How to Drive a Deck Boat: Tips and Tricks

How to Drive a Deck Boat: Tips and Tricks

Are you a new boater who had recently purchased a deck boat? Or are you a seasoned one but had never tried driving a deck boat? Whether you are a new boater or an experienced one, driving a deck boat on a lake can be as fun as other types of boats.

It is fairly easy to learn how to drive a deck boat, even if you have no boating experience at all. But before you learn how to steer a deck boat, it is best to know what it is and understand how it works first. In this article, we will not only show you how to drive one but also everything you need to know about deck boats.

If you are in a hurry and wouldn’t want to understand the nitty gritties, here is the simple step-by-step on how to drive a deck boat

how to drive a deck boat

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to drive a deck boat:

  1. Make sure the boat is in the water and securely tied to the dock.
  2. Locate the ignition switch on the boat’s dashboard.
  3. Insert the boat key into the ignition switch and turn it to the “on” position.
  4. Check the fuel gauge to ensure that there is enough fuel in the tank.
  5. Make sure that the boat’s battery is charged and turned on.
  6. Shift the boat’s transmission into neutral.
  7. Press the boat’s starter button or turn the key to the “start” position.
  8. Release the starter button or key once the engine starts.
  9. Allow the engine to warm up for a few minutes before putting the boat in gear.
  10. Once the engine has warmed up, shift the transmission into forward or reverse as needed.
  11. Slowly increase the boat’s throttle to move away from the dock.
  12. Once you are out on the water, adjust the boat’s throttle as needed to maintain a safe speed and direction.

What is a Deck Boat?

What is a Deck Boat?

A deck boat as the name suggests is a boat with large deck space. It was invented way back in the 1950s and became more popular in 1974 by the Hurricane Boat Company. If you have a big family, deck boats can be an ideal choice for you.

It is bigger than a bowrider, which means you can bring more people to join you on your trips and do more activities with your deck boat. Some of the favorite boat activities you can share with your family and friends are enjoying the sandbar, fishing, picnics on water, towing water toys, and you can even set up a small party without having to worry about stability and space.

Most people are confused between a deck boat and a pontoon boat. It is easy to understand why since deck boats have a similar layout to a pontoon but with a different hull design. Both pontoon boats and deck boats have open deck spaces and are perfect for recreational activities. However, a deck boat is faster than a pontoon boat, which makes it an ideal boat for most watersports enthusiasts.

If you are interested to learn the differences between a pontoon boat and a deck boat, let’s try to differentiate the two boats.

Deck Boats and Pontoon Boats Comparison

Deck Boats and Pontoon Boats Comparison

Engine Type

Deck boats can either use an outboard engine or an inboard/outboard (I/O) drive. Pontoon on the other hand typically uses an outboard engine. although there are also some models that use inboard motors. Most boat owners prefer the I/O engine as they can re-sell it for a higher price.

Traditional V-Hull Boats

As mentioned earlier, pontoon boats and deck boats differ in hull design. Deck boats have a pointed bow hull, while pontoon boats have a flat hull. The V-shaped hull design makes a deck boat faster than a pontoon boat. The higher speed of deck boats makes them the boat of choice for many water sports enthusiasts compared to other boats.

Boat Deck and Layout

Older versions of deck boats were designed with only one thing in mind, to use for fun. It wasn’t intended for fishing and other activities. However, deck boat manufacturers had improved their layout over time and had added seats on the foredeck and compartments for fishing gear. Pontoon boats typically have compartments for fishing equipment.

When it comes to layout and deck, the main difference between pontoon and deck boats is the entertainment areas and passenger seats. On a typical pontoon boat, these areas are normally placed in the rear while with a boat deck they are situated on the front deck.

Most deck boats have their steering wheels and controls on the right side of the boat. Some had turned their boat’s motor box to a padded seating space to allow more passengers and for sunbathing, since there are deck boats with limited space at the stern.

