A pontoon boat is great for fishing, family outings and parties. No longer looking like they’re built for your grandpa and his fishing buddies, today’s pontoon boats offer smooth rides and sleek finishes. The purchase of such a boat can be a significant recreational investment, so make sure you have all the information you need before making a final decision. Here’s a look at some of the key questions to ask before buying a pontoon:
1. What size is the deck?
Keep in mind that the deck length is different than the tube length. The deck provides the usable space on the boat, while the tubes refer to its performance and capacity. Base the size of the deck you need on the body of water you’ll use the pontoon boat in as well as the number of people you want to be able to transport.
- 16-19 feet: Best for small, calm bodies of water; accommodates up to eight people.
- 20-22 feet: Best for lakes and rivers that don’t have big waves; accommodates up to 13 people.
- 23-27 feet: Good for rough waters, especially when the tubes are 27 feet long; accommodates up to 15 people.
2. What is the pontoon model’s primary purpose?
As you shop for the right pontoon model for your needs, look for amenities that will complement the recreational activities you plan to enjoy.
- Lounging and sunbathing: Look for a large padded sun deck and a sound system for playing your favorite tunes.
- Large groups of people: You’ll need a boat with plenty of conversational seating, as well as ample storage for food and drinks.
- Swimming and water sports: Your pontoon should offer easy access for getting in and out of the water.
- Fishing: If you plan to spend at least 40 percent of the time in the boat practicing your angling skills, look for a model that has at least two fishing chairs on the front deck, a fish locator and a live well.
3. What amenities does the pontoon boat have?
In addition to the activity-specific features listed above, pontoon boats can come with plenty of other bells and whistles that can help make your excursions more enjoyable. Look for comfortable seating made of durable marine-grade vinyl and foam that resist fading, cracking, peeling, mold and mildew (an important consideration when storing the boat). Enclosure tops can extend your boating season when the weather is less than ideal. High-end boats can include plush carpeting, a toilet, changing room, sound system and generous storage space.
4. How much does the pontoon boat cost?
There are several variables to factor in when estimating the cost of a boat, such as its deck size, brand, quality of materials, engine size, tube size, the year it was made and extra features. In 2012, a small, no-frills boat with a small engine can cost as little as $11,500. The average pontoon boat sells for roughly $20,000. However, expect to pay at least $35,000 for a high-end pontoon boat that comes with all the extras and enough engine to enjoy water sports. Before handing over your hard-earned cash for a new pontoon boat, look for a warranty that ideally covers 100 percent of the parts and labor for everything on the boat, including the electronic components that are most prone to weather-related failures.