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Inflatable Boat Vs. Jon Boat 101

Inflatable Boat Vs. Jon Boat 101

If you’re new to boating, you may be wondering about all the different types of boats out there. With so many different options, how can you know which boat would be best for you?

Chances are, you want to start with something small, inexpensive, and versatile. Both inflatable boats and jon boats fit that bill.

But what are the differences between these two types of boats?

And what are the benefits of each?

Keep reading!

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at inflatable boats vs. jon boats and discuss some of the differences and similarities between them.

What are Inflatable Boats?

an inflatable boat on a shore

To start with, it’s important that you have a solid understanding of each type of boat–what it looks like, how it’s designed, etc. We’ll start with inflatable boats.

As you may have guessed, the defining feature of inflatable boats is the balloon-like chambers that hold air and give the boat buoyancy. Some inflatable boats have only one air chamber, though most have several.

Inflatable boats come in many sizes and styles, but they can be divided into three basic categories: rigid, air floor, and pontoon.

Rigid inflatable boats have hard floors typically made of aluminum or marine plywood. This makes them more stable and durable in rough waters. They also usually have a transom for mounting a motor and other equipment.

Air floor inflatables may be styled after kayaks, dinghies, or simple rafts. The inflatable floor is usually a separate air chamber. These types of inflatables are exceptionally lightweight and buoyant, but care must be taken not to damage the boat bottom.

Inflatable pontoon boats are usually made for either one or two passengers. The pontoon-shaped air chambers suspend seats, gear storage areas, and sometimes a transom. These boats do best in calm waters and are great for fishing.

For more information on inflatable boats, check out the video below:

Top Tips for Beginner Inflatable Boat Owners

What are Jon Boats?

2 jon boats on a shore

Jon boats are a type of rigid hull boat, meaning they are not in any way inflatable. They are typically made of aluminum or fiberglass.

Jon boats are simple, basic boats that are a great choice for beginners. They are typically small, with a capacity to hold 2 to 5 people in many cases. They are somewhat flatter and wider than canoes, as well as more square in shape.

Most jon boats also have a flat bottom, which means they can float in very shallow water. This is great for launching from shallow shores or maneuvering through areas where V-hull boats would probably get stuck.

That said, the flat bottom can also make them difficult to steer unless you’re using a trolling motor.

To learn more about jon boats, take a look at the video below:

Why a Jon Boat Is BETTER Than a Big Boat!

What are Some Differences Between Inflatables and Jon Boats?

So now that you know a little more about each type of boat, you can probably guess that there are quite a few differences between them.

Let’s talk about some of the main things that set inflatable boats and jon boats apart from each other.


As mentioned above, jon boats are usually made of aluminum or fiberglass.

On the other hand, inflatables are most often made of Hypalon, PVC, vinyl, or rubber. Rigid inflatable boats may have an aluminum floor, as mentioned, but the air chambers that make up the main part of the boat must be made of a much more flexible material.

different inflatable boat materials


Of course, the biggest difference between inflatables and jon boats is the fact that inflatable boats hold air and jon boats do not. Inflatable boats are more flexible, whereas jon boats are more rigid.

Also, inflatable boats come in many different designs and sizes, while jon boats are generally designed to all look the same. They come in different sizes, but they all have the same basic features, some of which we’ll discuss later in this article.


Jon boats are great for fishing in calm lakes and ponds. They can be paddled, but they are easiest to maneuver with a trolling motor.

They will also get around in choppy waters, as they can take quite a beating without damage. That said, they will be much more difficult to steer, even if you are using a trolling motor.

Inflatable boats can be used for any number of scenarios. Whether you want to take a group of friends out for a day on the water, travel to your favorite fishing hole, paddle up a river, or pack an emergency boat for a camping trip, there’s an inflatable boat for you.

Many inflatable boats can handle both river rapids and choppy ocean waters, but it’s important to remember that they may be damaged more easily than rigid hull boats. Both rocky areas and hidden underwater obstacles may cause damage to even a well-designed inflatable boat.

What are the Benefits of Inflatable Boats?

3 RIB inflatable boats

At this point, maybe you’re leaning toward buying an inflatable boat. Or perhaps you’re still not convinced. Either way, discussing the benefits of inflatable boats may help you make a more informed decision.

So what are some of those benefits?

Keep reading to find out!

They’re Convenient

Inflatable boats are easy to store and transport because they can be deflated and folded up, which, of course, requires much less space than the average boat. You don’t even need to have a boat trailer.

With inflatable boats, you can transport them in the back of a truck or SUV, inflate them on shore, spend your day in the water, and simply deflate and fold them up again when you’re ready to go home.

During the winter, you can store them in their deflated, folded state, keeping them out of the elements without taking up a lot of space.

That said, it’s important to make sure they are completely dry before storing them folded up.

They’re Affordable

Both inflatable boats and jon boats are relatively inexpensive, but inflatable boats hold a slight advantage here. Because of how they’re designed and the materials used, inflatable boats often provide fantastic quality for an exceptional price. What’s not to love about that?

They’re Versatile

As mentioned previously, there are diverse styles and types of inflatable boats that are great for many different types of boating situations.

Many inflatable boats can be either paddled or controlled with a trolling motor, and some can even have a sail attached. They can handle waves and rapids and calm waters, are useful in boat fresh and saltwater, and will perform well in a wide range of temperatures.

What are the Benefits of Jon Boats?

people using jon boats to travel on a river

So what about jon boats? Surely they have their own set of benefits as well, right?


Let’s talk about some of the perks of choosing a jon boat over an inflatable.

They’re Customizable

Because of their simple design, jon boats offer a lot of potentials for you to make your boat your own. You can decide what kinds of seats you want and how many; add mounts to hold everything from fishing rods to drinks, and even add carpet to the floor if you want.

Some people even like to add a platform or top deck for standing on.

Though inflatable boats can be painted, most of them are not nearly as customizable as jon boats.

They’re Durable

The main drawback of inflatable boats is their tendency to develop air leaks. Jon boats pose no such risk since they are not inflatable.

Jon boats are generally impervious to rust as less prone to weathering than inflatable boats. They can take more of a beating without sustaining damage, and even if they develop dents and nicks over time, they will still float.

They’re Dependable

Jon boats will last you season after season, fishing trip after fishing trip. They won’t fail you in tight or shallow or rocky areas, and they are designed to take a lot of wear and tear without losing their functionality.

Plus, if they do sustain damage, the damage is usually easy to repair. Punctures in the hull or body can usually be welded, and most repair shops near your favorite lake will be able to make the repair quite easily.

Which Type of Boat is Best?

That, of course, is a matter of personal opinion. It will also depend on how you plan to use the boat.

If you want something that’s highly versatile, easy to transport, and gives you lots of style options to choose from, you’ll probably want to go with an inflatable boat.

If you want something a little more durable and plan to do a lot of fishing, then a jon boat may be more suited to your purposes.

Again, the decision is up to you. Compare the various uses and benefits of both inflatables and jon boats. Eventually, you’ll start to get an idea which boat will work best for you.


And there you have it!

Both inflatable boats and jon boats are small, affordable, and versatile–great starter boats if you’re new to the world of boating and fishing.

Inflatable boats tend to be a bit more versatile, but jon boats are more durable.

Whichever one you decide to buy, make sure you do your research beforehand so you can choose the best boat for your own circumstances and boating needs.