Some of the earliest known amphibious vehicles were amphibious carriages, the invention of which is credited to the notorious Neapolitan Prince Raimondo di Sangro of Sansevero () or Sir Samuel Bentham (1781).
The first known self-propelled amphibious vehicle, a steam-powered wheeled dredging barge, named the , was conceived and built by United States inventor in 1805, although it is disputed to have successfully travelled over land or water under its own steam .
Although it is unclear who (and where and when) built the first combustion-engined amphibian, in all likelihood the development of powered amphibious vehicles didn't start until 1899. Until the late 1920s the efforts to unify a boat and an mostly came down to simply putting wheels and axles on a boat hull, or getting a rolling to float by blending a boat-like hull with the car's frame (Pohl, 1998). One of the first reasonably well documented cases was the 1905 amphibious petrol-powered carriage of T. Richmond (Jessup, Iowa, USA). Just like the world's (1885, Carl Benz) it was a three-wheeler. The single front wheel provided direction, both on land and in the water. A three-cylinder petrol combustion-engine powered the oversized rear wheels. In order to get the wheels to provide propulsion in the water, fins or buckets would be attached to the rear wheel spokes. Remarkably the boat-like hull was one of the first integral bodies ever used on a car (Pohl, 1998).
Since the 1920s development of amphibious vehicles greatly diversified. Numerous designs have been created for a broad range of applications, including recreation, expeditions, search & rescue, and military, leading to a myriad of concepts and variants. In some of them the amphibious capabilities are central to their purpose, whereas in others they are only an expansion to what has remained primarily a watercraft or a land vehicle.