For the longest time, I thought a pontoon boat was the same as a swamp boat, but doing the research, I discovered how wrong I was. A family-boat-cum-party-boat, pontoons are enjoying a resurgence, so much so that of the 250 000 boats sold in 2016, over 48 000 were pontoons.
What does everyone know that you don’t? Well, pontoons have undergone somewhat of a transformation, including more advanced tube designs, lighter onboard engines, as well as newer construction materials.
With as much as 900 horsepower on some, they are no longer the slow, cumbersome vessel you might remember, and the interiors are similar to that of the top of the range luxury cars.
But what exactly is a pontoon boat used for? We are so glad you asked. From fishing and diving to enjoying a sundowner cruise with friends and family, these boats are one of the more versatile options around, which is why they are so popular.
Types of Pontoon Boats
What do plan to do with your pontoon? Depending on your answer, there are six different types to choose from.
Pontoons for the Family
Family pontoons are like the SUVs of the water and can be used for fun days out on the water, overnight stays, or booze cruises. They usually have an ergonomic design with a spacious lounge area and are made with comfort in mind.
Pontoons for Fishing
Pontoon boats and fishing go hand in hand thanks to their low draft that allows them to get up in skinny or shallow water. The large deck space has ample room for the must-have livewell, fishing rods, tackle as well as the obligatory cooler chest filled with refreshments.
Pontoons for Performance
If you are after a boat that has a lot of horsepower, you will be amiss overlooking the performance-type pontoons. Sometimes referred to as “rocketoons”, these babies have engines with a capacity of 900HP. You can choose pontoons with two or three engines, with speeds as high as 50 or 60 miles per hour.
Pontoons for Watersport
Yup, pontoon boats are fast and powerful enough nowadays to tow skiers, wakeboarders as well as tubers. These are equipped with sports arches for towlines, brackets for skis and boards and they have super cool graphics.
Forget Pimp My Ride; it’s Pimp My Pontoon. If you can think it, within reason, a luxury pontoon will have it. From stand-up bars and lavish chaise lounges to joystick steering and mahogany fence paneling, it is all about comfort and extravagance.
Pontoons on a Budget
If you are wanting to buy a pontoon but are afraid of the costs, we can assure you there are loads available to suit more modest budgets. Manufacturers are making entry-level pontoons that combine comfort, quality, and affordability as a way to get more people on the water.
The Advantages of Having a Pontoon Boat
Usually, ski or fishing boats are built with a specific function in mind. A pontoon, on the other hand, can be used for a few activities.
Over and above versatility, pontoons offer users a wide range of advantages,
Want to know what these are? Keep on reading.
They are Ideal for Families
Ask any pontoon owner what they love about theirs, and they will tell you how it is perfect for their family and friends. Unlike any other boat, there is very little chance of children getting bored because there is more than enough space to play, fish, and also enjoy water activities.
Pontoons are a Safer Option
Compared to other boats on the market, pontoons are a much safer option. They have fences and high side rails which makes them suitable for families with smaller children. Their size also makes them more stable on the water.
Unless you have one of the powerful pontoons built for speed, you will be traveling at around 25 to 28 miles per hour, so there is very little chance of the boat flipping.
They Offer Unbeatable Comfort
There are very few other boats that offer the same comfort as a pontoon. There is space to spread out on the deck in the sun, or fall asleep on a comfortable couch, while the other passengers fish, swim, ski or socialize.
If you have spent time in the water, you can get out of your swimsuits and change into dry clothes to enjoy an early evening barbecue. Add a canopy, and you can enjoy an overnight stay. There isn’t much you can’t do on a pontoon boat in absolute comfort.
Pontoons Have Ample Storage
No other boat can boast the kind of storage and space like a pontoon can. Even with ten or more people on board, there is enough room for diving and camping equipment, ice chests, chairs, snacks, clothes, and fishing gear.
You can even take kayaks along.
As far as storage goes, there is space for life vests, wallets, phones and other valuables.
They are Easy to Maintain
One of the biggest gripes from boat ownershave is the upkeep and maintenance that goes with it. But this isn’t the case with pontoons. They are made using aluminum that dents rather than breaks, and in the event something does happen, they are a lot more affordable to repair.
Also, after a day out on the water, you can hose it off, unlike other boats that need to be towel dried to avoid getting water spots on the gel coat paint.
Essential Questions to Ask Before Buying a Pontoon Boat
Although pontoons are a lot more affordable than other boats on the market, you will still be parting with a substantial amount of your hard-earned cash. Before you splash out, so to speak, make sure you ask these essential questions.
1. What is the pontoon mainly used for?
Depending on what you intend using your pontoon for, remember there are different types, which means features will vary.
If you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time relaxing in the sun, make sure the deck is a good size and that it has sufficient padding. If you plan on socializing with family and friends, it is worth looking at a pontoon with loads of seating, as well as space for drinks and food. Oh, and a sound system.
A fishing pontoon should have fishing chairs, a livewell, and a fish locator. You might want one that has the necessary fishing equipment in all four corners as well as storage space for fishing gear, tackle and a cooler chest.
If you are going to be using the pontoon for a lot of swimming and other water activities you will want one with a ladder or two. Is a portable ladder a better option than a permanent one with a gate? Something else to consider is a changing area where people can get out of their wet swimsuits.
2. What size engine do you need?
What you use it for, where you use it and how many people you intend having onboard will determine the size of the motor.
3. How big is the deck area?
The deck area and tube length are two very different things. The deck refers to the space on the boat, and the tubes are about the pontoon’s capacity and performance.
Will it be used as a party boat or are you only having small family get-togethers? Will you be boating on calm waters as well as in rougher conditions?
This guide will help:
- Between 16 and 19 feet: this size is suitable for calm water and around eight people
- Between 20 and 22 feet: a pontoon of this size can comfortably accommodate around 13 people and is perfect for rivers and lakes
- Between 23 and 27 feet: can hold approximately 15 people and will handle rough waters well
4. What accessories and amenities are available on the pontoon?
Pontoons are made for long, lazy days out on the water, which means there are a few must-have amenities and accessories. Comfortable seating that is made with durable vinyl and foam is important, while a canopy or enclosure top will keep your pontoon looking better for longer.
Other important questions that are worth asking include:
- Is the ladder solid and what is its weight capacity?
- Is there an anchor or will you need to purchase one separately?
- When last was an oil test done?
- When was the last time the pontoon was put through a safety check?
- How many hours are on the pontoon?
- What does the pontoon weigh and can your current car pull it comfortably? Will you need to get a trailer?
- Where will your pontoon be moored or stored?
Never feel stupid asking as many questions as you need before making a decision. Whether you are buying a new or previously loved pontoon, it is still an investment, and you need to be happy with your purchase.
What we can tell you though is as soon as you are the proud owner of one, your leisure time instantly becomes pleasure time. Just add water.