Do you know your Sunseekers from your Sea Rays? Our essential guide explains the best boat brands in the world right now and what makes them different…
The world of boat brands can be baffling at first, with so many names on the market it’s hard to know which are the best boat brands worth investing your hard earned money in.
That’s where MBY comes in – we’ve reviewed thousands of motorboats over more than a century, so we can help you understand what’s hot and what’s not.
If it’s a RIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) that you’re after, check out our essential RIB guide instead, while our sister title Yachting World is the place to go to learn all about the best sailboats.
However, if you want to know about fully-fledged motorboats, read on for our guide to the best boat brands on the market today, including their history, current ranges and star features…
Best boat brands from the USA
Renowned builders of full displacement trawlers, American Tug was founded in 1999. Based in La Conner, WA, the yard traces its heritage back to the fishing industry.
They build a focussed range of 36-48ft boats, available in either one-cabin or two-cabin layouts. The majority are fitted with single Cummins engines, with the exception of the entry-level American Tug 362, which comes with a 320hp Volvo D4 engine.
Each model has a cruising range in excess of 1,000nm, and that has been put to good use in cruising grounds as diverse as the Bahamas and the Bering Sea. You can expect to find American Tug boats on both coasts of the US, as well as the Great Lakes and far beyond.
Article continues below…
Founded in 1957, since 1986 Bayliner has been part of the Brunswick Corporation, one of the world’s largest boatbuilders and the manufacturers of Mercury outboard engines.
Bayliner currently has a very focussed collection of 18-23ft boats, but don’t let the size range fool you, they cover a wide range of styles from watersports boats to fishing boats and from deck boats to overnight cruising boats.
Their international dealer network is supported by a wide range of production facilities – Bayliner boats are built in the USA, Mexico, Brazil and Portugal.
With the tagline ‘the unsinkable legend’, Boston Whaler is clearly not messing around – they even boast that you could cut a Boston Whaler in half and drive away in the half that’s got the engine!
The Boston half of their name relates to their 1950s origins in Massachusetts, but since 1996 the Boston Whaler range has been built in Edgewater, Florida by the Brunswick Corporation.
Their current range includes 28 fiberglass models, ranging in size from the 13ft 130 Super Sport, all the way up to the 42ft 420 Outrage center console.
One of the oldest and most revered boat brands in the USA, Chris-Craft can trace its history back more than 140 years, when it was known as Chris Smith & Sons Boat Co before adopting its now iconic moniker 15 years later.
These days Chris-Craft boats are built in Sarasota, Florida, and their 24-35ft range is characterized by teak decks, deep-vee hulls, reverse-sloping transoms and stainless steel detailing.
Founded in Taiwan in 1985 by a Brit who is now based in the USA, Fleming Yachts is a truly international brand, which is reflected in their globetrotting, ocean-crossing range of displacement motorboats.
Ranging in size from 55ft to 85ft, the Fleming range covers the high-end of owner-operated boats. Roughly 340 Flemings have been built to date and each one is highly specified to suit its owner’s style of boating.
Another global brand, Grand Banks Yachts was founded in Hong Kong by an American who later moved operations to Singapore and then Malaysia.
Their range of fiberglass-hulled cruising boats spans from 44ft to 85ft and the vast majority of the components are built in-house to ensure they have a firm grip on quality control.
Founded in 1928 in Southwest Harbor, ME as part of the local lobster boat industry, Hinckley has become one of New England’s most highly regarded boatbuilders.
Renowned as some of the best jet boats in the world, Hinckley Yachts can navigate the shallowest of waters due to the lack of exposed propellers.
Construction involves carbon composites from bow to stern, vacuum-infused with epoxy for exceptional durability that is backed up by a lifetime guarantee.
Their current range runs from the iconic 34ft Picnic Boat up to the 57ft Talaria motor yacht.
Founded in 1978 in Dana Point, California, Nordhavn builds a rugged range of 41-120ft displacement trawler yachts that are renowned for their long-distance cruising capability.
Today the range is built in Taiwan and Turkey, and key features include spacious, practical engine rooms that house a main engine and a wing engine that can be used as an emergency backup.
This kind of technical redundancy underpins the Nordhavn range, giving owners the confidence to cruise all around the world in their home away from home.
Built at the Brunswick Corporation headquarters in Knoxsville, Tennessee as well as two further facilities in Florida, the Sea Ray range runs from 19ft to 40ft.
Exported worldwide by a vast network of dealers covering 80 countries, Sea Ray boats are renowned for their early adoption of fiberglass as well as pioneering the fixed swim platform.
Best boat brands from the UK
Fairline was founded in Oundle, Northamptonshire in 1963 and got its name from a fair line of minerals found in a nearby quarry.
Fairline is arguably most famous for its Targa sportscruisers (45-65ft) and Squadron flybridge models (50-68ft), with plans afoot to launch a 65ft sportsbridge yacht that is claimed to offer the best of both worlds.
