Let’s face it. New boats are expensive, and not everyone can afford a “second mortgage” style purchase on a transient boat. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable options out there that will keep your balance sheet in…well…balance. During the 80’s and 90’s heydays of boat building and boat buying, quite a few brands produced some top-quality great loop style boats that have maintained longevity and can tackle the waterways with the best of them.  Take a look at our Affordable Used Great Loop Boat Guide and find that reliable “clunker with a character” that you have always wanted.

Mainship Motor Yachts (BEST STYLE)

Coming to age during the 1970’s Fuel Crisis, these motor yachts combined diesel engine efficiency with a sleek exterior and a luxurious interior.  With the design changing very little from year-to-year, cruise in reliable style without breaking the bank.

  • Used models from the 70’s 80’s & 90’s range from $8,000 – $30,000
  • Inboard engines (gasoline and diesel options)
  • 35 to 41 feet in length
  • Single/double cabins
  • Optional grand salon

Catalinas (BEST PRICE)

As one of the most successfully produced sailing boats in history, the Catalina 30 series of boats packs a big punch in a small space. The 80’s and 90’s produced designs that have changed very little over the years. These dependable sailboats with outboard diesel engines are just right for cruising narrow channels and accessing smaller slip fees, all while containing sleeping quarters and other overnight accommodations.

  • Used models from the 70’s 80’s, & 90’s range from $2,000 – $16,000
  • Outboard or inboard engines (gasoline and diesel options)
  • 8 to 47 feet in length
  • Single cabins
  • Aluminum mast & boom

Carver Yachts (MOST LUXURIOUS)

With some of the most detailed and luxurious interiors of cruiser style boats on the market, these yachts make for an excellent live aboard option in conjunction with longer thru-trips.  As the leading fiberglass yacht builder in the 1980’s and 1990’s, these yachts have a huge place on the used market and can provide some of the best quality for your buck.

  • Used models from the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s range from $10,000 – $60,000
  • Outboard & stern engines (gasoline and diesel options)
  • 26 to 42 feet in length
  • Air-conditioned aft cabin
  • Fiberglass hull

Gibson Houseboats (MOST SPACE)

Founded in 1968, Gibson Houseboats quickly climbed the ranks as the premier houseboat maker in the Midwest and Southern boating scenes – with its peak sales occurring in the 80’s & 90’s. The economic slowdown of the 2000’s caused a devastating blow to the company – however the boats of the glory days live on and can provide for some of the most spacious cruising and liveaboard options on the market.

  • Used models from the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s range from $13,000 – $50,000
  • Inboard motor (gasoline and diesel options)
  • 36 to 50 feet in length
  • Most come with a complete living room, kitchen, full bathroom and at least 2 bedrooms
  • Bow, stern and rooftop decks

Golden Star Yachts (BEST QUALITY)

Started in the 1980’s, Golden Star Yachts have maintained the timeless features of a trawler and have some of the lowest depreciation of any of the boats mentioned. Ample headroom and meticulously placed amenities make this boat a true joy to take on a trip. One of the pricier secondhand options but worth every penny.

  • Used models from the 80’s & 90’s range from $40,000 – $90,000
  • Twin diesel engines
  • 36 to 40 feet in length
  • Aft cabins & sundecks
  • Diesel furnace option

DeFever Yachts (BEST ENGINE)

Offering a distinctive profile and designed specifically for long haul trips, DeFever Yachts offer all of the bells and whistles of cruising in style. Easily the most expensive used option on this list but you get what you pay for, including a standard twin 300-400 HP engine built to run. This is an ideal boat for cruising upriver.

  • Used models from the 80’s & 90’s range from $40,000 – $90,000
  • 300-400 HP Engines
  • 36 to 60 feet in length
  • Full galley, 2 bathrooms, 2-3 bedrooms
  • Fore and aft staterooms

Holiday Mansions (MOST PRACTICAL)

Started in 1965, Holiday Mansion produced quality, coast guard approved boats until 1997. These boats tend to be a no-frills option to the houseboat category with practicability built in mind. A spacious galley and cockpit area mirror an open sundeck on the stern and roof.  The most boat for the least money, these boats make for an excellent live aboard and extended cruising vessel.

  • Used models from the 80’s & 90’s range from $10,000 – $30,000
  • One and two engine options
  • 36 to 56 feet in length
  • Full galley, tub/shower, 2 bedrooms & closed/open cockpits
  • Air-conditioned
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