When shopping for a shiny new boat, the one thing you’ll have to come to terms with early on in the process is – Compromise. There’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to boats. Luxury boats come at the expense of utility. Utility boats sacrifice comfort and, to a large extent, performance. It’s a fact of life.
But, if there’s one boat out there that offers just the right amount of both its center console boats or “CCs” for short. Granted, we’re not saying they are perfect. But they come pretty darn close.
They deliver outstanding performance on rough waters, offer excellent functionality, and exhibit unmatched versatility compared to any other type of boat you’ll come across. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they are easy on the eye.
This guide explores the 9 best center console boats for 2020, as well as some of the factors you need to consider when choosing the best CC for your needs.
Best Overall Choice
1. Best Center Console Boat Overall – Editor’s Pick
If you’re in the market for a CC that fuses cutting-edge technology with functional amenities, you’ll love the Boston Whaler 350 Outrage. Its unsinkable hull design, spacious cockpit, and onboard bait-prep center make this particular boat every angler’s dream.
If you want to invite friends to spend a day out on the water, the 350 Outrage is intuitively designed for entertainment. It has an optional summer kitchen – which comes equipped with a grill, sink, fridge, and storage, thoughtfully-placed sitting space that’s ideal for large parties, and a Fusion stereo system that’s SiriusXM-ready.
The boat has triple Mercury® FourStroke Verado® engines that come equipped with joystick piloting for intuitive commands and easy docking. The performance of this offshore machine is second to none.
● Perfect for avid anglers
● Ideal for entertaining
● Joystick piloting for intuitive commands and easy docking
● Pricier than most boats in its class – and, with good reason
The 3200 Century Center Console is a true beauty. But its appeal isn’t just superficial. It is every bit as functional as it is luxurious. It is packed with loads of fishing features that make it perfect for both recreational and tournament anglers alike. And, when you’re not using it for your fishing expeditions, the 3200 CC is chock-full of comfort and convenience features that make it ideal for entertaining.
It is designed with an open fish deck that comes with ample storage, a 2-pump baitwell system with a 62-gallon capacity, and four forward fish boxes. It also comes with a host of amenities, including an entertainment table, enclosed electric head, bow bolsters and cushions, gunwale rod holders, tilt-out tackle trays, and lots more.
● Designed for entertaining
● Comes with a host of fishing- savvy features
● Features twin outboard Yamaha power
If you’re looking for a center console boat that combines luxury, high performance, and fishing hacks into one eye-catching package, then you will love the new Cobia 350 CC. It is designed with a host of tournament-ready features, including a full onboard bait-prep area, a tackle station, a lockable below-deck rod holder, in-floor fish boxes that can pump overboard, and 42-gallon twin bait tanks.
It also has plenty of room to host a group of anglers at the same time or rein in a hot catch that’s swimming around the boat side. When you’re not using the 350 CC for fishing, the boat converts into a smooth-cruising pleasure vessel. Its elegant seating space can comfortably accommodate 11 people and comes with an integrated chaise lounge that has ample room for two.
You might also like the hideaway bow table that raises out of the floor electronically any time you need it for your party-spread or a simple picnic lunch.
● Has a ton of comfort and convenience features
● Has ample space to host several anglers at the same time
● Has several tournament-capable fishing features
● Offers very little protection against the elements
The Contender 44ST Center Console is built for sportfishing enthusiasts. It combines high performance and fuel efficiency without compromising on the hallmark of Contender rides.
It is powered with triple/quadruple engine configurations to deliver the raw chest-pounding speed you need to get to a hot offshore fishing site before anyone else does. So, whether you’re looking to venture into the Atlantic Canyons to hunt for big tuna, or hit the South Florida waters for a bit of kite fishing, the 44ST will get you there in style.
