When I first took the plunge, and purchased my first inflatable, I was an utter novice. I picked up a cheap, second hand dinghy off ebay with a 20hp motor and took it out with the family. We loved it for its portability and ease of use. It gave us more independence on the waterways and the kids loved tubing off the back of it. But in my inexperience, the dingy I had bought was very old and worn, needless to say it didn’t last long. The seams were coming apart, I had to use puncture repair kits to ensure the fading material held air and I wished I had known what to look for when buying one.


Whether you are looking for an inflatable from which to do some fishing, a dinghy to get to and from another boat, or for a bit of fun for family camping trips, there are a variety of inflatables to match your needs.

The most popular all round dinghies at the moment come with the collapsible hull. These sports boats are durable and great for taking on a camping trip. They can hold enough provisions for the family but you will need an outboard motor with the power to drag the kids in tubes off the back. A mate and I tested our collapsible inflatable out on a 2-week trout fishing trip in Tasmania and loved it. The whole thing could be folded up and chucked into the back of his 4WD.

If you’re looking for something which can handle tougher conditions and bigger waves you might want to go with a Rigid Hull Inflatable (RIBs). The RIBs are for the real pioneers who want to face the elements head on and need a study vessel. The hulls are usually made from aluminium or fibreglass, but in the cheaper models can be made of plastic. The rigid hull improves the handling in choppy waters.


Some people, myself included, opt for a second-hand dinghy to save a few bucks but you need to know what to look for. New dinghies are still very affordable and you won’t have to be concerned about how old they are. Here are some of the issues to think about when purchasing a secondhand dinghy if you really want to…

• The lifespan of an inflatable isn’t much more than 15 years. If you choose an inflatable older than this, it can become unglued and fall apart.
• Where has it been stored? In Australia, the intense sun causes the PVC material to wear and it won’t last as long. Try to find a dinghy which has been sheltered.
• Does it have repair patches? Accidents happen and punctures will occur, if these have been professionally repaired there shouldn’t be glue smeared around it or curled edged.
• Has the boat been treated? Ask the seller if they have treated the boat with anything. If it’s silicon based you might not want to buy, as it makes puncture repairs near impossible in the future.
• Check the hull for signs of peeling, cracks, signs of leaking or impact damage.
• If you must have a traditional motor, the Japanese motors tend to be more reliable. Go for Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha where possible. There are deals on lightly used traditional engines under 10 years old available and can be snapped up without obliterating your bank balance.
• I highly recommend an electric trolling motor because they are so much more convenient, don’t pollute and they are dead quiet for stealthy fishing.

Finally, it is important to understand the rules and regulations when using a dinghy for your state. If you are paddling your dinghy, there are not many requirements but this can change once you have an outboard motor, as is the case in Victoria, for example.


Is there anything you can add to this article? Share your thoughts through the comments section below.

Oli Ward

Oli has camped and hiked his way around Australia and most of Europe. He also loves writing about his experiences and sharing his knowledge.