Are you looking to buy a pontoon boat? There is a wide variety of pontoon boats in the market today, which can make it quite hard to choose the best one.
Today, pontoon boats are designed as great-looking watercrafts, with spacious room for more fun when sailing with family and friends.
They are highly versatile and run smoothly in different water bodies to provide unmatched comfort and enjoyment.
However, not all pontoon boats are perfect for everyone. Some may deliver better performance than others in particular situations.
I think it all comes down to what your needs and priorities are.
There are also several factors you need to consider when buying a pontoon boat, from size to price.
If you want to buy a perfect pontoon boat, you’ve come to the right page. Here, we’ll talk about what to look for when choosing the perfect pontoon boat for you.
How to Choose the Best Pontoon Boat for You
When buying a pontoon boat, there are several things you need to look for to ensure that you get the best one for your specific needs.
Here are the factors to consider when buying the best pontoon boat:
The first question you need to ask yourself when buying the best pontoon boat is what size is the best for you.
Think about how many passengers you’ll likely have in your boat to ensure that you get the right size for you.
The size of the water body you plan to use your boat on will also determine which boat size is the best for you.
If you plan to use your boat on small water bodies with calm water, a 17 to 19-foot boat is a great option. It will help you sail as a group of up to eight people.
Midsize options of 20 to 22-foot pontoon boats can handle lakes and big rivers, provided they don’t have large waves. They can accommodate up to 13 passengers.
For cruisers who love sailing through rough water and still have more people aboard, large boats of about 23 to 28-foot are well-suited for such endeavors.
Large boats are more stable, which makes them ideal for cruising through rougher water.
Pontoon boating is always more fun with friends and family aboard. So, be sure to get the size that allows you to cruise with your preferred passenger capacity.
Another thing about the size that you’ll want to keep in mind is that different manufacturers measure the length differently.
The best thing to do is to consider the deck length and tube length separately and compare several boats.
With a larger-size deck, you’ll have more usable space on your boat. The tube length determines the boat’s capacity and performance.
Pontoon Boat Activities
Once you decide on size, you need to think about the activities you’ll be participating in when sailing with your pontoon boat.
Pontoon boat activities can vary widely, ranging from fishing to sunbathing.
If you are passionate about fishing, you’ll need to go for a larger pontoon boat of about 22-foot to 28-foot in length. A larger boat will provide enough space for your fishing gear like rods and coolers.
However, you may want to save money and invest in a smaller pontoon boat if you plan to fish on small bodies once in a while.
An 18 to 20-foot pontoon boat can comfortably handle occasional fishing and still provide great sailing comfort and fun.
For other activities like snorkeling and swimming, you won’t have to worry about storage as you won’t need lots of it.
All you have to do is count the people you want to bring aboard to determine your ideal carrying capacity.
If you love water skiing and scuba diving, you’ll need to get a sizeable boat that will accommodate all your equipment and the people you want to have on board.
Activities that require a pontoon boat to pull objects through the water require a strong motor. Don’t go for anything less than 90 horsepower if you want to wakeboard or water ski.
Sunbathing and lounging enthusiasts should look for a pontoon boat with a larger space featured with comfortable sitting areas.
The next question you need to ask yourself is how much money you are willing to spend on a pontoon boat.
But first of all, how much do pontoon boats cost?
Well, pontoon boats’ costs vary widely, depending on brand, quality, design, and horsepower. So, I can’t state a specific price flatly for pontoon boats.
A new 20-inch pontoon boat with standard features and 50 horsepower can cost anywhere between $16,000 to $18,000 in a standard quality brand.
The same boat can sell at $20,000 to $22,000 on higher-quality brands. So, you need to explore the prices from several brands to see the cruising model that suits your needs best.
If you want a long-lasting pontoon boat with a great deck size and adequate seating space, you’ll want to invest in high-end models.
You also need to go for a higher horsepower rating as increasing the speed later might cost you lots of money.
With all that told, be sure to compare prices of similar pontoons, and go for one that offers the highest value for your money.
Used or New Pontoon Boat
New pontoon boats are great, but they can be very expensive. You can make huge savings by investing in a used pontoon boat.
