Best Pedal Boat: A Buyers Guide (4 Options, Pelican Wins)

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When it comes to choosing the best pedal boat, there are lots of things to consider. Investing in the wrong boat can leave with you headaches as you try to make a floating hunk of plastic do what you want.

At least I hope it will be floating.

The best pedal boats are easy to transport, easy to launch, and fun to have on the water. I have two little girls that want to spend their entire summers splashing around ponds in our pedal boat with their little fishing poles (Moana and Elsa fishing poles…)

In all honesty, I’d probably rather be roaring around the lake with a wakeboard in tow but that’s probably a few years a way (financially, mostly). However, since we figured that we’d be using the pedal boat we chose for the next 5+ years we put in lots of effort into choosing the right one.

We’ve now had our boat, the Pelican Monaco DLX Angler for a little over 1 year as we’re extremely satisfied with our decision.

However, the decision wasn’t quick or easy. Check out the things we considered and the boats we researched and tested.

Best Overall
Pelican Sport - Pedal Boat Monaco DLX Angler
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy (Blue)
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler Electric ASL 5 Person Pedal Boat with Canopy (Blue)
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Laguna 5 Seat Pedal Boat (Blue)
Brand
Pelican Sport
Sun Dolphin
Sun Dolphin
Sun Dolphin
Model
Monaco DLX Angler
Sun Slider
Water Wheeler
Laguna
Seats
5
5
5
5
Adjustable Seats
Weight Capacity
775lbs
530lbs
545lbs
459lbs
Boat Dimensions
90"x62.5"x19.25"
93" x 65" x 24.5"
91" x 64" x 24"
94" x 65" x 23"
Boat Weight
111.8lbs
110lbs
130lbs
120lbs
Electric/Manual
Manual
Manual
Electric
Manual
Motor Mount
Bimini Top
Drink Holders
Fishing Pole Holders
Built In Cooler
Best Overall
Pelican Sport - Pedal Boat Monaco DLX Angler
Brand
Pelican Sport
Model
Monaco DLX Angler
Seats
5
Adjustable Seats
Weight Capacity
775lbs
Boat Dimensions
90"x62.5"x19.25"
Boat Weight
111.8lbs
Electric/Manual
Manual
Motor Mount
Bimini Top
Drink Holders
Fishing Pole Holders
Built In Cooler
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy (Blue)
Brand
Sun Dolphin
Model
Sun Slider
Seats
5
Adjustable Seats
Weight Capacity
530lbs
Boat Dimensions
93" x 65" x 24.5"
Boat Weight
110lbs
Electric/Manual
Manual
Motor Mount
Bimini Top
Drink Holders
Fishing Pole Holders
Built In Cooler
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler Electric ASL 5 Person Pedal Boat with Canopy (Blue)
Brand
Sun Dolphin
Model
Water Wheeler
Seats
5
Adjustable Seats
Weight Capacity
545lbs
Boat Dimensions
91" x 64" x 24"
Boat Weight
130lbs
Electric/Manual
Electric
Motor Mount
Bimini Top
Drink Holders
Fishing Pole Holders
Built In Cooler
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Laguna 5 Seat Pedal Boat (Blue)
Brand
Sun Dolphin
Model
Laguna
Seats
5
Adjustable Seats
Weight Capacity
459lbs
Boat Dimensions
94" x 65" x 23"
Boat Weight
120lbs
Electric/Manual
Manual
Motor Mount
Bimini Top
Drink Holders
Fishing Pole Holders
Built In Cooler

Things To Consider When Buying a Pedal Boat

How you’re going to use your pedal boat is the first thing you’re going to need to define. I assume that you’re not going to be renting it out (so you don’t want a commercial-grade pedal boat) which really leaves you a couple decisions:

Exploring vs Fishing Pedal Boats

Most pedal boats on the market are built for one of three purposes: exploring, fishing, or novelty rentals.

I’ll assume you’re not interest in the heavy and slow swan shaped or steam boat themed pedal boats that you find in park ponds or theme parks and talk about the other two.

I would reccomend that nearly everyone on the market get a pedal boat that has fishing ammentities. I reccomend them over their “basic” exploring counterparts for a couple of reasons:

  • They have all of the features that exploring pedal boats have. Fishing pedal boats typically have a couple of extra features on top of the features exploring pedal boats are made with.
  • Have the extra features won’t bother you if you don’t end up using them. For example, the flush-mounted fishing pole holders on my boat are a lifesaver while fishing and barely noticeable when we’re just hanging out and swimming in the pond.
  • Fishing pedal boats are more likely to have an attachment for a motor if you want to mount one in the future.
  • Fishing pedal boats are marginally more expensive (dependant on the model) but tend to hold their value better when you want to sell them and either upgrade or move on.

