. However, be mindful that certain restrictions, limitations, licensing, and registration requirements may apply once a watercraft has some form of alternative power.

2. Price

Pedal boats are typically one of the cheapest watercraft alternatives out on the market. But be careful because adding on accessories can make prices jump rocket well above those of a smaller boat with a fuel-driven motor.

Be prepared to spend about $500 for a minimalist version. However, depending on brand and accessories, the price range can fluctuate several thousand dollars.

3. Capacity

various electric power pedal boats.

It may not be worth purchasing a larger capacity pedal boat if you are looking for another way to have a romantic picnic with your significant other. That said, you should be aware of the number of persons and maximum weight of the pedal boat capable of handling in full conditions.

4. Amenities

It may be the farthest thing from a yacht, but manufacturers have found innovative ways to enhance your pedal boat experience. Comfort and maneuverability should be your top two concerns after passenger safety, of course.

5. Environmental Concerns

Environmental Concerns

This is a two-pronged discussion. On the one hand, be forewarned that pedal boats are freshwater human-powered vessels. Please understand that manufacturers typically construct pedal boats with cheaper hardware that does not make the pedal boat a strong saltwater candidate.

If you commit yourself to a proactive cleaning and maintenance routine, you will help prevent a loss in the lifespan of your pedal boat. Conversely, shop around for a salt water-specific pedal boat or ask your manufacturer about adding on a saltwater package.

On the other hand, be aware that plastic and UV rays do not usually get along over extended periods. Therefore, it would be best to store your pedal boat in a garage or shed during the off-season. It would also be wise to invest in a covering to protect your pedal boat from sun exposure and other harsh weather in between uses.

Recommended Extras

Having the following items aboard should give you a warm and fuzzy should climate conditions go south, there is some unfortunate accident, or the mechanics fail while out in the middle of the lake. These items include:

  • life jackets approved by the USCG (one per person)
  • marine-grade first aid kit
  • whistle
  • distress flag or another visual signaling device
  • portable bilge pump
  • anchor rope bag
  • set of basic oars should pedal system malfunction


When choosing a pedal boat, make sure it can accommodate all the people and accessories you may want to bring out on the water. Consider safety first, and then include all the accessories you think will make your time in the sun more comfortable and thus enjoyable.

Please leave any questions or concerns about choosing a pedal boat in the comment section below.

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