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Mastercraft vs Malibu: Who Makes The Best Wake Boats?

If you’re in the market for your first boat new or used, you may feel at first like there’s a huge range of options with many boat builders offering an ever-increasing number of features and options.

However, at the 5-year mark is where high-end boats from top brands like Mastercraft, Malibu (and others) stand out from the pack in terms of craftsmanship and materials.

Mastercraft and Malibu are two leading names in wake and surf boats. They are generally considered equivalent for build quality, reliability, fit and finish, value for money, and quality of wake/wave. Mastercraft has a slight edge for rough water handling a slightly better surf system.

See also:
What’s the best Malibu boat for wake/surf ?
What’s the best Mastercraft boat for wake/surf ?
Mastercraft vs Nautique – which to choose?

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Mastercraft vs Malibu: boats specs

These are the specs for 4 of the most popular Mastercraft wake & surf boats – X22, XT23, NXT22, and XStar:

Mastercraft x22
X22
Mastercraft XT23
XT23
Mastercraft NXT22
NXT22
Mastercraft XStar
XStar
Hull length22′ 4″23′ 4″22′23′
Beam102″102″99″102″
Draft30″30″28″32″
Max people16161416
Weight5500 lbs5250 lbs4300 lbs5800 lbs
Weight capacity2250 lbs2500 lbs2312 lbs2400 lbs
Max ballast3550 lbs3300 lbs2150 lbs4100 lbs
Fuel capacity68.5 Gal79 Gal49 Gal76 Gal
Price from$161K$129K$86K$177K
Mastercraft wake boat specs

Here are the specs for two uber-popular Malibu wake and surf boats – the 23 LSV and the 20 VTX:

Malibu 23LSV
23 LSV
malibu 20 vtx
20 VTX

23 MXZ
Hull length23’20’23′
Beam102″98″102″
Draft32″27″32″
Max people151116
Weight5200 lbs3500 lbs5400 lbs
Weight capacity2115 lbs1551 lbs2256 lbs
Max ballast4250 lbs3585 lbs4670 lbs
Fuel capacity65 Gal39 Gal58 Gal
Price from$121K$106K$135K
Malibu wake boat specs

Factors to consider for choosing a Mastercraft or Malibu boat

When buying a used boat, even more important than the brand are considerations like how well the current owner maintains the boat, where the boat is stored, and how much distance the boat has been trailered.

For both new and used boats, an essential factor is the proximity and quality of the dealer you will be taking the boat to for maintenance and repair – assuming you wont DIY.

When buying a used boat, be aware that you’ll begin to see some small signs of wear at about 400 hours. Some boats come with thin vinyl that quickly starts to rip. Boats with abundant wood often start to have screws coming out on the transom locker.

With regards to the boat brand and model to choose, you need to consider whether you’ll be primarily using the boat for wakeboarding, surfing, skiing, or just hanging out.

The size is also a key factor depending on how many people you plan to have in the boat. While bigger boats can fit more passengers, they are generally harder to tow and store away and often don’t drive as smoothly as smaller ones.

Mastercraft vs Malibu: durability

The general consensus is that Malibu and Mastercraft boats are comparable in terms of durability. It’s quite common to see Mastercraft boats with 1150 hours on the engine still running without issues.

Likewise, Malibu VLX multi-owners often report their boats being trouble free for long durations. 2005 VLX boats are commonly kept for 7+ years and 500 hours with near zero issue.

Engine reliability is very comparable between older Bus and MCs, as both typically came with Indmar engines with similar wiring.

When it comes to interior, owners tend to agree Malibu has a bit of an upper hand, with older Malibus often holding up better than younger Mastercrafts with 300 fewer hours – even though they’ve been used and maintained the same way.

That said, some owners report still having the original vinyl on their 18-year old Mastercraft, with only a little reupholstering needed on a bench or two.

Malibu vs Mastercraft: rough water handling

Many boaters feel Mastercraft boats handle rough water better than Malibus due to the way their hull is designed: most classic Mastercraft models carry the V to the rear

As a result, MC boats like the X2, X25, X35, or X45 ride a lot better in rough water than the Malibu, handling like heavier boats. The X23 is known to have a very deep V and hence handles chop quite well.

