The 10 Best Stern Lights
This wiki has been updated 12 times since it was first published in June of 2019. If you enjoy taking your boat out for a spin after the sun goes down, it's important to make sure you're as visible as possible. These stern lights will alert other vessels of your presence before it's too late, while also helping you spot potential dangers in the water behind you. We've included a variety of options, such as pole-mounted, portable, and lantern-style models. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 12, 2020:
Today we added in the Attwood 6556-7, a transom light with a low-profile, electropolished stainless steel cover that holds up well to the elements. Its surface-mount design makes it easy to install, and it snaps in securely without the need for exposed fasteners. This 1-1/2-watt choice measures three inches in diameter and is compatible with both Attwood and Perko mounting holes. Its LED is rated for more than 50,000 hours of use, and it’s backed by a 10-year warranty. This highly rated navigation light provides a three-nautical mile range of visibility in a 135-degree radius, and replaces the Total Marine 304 on our list, which only provides a 120-degree beam angle. We’re still partial to the Perko Inland-Series, an all-round model that can be seen well by other boats from any angle, and its tall 42-inch height helps ensure you won’t dazzle yourself or others with its brightness. It incorporates a stylish, clear fluted globe with a sturdy black housing, set atop a durable stow-away plug-in pole. For a conveniently foldable all-round light, check out the Shoreline Marine SL23938. Although it’s made to be mounted permanently, you can simply fold it down during the day or while transporting your craft. This low-maintenance choice features an adapter that lets you install it easily to both flat and angled surfaces. Those looking for an option that is easy to move from boat to boat should consider the Bright Eyes Portable, which come in a set of two, and they can be set to solid, strobing, and slowly blinking modes to help ensure you can see and be seen on the water. They consist of water-resistant LEDs and are well suited for pontoon and fishing boats, as well as kayaks. They conveniently come with four extra batteries, so you’ll always have some on hand when they’re needed.
For safety’s sake, make sure your lights comply with U.S. Coast Guard requirements for your size of boat. This applies to your white stern lights, as well as green and red sidelights for the starboard and port sides. Any projects that involve hardwired installation of lights on your watercraft are best left to a licensed marine electrician.
June 24, 2019:
The Total Marine 304 requires a little bit of installation work, but it's nevertheless one of our favorite models, as the end result is sleek, attractive, and unobtrusive. Of course, the effort required to put it in makes it unsuitable for rentals, or for boats that you're not planning to own for very long.
For those, something like the Innovative Lighting Inc or Bright Eyes Portable would be a better choice. These are easy to remove and reinstall as needed, and are still capable of making your boat clearly visible.
Ultimately, the Perko Inland Series earned our top spot, even though it doesn't necessarily boast as many features as some of the competition. It's simply a well-made light, brightly visible and yet unlikely to blind you accidentally, thanks to the frosted globe. The fact that it won't lure thousands of mosquitoes to your position is a nice touch as well.
Lopolight Pro-I There's virtually no weather that will impair this model, as sub-zero temperatures will trigger its automatic defroster function. It's completely submersible, too, so don't worry about a rogue wave taking it out. lopolight.com
Perko Vertical Mount Made of chrome-plated brass, this light would make an attractive and durable addition to any watercraft, including sailboats. It's flush-mounted, so it won't be in your way as you move around on deck. perko.com
Hella Marine NaviLED Pro There's no bulb inside this unit that can get damaged in rough waters. It's designed to handle extreme voltage fluctuations with little draw on the battery, so it should always be brightly lit when you need it most. hellamarine.com