Published Jun 3, 2022 3:18 PM
What gets us excited is using our boats, whether for fishing, water skiing, or for family fun, is being on the water. However, weeks often pass between outings, making each day on the water even more valuable. When we strip the cover back to prepare for our next adventure, the last thing we want to find is an unwanted surprise, in the form of soggy seats and carpets, mildew, rust, or worse.
Intense sunlight can result in faded or discolored carpets. It also has an uncanny ability to break down and weaken rubber components. Moisture, whether liquid or frozen, can cause extensive damage to the interior components; in worst-case scenarios, repeated freezing and thawing can compromise the integrity of the hull itself. If trailering the boat any distance, you don’t want to look in your rearview mirror to discover that the old cover you thought was good enough is being shredded by the wind. Instead, a well-designed cover will, with the appropriate straps, fit snug throughout the ride and keep your boat free of unwanted dust and debris.
To avoid these unpleasant experiences and maximize the quality of your time on the water, let us help you find the best boat cover to protect your investment.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Boat Cover
When preparing to buy your next boat cover, consider these four points: boat type and size, material and construction, outdoor storage, and ease of installation.
Boat Type & Size
Certain types of boats, such as center consoles and jon boats will require a more specialized cover. Many runabouts, bass boats, and general-purpose pleasure boats can all be suitably covered with a more universal style of cover. Coverage parameters are designated in terms of length and beam width. These are your two key measurements to keep in mind when choosing a cover.
Material & Construction
A boat cover is an investment to protect an even more valuable investment. I look for quality in terms of material and construction. This translates into significantly better water and wind resistance as well as overall longevity. Look for quality materials rated as marine-grade; these can include canvas, polyester, poly-cotton blends, and more. A polyurethane (PU) covering or other UV inhibitor is an additional attribute worth having.
Key construction elements to look for include double-stitched seams and reinforced corners and other high-stress points. The stretching and pulling needed for a snug fit create this increased stress. Multiple layers of fabric in these areas will ensure the cover maintains its integrity.
How many months a year does your boat spend in outdoor storage? I typically use a covered storage shed for the winter months. If this is not an option and your boat is stored outdoors year-round, it’s worth spending the extra dollars on the best cover available for your craft.
Ease of Installation
I want a boat cover that can be installed quickly and easily. Straps with quick release buckles are preferred. A cover that strikes a good balance between quality materials but not excessive weight goes a long way in the “ease” category. Likewise, a cover that can be carried, folded, and unfolded by a single person is optimal.
Best Overall Boat Cover
Why It Made the Cut
The MSC Heavy Duty Waterproof Boat Cover is an excellent all-rounder available in multiple sizes. Quality materials and workmanship coupled with the well-thought-out design sealed the deal.
- 6 different models (size options)
- Marine grade polyester with double PU coating
- Double-stitched seams
- Trailerable and great for long-term storage
- Not bulky to handle
- Fits boats with an outboard motor
- 2-year warranty
- Includes storage bag
I like it when one product can cover multiple functions and the MSC Heavy Duty Cover does this nicely. This cover works well for mooring, highway travel, and long-term storage. Six different models will cover boats that range in length from 14 to 24 feet and accommodate beam widths of 68 to 102 inches. The design and sizing flexibility of the MSC heavy-duty cover will fit a range of boat types, including V-hull, runabout, tri-hull, and pro-style bass boats.
The heavy duty, marine-grade 600-denier polyester stands up to the elements yet isn’t overly heavy or bulky and can be handled solo without difficulty. Straps on this cover are easily adjustable and utilize quick-release buckles that speed up the overall process of installation or removal. An elastic cord sewn into the bottom of the hem, coupled with the adjustable straps and various size options, makes it possible to craft a supremely snug fit for your watercraft.
Utilizing the provided storage bag helps keep the cover in good shape and the included 2-year warranty is a nice assurance should any defects be detected. When it comes time to replace the original cover on your fishing boat, the MSC Heavy Duty Waterproof Boat Cover is worth serious consideration.
Best for Jon Boats
Why It Made the Cut
Time tested, strong, durable, and made from high quality polyester.
- Three size options to fit boats 12 to 18 feet in length and beam widths of 56 to 75 inches
- 300 Denier PU coated marine grade polyester
- Waterproof, tear-resistant, and U.V. resistant
- Integrated buckle and adjustable strap tightening system
- Double-stitched seams
- Tie-down straps and storage bag included
- 12 Month Warranty
- A bit more expensive than competitors
iCOVER is a brand trusted for boating equipment and the iCOVER jon boat covers are a great example of why this is true. These covers are constructed from high-quality marine grade 300-denier polyester. Quality material coupled with a construction process that includes double-stitched seams translates into exceptional water repellency. The polyurethane coating further contributes to the cover’s waterproofness, as well as U.V. resistance. Reinforced panels at the bow and stern are a nice feature that improves the overall durability and lifespan of the cover.
An often-overlooked benefit of a boat cover is its theft deterrence value. We often used a portable fish finder when fishing small lakes from our jon boat. A quality cover like the iCOVER will keep angling valuables “out of sight, out of mind.” When trailering your jon boat, you need not be concerned, as iCOVER has an excellent aerodynamic fit. The integrated buckle and strap tightening system ensures the maintenance of this snug fit and the included tie-down straps seal the deal for those long hauls to the next fishing spot.
Best Boat Cover for the Money
Why It Made the Cut
This Goodsmann cover does the job with money left over for fun essentials like the trolling motor you wanted but couldn’t afford until now.
