Jon Boat vs Canoe. Cost, Capacity, Use and Convenience

canoe vs jon boat

You’re ready to hit the water. You’ve got the go-ahead from “the boss” to make the purchase. Now you just need to decide which boat to get. Which is better a Jon boat or a canoe?

Jon Boat Or Canoe … Which Is Better?

The decision on whether to get a canoe or Jon boat depends on several factors.

Jon boats are excellent craft for hunting, fishing, and utility work and for transportation of goods and people.

Canoes offer the same advantages while being a bit more economical on fuel but slower.

Jon boats are better suited to calm shallow inland waters while certain canoes offer more stability in choppy waters with some canoes even being seaworthy.

There Steps To Making A Buying Decision

For many boaters making the decision between a canoe and a Jon boat is a difficult one, and not without reason.

Jon boat vs canoe

These boats offer the same type of benefits and can be used in similar ways.

Hopefully this guide will help you to make a decision about which boat is the best fit for you.

But, even if you don’t make your final decision after reading this post at the very least it will arm you with more knowledge to help make your decision easier.

You will be more informed when you do make a decision.

Where should you begin?

To begin you should ask yourself three simple questions:

  1. What will you use your boat for?
  2. Where will you use your boat?
  3. What is your budget?

I have structured this post in the same way as I did for the article kayak vs Jon boat for consistency.

If you are also considering throwing a kayak into the mix (Jon boat vs canoe vs kayak) it might be a good idea to also read that article.

Let’s have a closer look at these three questions so you can see how answering them will help with your purchase decision.

#1 What will you use the boat for?

Your intended purpose for the boat will affect your decision on which boat is a better fit for you.

This particular question is of less importance than deciding between a kayak and a Jon boat because both a canoe and Jon boat are capable of doing pretty much the same things.

This is true at least on inland waterways such as rivers, lakes and ponds.

As both boats are fairly large and wide they are capable of carrying passengers and have enough room to stow gear for most outdoor water pursuits.

However, if you have to traverse large stretches of water, to move from one hunting ground to another for example, then the differences between the boats will start to show.

Jon boats are much faster than canoes even if both are the same size and are fitted with the same engine.

Camo duck hunting Jon boat
Duck hunting Jon boat

So, if you need to travel long distances and don’t mind doing it in a leisurely fashion a canoe is fine but for speed you will need a Jon boat.

Likewise, if you intend on using your boat in choppy waters or out on the ocean then you will also start to see the differences between the two watercraft.

Jon boats are not seaworthy and although most canoes are not seaworthy either there are specially designed canoes that are seaworthy.

The same applies to choppy water and even whitewater. Jon boats are ill-designed for such conditions but there are specifically designed canoes that can easily handle the challenge (for example outrigger canoes).

Canoes are also much preferred for leisure boating less because of their stability  and more because they just look great.

Both canoes and Jon boats are great for fishing, hunting and for transportation.

#2 Where will you use the boat?

This is a much more important question to ask yourself when you are unsure about purchasing a Jon boat or a canoe.


Because Jon boats are limited to the types of waters they can navigate while canoes are much more flexible.

We will investigate these designs differences later. For now just identify where you intend to use your boat.

Will you use the boat mainly on calm inland lakes?

Are rivers your favorite type of boating ground?

Do you want to navigate swamps?

Do you plan to take the boat into open water such as the ocean? If you do will you stray from the shoreline?

These are key questions that you should ask yourself before ever making a decision on the type of boat to buy.

outrigger canoe riding wave
Outrigger canoe riding an ocean wave

Jon boats are very limited in regards to the type of water bodies that they are safe to be used in.

For example, although a Jon boat can be used in the ocean it is not a seaworthy craft and can only be used in optimal weather conditions.

However, canoes come with different hull types designed for different environments.

And with the aid of specific stability modifications certain canoes are seaworthy and can be used in the ocean.

#3 What is your budget?

This is another key concern when it comes to making a buying decision between a canoe and a Jon boat.

There is often no big difference in the prices between a Jon boat and a canoe when they have comparable lengths/sizes and are made from the same construction material.

Though you can get very cheap canoes that are considerably cheaper than Jon boats, like ones made from aluminum for example, these boats are inferior in just about every respect.

Comparable Jon boats and canoes are usually similarly priced.

However, when it comes to addons and accessories, like these must-have Jon boat accessories, a Jon boat offers much more customization options.

This means a Jon boat kitted-out and on the water could end up costing substantially more than a comparably sized canoe.

The finished Jon will be a greatly superior boat though.

As far as purchase price goes a Jon boat and canoe made to similar specs will cost pretty much the same.

Modern aluminum Jon boats like those from Tracker have a very similar cost to modern heavy-duty canoes.

Having said that, you can get canoes made from Fortiflex polyethylene hull that are considerably cheaper and that, surprisingly, wear exceptionally well.

If you need a cheap option, then a low-spec canoe is going to give you that.

If money is not your main concern or you want a higher-spec craft then you can go with either boat as they will have a similar cost.

Differences Between The Two Boats

Let’s take a quick look at the differences in design between a Jon boat and a canoe.

Jon boat design considerations

A Jon boat is a utility watercraft that has a fairly simple design.

There are some modifications available on Jon boats, such as a semi-v hull, but all by-and-large Jon boats are basically flat-bottomed boats built for use on calm and shallow inland waterways.

There are people who take their Jon boats onto the ocean but Jon boats are not seaworthy boats!

If you plan to take a Jon boat onto the ocean you better know what the weather forecast is.