Once a manufacturer of aft-cabin cruisers, Pearl Yachts has undergone a remarkable transformation in the past decade to become one of Britain’s most stylish designer yacht brands.
Partnerships with Kelly Hoppen and Bill Dixon for interior and exterior design respectively have led to a highly desirable range of 62-95ft flybridges.
Each new yacht comes with a 5-year warranty and their models are built in the UK at the yard’s Warwick headquarters.
Founded in Plymouth in 1965, Princess Yachts is one of the true titans of the British boating industry with a fiberglass-hulled range that stretches from a 35ft dayboat to a 95ft superyacht.
One of the distinguishing features of Princess is its design partnership with legendary British naval architecture firm Olesinski and Italian styling house Pininfarina.
Currently owned by L Capital, Princess Yachts are part of the same stable of brands as Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy, so their knowledge of the luxury lifestyle is unrivalled.
Founded by Idris Braithwaite in the 1960s as Poole Powerboats, the company was rebranded as Sunseeker in 1979 when it started to sell boats overseas, and so a legendary boating brand was born.
Currently owned by Chinese group Dalian Wanda, Sunseeker remains a British company with manufacturing still based in Poole.
The current Sunseeker collection ranges from the Hawk 38 high-performance sportsboat to the Sunseeker 50M Ocean – a steel-hulled superyacht that is currently under construction at Icon Yachts’ facility in the Netherlands.
Best boat brands from mainland Europe
Based in Piacenza, a town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, roughly 150km north-east of Genoa, Absolute Yachts has been an independent boatbuilder since 2002.
Founded by Marcello Bè and Sergio Maggi, the yard’s range of 48-73ft Navetta, Flybridge and sport yachts is internationally renowned and it has a prominent presence at all of the world’s leading boat shows.
Its name and motto (Reaching for the Absolute) reflects its desire to achieve the finest standards in both build quality and seakeeping.
Azimut Yachts is one of Italy’s foremost boatbuilders, based at a state-of-the-art 100,000 square metre facility in Avigliana, less than 20 miles west of Turin, which can produce up to 300 boats per year and has built more than 10,000 hulls to date.
Azimut has pioneered several key yachting trends over the years, such as large frameless windows, electric helm seats and walnut wood interiors.
The current Azimut collection includes the sporty Verve weekenders (42-47ft), the semi-planing Magellano trawler models (43-82ft) and the signature sportscruiser and flybridge range (50-83ft), all the way up to the Grande superyacht line (87-125ft).
Founded in 1978 as a sailboat builder, Bavaria Yachtbau is the largest yacht manufacturer in Germany with its headquarters in Giebelstadt.
Since 2001 the firm has also built motorboats and the current range includes open boats, sportscruisers and flybridges, ranging in size from 28ft to 55ft.
Dating back to 1884, Bénéteau is one of the oldest family-run boatbuilders in the business and the world’s largest producer of yachts, launching more than 10,000 hulls per year.
Based in the Vendée region of France, with a second manufacturing base in Marion, South Carolina, Bénéteau is a major player in both the motorboat and sailing yacht markets.
Its current collection of seafaring vessels ranges from 14ft to 62ft, while the Bénéteau Group’s wider portfolio includes a variety of boat brands, such as Four Winns, Glastron, Jeanneau, Prestige, Scarab and Wellcraft.
Cantiere Nautico Cranchi, more commonly known as Cranchi Yachts, is one of Italy’s oldest boatbuilders, with a history that can be traced back to 1870.
Based in the Lombardy region, Cranchi works closely with designer Christian Grande to ensure a consistent Italian style throughout its range, while its primary engine supplier Volvo Penta has a relationship with the brand that has lasted more than 50 years.
With a history that dates back to 1849, the Feadship brand is as historic as it is prestigious. Formed from the Royal Van Lent and De Vries shipyards, Feadship as we know it today was officially formed in 1949.
Today, the yard is one of the biggest players in the full-custom superyacht sector, working primarily in steel and aluminium, and launching just a handful of models each year, ranging from 50m up to 110m.
Notable owners include Apple founder Steve Jobs, who commissioned the 78m Venus, and Oracle owner Larry Ellison, for whom the 88m Musashi was built.
Founded in 1968 in Bologna, the Ferretti Group is now based in the Italian city of Forli.
Its signature Ferretti Yachts flybridge range currently runs from 50ft to 100ft.
Founded in 1976 by Jean François Fountaine, Yves Pajot and Daniel Givon, Fountaine Pajot is a French yard based in Poitou-Charentes.
A lot of yards speak boldly about sustainability and alternative energy sources, but Fountaine Pajot is rare in that it has set an ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2030.
Since 1982, Galeon Yachts has been building luxury motorboats in Straszyn, Poland.