You could buy your dream pontoon boat at only half the price of a brand new boat!
However, buying a second-hand pontoon boat is not always a cakewalk. And if you don’t have any experience with pontoons, it gets even more daunting as you don’t know what to check.
A few years ago, I helped my best friend buy a used pontoon boat, and she hasn’t regretted it.
If you want to get one, you may want to ask yourself these questions to ensure that you choose a boat that suits your needs best and avoid regrets.
- What is the boat’s history?
- Is the motor in good working condition to provide enough power for your boating needs?
- Is the boat appropriate for your favorite boating activities?
- Are the deck, furniture, and flooring still decent?
- Is the seating configuration, including the captain’s chair appealing and comfortable?
- What is the boat’s passenger capacity?
- Will the seller sell the boat trailer as well?
- Does the boat still have a manufacturer’s warranty?
- Does the seller provide proof of ownership?
If you can find a decent pontoon boat with a good engine size and great features, don’t hesitate to make the large purchase provided there are no red flags.
For beginners, you can always ask a professional or someone with pontoon boat experience to have a look at your to-be second hand boat before paying for it. This way, you’ll be confident knowing that you are getting a perfect boat.
On the other hand, new pontoons are unlikely to have issues.
While we all love it shiny and new, not all pontoons are the same. But it’s possible to get exactly what you want when buying a new boat.
New pontoon boats also come with a manufacturer’s warranty to back your purchase up in case anything goes wrong. You may not enjoy this with a used boat.
Whether you should buy a new pontoon boat or a used one is up to you. It all comes down to your preferences, budget, and available deals.
How do you know whether the boat’s motor is in good working condition?
First, you need to ask the seller about the number is hours put on the engine. While this shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when inspecting the motor, it’s really important, especially when buying a pre-owned boat.
If the seller can’t tell how many hours a boat has on, check whether the motor is dirty or have any signs of leaks. The presence of any of these are red signs, and you should walk away from such deals.
It also says a lot about how the boat has been maintained and may indicate that the watercraft has other issues.
In general, check the motor well just as you would when buying a new car to ensure that it runs smoothly.
Pontoon Boat Warranty
If you are buying your pontoon boat from a dealer, they should give you a guarantee and warranty, covering any faulty part and the replacement labor.
Some warranties cover the boat’s electronics while others do not. Your dealer should also tell you exactly what the warranty covers.
For private sellers, they may have a manufacturer or dealer warranty, and it should be transferred to you upon purchasing the boat.
The warranty is not only for the boat but also for any extras added, including outboard engines and electronic systems.
Design and Construction
Design and construction are another vital consideration as they determine the pontoon’s quality.
But it’s not always easy to tell which boats are high quality and which ones are not.
If you want to find a perfect pontoon boat for you and your family, you need to know the different parts and how they are best designed for ultimate performance.
Pontoon manufacturers who invest much time in the boat’s design and construction deliver higher quality. The design of the two or three tubes will tell you a lot about the overall boat’s quality.
You should also check how the tube brackets, cross members, furniture, and consoles are made as they also point towards the boat’s quality and value.
Let’s have a look at the main features and what design is the best:
Tube Size and Design
Each pontoon should have a keel strip underneath it for strength and protection.
Pontoons come in either a circular or a U-shape design.
In my experience, circular tubes are stronger than U-shaped tubes, and they offer a better cruising experience in the long run.
Besides strength, U-shaped pontoons have foam on the inside to absorb water since they are not waterproof.
Now, when the foam absorbs water, it becomes heavy, and the performance deteriorates.
Some people will tell you that U-shaped pontoons are great for sailing with more weight but it’s also important to consider the impacts the foam may have in the future.
More importantly, circular pontoons come chambered or divided into about three sections for extra safety. Most of them are also vented to let condensation out.
Pontoon’s Nose Design
Another important feature you want to consider when looking at the boat’s design is the “nose.” It has to be strong and reinforced to absorb the wave actions efficiently.
