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Which inflatable dinghy boat is best?

In the East Indies, dingi is the Hindi word for a small wooden boat and the source of our word dinghy. Early dinghies were small boats carried by larger boats and used as ship-to-shore tenders because they tended to the needs of the larger ship and crew.

Big boats still carry dinghies, but few are made of wood, aluminum or fiberglass anymore. Inflatables have taken over the dinghy world just as they did with kayaks and paddleboards. If you are looking for an inflatable dinghy boat that can safely carry six people, take a look at the Newport Vessels 12-Foot 6-Inch Catalina Inflatable Sport Dinghy.

What to know before you buy an inflatable dinghy boat

What is an inflatable dinghy boat?

Inflatable dinghies are small, usually between 8 and 15 feet long. The U.S. Coast Guard calls them Class A boats. They may be rowed, paddled or powered by a small outboard motor. They can be used for fishing, hunting, camping or pleasure boating. Inflatable dinghies outsell wood and metal dinghies because they are lighter in weight, provide a more comfortable ride and are easier to transport — they can be deflated and stowed in a carry bag.

Inflatable dinghy boat parts

  • Bow: This is the front part of the boat where the two sides come together. Inflatable dinghies have blunt and rounded bows.

  • Stern: This is the rear of the boat. A dinghy’s stern is usually squared-off, unlike kayaks and canoes that have points at both ends.

  • Hull: This is the entire body of the dinghy, front to back, side to side and top to bottom.

  • Deck: This is the dinghy’s floor. Most have flexible floors, but some have solid decks made of plywood or aluminum.

  • Transom: This is the rear of the hull, usually flat and where portable electric and gas outboard motors are attached.

  • Gunwales: These are the large air-filled sides of the inflatable dinghy.

  • Keel: This is the boat’s backbone. It runs along the hull from front to back and provides stability in deeper, rougher waters. Very few dinghy boats have keels.

  • Mast: This is the upright pole that holds the sail and boom, also rare among dinghies.

Where will you use your inflatable dinghy boat?

  • Quiet water: Quiet water is found in smaller lakes, ponds and slow-moving rivers and streams. Quiet water is smooth, with no waves or only a few ripples, so inflatable dinghies need only low sides, bows and transoms.

  • Rough water: Rough water is what boats encounter when the water is moving rapidly in rivers and streams. The surface of the water is choppy and the ride is rough, so the front, sides and rear of the dinghy need to be higher to prevent waves swamping the boat.

  • Waves: Rough water has lots of waves and the deeper the water, the bigger the waves. This is where you need the strongest, sturdiest inflatable dinghies.

What to look for in a quality inflatable dinghy boat


  • Oars: If you like rowing your boat, choose a dinghy that comes with oars, oarlocks and a keel that make it easier to hold a straight course.

  • Motors: Outboard motors are detachable engines with shafts that connect to underwater propellers that push the boat through the water. They are mounted to the stern of the boat at the transom with brackets and may be gas or electric.

How much you can expect to spend on an inflatable dinghy boat

The cost of inflatable dinghies is from $300 to $2,500 and is determined by the length of the boat, its carrying capacity and its features list.

Inflatable dinghy boat FAQ

Are inflatable dinghy boats really safe?

A. Inflatable dinghies are built with separate air chambers so they continue to function safely even when one chamber loses air for any reason. The safest are the ones certified by the U.S. Coast Guard as to their carrying capacity.

How do I store an inflatable dinghy boat?

A. If it’s inflated, use a cover to protect it from dirt and ultraviolet rays and place it next to an outdoor wall. If it’s to be deflated, wipe it clean first, then allow it to air dry completely on all sides. Deflate it completely, roll it up and store it in a cool, dry place.

How big of an outboard motor can I put on my inflatable dinghy boat?

A. As a rule of thumb, outboard motors for inflatables less than 15 feet long should have no more than 20 horsepower. The U.S. Coast Guard will gladly tell you more about how to safely match motors with boats.

What’s the best inflatable dinghy boat to buy?

Top inflatable dinghy boat

best Newport Vessels 12-Foot 6-Inch Catalina Inflatable Sport Dinghy

Newport Vessels 12-Foot 6-Inch Catalina Inflatable Sport Dinghy

What you need to know: The U.S. Coast Guard rates this sport tender as able to safely carry six people or 1,600 pounds.

What you’ll love: The inflatable keel and the five-piece wood floor add control and stability. The seats and oars are made of aluminum, the transom is rated to hold a 20-horsepower motor and the entire boat folds into the 2- by 3- by 4-foot carry bag.

What you should consider: The total weight of this dinghy is 165 pounds.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top inflatable dinghy boat for the money

best Intex Seahawk Inflatable Boat

Intex Seahawk Inflatable Boat

What you need to know: Get out on the water fishing, relaxing and rowing inexpensively in this 16-foot-long inflatable dinghy.

What you’ll love: This boat is made of heavy-duty puncture-resistant PVC plastic for comfort and durability. The air valves are fast to fill and quick to deflate. You get two aluminum oars and a foot pump.

What you should consider: This dinghy does not have a hard floor or hard transom.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

best Bris 8.2-Foot Inflatable Dinghy With Air-Deck Floor

Bris 8.2-Foot Inflatable Dinghy With Air-Deck Floor

What you need to know: The high-pressure inflatable air deck floor is so stable you can stand, run or jump on it the same way you would any hard flooring.

What you’ll love: The heavy-duty PVC plastic is heat-welded for watertight seams. The transom is made of durable marine plywood with splash guards. You get one aluminum bench seat, two aluminum oars, a repair kit, foot pump and carrying bag.

What you should consider: The transom height is only 15 inches.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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