Buying a new wake boat isn’t easy, but just like riding the perfect wake, it’s a thrill once you know what you’re doing. Whether you’re riding at the end of the wake tow rope or steering at the boat’s helm, your choice of boat and features can determine whether you have an endless summer … or an endless bummer.
Choosing the type of boat
An increasing number of jet boat manufacturers are offering boats aimed at wakeboarders, similar to what you see in Baywatch and other Hollywood blockbusters. But as with many things we see in the movies, the real deal is not quite the same. Jet propulsion creates a wake that many wakeboarders find unsatisfactory due to its soft, formless shape.
Serious wakeboarding enthusiasts tend to opt for inboard boats, while more casual wakeboarders are often happy with inboard/outboard (i/o) boats.
Compared to inboard boats, i/o boats tend to create smaller wakes, can’t reach very high speeds, and depending on the specific boat, may expose the wakeboarder to the dangers of the spinning propeller.
If you opt for an inboard boat, most of today’s models include wakeboard-friendly options like ballasts (so you can adjust the weight of the boat, and hence the size of the wake) and wakeboard racks.
The best boat size for you depends on two factors: the number of people you want to bring with you to the lake, and your budget.
Small boats tend to hover around 20 feet in length. They usually handle much better than larger boats, are more fuel-efficient, and have snappier performance. If you visit lakes that have size limits on watercraft, a small wake boat may be your best (and only) option. They’re also the easiest to store during the off-season, but can usually fit only four or five people at a time with limited or no storage space.
Measuring in at 21 to 22 feet, medium wake boats offer the most crossover appeal between boat sizes and are also the most popular models at boat dealers. They can hold up to a dozen adults, and depending on the model, you can usually squeeze the boat into your garage during the off-season if you remove add-ons like the boat’s swim platform.
Large boats ring in at 23 to 25 feet. They’re the most expensive, but usually have the most options for luxury upgrades due to their size. They have a lot of storage, and are perfect for summer parties because you can bring a crowd. For example, the 24-foot-long Malibu Wakesetter 247 LSV holds a whopping 17 adults.
How will you get your new wake boat home?
Speaking of size, the length and weight of your new boat determines how you’ll get it to and from the lake. For small wake boats, you usually won’t need to buy a truck and can typically use a single-axle trailer. You may need a tandem trailer for medium boats, and you’ll definitely want a heavier vehicle and a tandem trailer with large wake boats.
Whatever size of boat and trailer you end up with, it’s critical that your vehicle has the best boat trailer tires to haul your boat. When buying trailer tires, don’t forget to get a spare tire so you’re not forced to abandon your trailer somewhere. You’ll also want a bracket to carry your spare and an inexpensive cover to protect it from UV rays and theft.
Beam me up, Scotty!
The beam is the wake boat’s width measured at its widest point. It affects everything from boat capacity to boating performance to boat deck styling. The ideal beam measures approximately 100 to 102 inches long.
Other things to consider
Wakeboarding isn’t just about the technical features, but also about the ability to have a little fun. It’s time to personalize the boat so it’s perfectly suited to your taste. Do you want a sound system? A heater for cool summer nights? A built-in shower? Crazy colors and styling to make it stand out on the waterfront? Make a list of your must-have optional features, and bring it with you when comparing different makes and models at a boat dealership.
Finally, consider quality and pricing. Ask questions of the dealer to figure out the brand’s reputation, or his or her knowledge of the engine’s quality. Have other buyers complained about mechanical issues? Have they seen unusual repairs coming in? You can also check reviews by Water Ski magazine, Wakeboarding magazine, and other industry publications.
When determining pricing, don’t forget that there’s more to a wake boat than just the sticker price. You’ll also want to budget for items like:
- Gas (for both your wake boat and your tow vehicle)
- Cost for boat storage if you can’t keep it at home
- Insurance, registration, taxes, dock launch fees and other costs
- Maintenance, including keeping your boat trailer tires in top shape
Keep all of these options in mind, including your preferred budget, while shopping and your future wake boat will be perfectly configured for a wet and wild summer.