Are you looking for the best cruiser and party boat available? The pontoon boat comes in many shapes, sizes, and designs, offering you one of the most versatile design setups of any recreational boat. The pontoon boat is the ideal choice for cruising along in calm waters while enjoying the scenery on the side of the lake or estuary.
Pontoon boats come in several configurations for seating, hulls, cabins, decks, amenities, and accessories. It’s one of the most customizable boats available, with models varying in lengths from 15 to 35-feet and larger. Some luxury models can reach up to 50-feet in length.
The pontoon boat has an interesting hull, featuring long “pontoons” similar to the hull designs you find on catamarans. The pontoons allow the boat to sit higher on the water, adding more stability to the boat. Typically, a pontoon boat could feature a double, tri, or quad pontoon hull, depending on the size and specialty of the boat.
In the past, the pontoon boat was a slow model, suitable for cruising in calm water in lakes and estuaries. Recent design changes in hull technology and motors mean that new pontoon models have plenty of power, offering you the ideal boat for fishing and cruising. However, the shape and design of the boat mean it’s not usually suitable for watersports activities like skiing.
However, if you’re looking for a stable boat with every accessory you could imagine, the pontoon is a great choice. This post unpacks everything you need to know about pontoon boats before settling on your purchase decision.
- What Is a Pontoon Boat?
- Pontoon Boats – Size and Capacity
- Tips for Buying a Pontoon Boat
- Pontoon Boat Cost
- Benefits and Features of Pontoon Boats
- Disadvantages of Owning a Pontoon Boat
- What are the Top Pontoon Boat Brands?
- Top Pontoon Boat Brands and Models
- Wrapping Up
What Is a Pontoon Boat?
A pontoon boat brings more buoyancy to the structural design of the vessel. The vessel features hollow pontoons that are essentially long tubes running from the bow to the stern of the boat. These pontoons come in various configurations to suit the boat’s passenger capacity and functions.
The airtight pontoons are virtually unsinkable, with airtight, thick, durable hulls featuring design and construction with fiberglass. Some expensive models come with carbon fiber hulls for additional strength and lightweight characteristics.
The pontoons allow for the largest deck spaces, and many pontoons have decks that extend beyond the sides of the vessel to add more floor space on the boat. Pontoon boats are available in several flooring configurations and level designs, with some luxury models offering you two or three levels and plenty of space for lounges, kitchen, toilets, galleys, and sleeping accommodations.
These boats have a design for cruising, and most of them top out at speeds of 30-mph.
Pontoon Boats – Size and Capacity
The pontoon boat is the entertainer’s dream, allowing you to take as many people out onto the water as possible. Even the smaller models offer you plenty of passenger space, with lounge seats running the vessel’s length on either side and seating available on the deck, bow, and stern of the boat. Many pontoons feature straight sidewalls on the deck, allowing for integration with seating for a spacious feel to the boat.
Choosing the right size pontoon to match your water activities is a must. Remember that the larger the boat, the more expensive it is to maintain and operate. Since many larger pontoon models are wide and long, they are typically not suitable for trailering. As a result, you’ll need to add the cost of storing your boat in the slip at the local marina when not in use.
Smaller models may fit on trailers, but most of them are wider than 10-feet, meaning you’ll need to apply for a special license to tow the boat in most states. Pontoon boats are also heavy vessels, and they lack performance, with poor maneuverability. They are the ideal cruising and fishing vessel, but if you want a boat for watersports, you’ll need to look at another model.
Tips for Buying a Pontoon Boat
If you’re purchasing your pontoon boat new, make sure you get it from an authorized dealer. Depending on the manufacturer’s specifications, the dealer will give you a warranty on the boat, lasting anything from two to ten years.
The dealer will also act as your point of contact for any repairs and maintenance you need to make to the boat. Most pontoon boats are expensive, and purchasing yours from a dealer lets you apply for financing on the vessel.
Pontoon boats come in various options, from short dual-hull pontoons to monster boats featuring enough space to accommodate 50 people or more and overnight sleeping accommodations. They are the ideal party boat for having a good time out on the water with friends and family.
Pontoon Boat Cost
Pontoon boats vary in price, from $15,000 to $175,000 or more, depending on the size of the boat, how many levels it has, the fittings, amenities, motors, and other design options. As mentioned, purchasing your boat from a dealer allows you to finance it, avoiding taking a big financial hit on your purchase, especially with a luxury model.
Benefits and Features of Pontoon Boats
The pontoon boat has one of the most flexible design offerings available. These boats don’t focus on speed or maneuverability. They have a design to provide a smooth movement through the water, and they are a great choice for spending time out on the water with friends and family. You get so many customizable options for this boat and driver configurations in any setup.
Plenty of Storage
The pontoon offers you plenty of storage on the vessel. Most models feature under-seat storage along the sides and front of the boat, with plenty of room for fishing and dive gear.
Accommodations and Amenities
Larger pontoon models may come with a split-level design. The top of the boat features a sun deck and lounge, while the lower deck features sleeping accommodations and amenities like a galley, head, shower, and more storage options.