The only time I would recommend a pedal boat without fishing features is if you are looking for the cheapest pedal boat possible or are on the market for a used pedal boat and are willing to take whatever you can get.

If you do get an exploring-style boat you can purchase most of the fishing attachment separately and add them yourself at a later date.

Manual vs Electrical Pedal Boats

As with everything in the world, you’ll have to choose between the good ol’ fashioned manual version and a new fangled electrical option.

Manual pedal boats work exactly as you would expect. They have one or two sets of pedals and a rudder which allows the captain (and possibley a passanger) to properl the boat by pedaling.

Electric pedal boats, on the other hand, have a battery housed in a compartment which powers an electric motor (underneath the boat) providing around 30lbs of thrust. Electric pedal boats are still equipped with pedals but the motor allows you to troll which fishing or simple cruise around without tiring out your legs.

While there are good reasons that you might want one over the other, manual boat have, in my opinion, several advantages over their electrical counterparts:

  • They’re lighter. The lower weight makes them easier to transport, launch, and take out of the water.
  • They’re simpler. With fewer moving parts, a manual boat is easier to maintain and keep in tip-top shape.
  • They allow you to get great exercise without resorting to electrical power.

One of the main disadvantages of an electrical pedal boat is that you are relying on the company to provide you with any replacement pieces you need. If something breaks, you need a proprietary piece that was most likely made only for that model of boat.

I have seen several used pedal boats for sale that were once electric but, since the company no longer makes parts, they no longer function and are just a heavier version of a manual pedal boat.

I would recommend most people but a manual pedal boat and, if you want the capability of cruising around, add a trolling motor. This doesn’t limit you to the paltry 30lbs of thrust provided by a built-in motor and allows you to work on/replace parts as needed.

The Best Accessories and Amenities in Pedal Boats

One of the main differences between models and brands of pedal boats is the accessories of amenities they come with. You’ll notice that there are similarities between many model but here are, in my opinion, the options you’ll want for the best pedal boat experience:

Bimini/Canopy Top: If you’re going to be spending much time on the water, a shade is an absolute necessity on your pedal boat. While I wish the available shades provided a bit more coverage I would never want to go out with the option of blocking at least a bit of the sun.

Adjustable Seats: Most pedal boats have seats that will adjust for taller users as well as lounge back if you’re wanting to relax while out on the water. I’m 6’3″ and fit relatively well in our boat.

Dry Storage Compartments: Many pedal boats have not only dry storage compartments but built-in coolers too. Our boat has a rear cooler that we fill with drinks and ice before heading out for the day.

Drink holders: This one should be obvious. How could a cold beverage not make your time on the water better?

Other Things To Consider Before Buying:

If you’re going to be buying a pedal boat, there are a few more things you’ll want to consider before pulling out your wallet:

Pedal Boat Capacity:

Most pedal boats have a maximum weight capacity between 500-775lbs. The specific capacity varies and can be figured out by contacting the manufacturer. Five seater pedal boats such as the Pelican Voyage DLX have the highest capacity at 775lbs.

While the weight capacity is accurate only if the weight is spread out evenly over the boat, if you’re anywhere near that limit you’re better of getting a boat that will fit more people.

No matter the weight capacity of your pedal boat, don’t expect to fit 4 or 5 adults in it. My honest feeling is that our 5 seater boat is just right for our family of four. Mom and dad up front and two kids in the back. The other small “seat” is taken up by an additional cooler, fishing gear, sunscreen, etc.

How You’ll Transport It:

While the method of transporting your pedal boat doesn’t necessarily determine what model you should get, it is something to think about. If you have a large car with a roof rack you can typically transport it short distances strapped to the roof. (provided you can lift the 100lb boat up there).

If that isn’t an option, you’re either going to need to stick your pedal in the back of a truck or on a trailer. Flatbed trailers or trailers meant specifically for pedal boats are the easiest options as they are the easiest to load/unload.

Choosing The Best Pedal Boat: 4 Options

1. Pelican Monaco DLX Angler

Pelican Sport - PEDAL BOAT MONACO DLX ANGLER - Adjustable 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy, Green/White

While there are several different models of pedal boat on the market (mostly from two manufactures), most of them involve a compromise of some sort. Not so with this boat! Which is, of course, the reason that this is the boat we bought first and the one we recommend to 90% of people looking to buy a pedal boat.

