Boat Hull Types

Hulls come in as many shapes and sizes as boats. There are four common types of hulls; although they look different, all hulls are designed to do one of only two things: displace water, or ride on top of it, which is called planing.

Displacement Hulls

Slow-moving, large boats like sailing boats and cruise ships have displacement hulls. Because of their weight and power, they move lower in the water, pushing or displacing it rather than riding on top of it.

Planing Hulls

Faster, smaller boats such as powerboats or personal watercraft (PWC) typically have planing hulls. Planing hulls are designed for boats that move at a higher rate of speed, allowing them to rise out of the water and ride on top of it.

Pontoon Hulls

Pontoon hulls create lift for the flotation of two or more pontoons (airtight, hollow tubes)  underneath so that the structure of the boat sits above the waterline. This is the slowest type of boat, but due to its design it can carry significant weight.

Most Common Boat Hull Styles

Flat-Bottomed Hulls

Flat-bottomed hulls are very stable. This makes boats with flat bottoms a great choice for fishing and for use on small, calm bodies of water.

Round-Bottomed Hulls

Most round-bottomed hulls are displacement hulls. The shape of this hull allows these vessels to glide through water with little effort. The design does, however, make the boat less stable. Extra care is required when entering, exiting, and loading.

V-Shaped Hulls

V-shaped hulls are a type of planing hull, and they are the most common type of hull for powerboats. A V-shaped hull requires more power to push it up onto a plane above the water. Boats with V-shaped hulls usually are equipped with a larger engine than flat- or round-bottomed boats.

Multi-Hulled or Multi-Chine Hull

Multi-hulled vessels have separate and distinct hulls. Both planing and displacement hulls can be multi-hulled, depending on the shape of the hull and the size of the engine. Having multiple hulls makes these boats incredibly stable on the water, but they do require more room to steer and turn. Examples of common multi-hulled boats are catamarans and pontoon boats.

You should also read:

Boating Terminology

Parts of a Boat