Do you want to buy a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) but you do not know how to go about it?
Worry no more. This article will guide you on what to consider in making the best possible decision in 10 chapters.
A rigid inflatable boat in the present world is well shaped in such a way that it can maintain its buoyancy even when it has tapped some water due to unfavourable weather conditions. Nearly all the boats in this category can give you a chance to perform an assigned duty, but not all can fully fulfil your purpose. This calls for some wisdom when it comes to purchasing a rigid inflatable boat. To end on the best boat for this matter, here are some of the most critical factors that you should bear in mind when buying your boat. I have a fair share of driving RIBs as a journalist (Medianaut). On top of that I own a RIB myself… of course.
1. The purpose of purchasing the RIB
When the meaning of something is not known, misuse is inevitable. In the same way, if you do not know how you are going to use it, you might end up buying a wrong boat and later even misuse it. Therefore, you should ask yourself if you are going to use it for fishing, for diving, racing or for carrying your family members. The intended use will lead you to the best boat. For instance, if you need it for family purposes, you might have to check for a size which can well fit your family members. If you are few, a smaller RIB will be favorable for you. However, if you have a larger family, you will need a relatively more significant RIB. Additionally, if you are going to have it for racing, which can be very fun, you will have to check on the capacity of its engine. The engine and the hull will determine how fast the boat can go. It can be heartbreaking to register for a racing competition when you know very well that your ship cannot go more quickly. Understanding your purpose will lead you to buy a RIB which can perfectly serve the purpose.
2. How frequent you are planning to use the boat
Yes! You also need first to know how many times are you most likely to use the boat per year. This will help you in understanding the quality that you need. If you are going to restrict its use on only specific occasions of the year, you should outweigh the needs and the time related to the cost. It could be more interesting to charter a RIB instead of buying one. For the price of a RIB you can charter many, many times.
If you are going to use it as frequently as you feel like, then other things come into the picture. How much luxury do you want? How strong must it be? The region of navigation is also a very important factor. I’ll come back to that here below. You could say that the stronger, the tougher the RIB, the more expensive it becomes. It’s not crazy to say that that RIB is the obvious choice. So it’s better to go for the expensive one so that you can enjoy its more extended service than taking a cheaper one then going back to the market to buy another one after a certain period.
Where will you be navigating…
3. Your region of navigation
The part of the water that you want to ride the boat also should be a factor to consider when buying one. For instance, if you are planning to have it majorly on the still and calm waters like inland waterways, lakes and coastal areas, then you can go for wide body. This is because, in such waters, the boat will not face any form of disruptions by the weather. In essence, it will always be stable. However, this will not be the case when you are planning to use your boat in the challenging waters like the open sea. I did some research and for instance our North Sea has these averages (source: Maritime Research Flemish Institute for the Sea):
Metres per second: 9.00
Miles per hour: 20.13
Kilometres per hour: 32.40
Beaufort wind scale: Fresh breeze
Direction: mostly SW (265°)
Height along the coast: 1,3 m (peeks of 5 m, highest 34 m!)
Frequency: 3-4 seconds
Temperature: Summer: 17° - Winter: 6°
With such conditions, you will need a boat which is stronger and can withstand the stressful weather. You should check these data for your preferred region of navigation before going out to buy a RIB. So what is a good RIB for such conditions? The answer is that the hull is the most important part is of your RIB to be. Far more important than the colors and deck lay-out.
4. The planing hull
If you bring up the hull, friends, sales persons etc. will speek to you about a ‘V-hull’ and a ‘deadrise’. The V-hull is easy: it is the sharpness of the bow seen as a capital V. The sharper this V is the better the waves are being cut. The deadrise is something you have to ask or find in brochures.
By the term of "deadrise" we mean the angle which is formed between the horizontal plane and the side of the hull, at its any point.
The higher the number (25°), the less flatter the hull is. This one is far better for rough seas and offshore. The lower, the flatter the hull is and more suited for lakes or very calm seas. This is also measurable at the stern. Typical Mediterranean RIBs will have ‘a flatter hull’ at the stern meaning more comfort for all persons on board while anchoring. Very often a sun deck is installed at the stern.
Some hulls have steps. These provide an extra airflow under the hull to lift it even higher off the water so that there is less contact. This results in lower consumption and a higher velocity. Why some hulls have 1 or more steps is something to write about in an other article here on RIBs ONLY. As is the choice between an aluminum or fiberglass hull.