The spray fins should be properly designed as a joined part of the “cap” over the nose for extended durability. Keep in mind that welded spray fins will crack off eventually
Deck and Flooring
The area between your boat’s deck and flooring has to support the most weight and handle much stress. So it has to be sturdy enough for better handling of the weight and stress.
Brackets that hold the circular pontoons need to be properly welded, forming an “M” shape, and not bent. They should also have a wide base at the point of meeting the pontoons.
A wide base provides enough space for proper welding to ensure that the brackets are robust. This way, you are unlikely to have any problems sailing on the large boat with your whole family.
Every 24 inches of the deck should have the cross member mounted to the full width of the decking material to provide the required support.
You also want to check the deck material and ensure that it has a lifetime warranty. Many pontoon boats use pressure-treated marine-grade plywood that can last for many years.
While you could also get an aluminum deck that can last forever, it’s not always comfortable to walk in. It’s also noisier and less flexible than plywood decks.
The gunnel should use high-quality and anodized aluminum to prevent discoloration and ensure that the pontoon boat will look great for many years to come.
Decks that use stainless steel tech fasteners instead of nuts and bolts are the best ones as they don’t rust and hold everything in place for a longer time. You won’t have to worry about retightening bolts and nuts every time you use the pontoon.
The stainless steel tech fasteners also block water from penetrating the wood, which would otherwise make it rot and weaken the deck.
I’d also suggest going for the deck that features a high-quality carpet made with dense and strong fibers. Remember, the carpet handles the most traffic and it’s pretty expensive to repair.
Pontoon Boat Railings
The best pontoon boat railing system should be quiet and robust enough to last for many years to come.
Like the aluminum tubes, the entire railing system should also be anodized as it can quickly turn black if left untreated.
Cheaply made railings will reduce quality within a short time. This will also decrease the overall value of the pontoon boat.
Above all, you want to ensure that the railings are slightly lifted for efficient drainage and ventilation.
Raised railings are also essential for blocking the growth of mildew, which will save you many hours of scrubbing and cleaning the boat.
Furniture and Seats
Wooden furniture frames are prone to rotting, mildew, and mold. And while most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on the frames, they don’t cover mold and mildew.
Most of the cover the frame against rotting and termite infestations. You’ll also not be compensated in case the frame falls apart.
Rational Molded Plastic Seat Frame is one of the best frames for pontoon boats as it’s durable and resistant to mold and mildew.
Along with the furniture frame, the seat cushions, sun deck cushions, and console frames should also use rot-resistant and non-absorbing material such as plastic and fiberglass.
Such materials can be more expensive in most brands, but trust me, they are definitely worth it. They are stronger enough to last forever.
Not to mention how they make it easy for you to maintain the boat.
High-density foam used on UV-treated vinyl also adds to the pontoon’s value as it can withstand normal wear and tear. You’ll still have a good-looking pontoon boat after many years of enjoyable cruising.
More Tips to Get a Great Deal When Buying Your Own Pontoon Boat
The fact that pontoon boats come in varied sizes, features, and engine size makes it possible for everyone to get what’s perfect for their needs.
But we can both agree that the many choices make it even mind-boggling to decide. Here are a few useful tips to make the process much easier:
Comfort Amenities are Always Crucial
We are not talking about extravagant luxury here. A good pontoon boat should have comfortable seating areas.
You and your passengers deserve a cozy cruising experience. After all, this is what pontoon boats are made for.
If you want some extra features added to your boat, go for a model that allows you to do that.
Getting a new boat means that you can be able to customize it to match your taste and needs.
You could upgrade the captain’s seat, the seating configuration, or even add extra lounge areas to make your boat more luxurious.
And if you intend to fish when sailing on your pontoon boat, you could also pay for a fishing package that includes fishing chairs and fishing gear storage.
The Bigger the Bimini Top the Better
Bimini tops are canvas tops that provide shade while cruising on a pontoon boat. I recommend getting a big Bimini top as it will provide ultimate comfort for your guests.
A good Bimini top should also be easy to install and deploy. I’ve also found that some pontoons feature power Bimini tops.
If you decide to get a powered one, be sure to operate it before paying for the boat to rest assured that it works perfectly.
