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Updated June 2022
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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 all opinions about the products are our own. 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 all opinions about the products are our own. 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 
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Shoreline Marine Stern Light
Shoreline Marine
Stern Light
Check Price
Customer Favorite
Bottom Line

The best for better visibility while driving on the water at night.

Pros

Large bulb is easily seen from long distances out on lakes and open water. Pole is 12" tall for better visibility, and it folds down for storage when not in use.

Cons

Bulb casing can start to decay if left outside and exposed to UV light for long periods of time.

Best Bang for the Buck
Nilight 18W Spotlight
Nilight
18W Spotlight
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Powerful LEDs
Bottom Line

The best budget-friendly option to buy for better placement and flexibility.

Pros

Powerful LED lights can be placed in a variety of spots or on other equipment. Spot beam does a good job of illuminating the area in front of the light.

Cons

Beam may not be bright enough to be used as a solo spotlight without additional lighting.

Leaningtech Navigation Light
Leaningtech
Navigation Light
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Feature-Packed
Bottom Line

A subtle navigation option you can mount on most crafts without much trouble.

Pros

Navigation light is highly visible from the rear during nighttime. Durable construction made of ABS plastic makes it waterproof in normal or rough conditions.

Cons

The navigation light may require professional installation to secure it.

PSEQT LED Boat Interior Lights
PSEQT
LED Boat Interior Lights
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Energy-Saving
Bottom Line

These LED lights consume less energy than regular models and offer high brightness.

Pros

Made with sturdy ABS plastic. Each light is equipped with 6 LED bulbs with high brightness output. Works for any 12V. Comes in a pack of 10 lights. Waterproof.

Cons

A few reports of some lights arriving faulty or burnt out.

Attwood 5100-24-1 All-Round Frosted Globe Pole Light
Attwood
5100-24-1 All-Round Frosted Globe Pole Light
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Trusted Brand
Bottom Line

Consider this design that provides a 2-nautical-mile range of visibility and a 360-degree radius.

Pros

Easy to install. Offers energy-efficient light output. Comes with a 24-inch pole that allows for elevated visibility. Can easily be removed and stored when not in use.

Cons

The light produced is not as bright as some of our other LED picks.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

35
Models
Considered
123
Consumers
Consulted
8
Hours
Researched
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Buying guide for best boat lights

Display navigation lights must be installed and fully functional on all recreational boats between sunset and sunrise. There are no exceptions to this mandate, according to both inland and international navigation rules. So if you own any type of recreational boat, you’re going to need to invest in some lights for your watercraft.

The number of lights and their placement depends on the length of your vessel. A large powerboat must display high-visibility range lights. A larger vessel may not combine sidelights into a single bi-color light fixture. The placement of nautical navigation lights falls under the jurisdiction of civil authority, state law, and international conventions.

Nautical navigation lights, also known as position or running lights, provide information on a craft’s position, status, and heading; they are not intended to provide illumination for a craft making forward passage. Rather, they act as a point of awareness for other vessels in the area.

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If you decide to anchor outside of a designated anchorage, you must display all-round lights that are visible for a minimum of two nautical miles.

Key considerations

To avoid a multi-vessel collision in the dark, boats mount navigation lights that allow other boaters to determine the type and relative angle of approaching vessels. With this information, a boater can decide if there is an immediate danger of collision. Because safety at sea may depend on your navigational lights, we recommend that you choose the best and brightest.

Following the rules

You need the right boat lights to navigate after dark. Navigational lights assist you and other boaters in determining which is the “give-way” vessel when ships meet in the night. As mentioned, it’s mandatory that these lights be displayed from sunset to sunrise and during inclement weather, including cloudiness, rain, and fog.

When approaching an oncoming vessel and viewing the mandated lights, each vessel must follow some rules. The rules state that each vessel must alter course to starboard so they may pass on each other’s port sides.

Basic boat lighting

Red lights are on the left or port side of a vessel. Green lights are on the right or starboard side. White lights are up the aft or stern and at the front or fore bow. All lights must be visible head-on or straight ahead and at least 22.4 degrees abaft the beam.

