4 of the best beginner motor boats to buy right now

Nick Burnham picks out four of the best beginner motor boats on the market that deliver on this compromise hull form

Spring has sprung. It’s that time of year again – summer is on the horizon and it’s time to tempt a few would-be boaters afloat. Scouring the brokerage sites has thrown up an interesting selection of prime first boat fodder.

If you’re happy to take on an older boat then a surprisingly prestige brand swings into focus, a genuine twin-engined sporty Fairline for less than the price of a new Ford Focus.

A slightly newer Scandinavian beauty can be yours for not a lot more, smaller of cabin but with the very wallet friendly advantage of a parsimonious small single diesel under the engine hatch.

A little more money puts you in charge of a much newer 27ft cruiser with all the expected modern amenities in the shape of an American built Rinker 270, and finally a super sporty and surprisingly capable Italian stallion comes from the Cranchi stable.

As ever, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

Recommended videos for you

4 great beginner motor boats

Fairline Carrera 24

Built: 1989
Price: £24,950

Is there any finer recommendation for a boat than the fact that this one was bought new in 1989 from BA Peters in Chichester and then simply kept forever? 35 years later it has finally come onto the market with a whole sheaf of invoices.

And amazingly, it’s all original, right down to the Seafarer 501 strobing echo sounder. It speaks volumes for the quality of these brilliant little boats that they springboarded the brand up into the seven figure price tag territory it now occupies.


It’s amazing to think that Fairline ever built boats this small, and in 1989, this wasn’t even the smallest, the Sprint 21 sat below it. However, the crucial point is that these boats were built every bit as well as the bigger models.

The interior may be dated but it has lasted well and the layout still does the job

It’s pretty spacious for its length due to a 9ft 5in beam and the layout is very straightforward, a converting dinette forward, galley to port, heads with shower to starboard and a crawl-in double back aft beneath the raised helm.


The flat windscreen panes and a ‘bolt on’ flat bathing platform rather than one integrated into the hull rather date the design, as do the 1980s stripes and lack of a transom door, but actually this is still a well-proportioned and good looking boat. The cockpit is dead simple. There’s a raised helm with a double seat that flips over to give aft facing seating, and a bench seat aft. You can drop a cockpit table in to create an external dinette.


Fairline offered single and twin engines, from a solitary river-friendly 130hp through to a pair of 205hp V6 petrol motors. The twin Volvo Penta AQ151 146hp motors fitted to this boat were probably good for nigh-on 30 knots when new, although inevitably they are likely to have lost a few ponies over the last three and a half decades.

Article continues below…


As authentically Fairline as the build quality, the hull was a Bernard Olesinski design, just like every other Fairline of the era. It’s quite a fat boat, so unlikely to slice through the chop like the proverbial hot knife, but it will certainly deliver a solid, dry, stable ride. The first owners obviously rated it highly enough.


Length: 27ft 7in (8.4m)
Beam: 9ft 5in (2.9m)
Draft: 2ft 6in (0.8m)
Displacement: 3.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 318 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta AQ151 146hp petrol engines

Cranchi Endurance 30

Built: 2014
Price: £79,950

Cranchi’s Endurance boats are the sporty models of the range, designed for looks and performance over cabin space and practicality. Yet this is still an eminently useable and sensible boat if your ambition isn’t to live aboard for more than the occasional weekend.

As a first boat it’s also easy to crew and move around, while its deep cockpit sides offer a sense of security.


First the downside of that ethos. Forget much standing headroom, separate cabins or an expansive galley, the lower deck is very much of the large cuddy cabin style. In fact there is standing headroom at the base of the companionway steps, but it quickly drops as you head forward, where you’ll find an L-shaped settee that converts to a double berth.

The forward dinette also converts into a double berth when needed

And indeed there’s another double beneath the cockpit, although it’s all open plan. There’s no galley down here, unless you count the microwave, about the only other thing you’ll discover is the heads, which also benefits from standing headroom and a shower. Family fortnights might be a stretch, but it’s a perfectly good weekending space.


The payoff is outside, which is brilliant for the size of boat. Cranchi opted for a centre console vibe, with the double helm just slightly off the centreline giving masses of space to move around it and up onto the bow via deeply bulwarked side steps forward. Further aft there’s a large L-shaped dinette opposite a wet bar, the aft backrest of which hinges and folds to extend the sunpad behind it.


The Endurance 30 that we tested was fitted with a single 300hp diesel engine, and that gave a spritely mid 30-knot top end, so the twin 4.3 litre Volvo Penta GXi fuel injected petrol engines fitted to this boat should make it fly along.