The Pelican Monaco DLX Angler is the best pedal boat for beginners. Not only does it provide the best value for the price but it also has the most accessories. It comes standard with a canopy top, a built in cooler, adjustable seats, rod holders, and drink spots.

Pelican Sport - PEDAL BOAT MONACO DLX ANGLER - Adjustable 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy, Green/White

I don’t want to give too much away about my wife and I, but the weight capacity was also one of the major draws of this boat. Most other pedal boats had around a 500lb capacity and, once we had both of our girls, a lunch, and some fishing gear in it that just wasn’t going to cut it. The 775-pound capacity gives us some breathing room in case we happen to land a 200-pound trout while we’re out on the water.

The one drawback of this boat is that you can’t mount a trolling motor on it. Or, at least, it doesn’t have a trolling motor mount from the factory. I assume we’ll eventually make a mount for one so we can cruise around a bigger lake but, for now, we’re enjoying the exercise.

If you want to get into pedal boating without spending a fortune (but still enjoy all the perks) then this boat is the best deal on the market. Save yourself the hassle of shopping and just get this one!

2. Sun Dolphin Sun Slider

SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy (Blue)
  • Adjustable/reclining seating for 3 adults and 2 kids
  • Pedal positions for 1, 2 or 3 people. Capacity - 530 Pounds(247kg)
  • Built-in cooler or storage area with beverage holders to make your ride a smooth and peaceful one
  • Rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene deck and hull
  • Canopy included

If the Pelican is unavailable in your area or if you really need a mount for a trolling motor, we’ve got that option too!

The Sun Slider is Sun Dolphins direct competitor to the Monaco DLX Angler and it competes rather well.

The main thing that it has going for it is that you have a flat mount on the back where you can put a trolling motor (although you’ll probably have to give up one of the back seat for the battery).

Unfortunately, you have to make some concessions. The main drawback is that is only has a 530 pound capacity, a full 245lbs lower than our first choice. This makes it a great option for kids but it takes it out of the running if your whole family wants to go out together (at least if you’re a similar size to my family…)

However, the Sun Dolphin is an excellent overall choice. It is a bit more expensive that the Pelican but, if I could find a could used option, I would not hesitate to add one to my fleet.

3. Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler

SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler Electric ASL 5 Person Pedal Boat with Canopy (Blue)
  • Designed for lake boating, the Water Wheeler Pedal Boat with Canopy has a built-in 30 pound thrust electric motor for...
  • The blue 2-person pedal boat has seats that fully recline to create an on-the-water sun lounger for two; the seating can...
  • The Water Wheeler ASL Electric Pedal Boat has a self-draining bench seat to help keep the seating area dry, and the...
  • IMPORTANT – phone number is needed to schedule a delivery appointment***

Now, if you don’t like the idea of converting you pedal boat to electric, you can get that option straight from the factory!

Sun Dolphin makes the Water Wheeler with an integrated 30lb thrust electric motor (battery not included though…) This allows you to cruise (slowly) around without exhausting your legs!

You would think this would be useful if you plan on doing a good deal of fishing in your pedal boat as pedaling while casting doesn’t really go hand in hand. But, alas, this boat isn’t equipped with fishing rod holders.

The main market for the boat is people who want a pedal boat experience without it being to strenuous. This is the boat I’ve recommended to my parents as it is much simpler to have a built in motor than trying to jerry rig one on the back.

If this boat appeals to you, it is one of the few electric pedal boats on the market so don’t let it pass you by!

4. Sun Dolphin Laguna

SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Laguna 5 Seat Pedal Boat (Blue)
  • Pedal positions for 1, 2, or 3 people
  • Storage area, molded-in cup holders and mbrella mount (umbrella not imcluded)
  • Rear platform and molded-in grab handles
  • Adjustable and removable beach seats
  • Storage area

If I were buying a pedal boat for my kids or grandkids to play with on my pond (one day…) then this might be the one. It has a maximum capacity of only 459 pounds which makes it less useful for many adults and families but it’s still a great pedal boat with lots of cool features!

One of the best features about this boat is that it has an umbrella mount right in the middle of the boat. I like this feature enough that I’ve though about adding one to mine so I can put a 10ft umbrella in. That canopy just isn’t quite big enough.

About the other amenity you get at this level is drink holders but, if you’re out relaxing on the lawn-chair-like seats, what more could you need?

