What Is A Runabout Boat?

Evidence shows that humans used boats as far back as prehistoric times, with the earliest reports of usage dating back to approximately around 900,000 years ago. So, what exactly is a runabout boat? 

The first runabouts date back to the 1920s. Even then, they were built to be fast and agile. Runabouts were initially manufactured with varnished wooden bodies, with mahogany used for crafting the hulls and oak for the body frame. The aluminum runabouts gained popularity shortly after World War II. Runabouts consist of but are not limited to bowriders, deck boats, jet boats, cuddy boats, and other boats of small sizes. 

Runabout Boats: An Overview

There isn’t an exact definition as to what a runabout boat is. In short, a runabout is a small motorboat with a seating capacity anywhere between four to eight people, and it usually doesn't include a cabin. While not designed for one specific purpose, a runabout is easily maneuverable around water, making it a preferred choice among casual boat enthusiasts. Runabouts have no official size but are mostly considered boats that fall between the mid-teen to the thirty-foot mark. Some of the main reasons why runabouts are a preferred choice among many riders are:

  • Their generally small demeanor makes it inexpensive and easy to maintain.
  • They are lightweight, which means they can usually be towed by your vehicle.
  • The Runabout market is vast, giving you a variety of boats to choose from, depending on your budget.
  • Runabout boats aren’t built for a specific purpose, which allows you to use them for various water-based activities.

Is A Runabout The Best Boat For You?

That depends entirely on your reason for wanting a boat in the first place. As previously mentioned, runabouts aren't necessarily designed for a specific purpose, and therefore, runabouts are more than likely not the best candidate for a particular job. That being said, a runabout is a perfect option for a casual user who would most likely use it for general purposes. These activities may include cruising, beginner-level water sports like tubing, sailing out to cast a few rods, or even just a day out with your friends or family. It would be a great option as runabouts typically offer more seating and comfort features than a traditional fishing boat.

Since runabouts are extremely popular among boat fanatics around the world, the runabout market offers a variety of customizations that can be added (or removed) to your runabout to suit your preference, purpose, and budget, such as:

  • Most runabouts come with the option to be fitted with either a sterndrive or outboard power plant.
  • Runabout owners generally don’t need to purchase additional accessories like Bimini tops, marine electronics, and trailers.
  • Most runabouts can be personalized by including many extra features like stereo systems, premium seating, lighting, upholstery, freshwater showers, and maybe even a mini-fridge to keep your beers cold! All that depends on how much you are willing to shell out.

Sterndrives Or Outboards?

Runabouts usually come in one of two power plant configurations, sterndrives or outboards. Some people may prefer sterndrive power plants as they share similarities with automotive engines, making them easier to work on and maintain. Also, choosing a sterndrive will allow a larger swim platform to be attached to the transom or a large sun pad above the motor box.

On the flip side, outboard power plants have been the most preferred choice as modern four-stroke outboard power plants have proven to be less expensive than your standard sterndrives. Also, they are exceptionally reliable and are much quieter and smoother when in function.

Disadvantages Of Owning A Runabout Boat

Runabouts, in all their glory, have a few inherent disadvantages that owners must be aware of. The disadvantages are related directly to the one thing that also contributes to its popularity: its small size. 

Here are some things to consider before you make your purchase.

  • Runabouts cannot accommodate a large number of people. A family of six would typically be considered a full crew. If you plan to entertain, you might want to consider something slightly larger.
  • It isn't a good idea for a runabout to be out in deep seas or sail through heavy weather. Runabouts are built primarily for patrolling still and open waters during ideal weather conditions.
  • The small profile of a runabout means that it comes with a small fuel tank, resulting in a limited range of travel.
  • Their general use design means that you probably won’t be taking part in any high-speed motorsports or reeling in metric tons of fish. In fact, fishing rods will likely be about as far as you go.


What is the final verdict? A runabout is a perfect starter if you are new to boating. Given the proper knowledge and investment, a runabout will open doors to various water-based recreational activities that you can enjoy by yourself or with company. Boating will also connect you with people with similar interests, making you a part of a unique community that some boat enthusiasts have dedicated their entire lives to. If you are still convinced that you want to get your hands on one at the end of this article, it might be time to set sail!