2021 Jon Boat Buying Guide

The 2021 Jon Boat Buying Guide covers the key points to look for in a jon boat when you go to purchase one.

The Main Jon Boat Manufacturers:

Tracker | Alumacraft | Lowe | Lund | Crestliner

Alweld | G3 Boats | StarCraft & Smoker Craft | Xpress Boats

Key Categories

  • Purpose & Use
  • Specifications
  • Additional Info

Purpose & Use


  • Is it something you’re going to be spending a lot of time on? No matter if that’s fixing it or actually being out on the water in it.
  • Is it for the occasional recreational use, or is it a tool that’s bringing in meat to put on the table?

These two questions will steer you towards how much money this jon boat is worth to you, what you value in the jon boat for its use and what it needs to be able to provide, and how much you’re going to invest in it.

New or Used

A used jon boat seems like they can be just as expensive as a new jon boat.

  1. Check for leaks which can be done by filling the boat up with a couple of inches of water and seeing if or how bad some rivets leak along with cracks on seams or out in the open
  2. Check the transom for deformations/bends/warping
  3. Take note if it’s been modified as in ribs removed or a seat has been removed.

At first, I bought a used jon boat off of craigslist, then sold it to buy a new jon boat.

Flat Bottom or V-Hull

A flat bottom jon boat is normally cheaper because its easier to build, and with being cheaper, it is more popular.
It will also draft (float) in less water when compared to the same size v-hull.

The V-hull handles waves better than a flat bottom so you get a smoother ride in choppy water. A v-hull will also part grass better than a flat bow of a flat bottom jon boat.

My opinion; flat bottom is great for backwaters and shallow water. V-hull is for those who have a lot of open water to travel before getting where they need to go.

Truck Bed or Trailering

Choose whether or not you’re going to be loading it in a truck bed or trailering it. This can come down to factors like:

  • Do you know how to back up a trailer?
  • Do you have room to store a trailer?
  • Can you afford a trailer?
  • Do you have a boat ramp to launch at?

If you’re putting the jon in a truck bed, know the dimensions of your truck bed and how wide the boat can be. Also, keep weight in mind. I started off with loading mine in my truck bed but that got old really quick and I got a trailer.


Jon Boat Specifications

  • Length – This is the overall length
  • Bottom Width – This is measured at the bottom of the transom
  • Beam – This is measured at the widest point near the center of the boat from the top one side to the other side
  • HP Rating – This is the maximum horsepower rating for the boat. Do not exceed this number. My boat was rated for 15hp and my 13hp longtail mud motor was able to cause the transom to fail. This rating is for outboard engines. If you use a mud motor, keep an eye on it and reinforce it with a metal plate or added wood if need.
  • Weight Capacity – This is the maximum amount of weight that can be safely added to the boat. This includes the weight of people, engine, gear, and any modifications you add onto the boat like decking and flooring.
  • Transom Height – This number is important when choosing your engine for your boat.
  • Hull Thickness – Normally .050 5052 aluminum for most riveted jon boats. The Tracker 1542 uses .063, the Tracker welded Grizzly jon boats use .100. Alweld uses .080 and .100. Custom boat builders use .125 on most duck boats, and then once you get into 60” wide boats that are 18 ft and longer you can get into .190.
  • Hull Weight – This is the weight of the boat with nothing in it. A custom aluminum boat I am looking at is an 1838 hull with a 20” hunt deck. It approximately weighs 700lbs.
  • MSRP Price – Normal retail price. Also, think of resale value if you need to sell it.
  • Warranty – A warranty is only as good as the service that backs it. If it has a lifetime warranty but takes a whole year to get it fixed it may not be worth it to some; so know what kind of warranty it is, what’s covered, and how the claim process is handled. This also goes for used boats because some warranties are non-transferable so keep that in mind.
  • Hull Bottom – This is the type of hull on the bottom of the boat. The majority of them are flat bottom hulls but I did add a Modified V hull in the chart.
  • Hull Type – This is the type/style of the hull with it being riveted or welded. The majority are riveted boats, but there is one welded boat just for comparison.

Additional Info

Other things to mention:

  • # of Ribs/Supports – 1236 one rib in between each seat, 1436 two ribs between each seat, 1542 same as 1436, welded boats have different support structures.
    If you are going to be running heavy timber or using it as a duck/mud boat, most people prefer the supports to run the length of the boat instead of side to side to prevent oil canning abnormal denting.
  • Bench Seats – Think of how many seats you want, the width of them, if they have foam in them for flotation (if the previous owner has removed the foam), how water drains under the seat (see if leaves easily get caught under the seat), and the spacing between each bench seat in the boat.
  • Transom Design – the main thing I learned was that the transom design makes a big difference.
    • Vertical Support – The Alumacraft 1436 that I have has the main vertical support off to one side. Using a mud motor, it has failed and started to warp so I will have to rebuild this transom soon.
      The tracker jon boats had the main vertical support in the center of the transom, but have now switched to the two boxes on each side and no longer have a vertical support on the 1436 or 1542.
    • Build & and ability to maintenance and fix – the Alumacraft uses a metal sheet that covers the wood that supports the transom. This may or may not help or hinder that wood by keeping the sun and water off of it but also trapping in heat and keeping water in that area, but that sheet is riveted in place. To replace the wood, I am going to have to drill out all the rivets, possibly cut the sheet away depending on if I can get it out due to the lip on top of the transom, while also having to remove the vertical support which means removing the rivets on the floor of the boat.
      The Tracker boats have the transom bolted in place. The wood is visible and easy to access so it is easier to replace when needed.
  • Grab Handles – How many and where are they located?
Florida Sunrise on jon boat


Deciding on buying a jon boat can be a process. Hopefully, this 2021 jon boat buying guide has given you some different ideas and things to think about so you know the direction you need to head.

Everyone’s needs are different from pond fishing, filling alligator tags, daily duck hunting, or suppling the main means of daily transport.

Jon boats serve many purposes.

You just need to identify your needs and customize that jon boat for you.

Best of luck,


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