Pedal Boat Brands: Sun Dolphin vs Pelican

You’ve probably noticed that, despite the number of models, there are really only two pedal boat companies on the market: Sun Dolphin and Pelican. While they differ in construction (and therefore longevity, durability, etc.) there are quite similar in look and function.

Because of this, I had to do a bit of digging to find out which brand of pedal boat was better for the average person (this was before I bought one). I called some dealers, looked at the boats in person, and talked to the owners of several of them when I saw them at the lake.

The consensus was fairly obvious.

Pelican Sport is the better brand of pedal boat. In general, owners of Pelican pedal boats find that they boats perform better and for longer at a cheaper price than Sun Dolphin Pedal boats.

The main complaint that Pelican pedal boat owners have is one that I share, no mounting location for a trolling motor. However, that isn’t a deal breaker for most and it certainly wasn’t for me.

Now there are other companies out there. There are manufacturers of commercial pedal boats, DIY pedal boats, and old brands that have died out but are still available used. If you’re buying new, though, go with Pelican.

New vs. Used Pedal Boats

When it comes to buying a pedal boat, there is a thriving market of used options. The problem is that they tend to sell extremely fast.

Plastic boats such as pedal boats (but also, kayaks, jon boats, etc.) tend to hold their value very well. The main reason for this is that they are not really affected by wear or use and can look new for several years. In fact, pedal boats can have a lifespan of 10+ years if cared for properly!

This is great news if you’re looking at selling your pedal boat, but for buying a used pedal boat it makes things a bit more difficult.

When it comes to buying, there are two main reason why, in my opinion, you should find a used boat if possible:

  • Price. Buying a used pedal boat will obviously save you some money over picking one up at Dick’s or Tractor Supply. While it might only be 30% or so under retail, it might allow you to get into pedal boating sooner or with fewer misgivings.
  • No shipping. If you’ve seen many pedal boat reviews, one of the main complaints is that the boat is damaged during transit or delivery. While pedal boats are hardy when used for their intended purpose, banging it or dropping it (they are often shipped just wrapped in plastic) almost always results in dents which can cause weak spots and/or leaks. A used boat may have some slight wear or damage but it will have been proven to still be water-worthy and you won’t have to worry about fixing anything or pursuing a claim with the company.

If you are looking to buy a used pedal boat, I have had luck finding them on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

Where to Buy A New Pedal Boat

If you aren’t going to look for a used pedal boat, try to find a store that has a boat in stock that you can go pick up.

This will allow you to see it in person and check for any damages it might have sustained since leaving the factory.

Pedal boats are often available (seasonally) at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Tractor Supply, and Cabela’s. Just be sure to get there early in the season as they tend to stock low numbers of boats and run out quickly.

Buying a boat online is another viable option and one that I’ve tried (once) with success. The main problem with buying online is, you might have guessed, shipping. Not only does it tend to costly but you run the risk of damage. If you do receive a damaged boat, you are typically left to ship it back on your own or use it as is (possibly as repairing it).

I have had heard the best reviews from people who order from Amazon and Tractor Supply as they tend to take more care in shipping and are more lenient with returns.

Accessories You’ll Need To Get Started

One of the main draws of pedal boating for me is that I didn’t need to buy much. Once you have the things you need you should be able to enjoy the sport for years without spending anything else! (except maybe some boat-launch fees and fishing worms…)

There are a few things you’ll want to pick up right off the bat, however, to make your experience much better:

Life Jackets. Life jackets are not options. Having them simply “with you” is not enough. By a life jacket that is comfortable enough that you don’t mind wearing it while out on the water. Pedal boats are quite safe but the come with all the dangers of a a small watercraft. Get life jackets for everyone that will be on your craft.

Tie Downs. Regardless of the method you choose to transport your pedal boat you’ll need some way to keep in securely in place. I typically put my pedal boat on top of our RAV4 and simply use tie-downs to keep it in place. A similar method will work on a trailer or in the back of a truck.

Wheeled Cart. Unless you can carry your pedal boat over your head like He-Man you’ll want to get some wheels to roll it around on. If you can launch it straight off of a trailer or have a person (or two) to help you carry it to the water you might be able to get away without buying a cart. Otherwise, do your back a favor and get some roller-help.

Dry Bag. Nothing will ruin a day on the water quite like losing something to a splash. My dad was out kayaking and tried to take a picture of a duck he saw. A little bump later and he was watching his phone disappear into the murky water. Supposedly his phone was in a waterproof case, which meant his phone is probably still fine, sitting in the mud 70 feet under the water. Get a floating dry bag to keep your valuables dry and safe.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, buying the best pedal boat is simply a matter of getting what suits your needs the best. For me and my two kids, it is the XXXX. It’s perfect for trips to the lake, a bit of fishing, some swimming, and lots of sunburns (although fewer than there could be because of the canopy top).