5. Your engine
Do you need an inboard or an outboard? Remember the engine you choose will determine how fast you will go with your boat. Nowadays you have a choice of gasoline and diesel engines. Forget the electric engines for these are not suited to power a RIB of 5 m. The outboard motor engine weighs less than an inboard. Some rigid inflatable boats are fitted with two engines or more which can be engaged in different conditions. The type of engine you will need determines the boat that can meet your demands. Do not just buy any engine then get surprised when you now see its shortcoming. Ensure you make the right choice before you buy your boat. And do check the maximum power the RIB allow to have installed and absolutely never cross that border no matter what others say! The insurance will refuse to pay up in cause of an accident when you exceed that maximum.
Three Yamaha V8 outboards of each 425 hp installed on a RIB
6. The distance you will be covering with the boat
What distance are you planning to cover every time you are on your boat? If you are to cover a long distance, see to it that your fuel tank is large enough. At least (!) 200 liters and more depending on the consumption of your engine. So do ask for these data and know that that these data were recorded ‘in a lab environment’. However, you are to use it for purposes like fishing along the coast you might not talk about an exact mile you will be covering. All the same, if you predict that you will be covering a long distant, then you should have a fast engine to get you home fast. Always (!) have an extra jerry can on board filled with fuel. For yourself in the first plast but also to help out another fellow navigator. I have been in such a situation where I could help out a friend on a fast-flowing river.
7. Buy a solid Trailer
If you’re going to take your RIB on the road you will need a solid trailer. You have them in all sizes. Some have a single axis and others have three. Think of the trailer as a protection of your investment. The specs of a trailer are being defined by the length, the width and the weight of your precious boat. You will need to have a trailer to launch your boat off a ramp. Some trailers are built in stainless steel and have waterproof lights. Vanclaes is a company that builds customized trailers in stainless steel the way you want it.
A big RIB on a triple axis Vanclaes trailer ©
8. Insurance and stuff
Mandatory in many countries is the insurance. Contact your insurance company or agent and request information for to insure your RIB and its passengers, your RIB on the trailer (parked) and the RIB on the trailer while you pull it. And what if your RIB causes damage. Also ask for the parameters if you want to insure it for theft (on the trailer, at the pontoon etc.
Besides an insurance there is are the safety regulations concerning you and your passengers. Buy ‘automatic’ life jackets that will inflate if you fall into the water. And always were them even if your prepping the boat on the pontoon. It is not the first person that trips and drowns within 5 meter of the pontoon.
9. Your budget
Just like any other product you would wish to buy in the market, your budget will have to speak. The same applies to the purchase of the rigid inflatable boat. What you have in the pocket can either purchase it or not. The prices of the BIBs are very different, and so if you plan well, you will always get something for your boat. As you allocate funds for a given choice of boat, you should acknowledge that not everything that is expensive can be of quality. Therefore, you should check the price alongside the quality of the RIB. There are many brands, and so you can get two or even more boats which have the same conditions and features but go at different prices. Talk to RIBbers, check out websites and forums for RIBs. At this point, you defiantly have to take the cheaper one home. With the price range between $10.000 and $200.000 (or more) you can get your boat. This range is so broad meaning that you can get one which is cheaper than or as expensive as you want. You need not to close your bank account to buy one. Just get it at your financial capacity. To be safe, you can do some window shopping from the online suppliers of the boats to see what to expect in terms of its prices so that you cannot be exploited once you go out to buy one.
Benjamin Franklin: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
10. Final thoughts
If you consider the above factors before you buy your rigid inflatable boat, you can never go a mess. It will serve you as you wish and save you a lot of money since you will not be going to the market every time to buy another one on the basis of the failure of the previous one. You should, however, note that the care you accord to your boat is very critical even after buying the boat. You do not start keeping it poorly with less attention and exact it to serve you well. After making the best choice, you got to go ahead and make use of it.
I know you might be wondering why you are not advised on the factors like the color, length, and weight of the boat. Well, those might be considered but not as a priority. There are minor factors which should not be concentrated upon in buying a boat. If you focus on them, you might end up having something which is attractive to you and others but cannot serve your purpose perfectly. This means that you need to prioritize the essential elements first. I bet it is better to have a vessel which is not of your preferred color but which can fit your purpose and serve you better within your budget.
And above all… have fun with your choice of Rigid Inflatable Boat and share it in our Facebook group.
Karel Overlaet, Medianaut
Karel Overlaet is a family man, Business Development Manager, creator of bingel (European market leading e-learning platform), owner of Medianaut, chairman Varen voor Autisme vzw (npo), nautical journalist and photographer, passionate about RIBs.