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What Type of Boat Capsizes the Most? – Things You Should Know

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

what type of boat capsizes the most

Incidence rates for boat-related accidents tell us what risks we should be looking out for. But what type of boat capsizes the most and what factors affect this accident rate?

The boats reported most prone to capsizing in 2020 are kayaks, open motorboats, and canoes. We’ll look at information related to the capsizing incidents of these boats as well as the risks involved in using them.

Keep reading to learn more.

Capsize-Prone Boats

There are 327 reported incidents of capsized boats, as collected by USCG statistics for 2020. At just around 300 incidents every year, it is a small number in the over 5000 boating accidents reported annually. But it is a serious type of mishap that is potentially fatal and needs to be avoided.

With boating statistics, it is easy to establish that there are common factors determining which boats are most often involved in such incidents. You might be asking yourself: Capsizing occurs most often with which of the following type of boats?

  • Canoes
  • Kayaks
  • Open motorboats
  • Personal Watercraft
  • Rowboat

Of the capsizing occurrences reported in 2020, 285 of these were incidents involving 5 types of boats.

Kayaks top this list, and this kind of boat capsized a reported 119 times, while open motorboats have the second-highest number of the report with 93 times. We have canoes (38), personal watercraft (24), and rowboats (11) rounding out the top 5 among the 16 boat categories included in the report.

Factors That Most Affect Boat Capsizing Rates


Capsizing occurs when a boat loses stability and turns over, which can lead to the boat sinking. The following are factors that are known to increase the risk of boats capsizing.

1. Boat Size

Of the reported 327 capsizing incidents, 179 reports involve small boats below 16 feet in length, and 83 reports involved boats between 16 to 26 feet in length. Only 18 capsizing reports involved boats between 26 to over 65 feet in length.

Of course, there is the fact that more people use boats 26 feet long and below, which means more accidents in that group. However, it is a known fact that bigger boats do have more stability compared to small boats due to their weight and capacity.

Bigger boats are also more stable due to their hulls, which can sport more features for stability and performance.

2. Boat propulsion type

Manual propulsion for boats, which includes oars or anything operated with the hands or feet, are limited in their performance. While using them makes for a great outdoor activity, it is important to recognize the risks associated with the use of such boat propulsion.

It can be easy to get caught up in collisions and hard to keep the boat stable in turbulent waters. The speed limitation of these boats, along with human errors, can make such boats helpless. These are among the main reasons why manually-propelled boats are prone to certain types of accidents.

3. Water condition

Of the 5265 accidents reported in 2020, 1519 occurred in choppy waters. These figures include all types of accidents, including capsized boats. More turbulent waters pose greater risks.

Often, a vessel capsizes when it becomes unstable. Choppy or rough waters make it difficult to operate the boat, which can easily turn into a dangerous situation such as capsizing, and such waters can also be the reason why boats become unstable in the first place.

4. Too much weight

A boat that carries too much weight is more prone to capsizing because any weight shift can overwhelm a boat’s ability to float. Weight distribution is always important, but overloading makes the necessary balance of weight difficult to maintain.

This can affect a boat regardless of size. It is also more difficult for the boat to recover should it lose its balance and cause a capsizing.

Piecing The Puzzle

From the data we examined, it is reasonable to establish that small boats that are manually propelled are most prone to capsizing.

Small boats have less stability and are more likely to tip over from weight shifting, which may also contribute to water accumulation on the boat. Being manually propelled means it is more difficult to get through rough or turbulent waters. More easily affected by the movement of water and displaced by waves, it is easy for such boats to overturn.

Overloading is an aggravating factor, and when all 4 factors mentioned above come together, it is almost a guarantee of disaster.

Relate: What is the best way to avoid overloading your boat?

Frequently Asked Questions


1. Should we avoid using the boats mentioned in this article?

No. This just means we need to be much more careful when using such boats. Following safety protocols, knowing correct boating procedures, and giving proper attention to the task at hand should be enough to give us better chances of avoiding most boating mishaps.

2. What is the biggest contributing factor to boating accidents?

This would be operator inattention, but we also have operator inexperience and improper lookout a close second and third reason. Not just for capsized boats, these contributing factors apply to all types of boating accidents reported.

It is also useful to note that these factors also topped previous accident reports and have been consistent in reports for years.

3. What precautions should we take to prepare for incidents of capsizing boats?

Wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) is still the best way to improve our chances of surviving a capsized boat. This is something that every boat passenger should have before the boat sets out. Having emergency supplies on hand will also help.

Knowing what to do in the event of a capsizing boat is also important. One such response is to stay clear of the capsizing boat’s vicinity to avoid getting caught in its sinking. Only after properly assessing the situation should you attempt to right the boat.


Now you know a small boat below 16 feet in length, especially one propelled manually, is a recreational vessel more likely to capsize. It helps to be mindful of the factors discussed above when using small boats.

If you know of others wondering what type of boat capsizes the most, please share what you’ve learned with them as well. Should you have any comments or suggestions related to our topic, please feel free to leave them below.

Remember to boat safely.

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