Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best boat covers

A boat is a big investment, one that you’re going to want to protect into the foreseeable future. Whether it’s sitting in storage or being hauled to the water for a day of fun, a boat can take a beating. Everything from UV rays and salt air to debris, pollution, and bird droppings can damage your boat and shorten its useful life.

A boat cover takes the brunt of the elements and dirt so your boat doesn’t have to. A quality cover has to face up to a variety of unique challenges. It has to be able to repel rain yet stay pliable in dry conditions. It has to thrive in hot and cold, resist mold and mildew, and be effective whether on the road or sitting for months in storage, indoors or out.

This guide covers the qualities and features to look for if you’re in the market for a boat cover. In addition to considerations such as size and materials, we also examine the price range and any extras you might get with a cover. Finally, we highlight some of our favorites and share what we like about them.

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The best time to buy a cover is immediately after you’ve purchased your boat. Any boat left uncovered in storage or on the road risks being damaged.

Key considerations


Boat covers, much like boats themselves, are made in a variety of sizes. Some covers are universal to fit a wide range of boat styles. Others are more specific, designed to fit a V-hull, T-top, pontoon, or other type of boat. As such, your main consideration when purchasing a boat cover is to find one that fits your particular boat.

Some boat covers have elastic or a drawstring around the hem that can be used to tighten the cover onto the boat so it fits more securely. Some boat owners feel that a drawstring is preferable to an elastic cord because it won’t lose its elasticity over time.

Many manufacturers and sellers offer a range of covers to fit a variety of boat sizes and styles. See the FAQ section below for more information on how to select the right size cover for your boat.


A quality cover should be able to protect a boat from a variety of conditions and substances, including mildew, ultraviolet rays, and water. At the same time, a cover needs to be able to breathe so it doesn’t trap moisture against your boat.

Some boat covers are designed specifically for long-term storage, and these tend to fit more loosely. Others are more geared for long-distance trailering of your boat, and these are reinforced and fit more tightly. Some boat covers try to split the difference, to be used for either storage or trailering over moderate distances. Take some time to consider how you plan to use the cover before selecting one.


Boat covers can be constructed from a variety of materials and held together in a couple different ways.

Materials include nylon, vinyl, and canvas, but one of the best choices is polyester. A marine-grade polyester can handle the elements without shrinking or stretching. Polyester is durable, particularly when paired with a polyurethane backing, and it will hold up to UV rays better than a material like nylon.

On the downside, polyester doesn’t breathe well, so if you go for a polyester cover, make sure it includes some form of venting. Moisture trapped under a covered boat can lead to mildew and mold growth. Vents allow moisture to escape and help keep the boat dry.

Boat covers can be either sewn or glued together. Of the two, a sewn cover, particularly one that’s double-stitched or reinforced at points susceptible to wear, will hold up better, especially if it’s exposed to sunlight.

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Did you know?
Covers for center-console boats are specially designed to provide maximum protection for the electronics and other equipment in the center of the boat.



The majority of boat covers come with straps to tie it down over the boat. When purchasing a cover, verify that it ships with straps, and note their number and length. Polyester straps will hold up better than nylon. Quick-release buckles are a big help when trying to cover or uncover your boat.

Support poles

While not standard, some boat covers come with a support pole that can be used inside the boat to help keep water from pooling on the cover.

Storage bag

Most boat covers come with a storage bag, which can be used to hold the boat cover when it’s not in use. Storage bags are usually made from mesh to keep the cover ventilated and prevent moisture from damaging it.


Some manufacturers offer boat covers in colors other than the usual black or gray, such as blue or gold. If you have a choice, note that a darker color in the sun can make your boat hotter, which could harm electronics or other equipment, but the heat also helps ward off mold and mildew.

Boat cover prices

While you can find boat covers that cost less than $40, most of them are in the $80 to $100 range, with some covers costing as much as $300.

Inexpensive: Between $40 and $80, you’ll find lower-quality boat covers. Most of these are for smaller boats, but some claim to offer a universal fit.

Mid-range: Covers that cost $80 to $100 tend to be larger, better quality, and more durable for longer-distance trailering.

Expensive: At the highest price point, $100 to $300, you’ll find the largest covers and those designed to fit specific styles of boat. In general, moving up in price gives you better waterproofing, stronger UV protection, and better mold and mildew resistance.

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Did you know?
The best boat covers have a series of panels that help guide water away from the seams and outside the boat.


  • Buy an outboard motor cover, too. Most boat covers are designed primarily to cover just the boat and not an attached outboard motor. To protect the motor in storage or transit, pick up an outboard motor cover.
  • Make sure the cover isn’t too tight. Your boat cover should be loose enough to allow air to circulate. If it’s too tight, it can lock in moisture, which can lead to mold and mildew.
  • Remove any snow that accumulates on the cover. Does it snow where you live? If you store your boat outside in snowy weather, immediately remove any snow that accumulates on the cover. Snow and ice can weigh down the cover and possibly damage your boat.
  • Buy the best cover you can afford. A boat is a sizable investment, so don’t scrimp when choosing a cover for it. Paying for a good-quality cover will do a better job of protecting your boat and last much longer than a bargain cover.
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In addition to protecting your boat from the elements, a boat cover can also hide valuable equipment on your boat, making it a theft deterrent, too.


Q. How easy are boat covers to clean?
A clean boat cover is a boat cover that will last a long time, and cleaning a cover is pretty simple. First brush off any debris, leaves, or dirt. Wipe down the cover with a solution of warm water and soap, or use a cleaning agent specifically designed for boat covers. Rinse the cover to remove any traces of soap. Avoid using any harsh detergents. Refrain from scrubbing the cover because this can damage the protective waterproofing. Allow the cover to dry completely. This is particularly important if you’ll be putting it in its bag for storage.

Q. How do I know what size cover I need for my boat?
First, concentrate your search on covers made specifically for your style of boat, for example, a V-hull or center-console, and so on, or opt for a universal-fit cover. Next, measure your boat. First measure the beam width, or the boat’s widest point. Measure in a flat line, edge to edge. Next, measure the centerline from the tip of the bow to the stern. Be sure to take into account any raised objects, such as a swimming platform, when measuring. Your goal is to find a cover that is a foot or so larger than your boat.

Q. How do I keep water from pooling on my boat cover?
. Some covers have built-in panels to help channel water away from your boat. A cheaper solution may be to buy a boat cover that includes a support pole. You position this inside the boat to tent the middle of the cover so rain will run off. If your cover doesn’t include a support pole, you can easily buy one separately.

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