Do you want to spend time out on the water with friends relaxing in the sun while you listen to some music and sip on a cocktail? Then a pontoon model is just what you’re looking for in a boat. Pontoon boats are unique in their design, featuring dual or tri-hulls that offer plenty of float and the largest passenger capacities.
Pontoon boats are the quintessential party boat for having a good time on the lake or river. Sure, they aren’t sea-faring vessels, but you can pick up dedicated models for fishing or watersports, allowing you plenty of versatility for any activity.
A pontoon boat is one of the more affordable boats on the market, and you can pick them up for anything from $12,000 to $180,000, depending on the size, features, and manufacturing brand. This post unpacks everything you need to know about the pricing of pontoon boats and what you can expect to pay for a new or used boat.
New or Pre-Owned?
Buying a boat is like buying a car. You have the option of walking into the dealership to pick out your model or buying it through the secondary market.
New models will cost you around 40% more, but it might be worth the money to go new over pre-owned. Buying a pre-owned boat will save you some cash, but it also exposes you to risk in the deal. The pre-owned model might have hidden damage you don’t notice when inspecting the boat.
So, it’s a good idea to hire a professional assessor when viewing a prospective pre-owned model. The inspector will go through every inch of the boat and inspect it for damage. They check the integrity and condition of the hull, assess the motor to see it’s in working order, and check with the authorities to ensure you’re not buying a stolen boat.
Buying new circumvents these risks, as most boats come with at least a one-year warranty from the manufacturer. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, and that’s a fact.
If you’re buying a pre-owned model, you could pick up a pontoon boat for as little as $5,000, depending on the vessel’s length, manufacturing brand, and condition. Entry prices for new boats start at around $12,000, and they can go all the way up to $30,000 or more.
How Do I Get the Best Price on My Pontoon Boat?
If you’re buying from the dealer, they’ll use the MSRP (Manufacturers Recommended Selling Price). During the first year of release, dealers stick to the MRSP, and you’ll usually find most dealers price their boats at this level to keep a consistent market price across the industry.
However, after the first year of the sale, most dealers will discount the previous year’s models. So, if you’re looking at a 2022 model with an MRSP of $20,000, it’s going to be challenging to find it at any other price than the MRSP during 2022.
However, when 2023 rolls around and the new 2023 models arrive on the dealership floor, you’re likely to find the dealers discounting the price on the 2022 model. These are brand new boats, but they are not the latest model.
As a result, you could probably search around dealers online or in your area and haggle with them for a discount on the previous year’s model. Some dealers will also offer discounts on extras and accessories or throw in a trailer for free to sweeten the deal.
If a dealer refuses to budge on their price or discount extras, shop around for a better deal. In this economy, dealers are looking to turn over inventory, so you’ll probably find some great deals out there.
When you’re buying pre-owned, you have more room for negotiation in the deal. Depending on your negotiating skills, and the buyer’s motivation, you could end up wangling as much as 25% off of the asking price.
However, be careful if the owner appears motivated to take any price – you might be buying a lemon or a stolen boat. Always ensure you have a professional check the boat’s condition, and clear the registration with the authorities to ensure you’re not buying a stolen boat.
The time of the year also makes a huge difference when buying a boat. At the end of the season, when the weather starts to turn cold, owners need to pull the boat from the water for servicing. They may also send the vessel to dry storage for the winter.
These costs add up, and you’ll find plenty of owners that want to sell the boat because they don’t want to pay the storage and maintenance costs. Buying a boat with minor damage could land you a great deal. For instance, if there’s a ding in the hull and damage to the paint, you could get as much as a 30% discount off the owner’s asking price.
It might only cost a few hundred dollars to repair the cosmetic damage, and you end up saving big time on your purchase.
Factors Influencing the Price of a Pontoon Boat
Several factors influence the price of new and used pontoon boats. Keep these in mind when looking for prospective deals.
The longer the boat, the higher the price tag. Pontoon boats between 13-feet to 18-feet are the most affordable options. Boats between 18-feet to 21-feet in length are in the mid-tier pricing range, and boats 21-feet to 24-feet are the top end, with a 24-foot+ boat being the premium price category for a pontoon.
The manufacturing brand is another aspect influencing the price. Going with a well-known affordable brand like Sea-Doo will get you a good-quality boat offering all-around performance and comfort. A model from a premium brand like Harris Crowne could set you back four or five times the price of the Sea-Doo.
Accessories and Features
When you’re buying new, the base model will usually require you to purchase accessories to customize the boat and add functionality. For example, entertainment systems, engine modifications, and seating upgrades add to the retail price.
It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of adding accessories, and you could end up blowing as much as 20% to 30% of the retail price on top of the MRSP when adding your customizations.
However, when you’re buying second-hand, the owner can’t ask for the money they spent on the accessories if they want to find a buyer. They’ll often offer the boat for the same price as the rest of the market, and the accessories become a selling point that entices the buyer to choose their boat over someone else’s.
The utility of the boat also plays a role in the price. Sports pontoons typically sell for more than base models offering crossover functionality. Sports-specific models have powerful engines, ski accessories, and other upgrades that add more to the sticker price over a base model.
The motor also plays a significant role in the cost of your pontoon boat. High-capacity performance motors will cost you a lot more than a standard outboard for new pontoons. High-performance engines also cost more to maintain and repair, so bear that in mind when choosing your boat.
Maintenance and Running Costs
After buying your boat, you will have to consider the running and maintenance costs. There is plenty to consider, and the costs can add up quickly, even when you’re not using the boat.
Some of the essential equipment you’ll need for your boat include dock lines and anchors, life jackets, and training courses. Expect to pay anywhere up to $1,000 for these extras.
Most dealers will include a trailer in the cost of the boat, but if they don’t, you might have to spend $2,000 to $5,000 or more on the trailer.
Buying a pre-owned boat usually allows you to include these accessories in the purchase price. However, you’ll need to inspect the condition of the equipment. For example, a second-hand trailer might have perished tires or need reconditioning, or the dock lines are frayed and in need of replacement.
The running costs of your boat extend beyond the vessel itself, and you’ll need to account for the following.
- Marina slips rental – $1,500 to $2,500 per year, depending on the marina and the amenities it offers.
- Insurance – $100 to $360 p/year.
- Maintenance – $1,000 p/year, depending on the model, the type of engine, and the age of the boat.
- Cleaning and detailing – $450 p/year at a detailer, or around $100 p/year if you DIY.
- State licenses – $50 to $75 p/year
- Gas – Depends on your usage and the price of gas/ which grade you use.
What Can I Expect to Pay for Tax, Title, and Registration Fees?
The sales tax, title costs, and registration fees differ from state to state. Some states don’t charge sales tax, while Florida charges 6%. You’ll also need to account for “commodity surcharges,” which are changes to the MRSP in new boats due to inflation on certain materials used in its manufacture.