Malibus on the other hand, tend to have flatter hulls compared to MCs, being completely flat in the rear. This results in a very nice and clean wake at low speed (e.g. for wakesurfing) but also a bit rougher feel on the water.

A good example is the Malibu 23LSV which handles great overall but pretty rough in choppy waters due to the lack of deep V in its hull.

Mastercraft vs Malibu interior design

Except perhaps for a couple of years with poor quality vinyl, Malibu and Mastercraft both tend to have outstandingly durable interiors.

Boat owners generally agree the vinyl in Malibus tends to outlast that of Mastercraft. This especially applies to models in the 2000 to 2010 year range, where a lot more MC boats suffered from vinyl cracking than Bus.

Starting 2008 – 2008, Mastercraft started including billet aluminum accents, snap out carpet (some models), diamond stitched interiors, as well as great sound components such as JL Stereo.

Malibu, on the other hand, chose to kept the lines simple and elegant. While Mastercraft had one-piece molded top decks, Malibu’s distinct build approach made their cabins a lot quieter with respect to engine noise.

Malibu also used Solarfix, one of the best and most expensive threads for marine, highly stain and cut resistant. Mastercraft used Tenara thread, also a high-end marine thread, as well as highly durable French seams for nearly every seam in their boats.

Mastercraft started using a gel coat floor in many models before Malibu did, which can be a big plus vs a carpeted boat after a few years.

Besides carpet, some of the cons owners of older (e.g. 2014) Malibu LSV sometimes mention are the gas shocks blocking access to storage, flip up seats leaving storage wide open, or low ballast taking up all the bow storage.

Nevertheless, most people in the boating community rave about the fit and finish of Malibu boats.

Mastercraft vs Malibu: wake & surf wave

The following are the results of field testing conducted by Guinn Partners for comparing the wave quality of the MC XT21 vs the Malibu 20VTX (comparable rider, gear, and setup):

Mastercraft XT21Malibu 20VTX
Wave length18′22′
Wave height2.5′4.1′
Pocket size33 sq ft86 sq ft
Face quality5/109/10
source: Guinn Partners

Based on the above results, the 20VTX seems to produce a better wave than the MC XT21.

Different models yield different results for wakeboarding or wakesurfing. An early 2000s Malibu 21 LSV with 1500lbs of ballast and a wedge tends to create a wake that’s very nice to wakeboard but harder to surf.

The Malibu 23 LSV offers a nice surf wave, however the Surf Gate and wedge are quite bulky, making it harder to drive at slow speed.

In contrast to Malibu boats, Mastercrafts don’t have the wedge, so their wake is consistently steeper. On a Malibu, by removing the wedge you have the option to make the wake softer, which is good for learners. MC boats lack this option.

Mastercraft Gen 2 Surf System vs Malibu Surf Gate

Tests performed by Utah Watersports comparing Mastercraft’s and Malibu’s surf systems give the Gen 2 an advantage over Malibu’s Surf Gate in term of wake size.

The wakes produced by the different boats used in the tests didn’t have a significant difference in length. “Normal” surfers were able to ride as far as 18 feet away from the boat with both the Gen 2 and the Surf Gate.

However, the wave produced by Mastercraft’s Gen2 offers more push compared to the Surf Gate system across boat sizes.

You can learn more about wave push here.

Malibu vs Mastercraft: pricing and resale

Used Mastercraft and Malibu models from good years can be found for a $40K – $50K budget.

MC and Malibu boats hold their value quite well. Case in point, it’s common for a early 2000s VLX boat to loose less than 3000$ after 7 years of usage. An early 2010s Mastercraft X45 will typically sell in two weeks at the market value.

Conclusion

Choosing between a Malibu or Mastercraft is like flipping a coin. Both brands build very good boats, but you need to look at are the boat’s condition and its maintenance records.

It’s a good idea to speak to the dealer where the boat was maintained. If the dealer is familiar with the boat, they will be able to service it a lot faster in case of a problem, so less boating time will be lost.

Most of all, make sure you drive the boat and inspect every feature in detail: open and test the compartments, board racks, cooler, set up the table, pylon, bimini, and tower, adjust the seat and wheel etc