Whichever one you choose, be safe and have fun!

If you’re looking at buying a pedal boat now or very soon, there are a few more things that you should think about beforehand. So let’s hit a few of those questions that you might have:

Pedal Boat FAQs

Pedal Boat Buying FAQs

  • Is pedal boating good exercise?

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    Pedal boating is an excellent form of exercise!  In addition to a cardio workout, it engages most of your lower body muscles.  In terms of benefits and calories burned it is almost identical to exercising on a recumbent stationary bike.

    Read more about pedal boating as exercise here.

  • How do I transport a pedal boat?

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    The safest and most efficient way to transport a pedal boat is on a purpose-built trailer.  This allows easy launching and loading of the boat.  If a pedal boat trailer is not available, a pedal boat can be transported on a flat-bed trailer, in the back of a pickup truck, or on top of a vehicle’s roof rack.

    See out transport solutions and other options here.

  • How fast can a pedal boat go?

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    The fastest pedal boat on record achieved a speed of 21.3 mph.  The speed of hobby pedal boats meant for exploring and fishing, however, is limited by drag and the pedaler’s leg strength.  The average pedaler can reach 3mph in a pedal boat with significant effort.

  • Can I fish from a pedal boat?

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    Pedal boats make an excellent fishing platform for most freshwater lakes and ponds.  Their shallow bottom allows fisherman to quietly access points that would traditionally be unreachable in larger powered boats.

    Get our best pedal boat fishing tips here!

  • How much weight can a pedal boat hold?

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    Hobby pedal boats typically hold 2-5 passengers and have a maximum weight capacity between 500 and 750 pounds.  Commercial pedal boats available to rent are build to hold a maximum weight of 900 pounds.

  • Can One Person Pedal A Pedal Boat?

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    Pedal boats can easily be pedaled by a single person.  Most multi-person boats are equipped with a center seat where the single pilot can sit to pedal and steer at once.  If a person is using a pedal boat alone steering may be slightly more difficult and they need to be aware of their weight distribution so as not to increase the risk of capsizing.

  • How much is a pedal boat?

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    Pedal boats meant for personal and family use cost between $400 and $900 when new.  Used pedal boats are typically valued at around 60% of MSRP.  When purchasing a pedal boat the cost is based on the materials, brand, and accessories but is also influenced by taxes and shipping/delivery fees.

  • How do you steer a pedal boat?

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    Pedal boats have a lever between the front seats which is connected to a rudder at the back of the boat.  You steer a pedal boat by manipulating the level left and right which, in turn, moves the rudder and redirects the boat.

  • How do you maintain a pedal boat?

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    Pedal boats need very little maintenance to function.  They should be regularly cleaned and dried to prevent mold and algae growth and the prop/pedal bearings (if they’re ball bearings) should be greased.

  • Are pedal boats safe?

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    Pedal boats are generally considered quite safe.  If passengers wear proper life jackets and follow local laws on the water it can be a low-risk activity for both kids and adults.

    Read more about pedal boat safety and our tips for kids here!

  • Is it "pedal boat" or "paddle boat"?

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    A boat that is powered by pedaling is called a pedal boat.  A paddleboat is a broader term that encompasses all boats that are propelled forward by a paddle.  Since pedal boats are driven forward by an underwater paddle they are also considered paddle boats.  When referring to them, the term “pedal boat” is preferable as it is more specific and excluded other types of paddle-driven non-pedal boats.

  • Can I add a trolling motor to a pedal boat?

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    You can add a trolling motor to most brands and styles of pedal boats.  To avoid drilling a permanent mount into your boat a trolling motor with a transom mount must be used.  Experts recommend choosing a pedal boat with 30-55lbs of thrust.

    Read our guide for installing a trolling motor on your pedal boat.

  • Do pedal boats needs to be registered?

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    In most states, pedal boats do not need to be registered unless a motor or sail is attached.  Pedal boats used on a private lake or pond do not need to be registered unless they are transported on public roads or used on public lakes as well.

  • How do I store a pedal boat?

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    A pedal boat should be stored indoors if possible.  A pedal boat should be set on its nose or top to drain and then stored flat on the ground.  If your boat must be stored outside it should be set flat and covered in a waterproof cover.  Plastic or resin molded boats should not be left moored as they take on water and can mold between the hull and deck.

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