boat hull types

Boat Hulls 101: Complete Guide to Boat Hull Types, Shapes, and Designs

Written by Boatsetter Team
June 18, 2021

Last Updated on August 17, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

If you’re new to boating, then you may not have even considered a boat’s hull, its importance, and the way that it affects your time on the water. With the hull being the part of the boat in the water, it is perhaps the most important part as it gives your boat the ability to float. Not only that, but it affects every single characteristic of your boat and the smoothness of your ride. This article on boat hulls will equip you with the technical knowledge and expertise necessary to understand hulls and the way they work.

What is a Boat Hull?

First of all, we’ll go into a bit of detail on what a boat hull is. The hull is the body of the boat. It is sealed to prevent water from transmitting its way through and keeping your boat afloat. A hull can be open where you sit in it, such as a small dinghy, or a deck may cover it as you would find on a yacht.

When there is a deck placed on top of a hull, it opens up many more options for utilizing the space on your boat more appropriately as it is raised to the top of the hull, where more space is apparent. For example, on a deck, you can place a cabin-like you would find on a center console or even a mast and sail rigs to create a sailboat.

When the hull is open, options to use your space effectively are reduced as you sit at the bottom of the bowl shape. In addition to having less space, you also feel the rock of the water in a more pronounced manner as it is just the keel of the boat (the bottom) separating you from the water. Therefore, every wave and lurch in the water that rocks the boat is felt, which may cause you discomfort if you haven’t quite found your sea legs.

Why Are Hulls Important?

The knowledge of how a boat floats is fundamental if you are looking to get into boating. Without actually knowing, you put yourself at risk of compromising your boating activities and creating a danger that you cause your boat to sink. The key line to this knowledge is that the air encapsulating your boat must be denser than the water it sits upon. This not only includes the air but the items on your boat as they contribute towards the pressure that your boat’s hull puts upon the water.

The greater the amount of weight your boat holds, the further it pushes itself into the water, lowering or raising the level that your hull sits in the water. This force displaces the water to a level that is equal to the boat. If the average density of the boat is greater than the water, then the boat shall sink. You can see this in action if you have a small dinghy; the more people you place on it, you’ll notice that your boat edges itself ever so slightly more into the water as the boat’s weight is rising.

Different types of Boat Hulls

Different boat hull types

We’ll now walk you through the different types of boat hulls that you come across. The design of the boat’s hull changes the type of boat that you have. If you are browsing through our boat rentals, you’ll notice the various types of boats. Each of these boats has a different type of hull design. For example, a pontoon boat rental is designed for calm waters, whereas a giant yacht is designed for taking on the rough seas, meaning that their hulls vary greatly.

There are two main types of hull: displacement and planing. We’ll give you the rundown of both of these types and the other sub-varieties within them.

Displacement Hulls

The first variety of hulls that we shall examine are displacement hulls. These hulls are typically found on boats that need to carry a heavy load, such as a large fishing boat and big yachts. The hull sits deeper into the water, and the boat is supported by buoyancy, as opposed to its thrust.

Due to the boat sitting deeper in the water, it might be slower, but it will ride steadier. These larger boats are particularly good for the sea as they can handle stronger waves and currents as the boat can stabilize themselves better. This is why you’ll see container ships and other varieties that need to bear a heavy load using these types of hulls.

When it comes to boat rentals, you are most likely to find a sailing boat with a displacement boat hull. The hull is rounded at the bottom, allowing the sailboat to lurch strongly to one side while turning without any danger of capsizing. Thus, we can see the impact that the hull has on your boat rental as it gives your sailboat the extra capacity to lurch around sharp turns and enjoy some exhilarating fun.

Planing Hulls

The other main type of hull is the planing hull. This hull’s design allows the boat to accelerate to higher speeds due to less hull being placed in the water. When a boat with a planing hull is cruising at lower speeds, it operates similarly to a boat with a displacement. When it starts to hit around 15 knots, things start to change depending on the weight of the boat’s load. The flatter surface of the planing hull allows the boat to propel itself upwards to skiff itself across the water. This is what causes boats with planing hulls to obtain higher speeds. In addition, because the bulk of the hull is not placed below the water’s surface, there is less tension from the water holding the boat back, meaning that it can move through the water faster and using less power to obtain a speed that a boat with a displacement hull can.