These flat-bottomed craft are only safe to use in the ocean if you stay close to the shoreline and only in ideal weather conditions and calm water.

Jon boats cannot handle rough water and waves.

If you need a better understanding of a Jon boat and how it can be used read this article.

As far as maneuverability goes there isn’t much difference between a Jon boat and a canoe especially if you are using an outboard engine.

Canoe design considerations

Unlike a Jon boat, which has a standard and generic design, canoes come in different designs.

Canoes are much more versatile than Jon boats especially when it comes to the type of environments you can use them in but that doesn’t mean you can get a canoe that can go anywhere.

A canoe offers you much less limitation when it comes to the types of waters that you can navigate but there is no one-boat-fits-all option.

For specific uses you must get a canoe with a specific hull design.


For more information about the different types of canoe designs available read this article about canoes.

For example, a sailing canoe has a different hull design, and different characteristics needed to make it seaworthy, from a flat-bottomed leisure canoe designed to navigate calm inland waterways.

Jon boat pros and cons

Jon boats have been a big favorite in not just America but in many areas across the world where calm inland waterways are common.

A Jon boat is exceptionally stable on calm water due to its flat bottom.

This makes them great for calm rivers and lakes.

They only experience stability problems in choppy water or when the wind really picks up (one reason why they never gained popularity in Britain and many parts of Northern Europe).

The shallow draft design means they are perfect for extremely shallow waters.

They are able to navigate bodies of water only a few inches deep without you having to worry about snagging the boat bottom on debris on the riverbed or lakebed.

A Jon boat can be powered by an outboard motor or manually with a paddle or oars or even a push pole in shallow waters. A Jon boat is very easy to maneuver.

Large Jon boats have more than enough room to stow large amounts of gear, as well as passengers, with very little loss of stability.

A Jon boat is much easier to customize than a canoe making them a better fit for hunters and anglers.

On the flipside a Jon boat is not designed for use in choppy water.

Although there are some modified Jon boats that can handle rough water better than others the basic design of the boat makes it unsuitable for very choppy water.

Therefore a Jon boat is limited to the type of waters it can be used in.

If you want to stay safe only use a Jon boat on calm water.

A Jon boat is also fairly heavy, especially if made from aluminum, and will require a trailer for transportation.

Although one person can load and unload an average-sized Jon boat some boats may require two people.

Jon boat

Canoe pros and cons

A canoe can go anywhere that a Jon boat can go. A Jon boat can’t always go where a canoe can.

Of course the caveat to this is that almost every Jon boat has the same design so you know what you’re getting and the capabilities of the boat.

Whereas, with a canoe there are different hull characteristics on different canoe types, designed for different applications.

In other words, you may have a canoe that is great for one application but a bad choice for another.

You need a different canoe for different applications i.e., you need a specific type of canoe for sea usage and a different type for whitewater riding and a different type for racing etc.

A modern canoe is almost always much lighter than a Jon boat (depending on construction material) and except for exceptionally large canoes (that require a trailer to tow them) a canoe will usually fit on a roof rack on your vehicle.

In fact, you can even get this foldable canoe that is designed for easier transportation and storage.

Foot for foot a canoe will have a greater weight capacity than a Jon boat but not by much.

Like a Jon boat a canoe can be powered by an outboard motor or manually with a paddle or oars.

Learning to paddle a canoe can be challenging for newbies especially in less clam water conditions (when using a canoe designed for those conditions).

Contrary to what a lot of people believe you can put an outboard engine on a canoe!

You just fit it to the boat in a slightly different way.

Canoes are more economical on fuel but at the cost of speed; Jon boats are much faster than canoes but will burn more fuel.

Making The Final Decision

The decision between buying a canoe or a Jon boat is a difficult one to make.

Below I have included several tables outlining what each boat type can and cannot do to help you better make an informed decision on which one is a better fit for you.

At the end of the day there isn’t much to separate these two boats unless you plan to ride rapids, navigate rough water or sail on the ocean.

If you need a boat for anything other than rivers and lakes then you will need a canoe designed for that specific purpose.

For inland water hunting, fishing, transportation, leisure use etc., on calm shallow waters either boat will work.

When it comes to speed a Jon boat is much faster than a canoe.

But a canoe is more economical on fuel.

Quick view comparison tables:

When reviewing the tables below please bear in mind that different canoes have different advantages.

The pros associated with canoes in the tables are pros for different types of canoe and not for a canoe in general (because there are different canoe types for different purposes).

For example, the table indicates that a canoe is suitable for ocean use but bear in mind that this does not mean every canoe is suitable for ocean use – you need a specific type of canoe.

Table1. Environments

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Table 2. Applications

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Table 3. Pros and cons

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Table 4. Storage, transportation and modification potential

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Closing Thoughts: Canoe vs Jon Boat

There is little to choose between a canoe and a Jon boat.

Each boat has its strengths and weaknesses but they really can perform the same type of functions on inland waters that most boat owners want.

If you want a leisurely trip down the water and are in no hurry to get to your destination then a canoe is a stylish way to get there.

If you want to get there fast on a tricked out boat then a Jon boat will get you there quicker and will offer you more opportunity for mods.

But, really at the end of the day the choice between a canoe and a Jon boat is one of personal taste unless you want your boat for purposes other than fishing, hunting, leisure and transport.

I know that the vast majority of the readers of this website will mostly want a boat for the aforementioned purposes.

However, if you want a boat for ocean use or for use in waters that are choppy and not very friendly to the flat bottom hull design of a Jon boat then you will definitely need to opt for a canoe – but not just any canoe.

You will need to get one that has been specifically designed for the purposes you have in mind.

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