When buying a tender, often it is the bits glued on to the inflatable that make the difference both in cost and practicality. Here are some things to look for

Lifelines: should extend full length and be well secured at frequent intervals.
Towing eyes: one either side of the bow is best for stable towing with a painter eye on the bow itself.
Davit eyes: if the tender is to be stowed in davits it needs secure strops taken to internal eyes which balance the boat.
Transom: an alloy transom is lightest and most durable.
Seats: a well-positioned rowing thwart is essential. Inflatable seats are comfortable and can be moved slightly to accommodate long or short legs. Rigid seats can have stowage pockets underneath.
Oars: the forgotten art. Perfection is a long, strong shaft, curved blade, secure, universally jointed rowlocks, and easy stowing clips.
Splash and spray protection: a rubbing strip deflects spray, splash guards along the top of the tube and between transom and tube keep solid water at bay.
Handles: two strong, comfortable lifting handles at the stern are essential. Two more at the bow are desirable.
Securing strap: essential if you have a remote tank or to strap down heavy items. Make sure the floor is protected in that area too.
Stowage: somewhere to keep the shopping and spare cloths dry is essential. The usual options are an under-seat bag, bow bag and/or bow spray dodger. The bigger the better.
Pumps: air-bed floors need high pressure pumps (up to 11psi) so make sure you have the best and most efficient pump you can get hold of.
Chafe protection: Make sure the bottom and sides of the tubes and the centreline, at least, have extra protection.

This article was first published in Your Yacht 2006