Deck Boats vs. Bowriders

When it comes to indulging in your favorite water-based activities, most enthusiasts seem to lean towards runabout boats. These vessels are incredibly popular in the boating world due to their unique design, emphasizing comfort and seating capacity. 

However, the “runabout” boat can be divided into two more types: Deck boats and Bowriders. Even though both these boats inherit the same DNA as a runabout, they have some differences that should be considered before making your purchase, and this article aims to highlight them.

Deck Boats vs. Bowriders: An Overview

The most noticeable similarity between a deck boat and a bowrider is that they have a lot of space. These boats were designed more for entertaining than partaking in challenging water sports. But there are a few key differences between deck boats and bowriders, and to truly understand them, we will be looking at the following topics:

  • Hull shapes
  • Design
  • Use for Water Sports
  • Capacity
  • Models and Prices

Hull Shapes

One of the most significant differences you will see between these two boats is the styling of the hull. Most deck boats you come across will usually have flat-bottom hulls and low rise in the bow to maximize space and carrying capacity. However, a bowrider will have a more traditional V-shaped front, forcing you to compromise deck space. This design is great for zipping through rough waters, and both hull shapes are effective on calm waters. But what you get in return is a boat that has much more speed along with pinpoint accuracy - a trait you will feel in all its glory when taking sharp turns.


A deck boat is designed with the helm right up front, giving it an open floor layout and allowing passengers to walk around more freely. Seating arrangements are typically in a U-shape, leaning towards the back and sides of the boat. Some deck boats can even include a pop-up table in the middle for you to prepare for food, or more popularly, to set up as a bar. These boats will typically be anywhere between 18-33 feet in length.

Seating positions on a bowrider are slightly different. Usually, a bowrider will have a seating compartment ahead of the helm that will consist of seatbelts, railings, and sometimes even individual seating positions for improved safety. They are slightly more performance-oriented machines, after all. You will generally find bowriders anywhere between 17 to 30 feet long.

Use For Water Sports

If this article hasn’t hinted at it enough already, let us factually state that a bowrider is definitely the more capable of the two when it comes to fast, action-packed, and water-based activities. If you are expecting the speed and agility of a speedboat or Jet Ski, then you need to look no further than a bowrider.

Like bowriders, deck boats come equipped with a tow eye to accommodate a variety of water sports. They are also usually equipped with a swim platform to make it easier for swimmers and water sport enthusiasts to access the boat and are a good option for beginners and people who plan on having children on board. But they aren’t quite as fast as bowriders and simply aim at offering a more relaxed, slow-paced experience.


Deck boats take the cake in this department. With an emphasis on space and storage capacity, the design and layout of a deck boat can comfortably accommodate up to a dozen people and still have ample space to safely store everyone’s personal belongings - including all safety and first aid equipment. There’s also room below deck to store all of your water sports gear.

If you don’t plan to entertain many guests, a bowrider can still comfortably seat anywhere between six to eight people. You may have to compromise a little bit on storage space, but there is still a decent amount of space.

Models And Pricing

Now that you know the basics on the differences between these boats, it is time to have a look at a few examples, as well as how much of a dent they will make in your bank account.

2021 Bayliner Element M15

The M15 is one of the more cost-effective deck boats you will find on the market. For just over $13,000, you get a deck boat 15 feet long and almost 7 feet wide, powered by a four-stroke Mercury engine that produces around 40 hp. It certainly cannot accommodate a large crowd, but it is ideal for a small family.

2018 Bayliner 190 Deck Boat

The 190 is another entry-level boat that is a little more impressive than the M15. Starting at $23,650, the base level 190 gives you ample space, allowing you to comfortably seat up to eleven people due to it being close to 19 feet long. The boat runs on a 1.7L four-stroke engine that generates 115 hp. This model is also said to feature ample storage space for fishing and water sports equipment.

Bayliner VR4 Bowrider

The VR4 is a fun bowrider for beginners that offers plenty of comfortable seating, with an option to fit a powerful 4.5L Mercruiser engine capable of producing up to 200 hp. The Bayliner VR4 is more than ideal to play around with in open waters, and you can pick up a base model for around $24,000.