Why Are Jon Boats So Expensive?

Expensive Jon boat

Jon boats are among the most popular inland waterway utility vessels in America and across the world. Once they offered a cheap way to get onto shallow inland waters but these days its seems their prices are inflated and getting higher each year. So, why are Jon boats so expensive?

Most Jon boats are so expensive because they are made from costly aluminum. As the price of aluminum goes up the price of a Jon boat most necessarily goes up as well. The jump in price after a 16 ft to 18 ft and 21 ft boat can also seem unreasonable and disproportionately large. This is largely due to supply and demand. Smaller Jon boats are made in bulk and so prices between sizes are less pronounced. Larger Jon boats are not made in the same quantities as smaller ones and so the costs of building them is greater.

Why are Jon boats so expensive?

Let’s take a look at the biggest factor is pricing when it comes to a Jon boat – the material it is made from.

Material costs

The price of aluminum can fluctuate greatly.

In 2018 the market seen a huge rise in the price of aluminum and this, obviously, sent the price of aluminum Jon boats up also.

Although aluminum has gone down in price many Jon boat manufacturers keep boat prices higher than they need to be to cover the eventuality that aluminum may soar in price again (in addition to other material costs needed for their boat production).

Other contributing factors

There are costs associated with building boats even when they are built in bulk.

It takes expensive equipment to mold and build a boat, even one as simple in design as a Jon boat. A skilled workforce. is also needed to complete production and assembly and overlook quality. In addition, the cost of the facility where the boat is built, which is likely mortgaged, must also be included in the end purchase price.

Also take into account the growing cost of carbon fuel and you can see that this has lead to higher energy costs. Electricity is the lifeblood of the machines that are used to build Jon boats and when their energy source increases in price it is inevitable that the end product will increase in price also.

Jon boat owners want extras

If you buy a standard Jon boat with no outboard motor, no rod holders and no extras you can pick up a boat at a reasonable price. However, when you start to add extras, the price quickly increases.

Take a bowfishing Jon boat for example, like the 1860 Archer Roughneck. With a price tag starting out at $20,444 it isn’t cheap and that seems like a lot of money for 20 ft Jon boat. But on closer inspection you can see that you are getting a lot of boat for the money.

This 1860 Archer is a perfect example of an expensive Jon boat that is a ready-out-of-the-box purchase. The boat comes with a lot of extras including ones not seen on cheaper Jons, such as the center console switches, grab handle, and windscreen.

This Jon boat also has a built-in fuel tank and livewell.

This expensive Jon boat also has a bow deck pedestal seat base and a stern deck pedestal seat base and 2 bow deck storage compartments complete with door seal and compression locks. This is in addition to to the 2 storage/step boxes.

The boat also has inbuilt cleats and a port rod holder that can accommodate 3 rods.

And let’s not forget the shooting deck!

Imagine what it would cost to start sourcing and mounting all that equipment on a basic Jon boat.

Why is there such a jump in price after 16 ft boat size?

With smaller Jon boats you can easily see the incremental increase in price as the size of the boat increases. No-one complains about an increase in price, with increase in boat size, because it obviously takes more materials to build a bigger boat.

However, there comes a point with Jon boats when the jump is no longer incremental but is huge. This usually happens after the 16 ft mark with a big jump in price to get to an 18 ft Jon boat.

It can be frustrating for buyers when they see such a huge jump in price with such a small increase in boat size. But, believe it or not, there is a totally rational explanation for this. It’s all about supply and demand.

When demand is high for specific boat sizes it is easy to manufacture them in bulk. Bulk manufacturing leads to huge savings on production costs. Thus Jon boats that are in high demand can be produced fairly cheaply in bulk and the savings made on the bulk manufacturing processes can be passed on to the buyer.

However, as larger Jon boats are not sold in the same type of quantity as smaller ones, manufacturers will build fewer of them. This means the savings made from bulk manufacturing are lost. It costs more money to produce smaller quantities of these bigger boats and so the manufacturer has no savings to pass on to the buyer.

Less demand means lower quantity production which means higher prices for the consumer.

Not all Jon boats are expensive

Now you know why most of the popular Jon boats are so expensive, but it would amiss of me if I need not tell you that not all Jon boasts are expensive.

As we covered above, aluminum is an expensive material to produce and buy (and to work with) and so Jon boats made from aluminum tend to be expensive, but not all Jon boats are made from aluminum.

Cheaper materials mean cheaper Jon boats

There are perfectly acceptable 12 ft Jon boats that sell for less than $500. How is this low price possible when an average aluminum 12 ft Jon boat can cost as several thousand dollars?

It’s all about the construction material!

While aluminum is expensive there are other materials that be used in the construction of a Jon boat that are cheap.

The above mentioned 12 ft Jon boat that sells for less than 500 bucks is the pelican Intruder 12 and it’s so cheap because it is made of polyurethane. This is the same type of material used to build kayaks and even some drift boats.

Polyurethane is a hard type of plastic that can be used to make an almost indestructible boat. It is also lightweight and cheap to produce making it an ideal material for constructing a Jon boat.

Of course this isn’t the only option open to you.

By far the cheapest option is to build your own Jon boat from plywood. This is actually easier than you might think (as we demonstrated here) and the finished boat will be sturdy, durable and just as good as its aluminum counterpart though it will require more maintenance. There are actually a ton of different Jon boat build designs you can follow.


Jon boats are so expensive because the materials used to make them are expensive and the costs of production are rising.

Extras added to a Jon boat also greatly contribute to the price. More extras means a higher purchase price.

There is also a large jump in Jon boat prices once you go above 16 ft. This is due to the higher production costs associated with building fewer boats. Bigger Jon boats are not in as high demand as smaller ones and so manufacturers produce less of them.

Not all Jon boats are expensive however. Jons made from polythene are cheap and you can always build your own Jon boat out of plywood very cheaply.

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