Rookie Boater seeking advice on Family Jon Boat

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May 25, 2020
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I am looking to get an affordable boat that will primarily be used for family joy rides and to a lesser extent fishing. I have two young daughters and a wife and would like to take them out on nearby lakes. Whatever kind of boat I get, I would like to get a Bimini top for some shade. I live in DFW and would likely be going on Lake Grapevine the most. I have very little experience boating, but I have heard good things about welded aluminum jon boats. Namely, they are light, sturdy and hold their value.

I would like a boat that can fit on a trailer in my garage. My garage is 20' long. I'd like an outboard motor that is powerful enough to make me and the kids "feel" like we're moving fast. Going 20 would be nice, but I'd like to be able to go at least 12-15 mph. I'd like something that will be easy for me to launch with minimal help. I will have two young girls and a wife who is even greener than me with boats. I am interested in used boats and my budget is ~$3,500 for the boat, motor, and trailer.

Since I will likely be going public waters the most, I am under the impression that whatever the safety sticker on the boat says about Max Persons, is the law that the Texas Parks and Wildlife will enforce. For that reason, a boat like a Tracker Topper 1236 would not work for me since it says the max persons is 3.

I have been perusing the Tracker website and was surprised to see how low the Max Persons is on a lot of their 2020 Jon boats. All 3 models of the Tracker Toppers have a Max Persons of 3. And it is not until you get to the 1648 Tracker Grizzly that you can seat 4.

I thought I found my perfect boat when I stumbled on the TRACKER GUIDE V-14. It is a 14 footer, so slightly more manageable than a 16 footer, and it is 4' wide, so nice and stable and it legally seats 4! But, it looks like Tracker stopped making it in 2020 and the used market for it is almost non-existent.

So, I have two questions? Reading about what I want out of a boat, does an aluminum jon boat sound like a good fit for me? I am not too knowledgeable on other types of boats, so if there is another type I should be looking at, let me know.

Secondly, what are some good Make/Models of welded aluminum boats that can legally seat 4? Probably looking at 16' as a maximum, because I imagine a couple feet for trailer/motor to fit in my garage.

Any advice is appreciated!
I would get 16 ft, console steering, seats for everyone, maybe 35-50 hp. Tall sides will be a benefit when the big boats go by. The kids will want to ride on a tube as soon as they see one. You can get the bimini aftermarket, figure $400 for that.

There are swing away tongues to help garage it but that would be on a high end boat. Anyway to get it in on a diagonal?

The main point is not to underbuy as you could be trading up when the bug bites deep.
Unless he gets a swing away tongue a 16' boat won't go in a 20' garage and the door close with a motor hanging off the back.

The good thing is they are not that expensive to add on and pretty easy to do.
For 4 people, you will want at least a 15'-16' boat. And the wider the better with more people in it. A 1548 to 1660 would work best, but finding one with a motor and trailer for under $3500 could take some time. I have a 1652 and my garage measures out to 19' 6" and I can just fit the boat/trailer in the garage at the right angle and close the door if I remove the coupler from the trailer (the boat hits my workbench so if I could remove that, I think it would fit with the motor turned and tilted without removing the coupler). You can always make adjustments to how the boat sits on the trailer to get it to fit. The swing away trailer tongue will help fit the boat as well. I would look for a 1660 modified v for the most stability. SeaArk makes a 1660 just to give you an idea, but they're not cheap. Here's a picture of the swing away trailer tongue (they make them in weld on and bolt on, I've done the bolt on and you need to drill a lot of holes in the tongue).


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Agree with what's been said. 15' - 16' boat. Young daughters won't be young for long. I am still surprised how fast that happened with mine. 9.9hp outboard will get you where you want to go plenty fast enough for me. Even if I wanted to go really fast, 25hp would be all I would want in a 16' boat just because of he weight of the motor.

The wider the better. There are a lot of 1648s around and that's a really nice size for a family of 4. The trailer will need a swing away tongue to fit in a 20' garage and that's going to be really tight with the outboard on the boat.

Welded is better but I have never had a problem with a riveted boat and since you're on a budget, riveted will save you some bucks.
A 1648 is a nice roomy boat. I’ve seen a few in that price range. A 25 hp motor would push it nicely.

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I was in a similar situation a few years ago (2014-2015) and restored a Lund 14' that wore a couple motors over the years but my favorite was a late 70's Merc 200 (20HP 2 stroke) with electric start with a keyed ignition mounted by the motor and a tiller handle. here is the link to the project I did with my kids and we had a blast doing it, and we into it for way less than your max budget price. The major drawback for us was here in western South Dakota the weather can blow up fast, and the reservoir we go to has heavy recreation use with wave boats, jetski's, skiing, tubing, etc. We learned pretty quickly that in waves bigger than 1' we felt like a bath toy out there bobbing around. Luanching and recovery was super simple IF it was calm. windy and rough could make it borderline dangerous at times. overall though it wasn't bad, just had to pick our days on the water. In 2017 we upgraded to a mid 80's 16' starcraft with a walk through windshield and a 60 hp johnson 2 stroke. we loved that boat and it was MUCH more stable, and the walk through windshield offered more protection to the kids if they were wet from swimming/tubing. plus I could fish easily out of it and launching/recovery was a breeze by myself. we still could feel it if it got rough, but never once did I or the family feel like we were in danger on the water in it despite conditions/traffic. I still miss that boat.

In 2017 I saw a Fisher 19 pro avenger for sale locally and just HAD to have it. I held onto both boats for a little while, but sold the starcraft in early 2019 ($3000 IIRC). this winter I contacted the person who bought it to try and buy it back, he said no way, he loves it. So now we have the boat that is my avatar pic and we love it, it's big sometimes, but waves that would scare us in the 14' lund are barely felt in the Fisher. we have TONS of room so my wife and daughter can sunbathe in the bow while my son and I can be trolling for walleyes in the back. we really are thrilled with our boat. as much as I would love a 4 stroke 115 on it, at least our kicker is a 9.9 4 stroke and we use that 99% of the time anyway.

I don't know what kinds of lakes or the size where you live, but for my family, no way I'd take them on any decent size body of water in a 14' lund again. I would tackle a lot in that starcraft and not bat an eye, and those boats aren't going to depreciate much more. I'd say try and find something like that with a swivel hitch and make learning the ways of the water much much more fun. if it can get windy/stormy quick where you live, I would strongly encourage the walk through windshield. these boats around here are often neglected and are total rebuild projects. the upside is you can get them for next to nothing and tailor them how you like. shop around on CL or FB if you have it for boat projects and supplies, I'm even a member of an "outboards only" FB page and frequently see good deals on there. This site will give you a wealth of knowledge on a remodel and is my first stop when I have any boat related questions.