Our top picks for the year punched every hot button in our litmus test, including price

We're just like you. We boat for fun. We pay bills to stay afloat. Both factors are at the heart of our selections for the year's best boats. Of the 100-plus boat models we've had our hands on, some have stood out for their departure from the norm. Others stayed with us because of their solid feel at the wheel. Another group heightened our interest when we found out how much they cost. The chosen few on the following pages grabbed us for doing all of the above.

photo by Doug Dukane

Stingray has been on a steady march to bring quality to boaters while keeping its boat firmly in the value-price range of its target customer. The philosophy? You buy a Lexus for opulent luxury, but quality should also come standard with Toyota. Stingray is on the right track.

We noted the two-tone gelcoat and the polished stainless steel trim. We pressed our finger deep into the upholstery, felt its firm support and watched as it instantly sprung back to its original shape. Under the sun pad was an easy-access transom walkway to protect the vinyl.

Few boats offer a hull that performs as well as Stingray's with such a complete list of standard equipment — like a stern trim switch and premium stereo system — and do it for a price that working-class boaters can pay.

A 2-inch fuel-fill line, a simple upgrade, makes fueling a Stingray easy, clean and green by eliminating blow-back from the fuel-fill line. We cranked the Volvo Penta engine and popped it into gear. Conical shifting is smooth and standard — we know why boaters pay extra when other boat and motor brands make it optional. The silky-smooth throttle comes from premium Teleflex cables that are so slick that we are able to slide them fore and aft easily even after knotting them — far more torture than they receive winding from helm to engine. We idled to open water and listened to the splash of the water on the hull. The bilge fan blower and the engine were both mounted to the hull using rubber bushings so the sound of nature — the reason we boat — could be better experienced.

MSRP $34,858 (w/ 5.0 engine)

Randy Vance
Boating Life Magazine
May 2009

"I could've gone with a less-expensive binnacle, but this one is reliable and smooth, and it's cheaper for me to stock just one gear shift for my whole line than to stock three to make price points." This is an example of how Stingray finds ways to minimize inventory to maximize value.
Al Fink, Founder of Stingray Boats


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