The Bayliner Element F21 proves that you can find a brand-spanking-new 21-foot fishing boat that costs less than the average new car.
As we pointed out in Top 3 Aluminum Fishing Boats Under $20,000, if you’re okay with aluminum and you don’t mind owning a fairly small, simple boat, there are plenty of very economical options out there. But what if you want a fiberglass fishing machine? Are there any truly economical options out there? Not many. Anyone who’s looked at the prices for a modern center console fishing boat knows that they aren’t exactly inexpensive. Enter, the Bayliner Element F21.
Let’s get the tough stuff out of the way right up front: The F21 is not chock-full of the high-tech features now being incorporated into many boats, like digital switching or remote monitoring.
It does not have underwater lights, huge loungers, or spectacular performance. And there are certainly a few construction issues that could be improved upon (we wish the hatches raised on struts, the vinyl could stand an upgrade, the windscreen won’t provide much protection, and there are more plastic pieces-parts than we like to see). ‘Nuff said.
The counter-argument to the boats’ imperfections can be summed up thusly: you can get one for around $30 grand. That’s literally half what many boats of this size go for. It’s completely affordable to a wide swath of middle-class America, and it includes a complete boat-motor-trailer package. And the boat does have solid bones. Bayliner eliminated the use of structural wood a few years ago and the stringers are foam-filled fiberglass. The deck is self-bailing, and the boat comes with a lifetime limited structural hull warranty and five-year deck warranty.
Bayliner Element F21 Specifications
- LOA – 20’8”
- Beam – 7’5”
- Draft – 1’4”
- Displacement – 2,860 lbs.
- Transom deadrise –NA
- Fuel capacity – 44 gal.
What does that package get you other than a hull and a deck? A pretty basic rig, for sure, but it includes a leaning post, under-gunwale rodracks, vertical console rod holders, aft deck pull-up jump seats, stowage compartments under the bowdeck, a tandem axle trailer with brakes and a swing-away tongue, and a Mercury 115 FourStroke outboard. Note that with the 115 on the transom you’ll never come close to the 40-mph mark, and will be cruising in the mid-20s. Upgrading to the 150 means you can break 40 with a light boat and cruise around in the low 30s, but it also boosts cost by several thousand dollars. One other option many would want to consider is the fishing package, which adds in more rod holders, an aft livewell, trolling motor pre-wiring, and a fishing seat for the bow.
One big feature to consider is what Bayliner has dubbed the Element line’s “M-Hull.” It’s a unique design that more or less combines a V-hull, tri-hull, and powercat, which is shaped roughly like the letter M. In our on-the-water experience, its strongest asset is tremendous static and lateral stability; this hull really does rock and roll less than standard-issue designs. It also does well in a small chop. On the flip side, it isn’t ideal for high speeds in heavy seas (read: get ready for a pounding). It’s also quite trim-averse, and trimming the engine up doesn’t affect running attitude very much before blowing the prop out.
When you’re looking for a new boat and you go about the boat buying tests and inspection, it’s usually very easy to pick a boat apart. No boat is perfect, and many have plenty of flaws one can point to and complain about. But, you know what’s not so easy? Designing and building a brand-spanking-new 21-foot fiberglass boat that can be packaged with an outboard and a trailer, for about the cost of a stripped Ford Taurus.
For more information, visit Bayliner Boats.