Water Sports

Best Pedal Boat

Spending your summer holidays by a lake is a treat all by itself, but with a pedal boat, you can enrich the experience even more. Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy is a perfect addition for your family’s holiday, and it’s guaranteed to make your outings more fun for everyone.

Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy
Top Pick: Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy

The Sun Slider with UV-stabilized Fortiflex’ polyethylene deck and hull fits 5 people on board which makes it a great choice for families looking to have a fun outing on the lake. This pedal boat comes with a durable, water-repellent canopy to protect you from the sun, but it can also be folded when the day is cloudy.

With built-in coolers, you can easily store some snacks or drinks for the road and enjoy time on the open water without having to return to the coast your refreshment. And, if down the road you decide you want an electric pedal boat, Sun Slider has a built-in motor mount.

With a built-in 30 lb. thrust motor, the Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler Electric will make your cruising smooth and undemanding. It fits 5 people or two if you decide on fully reclined seats, and with a canopy, it’s just the perfect pedal boat for lounging and relaxing.

With enough room for 5 people, Sun Dolphin 5 Seat Pedal Boat is a great choice if you’re limited by your budget. It has a cooling compartment and built-in motor mount same as our top pick, but it doesn’t have a canopy. If you’re not bothered by the sun, you’ll love this one.

Table of Contents

Why buy a pedal boat?

Perfect for summer recreation, pedal boats are a great way to have some fun with your family during your holiday without having to spend much. If you love being on water or frequently visit lakes or ponds to unwind and get away from your everyday life, pedal boat can be quite an asset.
They are easy to take with you on your trips and comfortably seat from one to five people, so they’re perfect for family activities. Pedal boats are often used for sight-seeing and exploring the nature since they don’t produce any harmful emissions or leaks since they are human-powered, and because there’s no noisy motor, you won’t scare the wildlife. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you will appreciate how pedal boat combines exercise, fun and potential for different activities all at once. Some pedal boats include additional perks, like coolers or glass holders, so you can really make the most out of them and your time on the water.

How do pedal boats work?

A standard pedal boat is powered by people who are using the pedals, which turn a paddle wheel located under the watercraft. Pedal boats are a favorite choice for families mostly because of how simple they are to use and steer, and because they’re safe for the whole family. Both the pedals and the lever for steering are located in the front, so the adults are responsible for navigating around the water and powering the pedal boats, while kids enjoy in the back. If you’re out on the lake with your friends, you can switch between yourself so everyone gets a chance to try their hand at pedaling.
Most of the modern pedal boats have two sets of pedals, which gives the boat more propulsion power, but for even more power, you can buy a pedal boat with a trolling motor. Even if you don’t buy an electric pedal boat outright, some standard models have options for conversions so you can upgrade at some time them if you want.
Pedal boats are made to be used in fresh water, and materials out which they’re made of don’t do well in salt water. You can still use them in salt water, but you risk damaging and fast deterioration. If you take your pedal boat out to the sea, make sure you thoroughly rinse it out with fresh water after you’re finished, even if it’s advertised as compatible with salt water. Some manufacturers offer models that have coating that is more resistant to salt water than the standard one, but it’s still recommended you do regular maintenance to check for leaks and corrosion.

What to look for in a pedal boat?

Not all pedal boats are created equal, and sometimes you can risk buying a low-quality product if you don’t check the specifications ahead. Although all pedal boats function on the same basic principle, it’s important to check out other characteristics that could set apart one model from another. The first thing you should check is the material used for deck and hull. They are mostly made out of plastic, but there are different types of plastic that have better quality and are more durable. For example, fiberglass or other reinforced plastic is a good choice, since it will last longer and you won’t risk leakage from fast deterioration.
When it comes to the number of people that could be seated in a specific model, don’t rely only on the number. Always check the maximum supported weight to make sure the pedal boat you choose will be a good fit for your needs. Sometimes pedal boats advertised to support 5 people actually mean they’ll support two adults and three kids, and if it’s your intention to use it with 5 adults, you might be disappointed with your purchase.
Last, but not the least, check out any additional features that would come in handy. Some people need pedal boats with canopies, others would love a cooling storage for their boat and another plan on an occasional trip to the seaside, so a stainless steel package is a must.

