Best Anchor Buoys

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
290 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best anchor buoys

Last Updated September 2020

A buoy is basically an object that floats on the water, but in reality, it is so much more. Buoys can be used to mark aquatic areas such as channels, aid in boat navigation, warn of dangers like submerged rocks, and provide other information to boat operators.

Durable and brightly colored, the simple anchor buoy is typically used to mark the location of an anchor used for moorings. It can also be used by mariners as a simple warning buoy. Multiple buoys can be placed along the side of a boat as bumpers to protect the boat from crashing into docks and other objects.

In this buying guide, we examine anchor buoys in their various sizes and materials, discussing the important factors you must keep in mind when purchasing an anchor buoy. We touch on price ranges you can expect to see and offer a number of our favorite anchor buoys for your consideration, along with reasons why we feel they rise above the rest.

Anchor buoys do not abide by any standing nautical rules regarding what color they should be. They just need to be bright enough to be seen.

Key considerations

Size

Anchor buoys come in a variety of sizes, and the larger the buoy, the larger the watercraft you can use it with. Here’s a set of rough guidelines for anchor buoys.

  • Buoys up to 8 inches in diameter can support boats up to 20 feet long.
  • Buoys between 8 and 11 inches in diameter can support boats between 20 and 35 feet long.
  • Buoys between 12 and 18 inches in diameter can support boats between 35 and 50 feet long.
  • Buoys between 19 and 25 inches in diameter can support boats between 50 and  60 feet long.
  • Buoys between 26 and 32 inches in diameter can support boats between 60 and 70 feet long.

These are general estimates that we put together based on a variety of anchor buoys currently on the market. Always check the listing or contact the manufacturer to find out what boat size a particular buoy is recommended for. The majority of makers offer a range of sizes to choose from.

Shape

Anchor buoys come in various shapes, but the overwhelming standard here is a round or tear-drop shape. If you have your heart set on a different shape, you may be able to find it, but be prepared for a bit of a search.

Buoy inflation and deflation

Most anchor buoys can be inflated several different ways. The majority incorporate a valve capable of accommodating a hand pump with a simple pin inflator in addition to an air compressor nozzle. Where hand pumps are effective when used with smaller buoys, you might be better off with an electric pump or compressor for a buoy with a larger diameter.

The best anchor buoys are easy to deflate so you can store them flat when not in use, conserving your storage space.

EXPERT TIP

Instead of rope, you could use a length of chain coupled with a shackle to attach a buoy to an anchor.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Materials

Anchor buoys are typically made from marine-grade vinyl or some type of durable plastic, with the emphasis on “durable.” Buoys take a considerable amount of abuse, not only from the sea and elements but also from constant exposure to boats. A thicker buoy, preferably crafted in one piece for strength, should be able to resist scratches and warping, stand up to pressure, and be impervious to ruptures and air leaks.

Eyelet

Nowhere is durability more important than the eyelet, or the point where either a rope or shackle attaches to the buoy. The eyelet should be large enough to accommodate a variety of rope widths; the larger the hole, the greater width of rope (or sturdier shackle) you can use with the buoy. The material that is used in the eyelet’s construction should also be reinforced. A weak eyelet is all it takes to lose both the buoy and your anchor.

Valve

As mentioned, the valve should offer a couple different ways to inflate the buoy. These are usually via a needle inflator and an air compressor nozzle. Something like a tri-valve will provide you with more inflation options.

Some buoys feature valves that can be removed, allowing for quick and easy deflation.

Rope, line, and shackles

While not standard, some anchor buoys come with a shackle or anchor ring or a length of line or rope to run between the buoy and the anchor. Any included rope or line should be strong and resistant to frays and breaks.

Color

The color of an anchor buoy can help it stand out in the water, allowing you to see it and other boaters to avoid it. There is no standard color associated with anchor buoys, although orange and red are common. The main goal is to find something that stands out. You will also occasionally see buoys that have been “UV stabilized” to help protect them from fading in the sun.

Anchor buoys are sometimes referred to as mooring buoys or trip lines.

Anchor buoy prices

Anchor buoys can cost less than $15 or more than $60, but the average price lies in the $20 to $35 range.

Inexpensive: Anchor buoys that cost less than $15 tend to be small and less durable than pricier choices. These are best reserved for short boats in sheltered mooring locations.

Mid-range: Between $20 and $35, you will find larger and more durable buoys. Products in this range are geared toward mid-size recreational boats.

Expensive: Anchor buoys over $35 are even larger and more durable. These can cost $100 or more and are usually commercial-grade buoys built to take lots of abuse. Buoys in this range sometimes ship with extras, such as rope or anchor rings.

EXPERT TIP

Do you enjoy boxing? Filled with water instead of air, an anchor buoy becomes a usable and inexpensive aqua boxing bag.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • In a crowded mooring situation, it’s easy to lose track of your buoy or suddenly discover someone else using it. To protect against both mishaps, consider labeling or marking your buoy with your personal or business name.
  • If your buoys will just be sitting for long stretches of time doing nothing, consider covering or storing them. Long-term sunlight exposure will eventually fade the color of a buoy, particularly if it has not been treated with some form of UV protection.
  • There generally isn’t a specific air pressure you should aim for when inflating an anchor buoy. Your best bet is to fill the buoy until it is hard but still has a bit of give.
  • If an anchor buoy ships with a line, consider replacing it. Lines and cords included with buoys often tend to be on the weaker side.
  • If you find yourself frequently inflating or deflating buoys with a hand pump, consider purchasing an electric pump. This will speed up the inflation process and save you the work of doing it by hand.
  • When setting up an anchor with a buoy, you will need a nautical chart or a depth finder to determine how long the anchor line should be. Measure the depth at the highest tide, and add another 3 feet to the length to account for wave swells.
In addition to marking anchors, anchor buoys can serve a variety of other purposes, such as marking out a water skiing slalom course.

FAQ

Q. Is it good to size up when buying an anchor buoy?
A.
It depends on what you need the buoy for. If you intend to use it with an anchor, it’s usually best to buy the proper buoy for your boat size, as we have discussed. A buoy that’s too large takes up needless space and is that much more difficult to inflate, deflate, and store.

However, if you’re using an anchor buoy as a bumper or fender to protect your boat from colliding with a dock, a larger buoy may be the way to go.


Q. Is there an easy way to inflate a buoy?
A.
One of the hardest aspects of using an anchor buoy is the inflation. If you are using a hand pump and have trouble inserting the needle in the valve, try using a little oil or other lubricant on the needle. If you find it difficult to pump up a buoy fully, particularly if it is a large or commercial-grade buoy, you might be better off investing in an air compressor or electric pump.

Valve problems can also lead to difficult inflation. If you suspect the valve is the problem, contact the manufacturer for more information on how to fix or replace the valve.


Q. What kind of line should I use to attach the buoy to the anchor?
A.
You could use a number of types of line or cord. One of the best choices is a polypropylene cord. Polypropylene holds up in harsh sea conditions and has one great side benefit: it floats. Be sure to choose a bright color so you can spot it in the water. Seal any cut ends with a lighter or a little glue to prevent the rope from fraying.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
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    Ciera Pasturel
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda Snowden
    Melinda Snowden
    Web Producer
  • Melissa Nott
    Melissa Nott
    Senior Editor
  • Rich Gray
    Rich Gray
    Writer

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