There is not only one type of planing hull but instead many different varieties. We’ll look through these varieties to examine how it affects your boating experience so that you can make a more informed decision when choosing your next boat rental.

Flat Bottomed Hulls

flat bottomed hull

As the name suggests, these hulls do not have the traditional curved hull that reaches a point at the bottom but has a flat surface instead. These tend to be small skiffs or fishing boats where you cast out from. Due to them having a flat hull, they are excellent for getting into shallow water where some of your favorite catches may lie. These boats don’t need much power for the planing power to come into action and reach quick speeds in no time. They also tend to handle well not just on the flats but also on the sea, with choppy water not being a big issue. So, if you’re looking for some gentle fishing on the flats or maybe out in some nearshore waters, check out our range of small flat bottomed hull boats to truly enjoy some great fishing experiences.


pontoon buyers guide

Pontoons are one of the great boat rentals for cruising around and enjoying time with friends because the design of their hulls allows for more space to be created. Pontoons have two-cylinder hulls that sit parallel to each other on the surface of the water. The deck is placed atop these two cylinders, and because they are placed on cylinders, the deck can expand beyond the cylinders, creating more space. This allows for a comfortable seating/social area to be created on the boat, allowing you to use it for parties and some relaxed exploring with the wider family. These boats are best used on inland and flat waters. This is due to waves rocking them a lot more, and a storm at sea can even put them at risk of capsizing. For some fun on a lake, however, pontoons are hard to beat.


In recent years many tritoons have started to crop up on the boat rental market. These are similar to pontoons, but they have a third cylinder that gives them some extra stability. It also means that they can handle a more powerful engine that can bring them up to higher speeds than a pontoon boat. If a pontoon has an engine that is too powerful, then its planing hull can lift it too far above the water’s surface, causing great instability. However, when it comes to tritoons, the greater speeds that you can reach allow you to expand upon other activities and add in some wakeboarding or tubing action onto your party on the water!

V Bottom Hull

v bottom hull

The shape of a v bottom hull has a sharper decline that accumulates in having a meeting point at the bottom, creating a v shape, as stated in the name. Because of the honed hull, one of these boats can cut through the water at decent speeds and are particularly good when out on seawater. However, they require a powerful engine for the boat to go into a planing mode. One of the most common types of v bottom hull boat rentals is center consoles. These are great vessels for going for some nearshore or offshore fishing or some general saltwater exploring. Their v bottom hull allows them to cut through the waves so that you can rush to the best fishing grounds in no time at all.


The tri-hull design is a variation of the v bottom hull. It has a v-shaped hull in the center and two parallel smaller hulls on either side of the main central one. This gives the tri-hull boat some extra stability when going forward. Additionally, this also allows the boat to have more deck space as the hull covers a wider range. One of the big drawbacks of the tri-hull – also known as a cathedral hull – is that the bat rocks more when it is in choppier water because the hull is wider. Nevertheless, tri-hulls make for a great option for fishing or exploring on lakes or calm coves.

Catamaran: A Multi-Hulled Boat

what is a catamaran

Perhaps the most popular multi-hulled boat is the catamaran. This type of boat has two separate hulls that run parallel to each other. These hulls sit on either side of the boat and the deck connects them. This type of design allows forecast amounts of space onboard. Many catamarans are luxury boats that can have the space to hold swimming pools and even helipads. Because they have dual hulls, catamarans can get themselves in shallow waters and lagoons where other luxury boats cannot. This makes them the perfect boat rental if you plan to visit a location where there are multiple small islands such as Hawaii or The Bahamas. The multi-hull system also provides a lot more stability and comfort, so they are perfect boat rentals if you are prone to suffering from seasickness. Catamarans are not only luxury liners as smaller versions with a trampoline-designed deck can also be found that make for great day adventures.


As we hope you have been able to discover in this blog post, the type of hull that your boat has affects everything about your boat. By having a little bit of knowledge on how the design of a boat’s hull has an impact on your boating experience, you can begin to make more informed decisions on which boat rental is best for you. To reinforce this information a little bit further, check out this video!

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