● Built for speed and range to find big fish
● Powered by triple Yamaha engines
● Has full-range navigation packages that make it perfect for offshore sportfishing
If you’re looking for a center console boat that combines a ton of family-friendly and fishing features into one sleek package, you’ll like what the 340 CC boat from EdgeWater has to offer. It is powered by dual Yamaha XTO 425hp engines and comes with an optional Seakeeper to keep it stable even in the roughest of sea waves.
The console head comes with ample room and plenty of storage, and the deck has several rod holders – all visible every way you look. If you plan to take your family out on the water, the 340 CC has an easy-to-use stowaway bow table that’s perfect for hosting dinners, and a plush sun pad lounge to provide a comfortable seating area.
● Ideal for fishing and entertaining
● Ample cabin headroom
● Offers outstanding comfort and performance
● Wet ride at higher speeds
6. Best Center Console Boat With Upper Control Station
The custom-designed blue metallic hull of the Everglades 243 CC makes a great first impression. The interior is pretty impressive and decked out with fine upholstery and rich wood accents. Its standard features include life jacket storage nets, dry storage, a tackle unit, flush-mounted rod holders, walk around gunwales, and a 32-gallon Livewell.
It also has rear seats that fold down and lock, creating a huge aft casting deck. If you want to cast-net live bait, you’ll enjoy the bow seating/casting platform combined with the low-profile pop-up cleats and powder-coated bow rails that make fishing a breeze.
The 243 CC also comes with an upper station that has a helm seat, four poly cup-holders, a sliding sunroof, and a Garmin-powered wired handset.
● Impressive interior finishes
● Hull is designed to handle rough waters
● Backed by a 10-year transferable warranty
● The upper station has no sun shield for hot days
7. Best Center Console Boat for Swimming and Water Skiing
The Grady-White Fisherman 216 CC boat combines outstanding functionality and superior comfort for the crew onboard. The vessel is not only designed for fishing; it is great for water skiing, swimming, or simply day cruising for a relaxed weekend afternoon out on the water.
The boat comes with standard fishing amenities, including starboard insulated and forward port fish boxes, flush mount cleats, rod holders, rod storage racks, tackle trays, ample storage, and lots more. It also has swim platforms with starboard extensions, a 4-step swim ladder, and an aft port.
● Has a non-skid fiberglass liner
● Comes with swim platforms
● Ideal for fishing and day-cruising activities
If you’re looking for a boat that’s specially designed for both inshore and offshore fishing, then you’ll love the performance of the Scout 251 XSS. This hybrid center console boat has a prominent bow and a hull design that provides the depth necessary for slicing through offshore waves with ease without getting you wet in the process.
Some of its standard features include a leaning post with rod holders, trim tabs, a transom ladder, lockable storage, and a large anchor locker. If you want, you can also get an aerated baitwell and rear deck jump seat cushions installed. This boat is stunning in every way, and its price isn’t too bad either.
● Has both in-shore and offshore capabilities
● Comfortable seating
● Spacious casting deck
It’s no secret that CCs cost a pretty penny. But it is possible to get a decent boat for under $50,000. The Bayliner Trophy T22CC delivers outstanding value for its price. It has a V-hull that’s designed to minimize draft, maximize stability, and cut through open waves with a fairly flat attitude.
While it may not have all the amenities you would expect from pricier boats, its list of standard fishing features is pretty impressive for a brand new boat of its price range. It has fore and aft casting decks, rocket launchers on the leaning post, under-gunwale racks, and flush-mount gunwale rod holders.
It also has a few comfort features like a 120-Watt FM stereo with two speakers, cup holders at different positions on the boat, and swim platforms with ladders on the transom extending on either side of the motor. With a few extra bucks, however, you can jazz up the boat with extra features to your liking.
● Delivers great value for money
● Standard fishing and comfort features are pretty impressive for the money
● The hull design offers maximum stability in open waves
● Limited storage
How to Choose the Best Center Console Boats – Buying Guide
Buying a boat is a long-term investment. It’s not the sort of thing you do every other year. Unless, of course, you’re balling out of control – then you can do whatever your heart desires.