Design and Style

The main difference between a pontoon boat and a deck boat design and style is the latter focuses more on the boat’s appearance, while a pontoon boat tries its best to make room for more seating and storage. Although, deck boat manufacturers still try to create more space on board, however, there’s not much they can do as speed is still their top priority.

A deck boat has a more sporty look than a pontoon boat and it also has better pulling power for wakeboarding and other watersports than a pontoon.


Both boats are very functional and versatile as both can be used for entertainment, fishing, partying, and relaxing. Though a pontoon boat has more space to offer, a deck boat has better speed.

AspectDeck BoatsPontoon Boats
PriceGenerally less expensive than pontoon boatsGenerally more expensive than deck boats
ManeuverabilityMore agile and easier to navigate in tight spacesLess agile and harder to navigate in tight spaces
StabilityLess stable in rough water due to their V-shaped hullsMore stable in rough water due to their flat-bottomed pontoons
CapacityGenerally have smaller seating and storage capacitiesGenerally have larger seating and storage capacities
SpeedCapable of higher speeds due to their sleeker designGenerally slower due to their bulkier design
ActivitiesBetter suited for water sports such as wakeboarding and skiingBetter suited for leisurely cruising and entertaining
MaintenanceRequire more maintenance due to their more complex mechanical systemsRequire less maintenance due to their simpler mechanical systems

How to Drive a Deck Boat

How to Drive a Deck Boat my picture

Are you ready to learn how to drive a deck boat? Here are some tips and tricks to make you an effective deck boat driver.

  • The first step is to find out the kind of engine your boat has. Figure out if it is powered by gas or not or if it has an engine compartment. In case your deck boat runs on gas, you need to fun the blower first. The blower is also called an exhaust fan by some people. Before you start the engine, check the compartment first and ensure that there are no fumes build up. If there are, make sure to remove them first.
  • Same with driving a car, you need to insert the key in the ignition and you’ll hear the motor purring. As a first-time boat driver, this will probably give you the same excitement as the first time you drove a car. However, if your boat does not need a key to start the ignition, you can simply push the button for it to start.
  • Check if your boat has a kill switch, if it does, you need to clip the lanyard in the life jacket ring’s belt loop.
  • The next step is to check if you have everything you need on your boat. Be sure that you have loaded all your things and if you are bringing people with you, make sure everyone is on board and their things are loaded as well. Once you had double-checked everything and your engine is running smooth, you can now remove the lines that hold your boat to the dock.
  • Now that all the lines are removed, you are now ready to move forward through the water. To do this, push the throttle handle forward gently if you are moving forward, or pull it back if you are reversing. Wait until you think it switches into gear.
  • Just like when you are driving, you can now steer the wheel as your boat starts to move. Maneuver the boat’s throttle to gain your desired speed. You may be thinking of going extra fast with your boat, but just a gentle reminder, this is your first time driving a deck boat, so best to keep it at slow speeds at first. Try to drive slow for a couple of hours, then if you think you’ve got the hang of it, you can increase your speed gradually.

There you have it, that is how simple it is to learn to drive a deck boat. Just don’t forget to trim or adjust running attitude of your boat depending on weather and water conditions. Remember that if you need to slow down, gently pull the throttle in a neutral position. You usually need to slow down when you need to park or turn.

We bet you still have a lot of questions about driving a deck boat, the guide shown above is the simplified version. But if you want to learn more about some boating safety items, starting a boat’s engine, moving the throttle, and how to slow down, below is a more detailed version.

Starting a Boat

Starting a Boat

You are probably wondering why this has a special section in this article when starting a boat is as easy as pushing a button or turning the key. Yes, it’s that easy but we want to share some safety measures as you drive your first boat.

Boats have a kill switch or an engine safety cut which is not present in automobiles. It looks like a small red knob that is located beside the ignition on most open boats. When this red knob is in the closed position, you won’t be able to start the engine. A small clip connected to a lanyard is fit to slip under the knob to bring it to the open position.

