Getting a Jon Boat in 2017: Alumacraft or Tracker?
So you’re thinking of getting a jon boat? There are a lot of variables that can occur when purchasing a jon boat. What you should think about before buying one and what to look for when buying one.
Before buying a jon boat you want to know a few things.
- Cost $ – what are you willing to spend. Buying from a dealer or craigslist?
- Use – what are you going to be using it for? Fishing? Hunting?
- Maintenance – are you going to keep a cover on it and take it out of the water or leave it in the water without a cover?
- Power – What are you going to powering it with? Outboard motor? Trolling motor? Oars?
- Weight Capacity – How many people are going to be on the boat or what kind of weight are you going to put in the boat?
- Storage – Are you keeping it at a dock, in your yard, or in a storage container?
- Transportation – Are you going to trailer it or put it in the bed of your truck?
So I decided on an aluminum jon boat.
–Its cheap. A bass boat or anything else would be too expensive and too big. I wanted to be able to spend the money on it and not worry about scratching it or putting a small dent in it.
–Its simple! The boat is all metal so its easy to clean and not much to maintenance. And it allows you to customize it to your liking!
–Everyone has one!! This is great because when ever you run into a problem, hopefully not literally, you can easy find a solution for it!
-I wanted a flat bottom on it. I didn’t want a v hull. The water I would be traveling would be calm and shallow. I wasn’t going to be running long distances and the water wasn’t going to be rough or choppy.
|Size||Personal Preference||Ability to fit in a regular 6ft truck bed||Why?|
|10ft||Too small for what I needed||Great||small, nice and light|
|12ft||Could fit 2 people, motor fits it perfectly, feels like a nice size on the water||Good||starting to get a little heavier not too awkward but still awkward by yourself|
|14ft||Easily fit 2 people if not 3, will need a bigger motor, feels a little longer in tight spaces||Bad||You need a bed extender to help support it, brake lights because it sticks out way to far, too heavy|
Before Buying your Jon Boat
- Tag and Title
I bought everything new. Things keep popping up. So knowing what you want to spend and planning ahead for it will help. I didn’t think I was going to spend that much on a jon boat but I did.
Use, Maintenance, Storage, Weight Capacity
I am going to combine these four together. I use my boat to fish and hunt out of. Think of how many people you may take out fishing or if you’re just fishing by your self. Just check the sticker by the transom to see what the HP rating is and how many people the boat can hold. A long with the maximum capacity the boat can handle. Are you going to want a deck? I keep it simple so its easy to clean and I don’t have to worry about staining carpet. I only have one seat on my deck and then I use a throw cushion to sit on in the back. You can leave it out on the lake, tied to the dock, or have it up on a lift. I store the boat on a trailer. The sun seems to eat and destroy everything, so I put a cover on the boat to help protect the deck. The seat cushion is removable and I store it under the deck, along with my throw cushion and life jackets, so the only thing I have to maintenance is the bungee cords and the cover. I do that every other year after the sun destroys them.
Another thing to think about is how are you going to power your boat? You can have an outboard engine, mud motor, trolling motor, and/or oars. I like to have three means of power to be safe. I have the mud motor. If that breaks I have the trolling motor. If the batteries fail then I have a paddle. When I went to buy the boat I did not notice that the boat didn’t have the sockets for the oars so check for that.
Outboard motor – Check your boat for the HP rating. Make sure it will mount correctly on the transom and that the transom support bracket isn’t in the way.
Mud motor – If you are going with a SPS mud motor, bring your bracket with you to see if it will fit. I couldn’t get the transom bracket to fit on the Tracker jon boats because the transom support bracket was in the way. I would recommend SPS Mud Motors. They have been great and I love the product.
Trolling motor – There are many variables. Transom mount trolling motors or bow mount. I have a transom mount trolling motor where I made a custom mounting bracket so it will work on my bow. I bought the transom mount trolling motor so I could move it from the bow to the transom if I ever needed too. You can also get a 12v or a 24v. I have a 55lb thrust 12v and I love it.
You know you want a jon boat. What size?
I first started thinking that I wanted to put the jon boat in the bed of the pick up truck. (For the first year I did, but after getting a motor and putting a deck on it, it got too heavy and I bought a trailer.) I have a 90’s F-150 with a regular 6 foot truck bed. I have a tool box in it, which takes up 2ft, so it really only measures to about 4ft of usable space. Once the tailgate goes down you gain that extra 2ft back. I always loaded the transom first so that most of the weight and flat portion of the boat was in the bed. If you loaded the boat bow first, since the bottom of the hull rounds up at the bow, you don’t have as much contact or weight in the truck bed. So I always loaded it transom first, and used ratchet straps to secure it to the truck bed.
*Read my disclaimer. Always check your state laws! Don’t use this article as a legal reference. This is just my experience and what I have learned.
10ft _I never had a 10ft jon boat. No problem to put in the bed of the truck but that was too small for me to fish out of.
12ft _ First jon boat I owned_ The first jon boat I owned was 12ft. It fit in the truck bed with a tool box fine. That would be the largest size I would go with a tool box in the truck bed without any assisted support. Without the tool box, I had no worries.
14ft _ My 2nd and current boat_ 14ft is the max. I would not put anything bigger than a 14ft in a truck bed. Once you go this big you have to put brake lights on it because it just sticks out too far and you want to be safe. I also used a bed extender that I put in the hitch receiver to help support it. I could fit this in the truck bed with out the tool box. It made me more comfortable doing that. Once I put the deck on it, and had the batteries in the boat, it was just to heavy. I mounted a winch in the truck bed to help but all of that got old real quick.
