Pontoon Boat Lift Conversion: How to Convert without a Fuss!

Pontoon Boat Lift Conversion: How to Convert

Buying and maintaining a pontoon boat can be very costly, and a pontoon lift is one of the most expensive items you will have to invest in. 

The price of new pontoon boat lifts usually ranges from $1,500 to $12,000, depending on the brand, size, and type you want to buy. 

Even so, buying a new pontoon boat doesn’t necessarily mean that you must spend lots of money on a new pontoon lift.

See, if you already have a boat lift, you could cut back the costs by converting it so that it fits your pontoon boat. 

Boat lifts feature a design that fits V-hull vessels only and cannot be used on pontoons unless a few adjustments are made. 

Now, when it comes to converting a boat lift to make it pontoon boat compatible, there are a few ways to do it. 

First, you can buy an already made conversion kit, but this will also cost you quite a lot of money.

The other way involves embarking on a DIY project or paying someone to do it for you at an affordable fee.

Depending on your DIY skills and the amount of knowledge you have about boat lifts, you can easily convert your standard lift to a pontoon boat lift. 

In this article, we’ll provide a detailed guide on how to convert a boat lift to make it pontoon compatible. 

But before we get into the guidelines, here are some essential things about boat lift conversion you need to keep in mind.

What You Need to Know Before Converting a Pontoon Boat Lift

What You Need to Know Before Converting a Pontoon Boat Lift

If you want to convert the boat lift yourself, there are a few important things to bear in mind. This includes checking whether the existing lift can actually support your pontoon’s weight.  

A small and weak boat lift may not effectively support your new pontoon, especially if it’s a large one. If you convert such a lift, you risk damaging your precious pontoon boat. 

You also need to consider the amount of weight the pontoon holds while sitting on the newly converted boat lift. 

For instance, if you have passengers who will be coming on and off the boat, you need to consider how their weight will affect the boat and your new structure. 

The next key area of concern is how to support the pontoon logs, so they are not damaged when lifting the boat. You don’t want to deform the tubes when supporting the boat with your converted lift. 

Another crucial thing you don’t want to disregard is the position in which your pontoon boat will take in the lift before lifting happens. 

With these essentials in mind, you should be able to complete the project with the required tools and appropriate guidelines. 

How to Convert a Boat Lift

How to Convert a Boat Lift

There are different ways to convert a boat lift, but the method I found to be the most successful involves using several garden timbers. 

To convert your boat lift, you need about six garden timbers. Then position the timbers across the boat lift and secure them well, so your pontoon sits over them. 

The six garden timbers will create a leveled floor where the pontoons will sit, allowing you to drive the boat over the surface easily and lift it out of the water. 

When securing the lumber, you will need to use heavy-duty strapping and apply the appropriate spacing between the timber bunks. 

Instead of bolting the wooden bunks, I recommend strapping the timbers to make a flat surface. This allows for temporary adjustment should you need to use the boat lift in the future to lift a V-hull vessel. 

Depending on the type of timber you are working with, you may need to use a sheet of carpet to protect the boat’s pontoons from abrasion. 

How Much It Costs to Convert a Boat Lift for Pontoon Boats

How Much It Costs to Convert a Boat Lift for Pontoon Boats

If you want to buy a pontoon boat lift conversion kit and bunks, the average cost is $1,300. 

As you can see, it’s pretty expensive to buy a pontoon lift conversion kit, which is why many DIYers prefer to make their own conversion. 

Nonetheless, the cost is definitely worth the money, given that it provides peace of mind, especially to boat owners who lack the DIY skills for such projects. 

I wouldn’t recommend that you embark on a conversion project that you aren’t sure of how to tackle or fear that the results won’t be reliable. Your boat’s safety is key!

How to Dock Your Pontoon Boat onto the New Boat Lift

How to Dock Your Pontoon Boat onto the New Boat Lift

Now that you have learned how to convert a boat lift to be compatible with your pontoon, you might be wondering how to park your boat onto the new boat lift. 

