Deck Boat vs. Bowrider: What’s the Difference?

Having trouble deciding what kind of boat to get? Congratulations….this is a great problem to have! Before you make your choice, it’s best to learn as much as you can about the available options. 

That’s why we’ve compiled this deck boat vs. bowrider matchup, so you can decide for yourself.

What’s The Difference Between A Deck Boat And A Bowrider?

First of all, let’s explain what the two boat types have in common, as well as how they differ from one another. Since both are appealing and popular options for families, manufacturers will often try to play up their similarities.

 While they do share certain characteristics, you can still distinguish a bowrider from a deck boat if you look carefully enough.

What They Have In Common

Both deck boats and bowriders typically feature fiberglass bottoms, with lots of seating in the deck area. They’re geared toward the recreational market, meaning that you won’t see many of them if you attend a professional fishing derby.

 Care and maintenance are relatively simple for both, as long as you don’t push them beyond their normal capacities (for example, deck boats are best suited for calm waters, as outlined below).

 Beyond that, the characteristics of the two boat types begin to diverge.

How They Differ

Deck boats have a wide bow that sites close to the waterline, offering broad, open floor plans with plenty of space for passengers. 

If you look at enough deck boats, you’ll notice that they usually feature a catamaran design, making them ideal for day cruising with family and friends. 

Their design also makes it easier for passengers to step on and off…similar to a pontoon boat, but with a slightly sportier design.

By contrast, bowriders (also known as “runabouts”) are distinguished by their classic pointed bow. 

They usually can’t hold quite as many people as deck boats can, but they do offer the option of sitting right up close to the bow (hence the name “bowrider”). 

With their stern-drive motors, they’re also more nimble and fun to drive than their more cumbersome counterparts. 

Their higher platforms mean that they can double as diving boards, assuming the water is deep enough. This gives them additional versatility when it comes to watersports.

This chart should help to illustrate their basic differences.

Boat TypeDesignPerformanceFunctionCapacity
Deck BoatWide bow, plenty of deck space, open floor planSluggish, best in calm waterGood for boat partiesGenerous
BowriderPointed, narrow bow, smaller deck spaceLively, fun to drive, easy to handleBest for watersports, like tubing or water skiingComparatively limited

Deck Boat vs. Bowrider: Pros & Cons

So, is a deck boat superior to a bowrider, or vice versa? The answer depends largely on what you’re intending to use the boat for.

If you’re looking for a party barge that’s a step below a pontoon boat in terms of capacity, then a deck boat is probably your best bet. 

You might also want to consider the age of your children if you’re shopping for a family boat. Since deck boats are slower and sit closer to the waterline, they’re a safer choice for young ones.

 They also include more amenities, comfortable seating, and adequate storage space. Bear in mind, however, that their open floor plans make it impossible to seek refuge from inclement weather while you’re aboard.

 Since they don’t perform well in rough waters, it’s a good idea to take your deck boat out only when the weather is clear.

On the other hand, if you don’t plan to entertain on your boat…or if you just prefer a faster, sleeker ride…then a bowrider might be the better choice. 

While you can easily use a deck boat for watersports, bowriders are the preferred choice for adrenaline junkies on account of their more powerful stern-drive motors.

 In addition, you don’t have to be an expert to learn how to drive one, and their shorter length makes transportation easier as well. It’s also easier for budget shoppers to find a bowrider that fits within their price range.

To make it easier for you to compare the two, we’ve compiled this list of pros and cons.

Deck Boat


  • Great for day cruising, relaxing, entertaining, swimming, and freshwater fishing
  • Able to hold up to 12-14 people
  • Comfortable design
  • Low profile makes it easy for small children or elderly people to get on and off


  • Not suitable for ocean cruising
  • Not the fastest option available
  • Seats are usually forward-facing, making for an awkward layout
  • Usually on the pricey side



  • Fast, zippy ride
  • Ideal for watersports, fishing, day cruising
  • Easy to find a boat that matches your experience level
  • Better at maneuvering through rough waters
  • Affordable options available
  • Easy to tow


  • Lower capacity than deck boats
  • Not suitable for families with very young children
  • Limited storage space


Which boat you choose depends largely upon your family situation, how often you plan on taking to the water, and how much you can afford to spend. 

Large families or people who frequently entertain people of all ages would probably be better off with a deck boat. You’re also a good candidate for a deck boat if you enjoy recreational freshwater fishing since their lower profiles make it easier to cast off.

They also handle better at slower speeds, which is great for trolling.

However, if you want to cut through the water at higher speeds while entertaining smaller groups of people, a bowrider is likely the better choice. 

Since bowriders can handle a broader range of weather conditions, they’re also a good fit if you plan on taking your boat out on a regular basis…you won’t have to wait for a sunny day in order to get your money’s worth.

No matter which boat you decide to invest in, we hope it provides you with many years of amazing boating…          

Project “Boat vs Boat” Boating  

Check out our article on: Pontoon Vs. Deck Boat (Which On Is Right For You?)

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Project Boating Editorial Staff

My name is Brad Visser the chief editor and owner of We have an amazing team of writers that contribute to our website. This team is passionate about boating and have years of experience not only in boats, but in writing helpful, informative articles to answer questions you may have.

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