The pontoon boat comes with customizable accessories to suit fishing and diving. Some models have pedestal fishing chairs, built-in coolers, center console designs, rod holders, and more. You also have options for swimming ladders, sun pads, and shaded canopies. Some models include onboard carpeting and stereo systems with loudspeakers for starting the party on the water.
The pontoon boat has a design for cruising, not speed. However, the weight of these boats often requires large outboard motors, jet propulsion, or I/O engine configurations for more power to move the heavy vessel along.
Seating, Finishes, and Fittings
The pontoon boat has a design for cruising, which includes large seating couches in various configurations depending on the size of the boat. These boats have the highest passenger capacity of any model, and the larger boats can accommodate up to 50 passengers.
Flexible for Diving and Fishing
Pontoon boats also make for excellent fishing and dive boats. The large, open decks allow for easy casting and walkarounds when your fish decides to swim under the boat. They’re also great dive boats for inshore diving in calm waters, such as the Red Sea.
Disadvantages of Owning a Pontoon Boat
Not the Best Choice for Watersports
The pontoon boat doesn’t have a design for speed. Most models top out at the 35-mph range. As a result, they are not the best choice for watersports. Some smaller models in the 15-foot range may offer enough performance for speed, but the handling is poor, so they aren’t the best choice for skiing or wakeboarding.
Limited Ocean-Going Capability
While the pontoons are virtually unsinkable, and the boat usually rides higher on the water than other boat types, the pontoon isn’t the best choice for taking out on the open ocean. They battle in rough water, and they are only suitable for use in calm seas like dive spots in the Caribbean.
The pontoons are great for cruising, but they don’t give you the same performance and tight turning circle of bowriders or center consoles. As a result, you’ll find it hard to make tight turns.
What are the Top Pontoon Boat Brands?
There are several manufacturers of pontoon boats, and our choices for the top brands include the following.
- Premier Pontoons
These manufacturing brands produce top-quality boats in various sizes, with different customization options and price ranges. All of these manufacturing brands meet standards for NMMA certification, making them compliant with US Coast Guard regulations.
Top Pontoon Boat Brands and Models
Out of the dozens of models we looked at for this post, we came across two pontoon boats that offer you great value for money, special fittings, and features, and a fantastic user experience out on the water.
Princecraft Vectra 21 RL
The Princecraft Vectra 21 RL is one of the most popular models built by Princecraft. This model has a 21-foot deck length, with three color options. IT’s one of the most in-demand pontoon boats available and a great choice for cruising, fishing, and diving.
The “RL” in the name of the boat stands for “Rear Lounger.” This pontoon boat comes with an A2 position backrest that’s entirely adjustable for superior comfort. You have options to turn it to the bow or the rear of the boat to suit your viewing experience from the deck.
The Princecraft Vectra 21 RL also features a spacious sun deck with a stainless steel retractable boarding ladder for easy water exit. You also get a ski bar, and it’s one of the few pontoon models with enough speed and power for watersports like skiing and wakeboarding.
The deck loungers feature under-seat storage with plenty of room for your watersports gear, dive equipment, and fishing stuff. One of the seats also has a built-in cooler under the cushion. This boat also comes with a Bimini sunshade to keep you out of the sun’s harmful UV rays and a center console driver configuration for better control and maneuverability, especially when docking it in the marina.
This model is trailerable, and many dealers will include a trailer with your purchase of the boat. This boat comes with a table, rotocast fishing chair bases, and plush upholstery that’s weather and UV resistant and easy to clean.
We like the spring-loaded walk-through gates included in this model, allowing for automatic shutoff. The helm features a station with a rotomolded center console design featuring an acrylic hardtop, a 12V electrical outlet, and a Bluetooth Jensen Stereo with four waterproof speakers.
The Princecraft Vectra 21 RL comes with a Mercury 115 Pro XS outboard motor and a top speed of 36-mph.
Crestliner 240 Rally DX
Crestliner has more than 70-years of building some of the finest watercraft available. The Crestliner 240 Rally DX model features five configurations to suit your activities on the water.
You get a seating configuration that depends on the floor plan of your model, with standard features like pillowtop lounge chairs in the stern and bow of the vessel and under-seat storage systems. There’s a wooden table with integrated cupholders, a stainless-steel ladder for exiting the water, and a 10-foot Bimini sunshade.
The fiberglass helm console features an MB Quart GMR-3 Stereo system, with four speakers and Bluetooth connectivity for entertainment out on the water. You also get a 12V electrical outlet, a locking glove box, and loads of space for your electronics like fish finders and GPS.
The Crestliner 240 Rally DX comes with a 150-HP Mercury outboard motor and a top speed of 37-mph on flat water.
Pontoon boats are an excellent choice for fishing, entertaining, and diving, giving you one of the most comfortable platforms available on the water.
These boats are spacious and come with luxury fittings, ample seating, plenty of storage. Some models have accommodation, full amenities, like galleys and beds, and all the entertainment trimmings you could ask for in a boat.
Entry-level boats are affordable, with prices starting at $15,000, and there’s a size and model to suit your needs whether you want a small, large, luxury, or minimalist boat. With so much variety available in this category, take your time choosing the right pontoon boat to match your activities.