What is a Pontoon Boat?
Written by Carolyn Jackson
Table of Contents
In this article, we are going to cover everything you might want to know about pontoon boats. From popular brands to price to what makes a pontoon float on water, this article will answer all your burning questions about this family-friendly and endlessly fun type of boat in one place.
Not sure if a pontoon is exactly right for you? If you are still considering which type of boat best suits you, check out our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Boat to get a better idea of all the types of boats that are currently available.
What is a Pontoon Boat?
Pontoons are one of the most popular inland water boats. They are flat, rectangular boats, which feature a wide and spacious area for passengers to move about. The pontoons contain a significant amount of buoyancy, allowing pontoon designers to create massive decks fitted with tons of additions and luxuries, like bars, lounge chairs, slides, etc. This makes pontoons extremely popular for families or larger groups of people. They are often considered “party boats” because they frequently come souped-up with LED lights, enhanced sound systems, tables for eating and drinking or playing games, built-in coolers, and lots of space.
Pontoons are widely used for cruising inland lakes in the warmer months, but they are also a great boat for fishing and even water sports. You can easily fish off the side or dock of a pontoon and they can easily tow water-tubers, kneeboarders or skiers behind.
What Makes a Pontoon a Pontoon?
Pontoons are recognizable by their flat top and two canoe-like floating devices on their underside. These two canoes allow the boat to be extremely buoyant, giving pontoons the ability to be larger, carry more people, and have more updates and accessories aboard. They are usually between 14 and 30 feet in length. The ‘pontoons’ on the underside of the boat are airtight and hollow, creating buoyancy required to float.
Pontoons are desirable because they are not only a cost-effective boating option, but they are almost endlessly customizable due to their ability to bear heavier loads and perform similarly to a ski boat.
How Much Does a Pontoon Boat Cost?
Pontoon cost is all about the length of the boat and the seemingly endless array of add ons and upgrades you can have customized for your boat. Most new pontoons will cost you somewhere between $30K and $60K, but that price can climb once you start with accessories and upgrades. Some pontoon brands do start with a higher NAP (Nationally Advertised Pricing), like Bennington, so arm yourself with a budget and stick to it when you begin your pricing research.
Pontoons are one of the most popular inland water boats. They are flat, rectangular boats, which feature a wide and spacious area for passengers to move about. They float with two pontoons attached to the bottom of the boat (they look like canoes). The pontoons contain a significant amount of buoyancy, allowing pontoon designers to create massive deck space fitted with tons of additions and luxuries, like bars, lounge chairs, slides, etc. Pontoons range from 15ft-30ft and are often thought of as party boats.
For more information on how much other types of boats might cost, take a look at our How Much is a Boat article.
Who Makes Pontoon Boats?
There are dozens of pontoon boat manufacturers. Some of them build high-end, luxury pontoon boats while others build simpler, more economical pontoon boats.
Some Pontoon Boat Manufacturers:
- Aqua Patio
- Avalon Luxury Pontoons
- Berkshire Pontoons
- Crest Pontoons
- Crestliner Boats
- Cypress Cay
- Forest River Marine
- G3 Boats
- Godfrey Marine
- Harris FloteBote
- Larson Boats
- Lund Boat Company
- Lund Boats
- Lowe Boats
- Manitou Pontoon Boats
- Misty Harbor Boats
- Monark Marine
- Montego Bay
- Play Craft Boats
- Pond King
- Premier Pontoons
- Regency Pontoons
- Smoker Craft
- South Bay Pontoons
- Starcraft Marine
- Sun Tracker
- Tahoe Pontoons
- Trifecta Boats
- Veranda Marine
- Weeres Pontoons
How Much Does a Pontoon Weigh?
A typical pontoon weighs between 1,600lbs and 3,000lbs without the motor.
|Brand||Model||Low Weight (lb)||High Weight (lb)|
|Harris||Grand Mariner 250||3,526||4,061|
|Sweetwater||SR Cruise||1,450||No change|
Note: all example weights are listed in pounds and as dry weight (eg: no engine or fluids loaded)
As we all know, few things in life are easy, and although the weight listed above is a great guess, it does depend on a few factors. We want you to have all the knowledge possible on pontoons, so here are some additional details on pontoon weight.
The weight depends on the size of the boat. A 20-foot pontoon will likely weigh less than a 30-foot pontoon. Weight also depends on engine size and type. Some engines are heavier and some are lighter. If you have a dual engine, you can expect to see a heavier pounds on the pontoon.
There is also something called dry weight and wet weight. Dry weight is the weight of the pontoon without gas, a cooler of beer, people, gadgets and accessories, oils, etc. Be sure to note if the advertised weight online or at a boat show is dry weight because this number is somewhat unrealistic as you will likely never empty all your tanks.
The last piece of information about pontoon weight that is important is the capacity weight. Because pontoons are typically used for larger groups of people and can carry more weight, you need to be careful to know the weight capacity limits for your pontoon and not exceed them with people, amenities, or gear.
How Wide is a Pontoon?