How we tested

In order to really see what each of the 10 pedal boats we tested has to offer, we dedicated a whole day to each boat.
First, we wanted to see how comfortable they are and if they’re really convenient to use with the advertised number of people aboard. If a boat says 3 adults but the third person needs to squeeze in an uncomfortable position, you’re better off without it, so we wanted to see if the manufacturers were true to their word when designing the boat.
Then, we looked for a pedal boat with the greatest value, and whose manufacturers thought of everything. Pedal boats that are designed in a way to account for strong sun on open water, desire to bring your own snacks with you or any other additional perk that might make pedaling around the lake even better was a big plus in our book.
Although pedaling a boat is quite an exercise, some pedal boats are easier to maneuver around than others, thanks to smart design, so we compared the differences in the ease of use, even though you should be aware that you’ll have to sweat it out a bit during pedaling in any case.
Since we couldn’t test how materials used will perform after extended use, we relied on thorough research to help us determine which model offers best and most durable materials. We also noted which models are more suitable for diverse use (both fresh and salt water) and how easy they are to transport.
After over 100 hours of cruising around and testing the limits and features of each pedal boats, we managed to choose which one will be the best choice for most people.

Our pick: Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy

Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy
Top Pick: Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy

If you’re looking to have a perfect day out on the lake with your family or close friends, you can’t go wrong with Sun Slider.
This pedal boat is made out of UV-stabilized Fortiflex’ polyethylene deck and hull and this high-quality material is a great choice- it makes the boat sturdy and durable, without impacting its weight. The Sun Slider weighs about 100 lbs, and two people can easily carry it to the water without having to strain themselves. This top-notch material in addition to closed cell polystyrene foam flotation also makes pedaling super easy when compared to other pedal boats, and it is one of the things we loved the most about it. Most people have concerns that they won’t be able to endure a workout that is pedaling on the water, but Sun Slider takes straining out of the equation and lets you truly enjoy your family outing and have fun on the water.
Unlike other models in this price range, Sun Slider comes with its own, water-resistant, canopy included in the price. When you’re on the open water, the effects of the sun are much stronger and you can get a sunburn in no time, but with a canopy, you’re free to enjoy cruising around for as long as you want without worrying about the strong summer sun. The canopy on this pedal boat is adjustable, so you can fold it if it’s a cloudy day, and enjoy ultimate comfort in different situations.
Sun Slider seats 5 people, although we must say, if you’re planning on all adults crew on the deck, it might be more comfortable for 4 people. If the fifth person doesn’t mind to have less comfort than the other four, you can safely bring them aboard, too, if you don’t exceed the maximum weight capacity of 825 lbs. It’s a really cozy pedal boat, and one of the things that make it that comfortable are the adjusting seats. You can adjust the seats to make them more comfortable and appropriate for your use or even remove high-back support if you don’t find it necessary (although we must say they make this pedal boat even more comfortable). This way, you can easily convert this 5 person pedal boat into a luxurious sunbathing lounge for two, or adjust the seats to fit the desired number of people comfortably. It’s also great if you’re tall- you won’t have to try to fit your legs unsuccessfully- with Sun slider you’ll enjoy pedaling without discomfort.
This pedal boat has two sets of 3-positioned pedal cranks, but we’ve found that one person can easily operate this pedal boat without getting tired fast, but it’s great for pedaling in shifts with the person next to you if you want to spend some more time on the water. Tiller steering system makes it easy to maneuver your way around the water with just a pull of the lever, and sturdy paddle wheel gives better performance and requires less effort on your side.
In addition to a built-in foldable canopy, Sun Slider also has a cooling storage, optional motor mount and drink holders all around. Cooling storage is a great feature, since all you need is a pack of ice, and you’re good to go. Having snacks prepared for your hungry kids is a lifesaver, and being able to crack a cold one in the middle of the lake is quite a treat. With 8 recessed drink holders, everyone will have a place to put their drink down and enjoy the ride without spilling it on themselves, so we must acknowledge the manufacturers who thought of everything. We absolutely loved that whether you’re on a romantic picnic on the lake with your significant other or cruising around with your kids, you got it covered with this pedal boat. You won’t find pedaling tiresome and you can bring anything (and anyone) you like with you, so Sun Slider is much more than just a basic pedal boat, with an affordable price that makes it, even more, better.
If you decide you want an electric pedal boat, you won’t have to buy a new one, since Sun Slider has a built-in motor mount that allows you to convert this pedal boat to an electric one. With a trolling motor and a marine battery, you’ll have an electric pedal boat in no time, without having to buy a new, much pricier one instead.
Due to the fact this pedal boat offers a lot of possibilities and fits different-sized families and different uses, it is only expected that it would be the first choice for most people. But its outstanding performance on the water and high-quality materials that make it durable and reliable are in big part what we love about this.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Even though you can fit 5 people on this pedal boat, you should be aware that the pedaling will get harder if you have 5 adults on board. It’s really a logical thing- the more weight on the boat, the heavier it is and more difficult to power all by yourself. However, if two people pedal at the same time, you won’t have to put in as much effort as you would if you’re the only one pedaling.
Another potential ‘flaw’ to consider is that this pedal boat isn’t self-bailing, so you’ll have to manually empty any water that comes onboard to prevent damage down the road. Since any ride on the water in a pedal boat means you’re bound to have some water splashing around, you can count on some of it finding its way to the pedal boat. To prevent any damage in the future, flip the pedal boat after use to make sure any excess water comes out and leave it to dry out in the sun. Don’t worry, the material used for Sun Slider is UV-resistant, so it won’t cause any damage.
This also means you should store your pedal boat indoors or use a cover if you’re leaving it outside- leaving it out in the rain and snow could do inflict serious damage on the deck and hull after some time.

