Pontoons – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Nothing Beats a Day on the River
Nothing Beats a Day on the River

The Advantages & Disadvantages of a Pontoon

A pontoon boat is a lightweight vessel. The hull of the boat is constructed of tubes called pontoons, which taper in at the front of the boat. This allows for better movement and speed in the water. An aluminum frame attaches the pontoons to the deck platform. The deck of a pontoon boat can be made out of wood, aluminum or fiberglass. Pontoon boats generally have railings around the flat shaped boat, to prevent people, and especially children from falling over board.

There are many accessories available that can be added to a pontoon boat to customize it for your use. You can have bench seating all around the sides, in rows, or just use lawn furniture and tables. Adding a camper enclosure can make most all pontoons suitable for spending a night on board. The port side gate and full-width swim platform invite you to play in the water. The stereo with an MP3 jack makes it easy to entertain, and the drop-down changing room lets you change into something more comfortable—and stay until after dark. Attaching a bimini canopy makes your pontoon boat ready for an afternoon cruise with family and friends by providing shade from the hot sun. For the fishermen; you can add built in livewells, rod holders, and bait buckets. The deck of a pontoon boat also makes a great platform for fishing with the buddies. It is also an ideal boat to use for scuba diving. Some models are even fast enough to pull the kids on water skis, wakeboards, or tubes. These boats are also available with freshwater and toilet facilities.

If you enjoy taking the boat out in the ocean then this is not the boat for you. You will hardly ever see anyone on a pontoon boat out in the ocean, as they are simply not built for rougher waters. The best place to cruise on a pontoon boat is in a lake, river, or other calm water. They are not made for the sea because of its shallow hull. Waves over two feet will be washing on to the deck of your boat. Stay away from the rough waters of the ocean because of their short bow they cannot withstand rough seas at all.

Depending on the size of the pontoon boat, they usually can hold anywhere from 6-17 people. They range in size from 14 to 28 feet. Pontoon boats use an outboard engine and stern drive; with horsepower ranging from 10HP to 135HP. The average price of a pontoon boat is $11,000, with prices ranging anywhere from $7,000 - $30,000 new. A used pontoon boat can range from $1,000 - $15,000, but they are extremely hard to locate. Of course it is important to keep that pontoon in tip top shape so it is important to purchase a pontoon cover to protect your investment and the exterior of your pontoon.

One of the latest designs for pontoons is the addition of a third pontoon, or the triple tube design. “Tri-toons” are the latest craze because of their versatility and stability. They allow for larger motors on the boat, which can add 15 mph on the water. A 300 horsepower motor can provide an incredible ride and can reach close to 60 miles per hour top end speed. This will give the boat the performance of a deck boat and will give a nice smooth wake for tubing, skiing, and wakeboarding. Tri-toons handle more like deck boats and cost approximately $23,000 new.

There are many reasons why people don’t like pontoons. First of all they are huge gas wasters. This is because they plow through the water and not on top of it. This method is very poor in efficiency and results in poor acceleration and lower top end speed. Secondly, most pontoon boats are equipped with an outboard that is underpowered for most people's usage needs. It takes 15 to 20% more horsepower outboard on a pontoon to do roughly the same on a ski boat with same HP engine. Finally, on a pontoon with a typical outboard of 60 to 90 HP and 4 to 5 people onboard, there is very little chance of pulling an adult skier or wake-boarder with it. You might be able to pull them, but it will be a terrible experience because you won't be able to get enough speed quickly to get them out of the water.

Well there you go. Do you think a pontoon would be right for you? Speaking from experience, a pontoon is the only boat that allows you the freedom to move around the deck without a fear of rocking the boat to the point of spilling over. It is great for taking kids fishing or a leisurely ride down the river to unwind and refresh. In my mind, there is nothing better for the price and the square footage.

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