How to Choose an Inflatable Boat - Choose from 4 Main Categories, Compare Designs & Prices

When researching how to choose an inflatable boat it is necessary to learn something about the various styles of soft bottom inflatables and rigid inflatable boats (RIBs). That way, your search will turn up things you might not have known, as well as help to eliminate any class of boat that won’t suite your needs.

As you know, inflatable boats have multiple uses including search and rescue, tendering, fishing, sailing, river running, diving, and recreational fun. They can be used to raft down lazy rivers, or be mounted with an outboard motor and turned into a high-speed sports boat.

General Characteristics

Inflatable boats use air chamber tubes on the sides to provide buoyancy, and are considerably less expensive than traditional boats. They can have hard or soft flooring, a hard or soft hull, hard transoms, a sail rig, be paddled or be fitted with oarlocks for rowing, and more – the variations are ingenious.

If you are looking into how to choose an inflatable boat, it is best to start by learning about the four main categories of boats:

Yacht tenders – the original inflatable boat is a small craft that was, and still is, intended for use as a tender to a larger vessel. Also known as a dinghy, this style of inflatable can mount a small trolling motor, be paddled or rowed, and be used for fishing or just having fun on the water.

Inflatable Boat Comparison Charts

Roll-up Sport boats are very versatile in their design and have a lively performance on the water. They offer the benefits of a sports boat with the easy stowage of a dinghy. Roll-ups are equipped with either a high-pressure air floor or slatted deck, an inflexible keel, shallow V-shaped hull, and a solid transom for mounting an outboard motor. Once you remove the motor, you can “roll up” the boat for easier transportation and storage.

RIB - The Rigid Inflatable Boat or RIB is also classified as an inflatable boat even though it has a hard hull (it is also known as a rigged-hull inflatable boat or RHIB). The inflatable collar at the gunwale allows it to maintain buoyancy in very rough water, which is why this workboat is the choice for rescue operations. A RIB is designed with a deep-V hydroplaning hull so that it can perform as a ski boat.

Console RIB - This is the class of rigid-hull inflatable boat that is as close to a traditional boat as inflatables get. It offers a full console with a steering system and power trim on the outboard motor. They also feature options for different seating arrangements and custom fit outs.

Other Inflatable Boat Styles

A number of other types of inflatable boats include river rafts, canoes, catamarans, kayaks, and pontoon boats, all of which are in a category of their own. As with the dinghies and roll-ups, the hulls of these inflatable boats have high-tech PVC, polyurethane, Hypalon, or Neoprene fabric coating that is resistant to tears, punctures, UV rays, abrasions, and chemicals.

Getting Started

This inflatable boat buying guide only covers the basics as there are always variables that will weigh on your decision of how to choose an inflatable boat. The process of buying a new inflatable boat is exciting, but when faced with dozens and dozens of models and options, choosing the right boat for you can seem confusing. We suggest you start with a general boat category – Yacht Tender, Sports Boat, or RIB – to narrow your choices for the next phase of your research.

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Inflatable Boats

Sea Eagle 124smb

Sea Eagle 124 Super Motormount
Length/Width: 12'4" x 5'6"
Capacity: 4 persons (1560 lbs)
Engine: 6 hp/74 lbs thrust electric
Warranty: 3 years

Inflatable Kayaks

Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Kayak

Sea Eagle 420x Explorer
Dimensions: 14' x 3'1"
Capacity: 3 adults (855 lbs)
Warranty: 3 years


Sea Eagle 440fc FoldCat

Sea Eagle 440fc FoldCat
Length/Width: 14'3" x 5'11"
Capacity: 4 adults (950 lbs)
Engine: 4 hp gas
Warranty: 3 years

Inflatable Kayak Comparison Charts

Inflatable Kayaks Comparison Chart

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Inflatable Boat Comparison Charts

Inflatable Boat Comparison Chart

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Boats $1000+