Shopping for a Pontoon: All You Need to Know

Shopping for a Pontoon All You Need to Know

Have you ever heard about Pontoon boats? Do you ever wonder if there is such a thing as a party boat? Well if it’s your first time hearing about these flattish boats that use floats for buoyancy, then you’re in for a treat as you learn about these boats while you read along. 

Many pontoon boats can be recognized by these two-canoe-like floating devices located on their underside. These devices enable the boat’s extreme buoyancy. Because of these features, many of them can be designed to have large deck plans that include huge lounge areas, sun pads, slides, and stand-up bars. 

Most pontoon boats also can carry more people and accessories. They are mostly used by the whole family or large groups of people and are sometimes called a “party boat” or flatboat. So there is really such a thing as a party boat. Why is this the case, you ask? This is because these boats usually have LED lights, tables for eating and playing, built-in coolers, an enhanced sound system, and plenty of space for more passengers to roam around. 

Flatboats are mostly used for cruising on inland lakes. However, they can also be used as fishing boats when the situation calls for it. Fishing can be done on the boats’ side or dock. It can also pull pontoon tubes, kneeboarders, and skiers behind it even on a rocky shore.

Types of Pontoon Boats

Did you know that there are a lot of pontoon types? It’s not only used for fishing but also during recreational functions. A cruising model is also available in the market. Choosing the right one when buying a pontoon boat is a must to enjoy its functions to the fullest. 

1. Fishing Pontoon Boats 

With fishing being a popular water sport, it is no wonder that a lot of pontoon boats are manufactured for this purpose. These boats can even feature some serious fish-hunting electronics to help enthusiasts locate a good fishing spot. With the pontoon boat being modular, couches fore and aft can be eliminated in favor of swiveling fishing seats and other specific fishing modules that can hold live wells, tackle storage boxes, rod holders, and other fishing gears.

2. Party Barges

Pontoon boats are often referred to as party barges since they can accommodate a lot of passengers and accessories. This is possible since flatboats have great buoyancy and can be designed according to your purpose. For entertainment, builders can add integrated wet bars, built-in refrigerators or ice makers, and even a booming stereo system that can make an epic party.

3. Watersports Pontoon Boat

If you are into water sports and need a boat to speed up these activities, then choose a sports pontoon boat that is rigged with a larger power plant. It can speed up to 60 mph and features aft-facing observation seats. This type of sport flatboat has rear-view mirrors and ski tow bar and also large stowaway compartments for wakeboards and water skis.

4. Luxury Pontoons Boats

These boats are built for a relaxing day on the water. The deck space will be dedicated to loungers, recliners, and even beds. High-end TV and sound systems can be installed according to your preference and even a barbeque grill. The design is focused on the enjoyment of the passengers to their fellow passengers and engage in sightseeing and sandbar parties, or just about any gatherings or activities on the water. 

What Size and Type of Pontoon Do You Need?

What Size and Type of Pontoon Do You Need?

Are you now into buying a flatboat? If you’re still having second thoughts, continue reading along. After checking out different helpful information and tips, you might be on the verge of owning one. The next thing to do to help you decide is to know the size, the number of passengers sitting or the seating space. By doing so, it will be easier to decide if you’re going for a new one or if you’re buying a used pontoon boat. 

If you’re buying a pontoon boat, the best thing to do is to ask around people you know who own the same kind of boat. You can also check out the pontoon boat buyer’s guide for additional information.

Size is most often determined by the seating configuration of most boats. This is because you will know how many people can actually go with you. Thinking about how to calculate size? Here’s a quick guide. For 18 to 20 ft. models, you can accommodate 2 to 6 passengers. Meanwhile,  22 to 24 ft. models can seat 6 to 10 passengers. Lastly, a brand new boat measuring 24 ft. or even larger can take in more than 10 passengers.

Do take note of which body of water you’d be using your boat to better decide. If you’re using it on waters that are rough, then it would be best to choose a boat designed for it. Call your local dealer to further inquire about a twin toon.

How are Pontoon Boats measured?

How are Pontoon Boats measured

Do you want to know how to measure a Pontoon boat? It is actually done by measuring the distance from the front of the pontoon tubes up to the logs found at the rear of the boat. By doing so, you will be able to calculate its deck’s length. In order words, a 22-foot boat will have a 20 to 21 feet deck length. 

Pontoon boats are usually between 15ft to 30ft in length that come with airtight and hollow floating devices found in their underside.  These “pontoons” are the ones creating the extreme buoyancy that makes it possible to carry loads of weight safely while partying or cruising in the waters. 

Try Renting Before You Buy

Try Renting Before You Buy

Have you considered renting a pontoon prior to actually purchasing one? As you know, you don’t have to worry that much when you’re just renting a boat as you can do so any time without thinking about a maintenance and other fees. 

Renting a pontoon boat can be a great way to get that outdoor lifestyle spiced up. Rental fees are cheaper compared to actually buying a boat outright. There may be disadvantages to constantly renting but it’s all up to you to call dibs on that boat for sale. 