- Polyurethane coated marine grade waterproof polyester
- Double-stitched seams
- Reinforcement panels under bow and stern stress points
- Lightweight at only 4.8 pounds
- Air vents reduce wind pressure and minimize condensation
- 1-year limited warranty
- Mesh storage bag included
- May be less durable over the long-haul
Sometimes, you just need a good basic cover that won’t break the bank and for these situations, the Goodsmann V-Hull boat cover is a comfortable fit. Model B fits V-hull, Tri-hull runabouts, and aluminum bass boats that range from 14 to 16 feet in length; it will accommodate beam widths up to 90 inches. (Though Model B is the most economical of the six models offered in this product line, Models C through F will accommodate larger boats for a bit more money.)
The materials and design of this cover offer excellent protection in moderate conditions. Made of 150-denier PU coated marine grade waterproof polyester, it has all the basics one needs to protect their boat. I like the added reinforcement panels in the bow and stern stress points; these are critical when snugging a cover down with fastening straps. A heavy-duty cord sewn into the hemline of the cover provides a secure fit when combined with the included rope and stretch cords; these attach to the hem’s integrated D-rings.
Best Boat Cover for Outdoor Storage
Why It Made the Cut
It’s a heavy-duty cover that withstands the toughest storms and still leaves you high and dry come spring.
- 7 size options for boat lengths 12 to 24 feet and beam widths of 68 to 116 inches
- Polyester cover with fabric coating technology that allows maximum water repellency and UV protection
- Integrated buckle and strap system
- All-weather, four season capable to allow for outdoor storage
- Dual rear air vents with built-in stiffeners
- Snug custom-like fit with elastic cords and straps
- 5-year Hassle-Free Warranty
- Storage bag included
- Support pole included with cover could be sturdier
Winter is long and cold where I live in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Winter storage for boats is worth serious consideration. The ideal scenario is covered storage but this isn’t always an option. In those situations, the Classic Accessories StormPro Boat Cover is an excellent choice for year-round outdoor storage.
StormPro covers utilize a fabric coating technology that provides superb water repellency, UV protection, and mildew resistance. The built-in air vents do an excellent job of reducing the effects of wind pressure, as well as allowing any residual moisture to escape. The combination of an elastic cord in the hem and straps that are well positioned, provide a tight fit. These straps are secured with integrated buckles, which function smoothly and allow for ease of fitting and trailering.
I like the added support pole, used to prevent water from pooling by maintaining a taut, angled fit. However, if I have one criticism, it’s that the pole could be a bit sturdier in construction; in the worst case scenario, you may need to engineer a new, improved support pole or purchase one online.
How I Made My Picks
My 40 years of boating experience is spread across a variety of watercraft. In that time, I’ve seen the full spectrum of boat covers and their usage, from best to worst practices and I’ve seen the results. Trust me when I say that hours of scrubbing to remove mildew will give you a new appreciation for a good cover and proper installation.
I gathered additional information and insights from a variety of professionals who make a living from being on the water. Literally, their boat is their office. During the research and review process, I considered products from 18 boat cover companies. In doing so, I looked at the following criteria:
- Sizes available for the given cover
- Materials used
- Construction and Design
- Water-proofness & wind resistance
- Trailerability – appropriate tie down straps; snugness of fit
- Ability to withstand winter outdoors
- Ease of installation
Q: How do you clean a boat cover?
Cleaning your boat cover will go a long way toward making it last. Periodically scrub the fabric with a mild soap and water solution. I pick a warm sunny day and lay the cover out on the lawn. Using a mop and bucket, I apply the soap and water solution. Have a soft bristled brush on hand for any spots that might need a little more elbow grease. After cleaning, I simply use a hose to rinse and the sun completes the cleaning cycle. If you can lay the cover on a spot with a bit of inclination (think the kids’ sledding hill), it will naturally drain the water off.
Q: How do you keep a boat cover tight?
Keeping a boat cover tight over an extended period of time requires a boat cover support system. A tight fit in my world means that it will shed water. Any pooling will, over time, cause the cover to sag and hinder its ability to protect my boat. Not good. Options for support systems include professionally made and installed systems (the most expensive), kits ready to self-install or DIY systems. A simple solution, especially for short-term tightness is a simple boat cover support pole like the Camco Anti-Pooling Boat Cover Support Pole (least expensive). Regardless of the system, the object is to create a high point that naturally causes any moisture to run off the cover. Keep the straps properly tightened and your boat cover should remain tight as a drum.
Q: How much does a boat cover cost?
The cost of a boat cover can vary widely, from $50 for a prefabricated jon boat cover to over $1000 for a custom made cover for a larger boat. The primary factors that influence cost are:
– Custom made versus universal (pre-fabricated)
– Quality of material
– Quality of workmanship
– Overall size of the cover
A good quality universal cover for boats that are 12 to 24 feet in length can be purchased for between $50 and $300, depending on the criteria listed above.
Boat covers are an important piece of equipment intended to support and augment your watercraft fun. When the original cover that came with your boat shows signs of needing to be replaced, note what you like and dislike about it. Consider your boat type and dimensions, and what tasks your new cover will be expected to handle—mooring, trailering, storage, or some combination of the three. Once you’ve made your selection, utilize an appropriate support system and make use of the cover when not using your boat. In this way, your best boat cover will ensure you’re ready for that next waterborne adventure.