What are the best model ship kits?

Building model ships is a great way for hobbyists of all ages to learn patience, engineering, and dexterity in one building 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 occupy you for a day or a month, a model ship kit is a worthwhile investment. The Tamiya Models US Navy PBR31 Mk.II is the top choice because it is detailed, expertly crafted and historically accurate.

What to know before buying a model ship kit

Types of model ships

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

  • Clip assembly: These model ships usually use metal or plastic parts that can be easily clipped together without glue. These kits are ideal for young hobbyist or beginner modellers.
  • Glue Assembly: These kits are often very difficult and can contain hundreds of small parts that need to be painted and glued together. This type of kit can be time consuming but very satisfying to complete.
  • Wooden assembly: Perhaps the most difficult type of model ship kit to tackle, wooden assembly kits are rare and often require additional skills beyond normal assembly, such as wood carving or intricate painting .

Tips for Building Model Ships

  • Read the instructions. A tip that cannot be overemphasized, reading the instruction manual might be the only deciding factor between a successful model and an unsuccessful one. Many experienced hobbyists read the entire manual before they even begin building.
  • Use a work space with plenty of light. The parts of a model ship kit can be extremely small and detailed, so naturally you will need to assemble them in a brightly lit space. If your workspace doesn’t get enough natural light, consider buying a lamp with an adjustable neck that can be pointed at particular spots on your model.
  • Consider a model toolkit. Many parts of some model ship kits are too small to be attached or accurately painted without help. Model tool kits can be useful because they contain smaller versions of commonly used tools like screwdrivers, pliers, and tweezers.

What to Look for in a Quality Model Ship Kit

Radio controlled

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


Some boat models are only a few centimeters long, while others can take up an entire dining room table. Check the dimensions of the model before buying and think about where you plan to display the boat once assembled.


Some boat models feature moving parts like rotating turrets and adjustable sails. Look for this feature if you want a particularly realistic finished product.

Other accessories

Take a close look at each model ship kit before settling on a particular product. Many kits come with a ton of accessories, like display cases, miniature figures, and even LED lights to make your model ship more authentic.

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

The price of a model ship kit can vary greatly depending on the quality of the parts and the type of assembly. Most models are between $20 and $100, but many particularly elaborate, radio-controlled kits can cost $100 or more.

Model Ship Kit FAQs

What age group are model ships suitable for?

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

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

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

What is the best model ship kit to buy?

Premium Boat Kit

Tamiya US Navy PBR31 Mk.II Models

What do you want to know: This detailed kit comes with moving parts, figures and a display stand.

What you will love: Inspired by a Vietnamese-era patrol boat, this boat model kit comes with plenty of accessories and enough detail to satisfy novices and experienced hobbyists alike. The boat is 11 inches long in 1/35 scale.

What you should consider: Some users found the instructions difficult to understand.

Or buy: Sold by Amazon

Top of the line boat kit for the money

Battleship Revell USS Missouri

Battleship Revell USS Missouri

What do you want to know: This affordable boat model is detailed yet simple enough for beginners.

What you will love: Inspired by a historic WWII battleship, this model kit is loaded with moving parts, including elevating guns, moving 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.

Or buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Academy RMS Titanic Centenary Edition

Academy RMS Titanic Centenary Edition

What do you want to know: This model of the famous doomed passenger ship comes pre-painted.

What you will love: This 1/700 scale model of the RMS Titanic is packed with intricate detail for heightened realism. All parts are pre-painted for convenience and the model ship kit comes complete with authentic decals and a high quality display stand.

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

Or buy: Sold by Amazon

Do you want to buy the best products at the best prices? Check out the daily deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the weekly BestReviews newsletter for helpful tips on new products and great deals.

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

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.