Today its range of 30-80ft models is exported worldwide by a network of 15 dealers. Galeon also builds the entry-level Galia range of 15-25ft leisure boats.
In recent years, Galeon has pioneered the use of fold-out platforms, which massively increase the available deck space when resting at anchor.
A Dutch manufacturer of steel displacement yachts, Linssen was founded in 1949 as a carpentry and ship repair business.
In the last decade, the yard moved to the town of Maasbracht where it currently builds aft-cabin cruisers and sedans ranging from 9-16m.
Propulsion options include Mercury and Volvo Penta units with the aim of delivering comfortable long-distance cruising, both inland and offshore.
A relatively new player on the motor yacht scene, Cantiere del Pardo was founded in 2016 by Grand Soleil – a luxury sailboat manufacturer of more than 50 years’ experience, based in the Italian town of Forli.
Since then, its range has grown to five models – the Pardo 38, 43 and 50 T-top sportscruisers, the Pardo Endurance 60 flagship, and the forthcoming Pardo GT52, which aims to deliver the best of both styles.
Founded in 1958, Sanlorenzo has grown to become an Italian boatbuilding behemoth, with facilities in Ameglia, Viareggio, Massa and La Spezia.
Building in GRP, aluminium and steel, the yard produces a wide range of semi-custom yachts from 24-72m.
As if that wasn’t enough, Sanlorenzo acquired Bluegame Yachts in 2018, adding its range of 42-72ft motor yachts to its bulging portfolio.
The future looks bright for Sanlorenzo, with a healthy order book, including a cutting-edge 50m hydrogen-powered superyacht, which has been commissioned by company chairman Massimo Perotti.
Founded in the 1970s by Frank Fish, Tom Murrant and Ray Walker, Sealine grew in popularity in the 1980s and 90s to become one of the UK’s most prominent boatbuilders.
Following a buyout by German company Hanse in June 2013, the current 33ft-55ft Sealine range is built in Greifswald on the Baltic coast, including sportcruisers and flybridges.
Thanks to the Hanse Group’s connections, Sealine boats are now sold all across the world by a network of 89 dealers.
Best boat brands from Scandinavia
One of the newer boat brands on our list, but also one of the most successful, Axopar has reinvented the market for outboard-powered dayboats, with a comprehensive range of stylish, practical and attractively priced cabin, open and T-top models, sparking a string of imitators.
Axopar was founded in 2014 by a select group of Finnish entrepreneurs and is now headed up by Jan-Erik Viitala, who brought together everything he had learned from working on Aquador, XO and Paragon, hence the name.
The current Axopar range runs from 22ft-37ft and more than 3,500 boats have been built at its production facilities in Poland over the past 8 years.
Key partnerships include Jobe Watersports and German tuning house Brabus, who have produced the Brabus Shadow range of high-performance outboard boats.
Made in Finland since 1976, the Botnia range is revered for its Targa wheelhouse boats, which boast exceptional seakeeping in almost all conditions.
The uncompromising styling and rugged build quality has earned this range a reputation as the ultimate 4×4 of the sea
The current Botnia leisure range runs from 23ft to 46ft, but the yard also builds water taxis, police boats, sea rescue boats and much more besides.
Very much a family business, Marex Yachts was founded in 1973 by Eyvin Aalrud and handed down to his sons Espen and Thomas 16 years later.
Production of its 31-37ft range is split between two facilities in Arendal, Norway and Kaunas, Lithuania.
The brand name comes from the Latin for ‘king of the sea’ and this motto is reflected in the consistently impressive seakeeping of its boats.
Famous clients include former Top Gear presenter James May, who owns a Marex 310 Sundancer.
Swedish brand Nimbus has been building boats since 1968. Famous owners over the years include tennis player Bjorn Borg and the Swedish King Gustaf XVI.
Its influence isn’t limited to Sweden either, with a worldwide network of almost 100 dealers.
The current Nimbus range goes from 26ft to 36ft and covers styles as diverse as superyacht tenders, flybridges and commuter boats.
The newest boat brand on our list and arguably the most exciting, Saxdor burst onto the scene in 2021 with its headline grabbing Saxdor 200 Sport offering cutting edge styling and exceptional value for money thanks to production facilities based in Poland.
This was quickly followed up by the Saxdor 320, which brought with it more space, more performance and features such as fold-out balconies and pilothouse accommodation.
This new Finnish brand is definitely one to watch…
Founded in Oslo in 1966, Windy is one of the oldest and most highly venerated Scandinavian boat brands.
Founder Hugo Vold was inspired by his father’s sturdy fishing vessels, and the Windy range aims to uphold those high standards of seakeeping today, albeit with much higher levels of performance, style and luxury.
The current range runs from 26ft to 60ft and incorporates everything from superyacht tenders and luxury day boats to fast and efficient sportscruisers.