If you think you only need the boat for half a day, then you’d probably get charged not less than $100 to 200. Thinking of a whole day water experience? Renting this type of boat will get you to spend around $300 to 400. Some rental companies charge depending on how many hours you use the boat.

Why Choose a Pontoon Boat

Why Choose a Pontoon Boat

Having spacious deck space and enough seating capacity can be some of the important considerations when choosing a pontoon boat over others. Aside from these, some noteworthy features you should look for in a flatboat are the following: 

Boarding Gates – Pontoon boats have great buoyancy that’s why they can also carry great weights so having more passengers should not be a problem. Most flatboats feature at least three gates that can be utilized by passengers to board the boat. These boarding gates can be found on the stern, bow, and port sides of the boat. These features make boarding a pontoon boat extremely convenient and easy. 

Whether you have young passengers or older ones, or even passengers on a wheelchair, pontoons have boarding gates that can accommodate them and their gears. 

Some flatboats feature side boarding areas with 32” wide boarding gates that are designated for wheelchair-bound passengers who are set to enjoy their day sightseeing and cruising on the water. Boarding from the dock has never been this easy. 

Boarding Ladder – One of the best features of a pontoon is the boarding ladders. These ladders come with a reboarding ladder that can extend up to 22” below the waterline. 

Also, depending on your pontoon boats’ model, boarding ladders can be removable or permanently attached to your boat. Removable ladders need additional storage space and have to be fetched when needed. 

Removable ladders, however, can be mounted across several platforms and can be folded flat to turn them into a compact ladder. On the other hand, having a permanent ladder can be convenient especially during emergencies. They can drop easily on the water and require no storage space. 

Depending on your location and boat regulation in your area, having a reboarding ladder is one regulation that is mandated for pontoon boat owners to have. Also, having a capacity plate is also mandated by federal law. All reboarding ladders must extend at least 22” below the waterline, the longer the better.

When choosing a ladder, make sure to choose the ones with larger stanchions and made of sturdy materials since they will be used by a lot of hands. A thick and heavy-duty grab rails are mostly easier to grab when needed.

Shopping for a Brand-new Pontoon Boat

Shopping for a Brand-new Pontoon Boat

Buying a Pontoon Boat

If you are planning to buy your own boat, consider getting a used pontoon boat first. This can be a desirable choice for you especially when you’re looking to cut down costs. Meanwhile, if you have the budget for expensive boats, then you can opt for a brand new one. 

These cost-effective water vehicles can be endlessly customized because of their ability to bear heavier loads. They are a popular choice as an inland water boat because of their wide and spacious area where people can freely move. These can be a great boat to spend weekends on the lake doing all possible water activities like water skiing. Meanwhile, party boat owners think this is a good choice if you just simply relax around and soak in the afternoon sun. 

The cost of a new boat varies according to its size and features. Of course, a bigger pontoon would likely mean a higher price. However, this may not be the case for some used boats with especially when they don’t have fancy features. Some used boats already come with a Bimini Top installed while brand-new boats usually need to have this as an added feature.

An American boat typically costs $30K to 60K. If you add more features or upgrade accessories like having a portside seat locker installed or having a fancy bow deck customized, or getting a high-quality captain’s chair, for sure the price will also hike. Meanwhile, private sellers offering preowned ones or even new ones can give you a good price lower than the Nationally Advertised Pricing. However, check for a warranty and consult with the local yacht council to validate if the sale is legit.

Private sellers can sell a popular boat model at $35,000. At this price range, you will get a running boat with a 90hp or 115hp engine. Retailers rarely have their prices advertised to avoid comparison with other area prices. That is why it is sometimes difficult to search for a manufacturer’s price for a new pontoon. Nevertheless, regardless of prices, it will always depend on how much money you are willing to spend.

There are a lot of manufactures of pontoon that build high-end, luxury pontoons and also the simpler and more economical ones. To let potential boat buyers have an idea of their boat price, they only show at least the suggested retail prices of their products. Knowing only the ballpark price of the boat, expect the figure to be higher when doing your final boat negotiations. 

Shopping for a Used Pontoon Boat

Shopping for a Used Pontoon Boat

Purchasing a pre-owned boat can be a good starting point for boat buyers because of its financial aspect. On average, you can spend $10,000 – $15,000 for a used boat. These, just like other vehicles, can depreciate over time.

However, in terms of boat depreciation, they don’t depreciate as fast as land vehicles do. Boats have a much longer lifespan since mostly they are not used daily like cars or trucks. In areas of extreme summer and cold winters, most of their boats are used for only 3 to 6 months a year.  

Depending on your location and local financial institution policy, some banks offer boat loans to their clients. These loans are payable for 10 to 15 years. Payment terms are longer compared to vehicle loans that have 5 to 7-year terms only. 

There has been a great leap in boat sales over the years. When you step into a new boat show area, and you have done your research on used boat features, you can see the difference of pontoon manufacturers’ vessels that were made 10 years ago compared to the newer models. 