For powerboats and sailboats under power, side lights, main masthead, and stern lights are mandatory. However, there are permissible variations to the rules and regulations. Before you set sail, you need to know the rules that apply to your boat on the water in which you navigate.

Hovercraft, both day and night, must operate a yellow flashing beacon for added visibility.

Features

Sealed for safety

Boat lights are sealed to resist corrosion, water intrusion, electrostatic discharge, UV radiation, and vibration. Sealed boat lights are completely waterproof. When shopping for boat navigation lights, play particular attention to removable lights such as the stern light: moisture seeping into the light stick receptacle can erode the socket and cause the light to function improperly.

Bulb covering quality

The bulb covering of a boat light may be made of plastic or shatterproof safety glass. Some bulb coverings are made of inferior-grade plastic and can shatter on impact or become cloudy and hazed when exposed to the sun in a marine environment. Other navigation light bulb coverings are made from quality materials that remain crystal clear and operable for long-term service.

Size and illumination

Boat lights also differ in the size of the bulb and the amount of illumination they provide.

Hours of service

Navigation lights are rated for projected hours of service life. Some lights are rated for 10,000 hours, while LED navigation lights are rated for 50,000 hours or more of service life.

Ease of installation

Unless you are experienced with the installation of boat navigation lights, replacing and repairing original boat wiring can be a daunting challenge. LED snap-in lights and panel rewire kits include easy-to-follow instructions, and all the parts and adaptors are engineered to connect to your current boat wiring harness quickly.

"A high percentage of boating accidents are attributed to faulty or failed navigational boat lights. "
STAFF
BestReviews

Boat light prices

The price of boat lights depends on the manufacturer, the brand, the merchandiser, hours of projected service life, and the quality of the product. There are boat lights for every budget.

You can find quality boat lights in the realm of $35 or less. At the bottom of this price range, between $8 and $12, you will find some lights that are adequate for temporary use but not permanent use. They may not be as tightly sealed as lights that cost more, and they may fail to provide long-term service in a saltwater environment.

At the higher end of this price range, you can find many LED boat lights. Although LED boat navigation lights can be more expensive, they offer reverse polarity protection, eliminating potential wiring issues during installation. The best LED navigational lights exceed U.S. Coast Guard requirements while offering lower wattage with no outages.

When shopping for navigation lights, look for ones that offer a satisfaction guarantee. Lights that cost a little more may offer up to a 10-year protection, while lights that cost a little less may be guaranteed to work for less than a year.

Tips

  • Sailboats, operating under power, are considered power-driven and must obey “under power” boating rules and regulations.
  • Incorrectly installed or inoperative lights place a boat and her passengers in great danger after dark. The majority of recreational boating accidents happen because vessels on a collision course failed to see each other in time.
  • To check that your boat lights are correctly working, take your boat to a safe anchorage, turn off all cabin and deck lighting, and turn on all of your nautical navigation lights. From a tender, dinghy, or another vessel, circle your boat, making sure all of your lights are in working order and that they comply with local, state, and international boating regulations.
  • After dark, you are required to show the correct navigation lights in all weather conditions. It is also wise to operate your boating lights during inclement weather such as rain, fog, or snow.
  • When you are using your boat’s navigation lights, no other lights should be visible that could be mistaken for the lights required by law.
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Some boat lights are designed to be hard-wired into the craft’s power source while others operate on batteries.

FAQ

Q. What is the port side of a boat? What is the starboard side of a boat?
A.
When you are looking forward toward the bow of a vessel, port and starboard refer to the left side and the right side of the boat respectively.

Q. What are boat sidelights?
A.
Also known as combination lights, sidelights are either red or green. Their purpose is to alert vessels approaching from the side or head-on. Green light indicates a boat’s starboard (right) side. Red light indicates a vessel’s port (left) side.

Q. Where is the stern of a boat or ship?
A.
The stern is the aft-most or back part of a boat or a ship, defined as the area built over the sternpost. It is opposite the bow or the front of the boat.

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