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Types of Boat Covers: The 9 Types of Boat Covers Explained

A boat cover protects your boat from the build-up of moisture and debris that can ruin your upholstery, harmful uv rays, and the overall condition and resale value of your vessel.

A clean boat also improves your boating experience. Jumping into a boat filled with wet leaves and grime is just not fun. In this article, we will explore the different types of boat covers and their features and benefits.

Types of Boat Covers

Bow-to-Stern Covers (aka Mooring Covers)

Bow-to-Stern Covers do just that – they cover the boat from bow to stern. Also known as Mooring Covers, these covers are excellent storage covers and should be used whether storing your boat inside or outside.

When storing inside, a tight-fitting Bow-to-Stern Cover will keep mice and dust out. When storing outside or trailering, it will protect your boat from UV rays, weather, and debris.

When looking for a good Bow-to-Stern cover, the fit is really important. The more snug fit, the better. Achieving this tight fit can be more expensive though as you usually need a custom fit boat cover for the tightest possible fit.

Bow-to-Stern covers rely on two main measurements for fit: the center line length and the beamwidth. The closer your cover is to the exact dimensions of your boat, the tighter the fit will be.

There are three types of Bow-to-Stern covers you can get including:

  1. Custom Fit Boat Covers – $$$
  2. Semi Custom Covers – $$
  3. Univeral Fit Boat Covers- $

Custom Fit Boat Covers

Custom-Fit Boat Covers are the most tight-fitting cover that you can get because they are made for your exact boat year, make, and model.

They are most typically made with a draw rope in the hem (which usually exits at the transom) or snaps to secure the cover tightly to the perimeter of the hull. Many also include support poles to lift the cover.

Custom covers are also tailored to accommodate any of the accessories you have on your boat like a swim platform or Talon while maintaining a tight fit.

This makes custom covers very trailerable because they have little to no give to catch the wind. They are actually so tight that they take a little effort to get on.

Many boats will come with a custom cover when you purchase the boat. This is very common for bass boats, cuddy cabins, cabin cruisers, and more.

You can also have a custom cover made aftermarket, giving you the opportunity to configure the cover to your exact needs, accessories, and preferred fabric options.

Semi Custom Fit Boat Covers

Semi-Custom Covers are ready-made based on the hull style and general dimensions of your boat.

They are made for virtually any hull style of boat including v hull fishing boats, runabouts, deck boats, pontoon boats, and more.

When purchasing a Semi-Custom Boat Cover, you will be selecting your hull style first, then narrowing down to the nearest measurement to your actual boat.

A semi-custom fit will typically come within a 1-foot centreline increment for the bow to stern length with multiple beamwidth options for the widest point across the hull of the cover.

Semi-Custom Boat Covers are less expensive and quicker to obtain than Custom Fit Boat Covers. However, they will have more wind movement when trailering and will not be tailored for any accessories you have put on your boat like a Talon.

Universal Fit Boat Covers

Types of Boat Covers: Universal Fit Boat Cover
Universal Boat Covers typically fit boats within a 2-3 foot range.

Universal Fit Boat Covers are the one-size-fits-all of boat covers. However, the terms “universal” or “one-size-fits-all” here are a little misleading.

Universal Fit Boat Covers do come in multiple sizes and hull styles, but the size range is wider than a semi-custom option.

Typical size ranges for Universal Fit Boat Covers will be 12′-14′, 14′-16′, 16′-18′, and so on.

They are an affordable, yet durable, alternative to a semi-custom cover and often made from polyester.

Universal Fit Boat Covers are classified as a storage cover rather than a trailerable one. The loose fit on these can turn into a parachute on the highway and is not safe for driving.

Bow Covers

Types of Boat Covers: Bow Cover
Bow Covers protect the recessed bow area of a boat.

Bow Covers, sometimes called Tonneau Covers, are designed to snap onto the bow of the boat.

Bow Covers are particularly useful on any type of boat with recessed seating or lounge areas in the front like deck boats or bowriders.

Bow Covers snap tightly around this open area to protect the bow area from collecting water or debris when docked.

Bow Covers are form-fitted to the exact year, make, and model of your boat, so if you need a replacement, you will need one custom-made to the exact dimensions of your bow. You may also be able to get one from your boat manufacturer.

Cockpit Covers

Types of Boat Covers: Cockpit Cover
Cockpit Covers enclose the area from the windshield to the stern.

Boat Cockpit Covers cover the area from the windshield to the stern of the boat. They can also be customized to fully cover the windshield as well.

Cockpit Covers are designed to cover the heart of your boat including the driver’s seat, onboard electronics, and seating from the elements.

These storage covers most often use snaps or clip systems to attach the cover to the boat. They also typically come with an adjustable pole to provide tension and prevent water pooling on the cover.

Bimini Tops

Types of Boat Covers: Bimini Top
Bimini tops are canopies on a metal frame to provide shade and rain protection.

Bimini Tops are a favorite accessory for boaters because they provide the necessary shade and weather protection when out on the open water.

Bimini Tops open-front canopies that are usually supported by a metal frame. Most Bimini Tops can be collapsed when not in use and raised up when you want some protection.

The most important factor in a good Bimini Top is the fabric. The top will be exposed to the elements and sun, so ensure your fabric is marine-grade, UV resistant, and 100% solution-dyed.

The solution dying process distributes color all the way through the material, making it resistant to color fading over time. Look for fabric brand names like Sunbrella or Outdura, which come in a wide variety of beautiful colors.

Bimini Tops also act as the structure on your boat that your windshield connector, side curtains, and aft curtains connect to.

Most Bimini Tops can be assembled and installed with minimal effort and tools, making them a great style of boat cover.

Camper Tops

Types of Boat Covers: Boat Camper Top
Camper Tops protect the stern of the boat.

Camper Tops are enclosures that are attached to the back of a convertible boat top, bimini top or sunshade.

They help to fully enclose the cockpit and seating area of a boat with canvas and windows so that it can be used for camping, weather protection, bug protection, and storage.

Camper Tops have their own frame are are designed to protect the back or stern of the boat.

Boat Curtains

Boat curtains, side curtains, aft curtains and connector curtains.
Boat curtains protect passengers from splash, rain, and bugs.

Boat curtains, side curtains, aft curtains and connector curtains are used to enclose your boat.

They are typically made from heavy-duty plastic for windows and marine-grade canvas. They connect to a Bimini Top or Camper Top. The purpose of curtains is to protect both the boat and people inside from the elements.

Features to look for

Whatever type of boat cover you need, there are a few features you should be looking for.

  1. Mildew Resistant: Because boat covers are meant to keep water out, the cover itself should always be mildew-resistant. Look for this in the features before buying. This will prevent funky smells in the cover.
  2. UV Resistant: You will also want your cover to protect your boat or you from harmful UV rays. Look for fabrics that are UV Resistant like Sunbrella.
  3. Water-Resistant: You always want to make sure you boat cover is doing its job and keeping the boat dry. Always make sure to look for highly-rated materials that are water resistant.
  4. Warranty: Because boat covers will be subject to some wear and tear, seek out a cover with a solid warranty. When a company stands by their product with a good warranty, this is a good sign of durability (and if you have an issue, you know you are covered).
  5. Trailerable: If you plan on trailering with your boat cover on, look for a cover that specifically references that it is trailerable. Trailerable boat covers are usually labelled this way to take that guess work out.

The best boat cover for you will largely depend on what you need it for. Balance lifespan and price when considering the purchase. Given that your boat is likely worth a lot more than the cover, splurging a little to protect it always a good investment.

Chris Blackwell
About Chris Blackwell

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