And now for the best news of all because this boat is an absolute hoot to drive, it corners like a jetski. But it’s also a very capable offshore sea boat.

In trying conditions off Poole it gave a genuinely impressive ride.


Length: 31ft 2in (9.5m)
Beam: 9ft 8in (3.0m)
Draft: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 3.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 326 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta 4.3GXi 225hp petrol engines

Rinker 270 Fiesta Vee

Built: 2002
Price: £45,000

The Rinker 270 Fiesta Vee is the very epitome of this style and size of American sportscruiser. Small enough to be manageable but large enough to offer a properly useful interior, it ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of people, which is why it was Rinker’s most popular model when it was in production.


There’s a reason that virtually all boats of this size and type share a very similar layout and that’s because it works so well. The dinette forward easily seats four and with the table dropped and the infill cushions in place, it makes a decent sized bed too.

Cockpit feels safe and secure thanks to deep coamings and well placed grabrails

There’s a galley just aft to port which, unusually for an American boat, features a useful gas hob as well as a sink, microwave and fridge. Opposite, the heads has a shower which pulls out of the taps, and back aft, a double bed stretches back under the cockpit. For a typical family, it’s about all you really need.


Rinker eked out volume by making the topsides high and the cabin and cockpit stretch right to the edges. So the route forward is up a couple of steps and through the opening windscreen. The cockpit is split into two linked sections.

The forward half has the helm to starboard with a bench seat to port that also provides headroom at the head of the bed in the mid-cabin. Back aft, there’s a bench seat and table, while a small cockpit wet bar has a sink and a removable ice chest. High sides and grabrails help instill confidence in a less experienced crew.


Unusually, this boat has been re-engined with a Hyundai Seasail diesel engine. Its 270hp ought to push the top speed up to around 30 knots whilst burning much less fuel than the petrol V8s found in boats like this.

With a galley, four beds and a heads compartment, this has everything a family needs


Those high sides and relatively narrow beam are likely to give a little lean in a crosswind at high speed, but nothing the Lenco trim tabs can’t correct. A bow thruster would make close-quarters handling a little easier for a novice, but that’s a relatively inexpensive retrofit.


Length: 28ft 6in (8.7m)
Beam: 8ft 6in (2.6m)
Draft: 2ft 0in (0.6m)
Displacement: 3.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 315 litres
Engine: Hyundai Seasail 270hp diesel engine

Windy 7800

Built: 1994
Price: £29,995

Like the Cranchi, the Windy 7800 is very much aimed at the weekender market rather than the cruiser; its setup biased heavily toward style, performance and cockpit space. And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially for a first boat where cruising ambitions are initially likely to be tempered by lack of experience. What you get instead is a fun boat on the water.


Windy has been quite clever with a couple of aspects of the cuddy cabin style interior. Firstly, there’s a huge cut-out above the first part of the cabin as you go in, which means that despite the 4ft 6in headroom, you can stand at this end, handy for the compact galley tucked away to port.

Chunky helm seat sets the tone for this driver focussed sports cuddy design

Directly opposite, a flat worktop lifts through 90 degrees to separate off this corner of the cabin, which houses the sea toilet. There’s a curtain in front of it to preserve a modicum of modesty. Further forward is the usual hoop of dinette with a table that drops to create a double bed.


Despite being now 30 years old, this is a great looking boat. The hull flares out wonderfully through its forward sections, in the style of a classic Fairey, helping keep the spray down and creating more space above the relatively narrow and therefore easily driven two-metre waterline beam.

The sweep of curved screen segues neatly into side sections that shelter a cockpit with a simple layout. Helm to starboard, navigator to port, and pedestal seats that swivel to face the bench seat aft ahead of the sunpad. Pop-up tables on both sides facilitate dining.


Windy offered a wide range of engines, from a single 130hp through to a 365hp V8 Mercruiser petrol, and even a twin-engined option. This boat is fitted with an incredibly parsimonious 150hp AQ31, which should push the top speed up towards about 30 knots.

Large opening provides much needed standing headroom next to the compact galley


We ran one of these 20 miles through long swells decorated with a short chop. We might have expected a wet and bumpy ride but it was nothing of the sort even at high speeds, the boat keeping us dry and comfortable.


Length: 25ft 7in (7.8m)
Beam: 8ft 2in (2.5m)
Draft: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 2 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 298 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta AD31 150hp diesel engine


Latest videos