After reading some posts on this blog, you’ve become intrigued by the idea of someday owning a pontoon boat. You’ve researched manufacturers, pricing, and amenities. Before you go right ahead and dive in, you might want to consider the pros and cons of pontoon boat ownership. What are they?
Owning a pontoon boat offers many benefits, including:
- You get plenty of room for dozens of passengers
- You can do many activities on your pontoon boat, such as play games, sunbathe, swim, and fish
- They rarely capsize
- They’re super comfortable for sitting and lounging
It’s not all good, though. You have to keep the following downsides in mind:
- Pontoon boats don’t go very fast
- They can’t handle rough waters, such as the ocean
- You can’t turn or maneuver especially well in a pontoon
- They can’t pull wakeboarders, jet-skiers, or other watersports enthusiasts very quickly
In this article, we’ll expand on the above pros and cons in much more detail. By the time you’re done reading, you should have a pretty good idea of whether you should buy a pontoon boat.
The Pros of Pontoon Boat Ownership
First, let’s talk about all the good that comes with owning a pontoon boat. There is indeed a lot of good to enjoy. These boats have become super popular for a reason, after all.
They Offer Plenty of Spaciousness and Room for Many Passengers
When it comes to spaciousness on a boat, you won’t find many vessels that have more than a pontoon boat. Their large, rectangular shape can be cumbersome and even burdensome in other ways (more on this in the next section), that’s true. When it comes to space, though, this same shape provides all you’ll ever need and more.
Most pontoon boats extend 25 feet long on the bigger side, with an average length of about 22 feet. Even deck boats, which are semi-comparable in size, only stretch 22 feet at their longest. That makes pontoon boats some of the biggest and lengthiest on the water.
With that much space comes room for an almost unprecedented passenger count. If you want to bring more than a dozen people onboard, you often can. In fact, it’s not unheard of for some pontoon boats to fit more than 20 passengers! Yes, at the same time.
It’s no wonder so many people like having parties in their pontoon boats. These vessels just invite sociability.
If you have a lot of friends or family who enjoy boating almost as much as you do, then you’ll certainly like this perk of owning a pontoon.
You Have the Freedom to Enjoy Countless Activities
Bored on a boat? Nope! Not on a pontoon. Between their oversized deck space and customization options, you can enjoy countless games and activities aboard or nearby your boat.
We’ll start with the obvious ones. You can go swimming or attach an inner tube to your pontoon and bob along the current. You may also lie out on the deck and catch some rays, working on your tan.
There’s so much more you can do, too. Many pontoon boats have all sorts of amenities for fishermen, including rod holders and cubbies to store fishing equipment. If your boat lacks these, you can always add these features yourself.
Since pontoon boats don’t go especially fast (a point we’ll come back to later in this article), they make for amazing fishing vessels. Your slow speed won’t scare away any fish in the lakes, rivers, or streams you pass through on your pontoon boat.
Besides fishing, you can also attach a grill to the metal railings that are standard with pontoon boats. Some higher-end boats may even include a grill. If not, you can buy one from a home improvement store or even online shops like Amazon. Then you can cook aboard your boat anytime the urge strikes. Just make sure any nearby birds don’t snatch up your meal!
Still want more to do? No problem! You could always enjoy:
- Onboard games
- Making s’mores
- Camping out overnight
- Hosting a pontoon boat block party
As you can see, you have nearly endless possibilities. You’re only limited by your creativity.
Capsizing or Tipping Rarely Happens
If you’ve never owned a boat before, let alone a pontoon, you may have concerns about capsizing. While every boat has some risk of tipping over, pontoon boats certainly have the least.
The design of these boats plays up to their safety. Their long, rectangular shape makes it hard for currents to lift a pontoon. It’s not impossible, but it often takes a lot for it to happen. Also, with a flatter hull, pontoon boats have awesome stability. The pontoon tubes on either side of the boat increase their stability as well.
As we just mentioned, that doesn’t mean your pontoon boat can’t tip. It certainly can. If you take it out in the ocean, especially during high tide, you greatly increase the chances of capsizing. Mishandling the boat, riding in inclement weather, and boating in strong winds could also lead to tipping over.
If you can avoid the above scenarios, then you shouldn’t have to worry about your boat capsizing.
You’ll Sit and Ride in Comfort and Style
When we say stylish boats, do pontoons come to mind right away? Probably not. You likely thought about a sleek sports boat. Okay, so pontoon boats aren’t necessarily chic. Still, they tend to include a lot of high-end design features that make them feel fancier.
Since most pontoon boat manufacturers know their passengers will spend plenty of time sitting and lounging around, they include posh, insanely cozy furniture in the boats. These seats may come with cushions for padding and comfort. If you add your own throw pillows and blankets, who would ever want to get up? Not you!
Seriously, there’s a reason some pontoon boat owners camp out in their boats overnight. While we’d recommend you have a space heater or two (or three) and tons of blankets if you want to follow in their footsteps, you can do it. These boats have nice enough seating and other accommodations that you won’t wake up with a sore back and a crick in your neck. It’ll just be you, the sea, and your pontoon boat.
The Cons of Pontoon Boat Ownership
As we touched on, owning a pontoon boat isn’t all sunshine and roses. You have to know about the downsides as well to make an educated decision on whether you should get one of these boats. Let’s talk about these cons now.
