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Which model boat kits are best?

Building model boats is a great way for hobbyists of any age to learn patience, engineering and dexterity in a single assembly kit. These challenging models can come in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes, from 18th century galleons to modern warships.

Whether you want a fun activity to keep you occupied for a day or a month, a model boat kit is a worthwhile investment. The Tamiya Models US Navy PBR31 Mk.II is the top pick because it’s detailed, expertly crafted and historically accurate. 

What to know before you buy a model boat kit

Types of model boat kits

There are several different types of model boat kits to choose from. Some child-friendly kits feature pieces that are easily clipped together without glue, while others have laser-cut pieces made of sharp metal or wood. 

  • Clip assembly: These model boat kits typically use pieces of metal or plastic that can be easily clipped together without glue. These kits are perfectly suited for young model hobbyists or beginners.
  • Glue assembly: These kits are often very challenging and can feature hundreds of small parts that need to be painted and glued together. This type of kit can be time-consuming but is very satisfying to complete.
  • Wooden assembly: Perhaps the most difficult type of model boat kit to tackle, wooden assembly kits are uncommon and often require additional skill beyond normal assembly, like wood carving or intricate paintwork. 

Model boat building tips

  • Read the instructions. A piece of advice that can’t be stressed enough, reading the instruction manual could be the sole deciding factor between a successful model and an unsuccessful one. Many experienced hobbyists read through the entire manual before they even start the build. 
  • Use a workspace with plenty of light. The pieces in a model boat kit can be extremely small and detailed, so naturally you’ll need to assemble them in a space with lots of light. If your workspace doesn’t get sufficient natural light, consider purchasing a lamp with an adjustable neck that can be pointed at particular spots on your model. 
  • Consider a model tool kit. Many of the pieces in certain model boat kits are too small to precisely attach or paint without assistance. Model tool kits can be helpful because they contain smaller versions of commonly used tools like screwdrivers, pliers and tweezers. 

What to look for in a quality model boat kit


Model boats can be either static or radio-controlled. Similar to the technology found in drones, radio-controlled boats are actually built to be placed and maneuvered on the water. These models usually use some kind of small, battery-powered motor and are more expensive than static model kits.


Some model boats are only a few inches long, while others can take up an entire dining room table. Check out the model’s dimensions before purchasing and consider where you plan to display the boat once it’s assembled. 


Certain model boats feature moving parts like revolving turrets and adjustable sails. Look for this feature if you want a particularly realistic finished product. 

Other accessories

Look closely at each model boat kit before settling on a particular product. Many kits come with a ton of accessories, like display cases, miniature figurines and even LED lights to make your model boat feel extra authentic. 

How much you can expect to spend on a model boat kit

The price of a model boat kit can vary dramatically depending on the quality of the parts and the type of assembly. Most models dwell in the $20-$100 range, but many particularly elaborate and radio-controlled kits can be $100 or more. 

Model boat kit FAQ

What age range are model boat kits suitable for? 

A. Many kits come with a suggested age range. If your kit doesn’t, look at the amount of parts included and read customer reviews to determine if it’s the right kit for you. 

What kind of paint and glue should I use for my model boat kit? 

A. Acrylic is a commonly used paint for models, and many hobbyists use a combination of white glue and superglue, depending on the part. If your vessel is seaworthy, make sure that the paint and glue are waterproof. 

What’s the best model boat kit to buy?

Top model boat kit

Tamiya Models US Navy PBR31 Mk.II

Tamiya Models US Navy PBR31 Mk.II

What you need to know: This detailed kit comes with moveable parts, figurines and a display stand. 

What you’ll love: Modeled after a Vietnam-era patrol boat, this model boat kit comes with loads of accessories and enough detail to satisfy both novices and experienced hobbyists. The boat is 11 inches long at a 1/35 scale. 

What you should consider: Some users felt that the instructions were difficult to understand. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top model boat kit for the money

Revell USS Missouri Battleship

Revell USS Missouri Battleship

What you need to know: This affordable model boat is detailed yet straightforward enough for beginners. 

What you’ll love: Modeled after a historical World War II-era battleship, this model kit is loaded with moving parts, including elevating guns, moveable turrets and two seaplanes. The kit also comes with a display stand and nameplate. 

What you should consider: The parts aren’t particularly durable, according to some users.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Academy R.M.S. Titanic Centenary Edition

Academy R.M.S. Titanic Centenary Edition

What you need to know: This model of the famously doomed passenger ship comes pre-painted. 

What you’ll love: This 1/700 scale model of the R.M.S. Titanic is loaded with intricate details for heightened realism. All the pieces come pre-painted for convenience and the model boat kit comes with authentic decals and a high-quality display stand. 

What you should consider: The pieces are incredibly small, so a model tool kit is strongly recommended. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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