Well, this shouldn’t be a problem since you can effortlessly nail it within after a few attempts. The best way to learn how to dock your pontoon boat correctly on the lift is by practicing. 

Whether you are an experienced or new pontooner, an occasional ding is just normal and shouldn’t leave you doubting your parking skills. 

As you progress, you’ll find it much easier to dock your boot onto the new boat lift without hitting it, especially when you do in areas with no cross winds. 

Here is how to park your pontoon boat on the converted lift in a few steps:

  • Lower the boat’s cradle to submerge it into the water and ensure that the pontoons can clear the lift’s surface without scraping the cradle. 
  • Align the boat to the appropriate position and start lifting the cradle to get the boat out of the water. 
  • Once your boat is well-aligned to the pontoon boat lift for parking, shift to neutral. 
  • If you haven’t aligned the boat properly with the lift, shift into reverse and then cut the engine once you get into the right spot. 

Before you start parking your pontoon boat on a new boat lift, you need to ensure that the weight is evenly distributed on the vessel. 

If there are any passengers on board, ask them to spread out to ensure even weight distribution. 

Keep in mind that your pontoons could develop issues if one side of the boat is much heavier. Uneven weight distribution could also damage your pontoon boat lift. 

Even a more practical solution, you can invest in a rail kit to help you balance the boat’s weight and steer clear of unnecessary damages. Some rail kits work for both vertical and hydraulic lifts.

When you buy a rail kit, it will eliminate guesswork when lifting the boat as it will act as a centering and lifting device for your vessel. 

To install the rail kit for pontoon lifting, all you have to do is get rid of the bunks on the existing lift and set up the conversion bunk, following the instructions provided. 

If you feel that the rail kit installation process on the existing boat lift is a tedious project, you can hire someone to do it for you at a small fee. 


Pontoon Boat Lift Conversion: How to Convert

Q: Can a Boat Lift Be Converted into a Pontoon Lift?

A: There are several ways to convert a standard boat lift to a pontoon boat lift. One of the common methods that some pontoon boat owners use is buying a conversion kit. 

However, the upfront cost of this method is relatively high. That’s why many pontooners prefer converting the V hull lift by themselves. 

The project isn’t very easy to accomplish, but you can easily convert a V hull lift to a pontoon boat lift with a few DIY skills and the required materials. 

You’ll need materials like time wood bunks or sturdy wooden blocks and mounting accessories for the conversion project. 

Then set two timber bunks in a V pattern for the pontoon to sit on and support the boat’s weight. You’ll also need to install a carpet over the wood bunks to protect the tubes from abrasion. 

Another popular approach used by many pontoon owners is the use of rail kits that help in enhancing the lift’s weight capacity and stability. 

Keep in mind that most V hull lifts are designed to support more weight at the rear and require adjustments to accommodate pontoons safely. 

Q: Does a Tri-toon Need a Special Lift?

A: Yes, a tri-toon needs a special lift. Tri toons are different from traditional boats and pontoon boats since they are supported by three toons. 

This means that they are heavier with more length, which calls for a special boat lift that can lift the craft safely. 

When transporting your tri-toon with a boat trailer, you’ll have to support the center tube for maximum safety. 

Nonetheless, if you already have a pontoon boat lift, you may not need more boat lift conversion to support the center toon if your craft sits stably on the lift. 

Wrap Up

Wrap Up

Pontoon boat lifts are vital for keeping your boat safe on the water, especially during harsh seasons. However, pontoon lifts can be quite expensive to buy and install. 

But you can always convert your regular boat lift to a pontoon boat lift instead of buying a new one. And there are several ways to do it, as explained above. 

Whichever approach you choose, consider your boat’s size and weight to ensure that the conversion results in a lift that can perfectly accommodate your pontoon boat. 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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