You’ll Never Achieve Super High Speeds (without Modifications)
Listen, pontoon boat technology has come a long way. It once was that if you wanted to go faster than 30 miles per hour (MPH) or so, you’d have to modify the life out of your boat. Now, many manufacturers outfit pontoon boats with more powerful, beastly engines with lots of horsepower. These bad boys allow some pontoons to zip around the waters at close to 50 MPH.
Still, they’re not as fast as most other boats out there. Deck boats, for instance, can easily achieve 50 MPH. Some can reach 70 MPH no problem. If you go for a zippy speedboat, you can easily blast through the water at 90 MPH.
When you go back then and compare those speeds to that of even a faster pontoon boat, the pontoon just can’t compare.
It’s not the pontoon boat’s fault, not really. Their large, boxy design doesn’t exactly make them super aerodynamic or quick. Nor does their hull size. Many faster boats have a V-shaped hull. This glides through the waves, almost sitting atop the water. Not the humble pontoon boat. With its flatter hull, it cuts into the water, creating drag. In that regard, it slows itself down.
If you wanted a faster pontoon boat, you could get one. Many a pontoon owner has modified their vessel before. Unless you buy booster balls or trim the engine (which just means moving it), then you will void your warranty with mods.
If you have any issues with your pontoon boat, you’d then have to pay for them out of pocket. Considering most pontoon problems aren’t exactly cheap, you have to carefully consider whether you think it’s worth it to modify your boat.
If you decide yes, then you can:
- Underskin the boat with aluminum sheeting
- Install an engine with greater horsepower and thus more speed
- Add lifting strakes to reduce drag
- Invest in another pontoon tube, making your boat a tritoon (we say invest because you will spend a lot of money doing this)
Not only do most of these modifications cost you plenty of money, again, you will have to kiss your warranty goodbye. If you decide your warranty matters more than speed, then you’ll have to get used to going more slowly in the water. It just takes time.
Rough Waters Are a No-No
Do you envision taking your boat out on the ocean for an exciting, heart-pumping ride? If so, then you’re going to have to reconsider getting a pontoon boat. They’re not exactly made for ocean riding.
Remember how earlier we mentioned how pontoon boats don’t often capsize? All that goes out the window when you ride in the ocean. The tides can get strong and high enough to tip your boat right over. Even mighty pontoons aren’t exempt.
Can you ride your pontoon boat in the ocean at low tide? Since you’re mostly dealing with tamer waves during this time, you’re at a lower risk of capsizing. Still, you never know when the tide could turn and the waves become rougher. If you’re caught in that situation, you could capsize.
That’s why many pontoon boat experts recommend staying out of the ocean altogether. You don’t want to flip your boat, so stay smart.
You can ride in most other bodies of water in a pontoon boat. These include lakes, ponds, and even some streams and rivers. Watch out for strong currents or choppy waves. Those elements are natural enemies of a pontoon boat.
It’s Not Easy to Turn or Maneuver
If you have a buddy who owns a speedboat, maybe you’ve watched in awe from the dock as they make sharp, sudden turns, spins, and other maneuvers. Well, we hate to break it to you, but you can’t replicate those same moves in a pontoon boat.
Pontoon boats have a wide berth. As with anything with a wide berth, you need to take your time as you turn and expect to go wide. Turning sharply and suddenly won’t work behind the wheel of a pontoon. Their size isn’t conducive to these maneuvers.
You can traverse most bodies of water just fine. If you want to impress your friends with cool tricks or stunts, though, you might want to think about getting a different boat.
For safety’s sake, you’ll have to learn to drive your pontoon boat well. You’ll also have to stay vigilant of other boats when on the water so you don’t have to pull a sudden stop you can’t really do.
High-Speed Watersports Just Don’t Work
By this point, you know pontoon boats can’t go very fast. They also can’t turn or do most maneuvers with swiftness or dexterity. It should come as no surprise then that when it comes to pulling watersports riders, the setup doesn’t really work.
That’s not to say you can’t pull water skiers, wakeboarders, tube riders, and the like. Pontoon boats have lots of space and a surprisingly solid weight capacity. You can absolutely pull these riders with no issue.
Your problem isn’t weight distribution, but speed. You just can’t achieve enough speeds so towing watersports enthusiasts is a worthwhile venture. The low max speeds of your pontoon boat make riding in an inner tube or a wakeboard kind of boring.
You also can’t turn or do many sudden maneuvers, which causes these pulse-pumping activities to be a lot less exciting. Compare doing the same with a speedboat. You can’t tow as many riders with one of these boats. However, with their average speeds of more than 50 MPH, no riders will come back bored. You also have the freedom to zigzag and do all sorts of maneuvers on the water a pontoon boat cannot.
If you have young children just learning watersports, then feel free to pull them along in your pontoon boat. You’ll go at low enough speeds that you won’t worry for their safety. For experienced adult riders looking for a thrill, you’re better off telling them to skip riding on your boat.
Owning a pontoon boat is awesome, but it also takes a lot of responsibility. If you’ve mulled over the idea of getting one of these boats yourself, we hope this pros and cons list helps guide your decision. Whether you buy a pontoon now or wait until a later date, you can make a decision that’s smart for your lifestyle and your finances. Good luck!