Hull type is likely one of the first things you’ll want to decide on when you consider buying a boat

Many boater have strong beliefs as to which boat hull type is “the best.” As is usually the case, the answer isn’t simple. Boat hulls come in as many shapes and sizes as their owners, and while this can be confusing at times, it’s a good thing! The sheer variety of available hull shapes and sizes means that there is a hull type well-suited to your needs. You just have to figure out which one it is – here’s help.

Breaking It All Down

There are a lot of different ways of looking at hull types – multihull versus monohull, planing versus displacement, round bottomed versus flat bottomed – the list goes on! The first thing you’ll want to do is get a handle on each of these terms, and the pros and cons of each.


These vessels really are just what they sound like – they have more than one hull. Catamaran and pontoon boats are two very common examples, though more exotic multihull vessels, like trimarans and even quadmarans exist, too!


Pros: – Multihulled vessels are extremely stable boats, compared to their monohulled counterparts. They make excellent family or party boats for this reason.

Cons: – Multihulls with cabins tend to have strange or cramped internal design until they get quite large. It’s difficult to cram all of the storage and living space into the available space. – These vessels tend to be less efficient at low speed, typically, designers take this into account, and give the boat a little extra oomph, but this is not always the case.


A single-hulled vessel. Monohulled vessels have really been the only choice for most of human history, and the majority of boats today fit this description.

Pros: – Monohulled vessels tend to move a little easier in the water at low speeds. – Available space below deck is all in one place, leaving substantially bigger and more accessible living quarters and storage.

Cons: – Though this is not always the case, monohulled vessels tend to sit lower in the water, making shallower areas less accessible to them. – As a rule, these boats are less stable than multihulls.



This hull type is restricted to powerboats in all but a few strange exceptions. Planing hulls are designed to ride on top of the water. At speed, these vessels skip along the surface of the water like a stone. Planing hulls tend to be flat bottomed.

Pros: – A planing hull requires significantly less power to maintain speed than a displacement hull. These babies really fly!

Cons: – Handling is significantly impacted when up on plane, as very little of the boat interacts with the water in predictable ways. Every boat you’ve ever seen in a video flipping over at high speed was a planing hulled vessel. This just doesn’t happen to displacement hulled boats.


Typically rounded in shape, displacement hulls get their names from the way they push, or displace, the water around them out of the way, allowing the boat to achieve buoyancy. Displacement hulls tend to be round bottomed.

Pros: – Within their optimal speed ranges, displacement hulls are as efficient as they get, and tend to glide smoothly though the water.

Cons: – The physics that allow displacement hulls to float also prohibit them from surpassing a certain speed, the square root of their waterline length in feet times 1.34 in knots. This is a long way of saying that these boats are for transportation and leisure, and not for racing up and down the lake all day.

Of course, there are hundreds of variations within these categories. Chines, V-shapes, keels, power – each variable brings you a few degrees closer to, or farther from your dream boat. If you have the patience for it, use this article to narrow your choice down to a few variables, and go hang out near a busy dock or marina. Boat lovers are an extremely friendly group, and everyone loves talking about their boat. Explain to a few people that you are in the market, and want to know how they like their hull-type. You’ll get an earful, and likely get a chance to test-drive a number of hull types before you buy. If you’re on the fence, just buy one of each.