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Best Pedal Boats

Updated December 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
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.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
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.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 19 Models Considered
  • 10 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 164 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

    Why trust BestReviews?
    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.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    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.

    Shopping guide for best pedal boats

    Last Updated December 2018

    The sight of a pedal boat can catapult you back in time … back to fond memories of leisurely summer days out on the lake. Perhaps you’re interested in buying a pedal boat for that very reason. Or perhaps you want to own your own pedal boat so you can create new cherished moments with family and friends.

    How do you go about purchasing a pedal boat? There are some important elements to consider.

    The following guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from how pedal boats work to why they differ in price. Additionally, you will learn about features you should expect your boat to have along with some other items that will enhance your boating experience.

    Piloting a pedal boat is like riding a bicycle, only better. You get the health benefits of a workout, but you also have the added bonus of sitting side by side so you can carry on a conversation.

    How pedal boats work

    Roughly 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci imagined a watercraft propelled by two large wheels of wooden blades, one on each side of the boat. When the pilot turned the metal levers, a series of wooden gears enabled the blades to rotate, allowing the boat to move forward on the water.

    A pedal boat closely resembles this, but it moves the cranking to the feet, enabling the craft to operate much like a bicycle. Also, instead of two large paddle wheels, pedal boats usually have just one smaller wheel located underneath the hull, which keeps the pedalers and passengers from being splashed.

    In order to make a turn, pedal boats use a rudder. The rudder is a flat piece of wood, metal, or plastic that is hinged vertically near the stern (back) of the pedal boat. The pilot controls the rudder with a steering device called a tiller – a long horizontal bar that moves the rudder from side to side.

    Depending on the boat, one, two, or three people can pedal it, giving the boat forward (or reverse) motion while one person steers. A pedal boat is designed to operate on calm water such as that of a pond, small lake, or tranquil river that is deep enough so the rudder doesn't make contact with the bottom.

    Gateway to family fun

    If you've been searching for an adventure that encourages family bonding and fun, look no further. Sun Dolphin's five-seat pedal boat has everything you need to create a truly magical outing. With seating for three in the front and two in the back and a weight capacity of 545 pounds, this boat is perfect for sunny days out on the lake. There are even beverage holders and a built-in cooler area for drinks and snacks.

    Pedal boat amenities

    Here is a list of amenities that you should be able to find in a pedal boat. If it's important to you, make sure your model has it.

    • Seating: Most pedal boats offer seating from one to five, typically with up to three pedalers and two passengers. Notably, the combined weight of the passengers usually can not exceed much more than 500 pounds in lower-end models.

    • Adjustable seats: Most pedal boats feature movable seat backs to accommodate boaters of every size. In lower-end models, the seat backs are shared, which means the larger the rider in the front is, the smaller the rider in the back must be – or vice versa.

    • Cooler/storage area: You will usually find this amenity between the two rear-facing seats in the back of the boat. It is where you store your beverages and edibles. On a hot day, you need to stay hydrated, so having a designated space for your beverages is essential.

    • Cup holders: These tend to come in pairs for a total of two, four, or six. Does the model boat you are considering have enough for your needs?

    • Umbrella mount or canopy: If you enjoy (or need) your shade, make sure the pedal boat that you get either comes with a canopy or has a mount for an umbrella. The alternative is zero protection from the sun's harmful rays.

    • Rod holders: If you like to fish, a boat lacking rod holders is a deal breaker. Not all pedal boats are designed with the fisherman in mind, so make sure the model you are considering has all the features you desire.

    • Drain plug: On land, you remove this little stopper to drain water that has found its way into your boat. In water, if you do not have this plug in place, you'll sink. It's not something you want to misplace or forget. Having a spare could be a trip saver.

    • Seat cushions: For added comfort, some pedal boats have seat cushions that can be snapped in place to provide additional comfort.

    • Mooring cover: This is a water-resistant fabric that covers your boat to help protect it from weather and UV rays. In most cases, this item will likely need to be purchased separately.
    EXPERT TIP

    When your pedal boat gets wet, the deck may become slippery. Always wear slip-resistant shoes when boating. In addition, make sure you follow other safety practices like having life vests on when boating.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    If your pedal boat is made of high-density polyethylene and you notice a dent in it, all may not be lost. Leave the boat out in the sun to warm the plastic, and it might gradually return to its original molded shape.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Because they have no lighting equipment, pedal boats are not designed for operation in the dark. By the time dusk settles, you should have your pedal boat docked, and all passengers should be on land.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Additional items you should be familiar with

    Besides the above features, there are a number of ancillary terms and items you need to familiarize yourself with before embarking on your first outing.

    • Hand bilge pump: This handy tool is used to evacuate accumulated water in your pedal boat.

    • Anchor bag with buoy: Sometimes you just want to stay where you're at. This lightweight alternative to a metal anchor is perfect for your pedal boat needs. Just fill it with rocks or other heavy material and toss it over the side. An attached buoy makes it easy to see where your anchor bag is resting.

    • PFD: A PFD is a personal floatation device that will keep you above water in the event of a mishap. Every person on a pedal boat should be wearing a Coast Guard-approved PFD on every outing.

    • Whistle and/or air horn: The Coast Guard requires all boaters to have some way to notify other boats of their presence. A whistle or air horn will work just fine. If the whistle is attached to your PFD, that's even better.

    • Distress flag: A distress flag or any other kind of signaling device lets others know you are in trouble. Not only is it important to have one, but you need to learn to recognize distress signals so you can help other boaters in need.

    Adventure awaits

    A Sun Dolphin Sun Slider with canopy can be great fun for the whole family. However, there's something a little more intimate about being under a canopy that suggests it's couples’ time! Pedal out to a quiet part of the lake, grab an ice cold beverage from the built-in cooler, recline the seats, and enjoy an adventure in relaxation.

    Pedal boat prices

    It can be a little confusing when you first try to figure out price points on pedal boats. Why do some models and brands cost significantly more when, at first glance, they do not seem to offer any more features? In all but a few cases, the secret to understanding pricing in the pedal boat world revolves around weight limits.

    • Under $600

    Even if a pedal boat can fit five individuals, you need to carefully consider each passenger's weight, as the capacity for recreational boats in this price range tends to be somewhere between 500 and 550 pounds.

    • $700 to $1,200

    In this middle range, most pedal boats can handle a weight of 700 to 800 pounds.

    • $1,200 and up

    Once you hit this price point, most pedal boats can handle a load of 800 to 1,000 pounds.

    • A few words of caution

    Although this breakdown is a good rule of thumb, don't just assume because you pay more that your boat can handle more. In some instances, the increased cost reflects the durability of the materials or the uniqueness of the design rather than a higher weight limit. Always check the capacity label to be certain your boat will meet your needs.

    Lighter is not always better when it comes to pedal boats. The less your pedal boat weighs, the easier it is for the boat to tip when you step into it.

    FAQ

    Q. What do I do if water gets between the hull and the deck?

    A. This is not uncommon. Rain, waves, and even condensation can cause water to accumulate inside your boat. To get rid of the water, remove the drain plug, which is usually located under the bow (front), and tip the boat forward to let the water run out.

    Q. Can I use my pedal boat in saltwater?

    A. Unless you have a pedal boat that is specifically designed for saltwater, use it only in freshwater. There are many components that would quickly rust if exposed to saltwater.

    Q. What's the best way to store my pedal boat during the winter?

    A. If you have a garage or boathouse, drain the water and store your craft inside. If it must be stored outside, make sure you have a properly fitting mooring cover to keep water and debris from accumulating in your boat.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Allen
      Allen
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Kristin
      Kristin
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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