Before operating your boat, never forget to clip this on your belt loop or life jacket ring. The lanyard will pull the clip out of the knob to stop the engine when you step away from the steering wheel.

How to Operate a Boat’s Throttle

How to Operate a Boat's Throttle

A boat’s throttle is somehow similar to a car’s accelerator pedal, the only difference is you cannot change the speed once you have set it, or at least not as easy as removing your foot from the pedal when you want to slow down. You need to take the throttle and pull it back. You have to be fast in pulling the throttle, particularly when there’s a big wave coming.

Similar to driving a car, you always need to be aware of your surroundings, and be fast to act in any situation that may come your way. Being the boat’s captain you always need to watch what’s happening around you so you can act and respond appropriately.

How to Slow Down a Boat

How to Slow Down a Boat

As mentioned above you need to adjust the throttle for your boat to slow down, however, it is not as easy as with driving a car. You need to learn how to stop at a safe distance when driving at different speeds. You also need to consider your passengers as they can fall when you make sudden turns or change on speed or stop. In order to slow down a boat easily and safely pull the throttle in neutral and pause for a few seconds then shift to reverse with some power.

How to Trim a Boat

How to Trim a Boat

Another important thing to learn when driving a deck boat is trimming a boat. This means controlling the outdrive’s angle or using a trim button. Trimming varies on different kinds of boats and conditions, so you may need to try several times before you reach the right drive angle. It is also important to know that changes in weight distribution can affect the trim of the boat.

Boating Tips for Beginners

Boating Tips for Beginners

If you are new to boating, it is normal to be nervous especially if you haven’t tried driving a boat. So, here are some helpful tips for you.

Familiarize yourself with the boat – Know the different boat parts, the type of motor, the number of passengers it can hold, how the steering wheel works, where the fuel tank is located, etc.

Train – This is very important if you want to become a good boater. You can train on a lake, open water, bay, or anywhere you prefer. But best to start near the shore or shallow level for your safety. Ask a friend or an experienced boater while training.

Check the weather – Beginner boaters should always check the weather forecast before sailing. Sudden changes in weather can affect wind and water conditions.

Make a checklist – Before cruising, prepare a checklist and double-check if everything is in place. You don’t want to stop in the middle of the marina because you can’t find some of your stuff. You don’t want to be the cause of traffic.

Learn how to secure the boat to the dock – You need to learn how to do this on your own or with the help of a crew member.

Never forget your lifejacket and first aid kit – Even if you are a good swimmer, you should always wear your lifejacket. A first aid kit is also a must-have, you’ll never know when an accident can happen.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you drive a deck boat?

It is almost similar to driving a car, you start by turning the engine with your keys or pushing a button, then set the throttle for your desired speed and you start maneuvering your boat like you would drive a car. Just make your move your throttle to a neutral position when slowing down.

Is it difficult to drive a boat?

It is not difficult to drive a boat especially if you have experience driving a car. However, there are some differences like a boat doesn’t have a break and pedal.

Do deck boats ride rough?

Yes, deck boats can` ride on rough water because of their V-shaped hull.

How do I become a better boat driver?

You can become a better boat driver through practice and understanding how your boat works and the safety measures that come with it.

What boats are best for shallow waters?

Some of the boats that are made for shallow waters are jet boats, bay boats, aluminum fishing boats, and bass boats.


Do you think you can now manage driving a deck boat on your own? Driving one is as easy as driving other boats or other vehicles. However, there are numerous things to consider when driving a deck boat than driving a car, such as your passenger, trimming your boat, the wind, water conditions, the weight should be distributed evenly, your type of motor or engine, where you will be cruising, how to slow down when making a sharp turn, and a lot more. It may be scary to drive your new boat for the first time, but as you get used to it you can share your boating adventure with your kids, family, and friends.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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