The step-up pick: Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler Electric

Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler Electric
Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler Electric

To really feel luxurious in a pedal boat, you need to have the option to glide around the water while relaxing, and Water Wheeler gives you exactly that and so much more.
With a small but powerful Minn-Kota trolling motor you can choose between manual pedaling or let the motor do the work for you, which is a tremendous advantage of this pedal boat. Not confined to being either completely human or electric powered, this pedal boat offers the best of both worlds packed in a beautiful boat with amazing performance.
It goes without saying that we tried out both manual pedaling and electric cruising, and we weren’t disappointed. Although it’s slightly heavier than our top pick because of the motor, with 130 lbs of weight it’s still not that too heavy and is easy to pedal around. However, we were instantly in love with the option to let the trolling motor do the work since it truly enables you to make most out of your time on the water. With an electric option, the pedal boat becomes so much more- you can sit back and enjoy the scenery, relax and have fun without having to put in the effort needed for pedaling.
Although our top pick is already made out of materials of highest qualities, Water Wheeler goes above and beyond in this category also. In addition to UV-stabilized Fortiflex’ polyethylene deck and hull and closed cell polystyrene foam flotation, Water Wheeler has oil impregnated bronze bushings with rubber seals that make maintenance as effortless as operating the boat.
The built-in trolling motor was initially a concern- we thought it will make too much noise and make the ride obnoxious both to people onboard and others on the lake, but we were very wrong. The Minn-Kota trolling motor makes for a quiet and powerful ride, and its smooth purring shattered our initial prejudices. You’ll be able to enjoy a smooth, noise-free ride with electric pedaling as well as you would if you were pedaling by yourself, only without the workout.
Same as our top pick, Water Wheeler comes with built-in drink holders, cooling storage and water-resistant canopy, so the experience of sailing around on an electric pedal boat will be truly an unforgettable one. It also has adjustable seats, 3 for the adults in the front and 2 for the kids in the back. Its maximum weight capacity is 800 lbs, and with a bit adjusting of the seats, you can fit up to 4 adults comfortably or convert it into a lounging heaven on water for two people. Built-in cooler and drink holders are a great addition, so you can count on all the benefits of our top pick with effortless pedaling as an added bonus.
Considering that it tops of our pick with a great additional feature, even though its price is a bit high, if you’re budget allows it deciding on Water Wheeler wouldn’t be a mistake.

