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Express Cruisers

  • Activities: Overnight Cruising and Day Cruising
  • Length Range: 25 - 45 ft.
  • Average price: $215,000
  • Propulsion: Inboard Engine or Stern Drive Engine

Maybe you’re stepping up from a cuddy cabin boat, maybe you’re stepping down from a motor yacht luxury cruiser, or maybe you’re about to buy your first boat of any kind. In any of these cases, if you know you want a boat that looks sleek and sexy, offers sporty performance, and has a cabin worthy of long cruises, an express cruiser may well be in your future. Just what defines a boat as an express cruiser?

Your Budget

Obviously, this will have a huge impact on the boats you’ll be looking at. If your budget is on the thin side, you may want to focus your search on used boats as opposed to buying new. But “used” doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap”. In fact, if you search for used express cruisers on listed from old to new, you’ll see that a $1,500 32-footer appears right across from a $179,000 classic that’s just two feet longer.

If you decide to limit your search to new boats, remember that there’s still going to be a huge spread of choices, even in a relatively limited budgetary range. Let’s say for example that you do a search for new express cruisers between $100,000 and $200,000. You’ll find boats ranging from 28’ all the way up to 36’. The bottom line? Your budget is what it is, and no matter how large or small it may be, there's probably going to be a slew of different express cruisers for you to consider.

Size and Staterooms

Just how much cabin you need depends on how you plan to use the boat, and how many people are in your family. Or, possibly how many friends you plan to haul along for the ride. In either case, there are some express cruisers that emphasize deck space over cabin space, and vise-versa. Which is better for you depends on just how often you think you’ll go overnighting, versus how often you’ll be day-boating. If you’ll only sleep on the boat once or twice a year, choosing a boat with more cockpit space and a more open saloon, for example, would be a better decision. But if you think you'll do lots of sleeping aboard, it makes sense to choose a boat with a larger proportion of its foot-print dedicated to a cabin. And if more than one couple is involved, that cabin should be divided into multiple small rooms.

Speed and Handling

Express cruisers appeal to a wide audience, so naturally, the emphasis a builder puts on performance varies quite a bit. Some boats offer neck-snapping acceleration, eye-watering speeds, and sportscar-like handling. Others prioritize fuel efficiency and comfort. Many boats try to find a happy medium, but generally speaking, you do have to make trade-offs for these different attributes. Extremely fast, sporty express cruisers do not commonly have the best efficiency. A loss of interior volume may also be a trade-off for high performance, since many performance-oriented boats are narrower than boats focused more on luxury.

Power Systems

Express Cruisers are one of the few types of boats on which you’re likely to see all of the different power choices. Many have stern drives, many others have straight-inboard power, plenty of new models feature pod drives, and there are even a few which run on outboard power or jet drives.

Stern drives are usually seen on small to mid-sized express cruisers. Their articulating drives give them good handling characteristics, and many modern stern drive systems can be optioned with joystick control for easier dockside maneuvering. Straight inboards are common on larger express cruisers, which require big diesel powerplants. But they’re quickly being supplanted these days by pod drives, which offer better handling and increased fuel efficiency. Learn more about this relatively new power system in All About Pod Drives: Volvo Penta IPS, MerCruiser Cummins Zeus, and ZF Marine.

Outboards are rare on express cruisers, but the efficiency and reliability of modern four-strokes is appealing to many boaters. This is especially true of those who are stepping up out of smaller runabouts powered by outboards, since they're already accustomed to dealing with this power system. Learn more about all types of marine power systems, by reading Outboards, Inboards, Pod Drives, Stern Drives, and Jets: Which is Best.

Good luck, fellow boater, in your quest to find the ideal express cruiser. Consider all the factors we’ve mentioned above, do lots of research by reading these reviews and watching these videos, and look at as many listings as possible here on We know that sooner or later, you’ll find the express cruiser that’s perfect—for you.

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