Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Last Updated: May 2022
Whether you’ve been sailing for years or you’re buying your first, this guide should come in handy for you. Inflatables can be used for a multitude of purposes so make sure you keep that in mind when deciding on what one to buy.
Read our guide below to find out all about the things you should consider when planning your purchase.
From WavEco to Honda, there are many brands to choose from and options to consider when purchasing an inflatable boat, not least of all, your budget.
The first thing you need to decide is how much you are willing to spend on your new dinghy before you can get down to the nitty-gritty of the specific boat options.
Gael Force’s inflatable boats range from £374.95 to £1,350 taking into the specifics below.
The size of your inflatable will depend on how many people and how much equipment you intend to carry on your boat.
The capacity of dinghies usually ranges from 2 to 4 people but it will also depend on how much space you would like for those passengers.
A 2.3m dinghy will have less space for 3 passengers with equipment than a 3m dinghy but the 2.3m may suffice for just 2 passengers.
When thinking about the size, pay attention to the maximum load capacity of the dinghy and use that as a guide too. This may mean your boat can comfortably fit 2 adults and 2 children on one outing or 3 adults on another.
Another point for consideration is – what material do you want? Dinghies are made of either PVC or Hypalon and the main difference between the two is the price and durability.
PVC boats are particularly popular as they are more lightweight and cheaper than Hypalon. PVC boats can be folded easily, making them more compact to store when not in use, and the material can be incredibly strong.
However, PVC can be susceptible to deterioration if left exposed to sunlight, heat and humidity.
Hypalon is much heavier and more expensive than PVC but it is much more robust as a material. It is commonly used in the construction of heavy-duty RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boat).
If you intend to use your boat frequently, then the Hypalon is the best option as it is ready-built. However, if you don’t plan to use it often then PVC is better as it can be stored far easier.
There are pros and cons for any floor on your dinghy and again, it comes down to your intended use of it.
Slatted floors alongside aluminium floors tend to hold the dirt and sand but they are quick to set up and are more hard-wearing, particularly if you have a lot of traffic going off and on the boat.
The Air Deck is more stable than the slatted floor along with being lighter and drier. It folds up compactly into a roll as well.
However, lots of traffic can result in more wear and tear as there isn’t really anything to protect the PVC.
The Air V-Floor on the Honwave is best if you want a dinghy that is light and speedy. The V shape of the hull means it cuts through the water better than other rounded dinghies. The downside is that these tend to be more expensive.
Roundtail or Transom?
Ultimately your choice here is whether or not you plan to use an engine.
Roundtail boats are not suitable for attaching an engine, although that does mean you’ll gain more space for the length, so go for this type if you plan to row it.
On the other hand, a dinghy with a transom can use an outboard engine and is more stable than a roundtail. However, the transom does make the dinghy heavier overall than the roundtail.
Outboard Engine or not?
If you are using your boat to travel back and forth from your boat to land (depending on the distance), you may well decide to simply use oars to paddle as the cost of the engine may not be worth it.
On the other hand, if you will use your boat to travel longer distances then setting it up with an outboard engine is likely a good choice as there will be less work involved for you.
When choosing an engine, you should also consider how much it will weigh down your boat.
Given that the boat will be carrying you and your passengers, supplies, fuel, and the engine itself, you might want to consider a lightweight engine that won’t struggle too much with everything aboard.
When considering the horsepower, you can also look at the specifications of the boat to find out the maximum engine power.
If you are only going to be using the boat inshore, you will be better off with a short shaft engine rather than long shaft.
Buying an inflatable boat can be expensive, along with any extras you need, so make sure you take your time to decide which one is right for you.
Browse Gael Force’s range of products below: