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Finding a decent-sized boat without spending too much is a primary concern for anyone after a new entry-level runabout. Ally Craft’s 480 Bar Raider delivers just that, and with a little polishing it could be a real diamond




Buying economical entry-level boats is no different to buying something much more upmarket. The only difference is the size of the rig - and the size of the hole in your bank account. You still need to buy into a boat that's going to serve your particular purpose as closely as possible.
If you're looking for an affordable general-purpose aluminium boat, a good one to start with is the 480 Bar Raider from Ally Craft. It's a handy little family runabout with plenty of potential.
Open forward-control alloy runabouts under five metres still make up the lion's share of the trailerboat market, and for good reason: they're affordable and can comfortably take mum and a couple of kids out for a morning of fishing, skiing or a picnic on a secret beach somewhere. They're easily stored, cleaned, maintained and handled by relatively inexperienced boaters, and there's always demand for them on the second-hand market.
I say this runabout shows potential because the particular craft we got our hands on would have greatly benefited from closer attention to detail in the finish and a more careful fit-up.
That said, a new 4.8m boat with a 60hp four-stroke motor on a walkaround trailer with a few necessary options like a canopy and GPS/sounder for about $22,000 represents a lot of boat for your money. But we did uncover some easily fixed problems with this particular rig, which stopped a good entry-level package from being a great one.




The helm on the 480 is positioned well forward, leaving plenty of room in the cockpit for setting up a couple of camp chairs for fishing back over the stern in comfort. Or you could drop one of those fibreglass iceboxes into the middle of the cockpit and sit on that.
The disadvantage of having the helm so far forward is that the floor in front of the driver and passenger seats slopes up from the keel to the chines in the bow. This did not present a problem when seated to drive, but on many occasions you want to stand up to drive, and an angled floor can make this uncomfortable.
The optional canopy was not fitted with a zip-out section either, but instead was clipped down onto the windscreen for protection; so stand-up driving is ruled out unless you choose to install a different canopy or take it off altogether.
The dash setup was neat and comprised a fibreglass module with two brows: one in front of the skipper holding the engine instrumentation and an Eagle Cuda 240 GPS/sonar combination; and the other in front of the passenger, where a radio could be fitted. Not all alloy boats of this size have fibreglass dash inserts, and it was a nice inclusion.
A deep rebate in the middle of the dash granted access to the short foredeck with anchor well and bowroller once you open out the centre section of the windscreen. This felt like a safe place to be in rough water, and it wasn't much of a reach to the anchor thanks to the cut-out in the dash.




Keeping the overall package cost down in an entry-level boat like this is important if it's going to compete, but there's still some equipment on boats that shouldn't be compromised.
Being able to steer a boat comfortably is critical, and nothing spoils an otherwise great-handling rig than a poor-quality steering system. An investment of a few more hundred bucks for a hydraulic steering system can really make driving a pleasure and not a chore.
This boat had a mechanical system fitted, which is normal for a boat of this size, but it had an incessant loud squeak that would drive you nuts after a while. It sounded like plastic-on-plastic, so the problem could have been the base of the wheel against the mount section. In any case, the amount of torque generated by the 60hp Mercury four-stroke appeared too much for the system to handle, and steering was uncomfortable.
When releasing a new model, it can take a bit of fiddling to get the engine mounted correctly on the transom - and to find the right prop for the hull and motor combination. The test boat's engine needed to be dropped down another bolthole on the transom, and perhaps have a different propeller installed.
We'd be keen to revisit this boat once these glitches have been ironed out, because as presented, the boat's performance was disappointing.
Trimmed right in, the engine got the boat planing without fuss. But the propeller cavitated both in a straight line and during turns once the motor was trimmed out a bit for a more efficient plane. Because of the negative trim needed to stop the cavitation, the bow ploughed into the chop and we couldn't properly evaluate the ride and handling when the boat was correctly trimmed.
Top speed at 5600rpm was just on 50kmh.




The remote-control box installation also needed attention, as when pulling back to neutral a "notch" was found, allowing the gears in the outboard leg to remain slightly touching.
The actual neutral position was further aft on the control and its general performance was unacceptably stiff. Again, this problem is easily fixed at installation time.
I found the finish on the hull to be less than acceptable. Pipe handrails that had been docked with a saw still had burrs evident, and plastic end caps for tubing wouldn't go astray either. It would add but a few cents to the final price, but it would go a long way towards making the rig smarter.
While it sounds like we've had a real bitch here, in reality these are slight problems concerning outboard installation and control-box setup, which needs to be spot-on to make the hull perform. The only real design aspect to mar an otherwise practical little river and bay runabout is the deck angle at the helm seat. Perhaps it won't bother most buyers, but I like the freedom to stand and drive when navigating over shallow or choppy water.
If these quality-control issues are quickly addressed, we see no reason why this boat would not make an excellent value-for-money package: the hull is built strongly; the four-stroke outboard was clean, quiet and economical; and the boat was stable and had nice high sides for security. Just add water!




* Plenty of cockpit space for a boat of this length
* Good stability
* Plenty of boat for the money




* Excessive engine cavitation on test boat
* Remote box overly stiff
* Deck angle at helm makes stand-up driving uncomfortable
* Some aspects of the finish need attention




Specifications: Ally Craft Bar Raider 480




Price as tested: $22,900
Options fitted: Four-stroke outboard, canopy, clears, sounder/GPS, bilge pump, compass, deluxe walkaround trailer
Priced from: About $21,000 with Mercury 60hp four-stroke




Material: Aluminium
Length (overall): 4.9m
Beam: 2.25m
Deadrise: 18°
Weight: 320kg (hull only)




Rec/max hp: 60/80
Fuel: 65lt underfloor
Passengers: Five adults




Make/model: Mercury F60
Type: Four-cylinder four-stroke
Rated hp: 60
Displacement: 995cc
Weight: 112kg
Gearbox ratio: 1.83:1
Propeller: 13in aluminium




Cunningham Marine, 279-287 Oxley Ave, Redcliffe, Qld, tel (07) 3284 2342, email or visit



Originally published in TrailerBoat #189

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