Tri-toons have been in a boom for the past 3-5 years only. Looking for a used pontoon with this feature can be quite tricky and the price will be almost like buying new and expensive ones.

Meanwhile, if you’re going for a pre-owned boat, check the floor of the used boat to make sure they have vinyl flooring installed. This is because vinyl floors can have a great advantage over carpeted ones. Most used pontoons have carpeting rather than vinyl floors. Check out if higher maintenance costs can be reasonable for a pre-owned boat on sale before actually making a purchase.

New Pontoon vessels feature 4-stroke Outboards that are quieter and run smoothly and efficiently. The resale value of boats with this feature is also much higher compared to a 2-stroke board that is commonly found on older pontoons. If you plan to buy a new one and will have to sell it after a few years, having a 4-stroke outboard engine can make a difference in your boats’ appeal and price. 

If you’ve decided to give preowned smaller ones a go, check out the used market for these options. There will be a lot of properly powered ones with good passenger capacity to choose from. Loan fees will not be a problem as there will be marine lenders ready to assist your purchase. 

What is Boarding Gates for a Pontoon Boat?

What is Boarding Gates for a Pontoon Boat

Pontoons come in a variety of models with specific perks and features but the most notable is the large deck space that can be utilized for relaxation and recreational activities on board. 

Given these features, additional customization can also be done for you and your passengers’ convenience. You can incorporate safety features like removable boarding ladders so you can dive in the water and easily get on board using the ladder. 

Mounted accessories can also be added for your grill and cup holder and many other conveniences that you can constantly update and upgrade according to your needs. Given these characteristics, more and more people are choosing to own a pontoon boat over other boat types available in the market.   

Which body of water can I use in my boat?

Which body of water can I use in my boat

So we’ve mentioned considering where you’d be using your boat because it will affect its type and size. If you’re not using the right boat, chances are you won’t get a ride worthy experience. That is why is basing on the body of water, consider the length of the models. Use a 17 to 19 ft. model for small and calm bodies of water. You can choose a 20 and 22 ft. long tri-toon for rivers and lakes. Meanwhile, you can use a 23 to 28 ft. model for rough water 

Should I get Popular Pontoon Boat Brands?

Should I get Popular Pontoon Boat Brands

Do you want a popular boat? Or would you rather go for the cheaper one? There are many pontoon brands to choose from. Picking the right brand is important. Mid to the big-size boat has become popular over the years. This is because of convenience, the variety of prices to choose from, and its focus on comfort.

Going for a test drive using an expensive or a regular one is like driving a car due to its easy to maneuver feature. Even beginner boaters will be able to quickly and smoothly navigate through waters.

The number of flatboat manufacturers and brands has also grown in recent years. Pontoon boat enthusiasts now have a large selection of models and features to choose from when buying a pontoon boat – from cheap and basic to expensive and luxurious and even buying a used pontoon is now achievable.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pontoons

Frequently Asked Questions About Pontoons

What should I know about pontoon boats?

You should be able to determine what the boat is for in the first place. If you want to use it for fishing, then you have to have fishing chairs on so you can easily get a good catch. Some even include a fishing package that comes with the purchase.

If you want to use it for watersports, make sure you consider buying a pontoon boat with 90 HP. Meanwhile, if you just want to bathe under the sun in wet bathing suits, then wide boat choices are available.

What should you look for when buying a used pontoon boat?

Basically, you should consider what you need before buying a pontoon boat. You also have to contact your local yacht regulatory office to check if you can simply buy a vessel outright or should there be any requirements to be processed before making a purchase.

Aside from that, think about other necessary features that you want to have on your boat. Does the boat have a rod holder? Is there a helm station? Does it have a stable platform? How many passengers can ride? These are some questions that you need to have answered prior to heading to a shop for purchase.

Most importantly, you have to check if the outboard engines are working and safety equipment is available. Moreover, check if you can safely tow it. Some tri-toon vessels can be towed using pickup trucks. You need to have an ideal-sized trailer to be able to do so.

How do I choose a pontoon?

So you’ve determined what you need and what features should be there. Would you like a flat-boat? Do you prefer smaller boats? Can you use it for boat shows? If these are the next questions you have in mind then size and brand would play an important part. Also, check on the bow wave wavelength as this will determine slower displacement speeds or otherwise.

Are pontoon boats worth the money?

If you are looking for multiple floor-plan selections in a boat, then a Bennington is a good choice as it has a lot of possible configurations. Meanwhile, the One Escape comes with an optional teak table and a love seat. If you’re looking for versatile ones then the Manitou is the one for you. Its Oasis line has a re-boarding ladder and a launch ramp that makes it easier for you to get back on board after a swim. These are some popular pontoons that you can choose from that even a private seller has to offer.

Considering the features of the vessels along with their engine, size, durability, and versatility, paying huge sums of cash for a great model should not be the problem. As we mentioned, it should fit your needs rather than just showing off. Take note that you can get the best deals during winter instead of rushing to buy during the boating season.

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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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