For the majority of people, however, it’s a huge investment. So, you need to pick the right one based on your needs so that you don’t end up regretting your purchase a couple of months/years down the line. With that being said, here are the top 5 factors you need to keep in mind when buying the best center console boat.
1. What Do You Intend to Use the Boat For
If you’re crazy about fishing, a CC is precisely what you need. Modern vessels are built to be incredibly roomy and have plenty of space for all your fishing gear and equipment. Unlike other boats, center console’s give you full 360-degree access to the water around the vessel, which is precisely what you need for reeling in those difficult catches.
You also need to think about the number of people you plan to bring along with you on the boat. A bigger boat is ideal if you want to carry more passengers onboard. This makes it perfect if you want to bring friends and family members along on your fishing excursions.
2. Features and Amenities
CCs are all built to different specifications. You might come across boats that have certain features and amenities that others don’t. So, your choice of one over another ultimately boils down to what matters the most to you. Here’s a list of things to consider before settling on a particular boat.
Convenience features – Does it have an insulated cooler, anti-fatigue helm pads, LED anchor lights, a map-reading system, cup holders, adjustable backrests, an onboard toilet, and other comfort and convenience features?
Electronics packages – Can you charge your electronic devices if you wanted to?
Engine power – What top speeds is it capable of reaching?
Entertainment features – Does it come with onboard speakers and wraparound seating if you have guests on the boat?
Fishing rod holders – How many rod holders does it have, and where are they located on the boat?
Fuel capacity – How much mileage can you get before you need to refill the tank?
Livewells – What’s the aeration rate, and can the strainer filter out large debris?
Storage capacity – Can it store life jackets, casting nets, and other equipment and gear that can be kept below deck?
Make a list of your must-haves, and then rank them in order from the most essential features to the least essential. This will help narrow down your options.
“Window shopping” is great and all, especially when looking at a bunch of boats that are way out of your price range. But don’t settle on a boat that you simply can’t afford.
Keep in mind as well that the price of the center console boat is just one of the many financial obligations you’ll have once you buy it. You have to think about the cost of registration, storage, and maintenance. You’ll also need to buy a trailer if you need to transport it from one location to another.
So, all these things need to be at the back of your mind when considering how much you’re willing to spend on a CC. There are several different sizes and models of center consoles available for every budget. You just need to know where to look and be realistic about how much you can afford to spend on it.
4. Hull Design
The hull design of the CC boat you get depends largely on where you intend to use the boat. Freshwater lakes, for instance, call for CCs with a shallower hull design since it makes it easier to maneuver.
If you intend to venture out into the deep waters off-shore, you’ll need to get a boat with a deeper hull to provide the added stability required to combat large sea waves. They’re also great if you want to cruise at high speeds.
Before you go out and splurge on the shiny new boat you just laid your eyes on, consider checking out who its manufacturer is. A CC may look great on the outside, but there’s no way to tell whether it is made from high-quality parts and components.
One of the ways to check for quality is to confirm whether or not the manufacturer of the boat in question is NMMA-certified. It is the proof you need to know that the boat has been tested against critical safety and build standards.
It also helps to check the manufacturer’s Customer Service Index (CSI) rating. It assesses the quality of a company’s service delivery based on customer satisfaction rates. It doesn’t hurt to check out online reviews and forums to see what other customers have to say about the manufacturer in question.
Find the Best Boat for Your Needs
Finding the best center console boats is, no doubt a daunting affair. Nonetheless, you should never compromise on quality. Go for a CC brand that incorporates the latest in boat engineering, innovation, design, and components, to ensure you get a high-quality vessel that’s built to stand the test of time both in safety and durability. The 9 boats detailed in this guide are a great place to start.
In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a new sailboat, check out our comprehensive review on the 9 best sailboats for 2020.