Look for a Pontoon Boat That Suits Your Lifestyle
How do you like to boat? Do you want a boat for just relaxing while heading to a swimming destination?
You should ask yourself these questions to ensure that you get a pontoon boat that matches your lifestyle. You don’t want to get bored a few weeks after making the big purchase.
If you like socializing and having good times with family and friends on the water, you need to go for a bigger boat that will let you cruise with your crew.
For boaters who love other water sports like fishing, wakeboarding, tubing, and more, find a boat that can support such activities.
You can also have a particular pontoon boat customized to your needs. Your comfort matter a lot when it comes to pontooning!
Boat Shows Offer Great Deals for Pontoon Boats
Boat shows give most brands and dealers an opportunity to showcase their boats and market their brand name.
You can get a great deal on a new pontoon boat since the competition between the dealers is usually high in boat shows.
Attending a boat show also allows you to explore different boats and inspect all the features you are looking for.
It gives you the chance to check all the boats you are interested in and do your comparison to see what suits you best. You get to touch, feel, and see various boats before deciding on which to buy.
To make the most out of your buying opportunity, you need to define your needs beforehand as you are likely to find some enticing discounts that can lure you.
Basically, have a rough idea of the features you want in your new pontoon boat and your budget.
You also need to think about the boat trailer as it’s vital for towing and storing your new pontoon boat.
If you have a new pontoon boat that you’ve been eyeing, you can get a great discount when buying it at a boat show. You’ll save both money and time!
Q: How Do I Choose a Pontoon Boat?
A: To choose a pontoon boat, you need to know exactly what to look for.
Some of the factors to consider when buying a pontoon boat include the overall boat size, price, motor, tube diameter, and of course, the recreational activities you want to participate in while on the water.
Depending on your budget, you also want to consider whether you want a new or used pontoon boat, as explained above.
Q: Which Pontoon Boat is Right for Me?
A: The right pontoon boat for you will depend on your specific needs. One boat may be perfect for another boater but unsuitable for you.
Depending on what you are looking for, size is one of the key things you want to check, and it affects both the boat’s price and other crucial features of the boat.
Big-size boats will have many advantages to someone who wants to bring more passengers aboard. But they’ll obviously be a bit expensive than smaller models which are best suited for a few people.
If you are a family and friends person, smaller boats are not a great option. Look for a bigger boat with a larger seating capacity to enjoy an incredible experience on the water with your loved ones.
You’ll want to determine how much money you want to spend on a pontoon boat then come up with a reasonable budget.
When creating the budget, you also need to consider the annual maintenance cost, accessories, fuel, and winter storage.
While most pontoon boats are designed to sail in different water bodies, some work better in calm bodies but can be terrible when used on big waves.
Your lifestyle and preferred water activities will also determine the right boat for you. They should tell you how much horsepower, space, or seating comfort you need on your own boat.
If you like fishing, you’ll need a boat with fishing seats and adequate storage, and a stable platform for fishing.
Q: What Size Pontoon Boat is Best?
A: The best pontoon boat size entirely depends on your needs. These boats come in different sizes, ranging from 15 to 30 inches.
A 24-inch pontoon boat is a great option for boaters who want a spacious and stable boat that will cruise well even on rougher water.
However, if you are just looking for a boat that will let you sail with your partner or a few friends, paying more on the bigger options may not be worth it.
Q: What is the Best Horsepower for a Pontoon Boat?
A: You’ll appreciate at least 115hp. A boat with over 115hp is a great option as it can be incredibly versatile, allowing you to do virtually anything pontoons can do.
The more speed a boat can offer, the more adventurous the boater can become and the better the experience.
See, you could also cruise nicely on calm water or small bodies with 70hp, but the same horsepower may not support water skiing or wakeboarding on rougher water.
There are many pontoon boats in the market today that make it pretty hard for boaters to select the perfect one.
Hopefully, this guide will be useful to your pontoon boat searching journey and help you find a perfect match for your needs.
Don’t forget to consider the factors explained above and go for the pontoon that suits your boating lifestyle for an enjoyable experience.