The budget pick

Sun Dolphin 5 Seat Pedal Boat
Sun Dolphin 5 Seat Pedal Boat

If you’re looking for a simple, reliable pedal boat with a budget-friendly price, Sun Dolphin 5 Seat Pedal Boat is a great choice. Made out of sturdy and durable UV-stabilized Fortiflex’ polyethylene deck and hull with closed cell polystyrene foam flotation, this pedal boat guarantees longevity and same quality as our top and step-up pick.
Advertised as a 5 seat pedal boat, with places for 3 adults and 2 kids, in reality, this pedal boat won’t comfortably fit more than 2 adults and 3 kids, all under 545v maximum weight capacity. The seat reserved for the third adult is actually space between the 2 front seats, which makes for an uncomfortable ride if you’re an adult, but a good choice for a kid, especially if it’s a young child you’d like to keep an eye on.
Without a canopy, pedaling might be a bit problematic for the really sunny days, but if you don’t skimp on the sunblock, you won’t have any problems. The low price accounts for the absence of additional advantages like a canopy or an electric motor, but the quality of materials used and design still feel like it’s a much more expensive model. The one thing not absent in this model is a small cooling storage, so you won’t have to sacrifice the option for bringing snacks and drinks aboard in favor of bargain price.
Considering this pedal boat can fit fewer adults than our top or step-up pick, the pedaling will be even easier than with a more spacey pedal boat. It weighs the same as our top pick, around 100 lbs, but since you won’t be able to fit as many people on board, pedaling will always remain an easy task. The pedals are 3-positioned in two sets, so you don’t have to do all the work alone.
If you need a basic, simple pedal boat without bells and whistles, or your budget limits you to sacrifice additional features, Sun Dolphin 5 Seat Pedal Boat is an affordable pedal boat with a sturdy build and solid performance that won’t disappoint you.

Competition

Best Pedal Boat for Fishing

DLX Angler
DLX Angler

If you’re looking to go fishing with a pedal boat, the best choice is the DLX Angler. In addition to being a great way to cruise around the pond or the lake with your friends or family, this pedal boat is also perfect for your fishing trips.
DLX Angler is made out of trademarked multilayered material, RAM-XTM .Exclusive to Pelican, this material is renowned for its high resistance to impacts and the ability to retain the original shape in case of damage, and it’s pretty lightweight, in addition to being sturdy and reliable, so you don’t have to worry about the quality. This pedal boat fits up to 5 people with its maximum weight capacity of 775 LBS, or 2 people and a lot of space for the fish you catch- the choice is up to you. It also has a canopy, so you don’t have to be exposed to the sun, and you can enjoy the breeze while you’re comfortably sitting in seats with convenient backrest. You can also adjust the seats, to make the pedal boat perfect for the intended use, and our own personal opinion is that it’s best to use with two people in the front and two kids in the back, even though you can fit one more. Of course, if you’re off to a fishing adventure for some alone time, this pedal boats works just as well as a one-person boat. It’s a very light pedal boat at 110 lbs, so you won’t have any problem cruising by yourself.
To make things even better for the fishing enthusiasts, DLX Angler has two flush mount rod holders for your fishing rods and a cooling storage for drinks or snacks to keep you alert and refreshed on your trip. When you’re not fishing, you can rely on DLX Angler as a great pedal boat for family outings on the lake, so you’ll get more than use out of this pedal boat for sure.

Best Pedal Boat for Two Adults

Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 3 Seat Pedal Boat
Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 3 Seat Pedal Boat

Although you can always use on of our top picks, if you’re looking for a smaller pedal boat that’s a great fit for two people, Sun Slider 3 Seat Pedal Boat is a good choice. As other Sun Dolphin’s models, this one is also made out of UV-stabilized Fortiflex’ polyethylene deck and hull with closed cell polystyrene foam flotation and has their guarantee of top-notch quality. All 3 seats are located in the front, and although it’s full-width seating, it’s more comfortable for two adults than three. As an added bonus, instead of one cooling storage, this pedal boat has two, and you can either choose to have two cooling storages, one for each person, or skip on the ice and convert one of them into storage for necessary trinkets you’d like to bring on your two-person outing.

Best Pedal Boat for Single Person

Sun Dolphin AQUA
Sun Dolphin AQUA

Although it fits 5 people, Sun Dolphin AQUA is a great choice if you want to take it out on the water by yourself. Most pedal boats we tested weigh around 100 lbs, so you wouldn’t have any problem maneuvering your way in any of them, but this pedal boat also offers comfort and ease of use for the single person on board. It has two sets of pedals, which can be accessed and operated on from 3 different positions, so you can choose whether to sit in the middle or on one of the two front seats. With additional room gained by a single-person use, you can bring anything from towels to diving equipment with yourself, and for snacks and drinks, there’s a cooling storage included.