Just to save you your time, your energy, and frustration… Just get a trailer if you have room for it. I was able to get a very nice, small boat trailer for it, brand new, for a final price of $680 after taxes, registration, and tags. You could probably go cheaper with a Harbor Freight trailer if you wanted too or you could go on craigslist and see if you could find one. If you don’t have any experience backing up a trailer up, don’t let that stop you. You can watch multiple videos on that and go practice in a field or an empty parking lot. The main tip I can give you; is if you are looking in your side mirrors, facing forward, put your fist at the bottom of the steering wheel and turn it to the side you want your trailer to go too!
*Something to check when you go to look at jon boats*- If I remember correctly, when I was measuring the Tracker jon boats, the flat section of the bottom of the 12ft flat bottom jon boat was the same as the 1436 flat bottom jon boat. So the added length was “so to say added” to the bow of the boat so it made it seem like it had the same foot print in the water?
You want a jon boat, you know the size you want, now.. what brand? Alumacraft or Tracker?
I live in the south-west region of Florida. It was either Tracker or Alumacraft. There was also G3 boats but they were too expensive and there are a few others but I am just going to compare the Tracker and Alumacraft jon boats. Here are the links to their sites. Alumacraft 1436 _ Alumacraft 1436 LT _ Tracker 1436 and just for fun through in the Alumacraft 1236 and Tracker 1236.
So just a quick explanation before we go into the chart. The number 1436 is the size. 14 feet long and 36 inches wide. You have two different types of wide on a jon boat or really any boat. What I mean by 36″ wide is that if you measure on the floor of the boat, what you stand on, is 36″. The other measurement would be the measurement of your beam. The beam measurement is the top of one side of the hull to other. The “LT” for the Alumacraft is the light version. You should mainly see the weight difference.
Alumacraft vs Tracker
|Alumacraft 1436||Alumacraft 1436 LT||Tracker 1436||Alumacraft 1236||Tracker 1236|
Alumacraft 1436 vs Alumacraft 1436 LT _ There are two main differences between the Alumacraft 1436 and the Alumacraft 1436 LT. The weight difference and the transom. The 1436 LT weighs 135lbs where the 1436 weighs 45lbs more at 180lbs. For the transom, the 1436 has those “float boxes” (thats just what I’m calling them) in the back that I would guess supports the transom instead of not having a support brace. The 1436 LT just has a support brace without the float boxes. Another difference is that the 1436 has three ribs in front and three behind the middle seat. The 1436 LT has two ribs in front of the seat and three behind. So just personal preference which one would benefit you more considering the transom but I picked the 1436 LT because it was so much lighter and I believe the 1436 LT was a few hundred dollars cheaper.
Alumacraft 1436 LT vs Tracker 1436 _ The Alumacraft 1436 LT is 30lbs lighter, has a wider beam by 2″, holds 20lbs more, has a thicker hull thickness, and the overall boat, especially the ribs, look sturdier than the tracker jon boats. The Tracker 1436 had those “float boxes” and also had the support right in the middle of the transom so I could not mount the mud motor correctly. The Tracker 1436 had the wood on the back of the transom which I personally didn’t like the look of. For the price, after tax, the Alumacraft 1436 LT, was $840. The Tracker 1436 would have cost me $705. I most likely would have gone with the tracker but I couldn’t modify it at all to accept the mud motor. So I had to go with an Alumacraft boat.
Alumacraft 1236 vs Tracker 1236 – The Alumacraft seems all around better besides the price. The Alumacraft has a higher hp rating, and can hold 60lbs more. The Alumacraft was around $750(including tax) and the Tracker was $642(including tax).
I wanted a 1236 first. They were lighter than the 1436 boats and the 6.5hp SPS Mud Motor was said to run best on a 12′ boat rather than a 14′ boat. The 1236 where also cheaper than the 1436. I liked the idea of having a smaller boat too, but I couldn’t go with a Tracker boat because the transom support bracket was right in the middle of the transom. With this, I couldn’t properly mount the SPS Mud Motor. So I had to choose between the Alumacrafts. The closest dealer, which was three hours away, only had a 1436 LT’s in stock. So that is what I got.
Overall Conclusion on Alumacraft vs Tracker
From the research of shopping around, the Alumacraft seems to be higher quality and you will pay more for it compared to the Tracker Boats. I do not believe the difference in quality is worth the difference in price. If I did not have the mud motor to worry about, and you had a trailer where you didn’t have to worry about the weight of the boat, I would choose the cheapest one and what ever fit the criteria.
When Buying your Jon Boat
When you go to buy your jon boat, I would try two different methods.
- Dealer -I would search online to find the nearest dealers. Alumacraft, Tracker, Lowe, G3, and many more I’m sure. Find out their price after taxes and everything. Get the final price.
- Online – I like to use craigslist. When using craigslist, there are many different ways to spell “jon boat”. For example; jon boat, john boat, jon baot, john baot. Another few key words to search is size, brand, type; 12ft, 14ft, 1236, 1436, lowe, tracker, alumacraft, or alumicraft, aluminum, aluminum boat, dingy, skiff, flat bottom.
Here is a list of things to look for when you are checking out the boat, new or used, but mostly towards the used side. (I say this because when I went to load my new boat up, one of the supporting ribs had a few rivets popped and the rib was not supporting one side. Luckily the dealer had another boat onsite.)
- Inspect the boat – If its used, ask about leaking or popped rivets. Look for cracks or DIY fixes. Look at the ribs for any popped rivets, cracked welds by the transom or plug area, rotten wood in the transom (would it be easy to fix?), dings and dents?
- HP rating – Max. Capacity – Will your motor(s) fit on the boat and mount properly
- Titles – boat & trailer
Ask yourself if this is a good investment. Remember, you don’t have to buy it. Don’t be bullied or pressured into buying it. Before going to look at it, set a price in your head with what you feel comfortable paying for that boat.
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