A pontoon is usually between 8 feet and 11 feet wide. Compared to other boats, 8-11 feet is pretty large. Pontoons can comfortably fit anywhere from 9-18 people. A wider width means you might need more support from additional canoes. Some pontoons even have 3 floating canoes on the underside of the boat.
|Avalon||Excalibur Elite Tritoon||29 foot||8 ft 5 in|
|Barletta||C24UC||24 foot||8 ft 6 in|
|Bennington||30 RSR||31 foot||10 ft|
|Harris||Sunliner 230 CWDH||32 foot||8 ft 5 in|
|Lowe||SF 323||29 foot||8 ft 5 in|
|Starcraft||SLS||35 foot||8 ft 5 in|
What is Tube Diameter?
We’ve referred to them as “canoes” or as “pontoons”, but sometimes they are simply called “tubes” as well. When searching for a pontoon, you might come across talk of “tube diameter”. For reference, the tubes are the extremely buoyant round pieces you see under the deck (on the hull) of a pontoon. They are what allow the boat to float. Standard pontoons have two tubes, but there is growing popularity for “tri-toons”, which have 3 interconnected tubes on the bottom of the deck.
Pontoon tubes typically come in a diameter range of 23” to 30”. The larger the tubes on the boat, the more weight the pontoon can hold. This increases the passenger capacity and also adds stability and comfort to the boat. Adding larger tubes will increase the cost of your pontoon, but there are definitely some worthwhile benefits.
What is a Tri-Toon?
Traditional pontoons, which were popularized in the 1960s, were always built with two tubes. However, this made pontoons less stable and unable to make sharper turns and reach higher speeds. A few decades later, boat manufacturers started to experiment with adding a third tube to the middle of the pontoon’s hull. This had two main benefits: 1) increased stability, 2) increased speed. Pontoons with three tubes have increased horsepower, which means they can go faster and become a great option for watersports and towing.
Another benefit of a tri-toon is the capability of adding two outboard engines, increasing the boat’s horsepower even more. Additionally, tri-toons are physically larger in width, and therefore can carry more passengers and add more features. Lastly, a third tube adds stability and comfort to the boat so it is a more pleasant ride, a more agile boat, and a more capable boat.
Tri-toons have a larger fuel tank, which means they guzzle more gallons, but also that each fill-up will last you longer. Tri-toons are also going to cost more than a traditional two-tube pontoon.
Pro Tip: Why Would I Choose a Tri-Toon Over a Two-Tube Model?
A tri-toon is best suited for those who want to cruise the lake with top speeds in the 40s and 50s. Tri-toons also have more horsepower and weight capacity, so they are excellent for large groups of people and for activities like watersports that require towing (ex: skiing, tubing, kneeboarding, wakeboarding, etc.) If your intention is to cruise the lake comfortably and you are okay without every bell and whistle available, then a pontoon will be just fine.
How Fast Does a Pontoon Go?
A typical pontoon will travel comfortably on the water in the 18-25mph range. One advantage of a pontoon is that, because of their design, they can climb above the water and plane almost immediately when accelerating.
There are some strategies you can implement if you want your pontoon to go faster:
- Lower the bimini cover
- Add a second engine
- Lighten the boat’s load
- Make sure the tubes are clean
- Add an under skinning
ProTip: What is Underskinning?
Underskinning is adding an aluminum sheet to the tubes on your pontoon’s hull. This will decrease drag and reduce water-spray, which will help increase your boat’s acceleration and speed.
As we discussed earlier, a tri-toon can get up to speeds in the 40s and 50s when conditions are optimal, so if speed or towing are your goals, a tri-toon is definitely going to be worth investigating.
Although, the two-tube pontoons average speed and horsepower is usually enough to get a boat out of the water and tow a passenger for watersports. 18-25mph is faster than you might think when you are on the water.
How to Dock a Pontoon?
Cliche or not, practice makes perfect is true in this case. Docking a pontoon isn’t a skill many of us are blessed with naturally, but it is definitely possible to become a pro with some practice and knowledge.
Here are some things to keep in mind when docking a pontoon:
- Use buoys on the side of the boar
- These will prevent knicks, dents, and scratches from running into a dock or other boats while you are still learning
- Have others direct you
- This is probably the most effective way to make sure you are on track and lined up to dock
- Get familiar with the boat’s reverse function
- It’s not like a car, but it is just as useful in this scenario
- Take a moment to consider the conditions of the water and air
- Are there waves? Is there a lot of wind? Take these into account when making decisions during docking
- Get to know your pontoon
- Each pontoon is a different size, weight, horsepower, etc. — become familiar with your boat’s dimensions and power capabilities so you don’t make any avoidable mistakes
Pontoons are some of the most versatile and fun boats for cruising the open waters. They allow limitless options for personalization and are one of the best ways to spend a day out on the water with all your closest friends and families. You can grill out, listen to music, ski, or just put the anchor down and float. Whatever you prefer, pontoons are a boat that will definitely create memories. This guide to pontoons hopefully aided you during your purchase journey and provided insight into some of the more common questions and concerns for pontoon owners.
When you are ready to browse available inventory, take a look at GoRollick to see new and used pontoon inventory from dealers in your local area.
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