Best Pedal Boat for Teenagers

Sun Dolphin Sun Slider
Sun Dolphin Sun Slider

Teenage kids are often reluctant to join their parent in most activities, but Sun Dolphin Sun Slider will change their minds. Perfect for teenagers who want to go out on the water and enjoy with friends, it’s also very safe and reliable. It fits 5 people, but with fully adjustable seats with backrest, it can be converted into a perfect sunbathing lounge for two. With a cooling storage, you can pack food, drinks or other refreshments for their trip.
If your kids are like most teenagers, Sun Dolphin Sun Slider will be a great way for them to have some fun, spend some time with their friends on the water and enjoy summer.

Best Pedal Boat for Saltwater

Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler w Stainless Steel Package
Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler w Stainless Steel Package

When you want to take out your pedal boat to the seaside and cruise around in saltwater for a change, the safest choice is Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler w Stainless Steel Package. Standard pedal boats are made out of plastic materials for the most part, but when it comes to some components like tiller or paddle wheels, they’re mostly made out of aluminum, and therefore more susceptible to rust and damage in saltwater. However, this pedal boats has stainless steel components that are much more resistant to saltwater damage and isn’t prone to quick deterioration like standard pedal boats. It fits three adults in the front and two kids in the back, and with a cooling storage, it’s a great pedal boat to enjoy in on the open sea.

Best Pedal Boat for Brackish Water

Pelican Rainbow Deluxe
Pelican Rainbow Deluxe

Great for both brackish and fresh water, Pelican Rainbow Deluxe is comfy and reliable.
This 5-person pedal boat with adjustable seats and an included canopy is a delight to pedal around. The backrests are reclinable, so it can be easily converted into a perfect cozy pedal boat for two, and with a large cooling storage, you’ll have more than enough space for snacks and drinks to bring with you. Made out of patented RAM-X multilayered polyethylene, this pedal boat is both rugged and lightweight.
Although the salt levels in brackish water are almost insignificant, it’s still advisable to rinse out your pedal boat with fresh water, just to make sure you won’t have any damage after a while.

Best Pedal Boat Alternative

ITBIKE SOLO
ITBIKE SOLO

Although not a pedal boat per se, ITBIKE SOLO operates on the same principle as standard pedal boats and it is real fun to use. We were very curious as to how this unconventional pedal boat actually works, so we decided to include it into our testing- and we didn’t regret it. We tested the SOLO version, although you can buy a DUO ITBIKE for two persons This imaginative water bike is so light and fun to use, and it’s a great workout on the open to boot. It can go up to 5 miles per hour and not only it’s super interesting to ride around, it’s also a great way to enjoy recreational sports. IT might lack the comfort of conventional pedal boats, but it certainly doesn’t lack fun and enjoyment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I transport my pedal boat?
A: The easiest way to transport your pedal boat is by truck or flatbed trailer attached to your car. Of course, if you have a pickup, pedal boats fit in most of them as well.
Q: Where should I store my pedal boat?
A: Most pedal boats are weather-sensitive and need sheltering from low temperatures, snow, and rain. If you can fit your pedal boat in a garage or a shed, it’s a great option, but a good cover will be enough too. Leaving your pedal boat exposed to the elements can lead to erosion of the hull, and after some time leaks and holes that will render the pedal boat unusable.
Q: What level of maintenance is needed for pedal boats?
A: Pedal boats are fairly easy to maintain. There’s a great guide on Florida Sportsman website, but in a nutshell, all you’ll need to do is rinse the boat with fresh water after use, clean from debris and oil the moving components from time to time.

Wrapping it up

Summer holidays are best when you find an activity in which the whole family will enjoy in, and pedal boats are fun for adults and kids equally. If you want an eco-friendly boat to explore the wildlife or just to cruise around the lake, pedal boats are a great option.
Best pedal boat for most people is Sun Dolphin Sun Slider 5 Seat Pedal Boat with Canopy, offering both ultimate comfort and ease of use for an affordable price. For those how are willing to pay top dollar for luxurious pedal boats, Sun Dolphin Water Wheeler Electric is a marvelous hybrid with both electric motor and manual pedaling functions. And, if you want a simple pedal boat or just have a limited budget, Sun Dolphin 5 Seat Pedal Boat is the way to go.

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1 Comment

  • What is the speed limitation of pedal boats? When I pedal really fast, I don’t seem to go any faster than when I pedal slower. Is there a functional limitation to how fast you can pedal a Sun Dolphin? If so, why?

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