How Much Does it Cost to Build a Drift Boat?


Drift boat being made in garage

Drift boats are iconic rowboats often found on turbulent rapid-filled rivers. Their special hull design and versatile nature make them the perfect choice of rowboat for whitewater rivers. But, with the cost that comes with low production and high quality materials, drift boats can be very expensive. So, if you want to save money and build your own drift boat how much would it cost?

For someone with basic wood working tools, and a solid boat plan, a 14′ drift boat can be built for less than $1000. The biggest cost will be materials. Modern marine plywood is the cheapest option, and along with the cost-effective construction method of “stitch and glue” a drift can be built for about 5% the cost of a store bought boat. 

Cost of building a drift boat

Drift boats are extremely versatile watercraft. Being able to river run and carry heavy loads drifters are amazing boats and what’s more they are just stunning to look at. Unfortunately though, drift boats are also super expensive.

With price tags up to $19,000 or more a new drift boat represents a big investment. Even the lowest cost drifter boats will still set you back several thousand dollars and that includes used boats.

Building your own drift boat has some advantages, not least of which is cost. As well as being more expensive store bought drift boats also tend to be fairly heavy (at least heavier than a home build).

Of course not all home-build boats are cheap to make, not only due to the materials needed for the boat construction but also due to the expensive tools needed to craft the boat parts. Luckily, you can bypass these expenses with a drift boat build.

To build a drift boat cheaply all you need is a boat plan that requires no expensive tools and, probably more importantly, does not require you to have specialists wood-working skills. Simple boat plans that can be used to produce beautiful and functional boats at low cost and without specialized skills or precision cutting are available.

Following a proper boat plan, that requires no expensive specialist tools, nor precision cutting, you can build a 14 foot drift boat for less than $1000.

So why should you buy a drift boat when you can make one for a fraction of the cost?!

Material costs

The biggest factor in the overall cost of a drift boat building project is the price of materials. Building boats can be expensive, especially something as elegant and uniquely shaped as a drift boat, if you choose to use expensive materials like aluminum or fiberglass (that can cost over $70 a sheet for high quality stuff).

If you did decide to use the more common materials of either aluminum or fiberglass you would also have to add the cost of tools for working with the material to shape to boat. Both aluminum and fiberglass will require you to invest in proper equipment if you want to build a functional boat.

By far the cheapest material you can use to build any boat, as we demonstrated in the article how to build a flat bottom boat, is marine grade plywood. Using plywood will significantly lower the cost of building your own drift boat. The lower cost of plywood is not the only advantage you will get from using this material though.

Plywood is much easier to work with than other materials used for boat construction and also only requires basic woodworking tools. What’s more, plywood is exceptionally light and using it as construction material will mean you not only end up with a much cheaper boat but a much lighter one as well.

Using a “stitch and glue” approach to your drift boat build project, with plywood as your main building material, will mean keeping construction costs below $1000 for the entire project. That’s not too bad considering a used drift boat in good condition can set you back anywhere from $3,000 – $10,000 and a new one can cost upwards of $19,000 or more. Granted these drift boats are made from superior fiberglass and are hand built, but as you’ve seen you can hand build your own for a fraction of the cost.

Cheap construction method

If you have never heard the term “stitch and glue” before you may be thinking in terms of model building and may think that perhaps this will not be a very sound or durable construction method for a boat designed to ride rapids. Well, this could not be further from the truth.

Stitch and glue has completely revolutionized how boats are built and has dramatically cut construction costs especially for home build projects. This construction method has completely eliminated the need for expensive specialized equipment and tools for boat building. In addition to the development of epoxy resin glue and modern marine plywood, costs for boat production can be seriously slashed.

Using a stitch and glue approach along with marine plywood and epoxy resin means instead of paying in excess of $19,000 for a new drift boat you can build one for about 5% of that cost.

This new way of building a wooden drift boat is far superior to old wood building methods as it produces a boat that is lighter, stronger and faster than a traditional wooden drifter. It also takes much less skill and zero experience to successfully complete the build project.

Overview of stitch and glue boat building (video)

Is there an even cheaper option?

In the video below you can watch how a guy builds a drift boat from reclaimed driftwood and construction scraps.

We don’t recommend this approach unless you have a certain degree of skill in boat building.

Summary

Drift boats have a unique hull design that makes them extremely versatile vessels. Drift boats can be used for a unique type of fishing, transportation, shallow water navigation and river running. This versatility comes at a price though. New drift boats are very expensive.

New drift boat can cost in excess of $19,000 and even used boats will rarely be picked up for less than $3,000. This is one on the main reasons people want to build their own drift boat.

The good news is that you can build a very functional, classy 14 foot drift boat for less than $1000 using marine plywood, epoxy resin and a stitch and glue approach to its construction.

Using a proven boat plan you can build your own drift boat without prior experience or specialized tools for about 5% of the cost of a top-end drift boat.

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