What is a Pontoon Boat? (All You Need To Know)

Have you been to a boat show recently? If you have, you might have noticed that pontoons are coming back. Thanks to technological advancements, this long-lost cousin to deck boats have come back bigger and better. You are on the right post if you do not know what a pontoon boat is.

So, what is a pontoon boat? A pontoon boat is a large, flat, rectangular-shaped boat popularly used in inland waters. Pontoon boats are known as party boats because they have a huge deck that can sit large crowds and houses several amenities like lounge areas, bars, slides, and other luxuries.

Pontoon boats are some of the most relaxing boats on the water, but today, they are known for more than their recreational functions. If you want to know more about this boat and why they are making a comeback, keep reading.

Related article: How Much Is Pontoon Boat Insurance? (Real Quotes)

What Makes a Pontoon Boat Unique?

Pontoon boats (left) vs. ski boat (right)

A pontoon boat is unique mainly because of its design. The flat-bottomed deck on a pontoon sits on two or three welded, marine-grade aluminum metal tubes. These metal tubes, also known as “pontoons”, have a high ability to float because they are light and hollow.

On top of the tubes are support channels for the deck. These support channels are made using cross beams which are welded on the tubes creating a solid frame for the deck to sit on.

The deck is usually made from plywood, covered with vinyl or carpet. However, due to recent improvements, you will find some decks with composite floors.

To make the pontoon boat safe, manufacturers use aluminum side panels to fence the deck.

Once the structure is complete, mechanical systems, the engine, and other relevant features go on the boat. For example, fuel tanks and personal storage are usually found within the tubes.

Fun fact: full fuel tanks add about 200 lbs to pontoon boat weight.

There have been many technological improvements to the tubes and other mechanisms that go on a pontoon boat. These improvements have allowed pontoons to host more powerful engines, making them go as fast as 60mph for a few speed models.

Additionally, pontoon boats are customizable, so you can choose any unique layout for your boat depending on how you want to use it.

Different Pontoon Boat Styles

There is a good reason why people refer to pontoon boats as the SUVs of watercraft. These boats are comfortable, multifunctional, have enough storage, easy to maintain, and are perfect for all ages.

Like SUVs, pontoon boats have several models:

Fishing Pontoons

Photo Credit: benningtonmarine.com

Do you enjoy casting a reel from time to time? Most boaters enjoy fishing and must do it on a suitable vessel. Fishing pontoons offer a great combination of comfort and functionality.

A basic design of a fishing pontoon boat will have:

  • Stand-alone fishing chairs
  • Tackle storage boxes
  • Rod holder
  • Fish finder
  • Livewells
  • Fishing rod racks for your gear

Because pontoons are customizable, you can add other features like a trolling motor and other fish-hunting electronics to your boat.

Fishing pontoons are normally used on freshwater lakes and reservoirs. However, some models can be used on salty water in shallow coastal bays.

A pontoon boat is not built to withstand rough waters, so be careful where you go fishing.

Party Barges or Family Pontoons

Photo Credit: godfreypontoonboats.com

Pontoon boats are arguably the best party boats in the world. These boats can host many people, thanks to large open decks, seating areas, and various accessories.

Some things you can expect to find on a family pontoon boat include:

  • Wet bars
  • Sound systems
  • Built-in refrigerators
  • Ice makers
  • Electric grills
  • Enclosed head compartments
  • Sun pads, etc.

A party barge is the best option if you enjoy hosting people or partying on the water with your family.

Watersport Pontoon Boats

Photo Credit: harrisboats.com

Do you enjoy high-speed thrill rides? Believe it or not, modern pontoon designs can give you the ride of a lifetime.

Some designs have twin engines, and others come with three tubes meaning they can house larger motors with more horsepower. As a result, many pontoon boats are capable of towing a waterskier, wakeboarder, tuber, etc.

You will also have enough storage for your water skis and wakeboards. Truthfully, the experience is not that different from your typical V-hull unless you need a large wake.

Luxury Pontoon Boats

Photo Credit: tahoepontoons.com

A luxury pontoon boat is an excellent choice to enjoy a relaxing day on the water.

These boats come with beds, oversized loungers and recliners, high-end sound systems and TVs, and barbecue grills.

The primary function of luxury pontoon boats is to provide maximum comfort as you go sightseeing on the water with your family and friends.

Performance Pontoon Boats

Photo Credit: manitoupontoonboats.com

Performance pontoon boats are made for speed, and these boat designs are perfect for adrenaline junkies who want to go fast on the water.

Most high-performing pontoons are actually “tritoons”, meaning they have three tubes instead of two. With a tritoon, you can hit a speed higher than 100mph and house up to 300 horsepower engines.

How much do pontoon boats cost?

The cost of pontoon boats varies depending on many things such as length, number of pontoons, engine size, features, etc. However, for most new pontoon boats, it’s going to cost around $30,000 to $70,000, with some luxury models costing around $100,000 to $300,000+.

You can see this disparity in price by looking at the costs of a couple of different pontoon boat models below:

Manitou AURORA LE – $30,000 starting price

Note: if you want a 200 hp engine on it, its going to cost around $50,000-$60,000

Bennington 25QXSPORT – $349,867 starting price

Yes, it seems crazy to me too. However, the many features that a luxury pontoon offers, such as its high horsepower engines, beautiful design, and joystick steering, may make it worth the extra money for you.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pontoon Boats

Gone are the days when pontoon boats were only used for parties. Today, they are a variety of designs for almost any activity you enjoy doing on the water.

Besides that, pontoon boats are affordable and more multifunctional than other boats.

There is only one major disadvantage of pontoon boats: speed. Pontoons are wider and heavier than other boats, so most can only go up to 35mph.

Pontoons are also limited to calm waters.

Pontoon boats will dive into the storm on rough waters, making them more dangerous than V-boats. Because they are wider and heavier, pontoons are also difficult to handle and maneuver in the water.

Below is a summarized table of the advantages and disadvantages of pontoon boats:

Provide a great deal of comfort on the waterThey are slow compared to other boats
Easy to use and maintainThey are not ideal for rough water
Pontoons are safe, even for childrenTheir weight and size make them difficult to maneuver in the water
Have ample storage spaceLoud engine noise, especially for pontoons with outboard engines
Last longer compared to other boats because it is easy to renovate 
Perfect for water activities like fishing and skiing 
They are affordable and customizable 

How do Pontoon Boats Compare to Other, Similar Boats?

The most similar boat to a pontoon is a deck boat. Deck boats look like this:

Photo Credit: bayliner.com

We cannot deny that both boats are designed with functionality in mind and not form or shape. However, a deck boat is typically more appealing to the eye regarding physique than a box-shaped pontoon.

Additionally, the V-shaped deck boat cuts through water more easily than the pontoon boat, which are challenging to maneuver. Regarding stability, the pontoon boat takes the trophy because it has a wide, flat hull.

Pontoon boats also have more usable space compared to deck boats. You can easily fit 20 people in a pontoon, while a deck boat can only host 8-12 people.

Generally, deck boats can go faster than pontoon boats as well.

Who Should Use a Pontoon Boat?

Modern pontoon boats are no longer limited to cocktail parties and family gatherings!

With improved tube designs, pontoons are perfect for watersports, fishing, and other water activities. In short, anyone who enjoys water activities, including sightseeing, will love a pontoon boat.

The best thing about pontoon boats is that you can do all these exciting activities with your kids, friends, and family

However, if you live on a lake that regularly gets large waves 2+ feet, I would not recommend getting a pontoon boat.