Buying a Pontoon Boat? 17 Things To Know (Before You Buy!)

So you have decided to purchase a pontoon boat? This is great! A Pontoon boat is a great recreational watercraft that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

I myself have had a pontoon boat for years and would highly recommend this type of boat for larger families or people who plan on taking out multiple passengers.

Before you make a decision on your pontoon boat, there are some things you will want to know first.

Below, I have compiled a guide of what you should know before you purchase your pontoon.

1. What Size and Type of Pontoon do you Need?

After looking at the pros and cons, if you have decided a pontoon boat is the type of boat you want to purchase, the next thing to do would be to determine what size and type of pontoon boat you are looking for.

Fact About SIZES:

Size is most often determined by how many passengers you believe will be accompanying you on your journeys.

When determining what size you will need based on the number of people, consider the following:

  • For 2-6 people choose a pontoon between 18 to 20 ft.
  • For 6-10 people choose a pontoon between 22 to 24 ft.
  • For more than 10 people you will want to consider a pontoon 24 ft. or larger.

You will also want to factor in the body of water you are going to be in when deciding what size you need.

When determining what size you will need based on the body of water, consider the following:

  • For small and calm bodies of water, you will want to look at a boat between 17 to 19 ft.
  • For lakes and rivers that do not have large waves, you should consider boats between 20 and 22 ft. long.
  • For water that is often rough, you will want to look at boats between 23 to 28 ft.

Different TYPES Of Pontoon Boats:

You will also want to consider the type of pontoon boat that you will want. Pontoons are often built for different recreational uses.

Knowing what you want to use the boat for in advance can help you when it comes to selecting the proper boat for you.

Some types include:

1) Fishing

If you are going to use your boat for fishing 70% of the time or more, you might want to consider getting a model that is equipped with fishing in mind.

  • If you are only going to fish between 20% and 70% you can choose either a fishing model or a cruising model.
  • If you are going to be fishing 20% of the time or less, you will likely want to stick with a model that is just built for cruising.

2) Watersports

If you plan to pull water toys such as tubes, skiers, wakeboards, and other sports equipment, you will want to make sure that your motor has no less than 90 horsepower.

Anything less and you will not get the power you need to pull these objects effectively.

3) Sunbathing & Swimming

If you plan to use your boat mainly for swimming and sunbathing you can get large sun loungers or swim decks for your boat. There are even additional options such as slides and improved ladders for swimmers.

4) Additional Recreation

Pontoon boats can also have changing rooms, bathrooms options, grills, sinks, or seating that converts to a bed. These available options will allow you to use your pontoon for any recreational activity you could think of.

2. What are the Most Popular Pontoon Boat Brands?

There are many pontoon brands to choose from. Picking the right brand is important. Below are some of the most popular pontoon brands.

Bennington:

Bennington pontoon boats are available in multiple floor plans with thousands of possible configurations.

Bennington pays attention to quality and performance.

One model to look at is The Bennington 22SSRXP.

This model offers a large amount of seating space that can fit 12 people. There are seating benches that are placed in the stern and the bow. It also comes with tables to insert into the floor.

They also provide two captain’s chairs. One for the captain and one for the co-pilot.

This model also offers enough power for water sports.

Escape:

Escape focuses on excellence in styling and details when they build their pontoon boats.

One Escape model is the 21 TTT.

This option comes with 3 benches and a love seat with an optional teak table. All of the seating in this model have hand-crafted upholstery to maximize comfort.

This boat allows for four different layouts. This model also has tapered tubes for a more streamlined and stable shape. This gives a smoother and faster ride while reducing your fuel costs.

Manitou:

Manitou offers many different sizes and floor plans. They pride themselves on the versatility of their boats and work hard to provide plenty of customizable options.

Manitou offers four different floor pans for their Manitou Oasis line.

The Oasis line offers wrap around seating, large convertible seating areas that can be loungers or can open up to an easily accessible swim platform and ladder. They can also be set up for seating for 4.

The Oasis VP model also has upgraded pontoon tubes. This provides a more stable platform that can handle up to 150 hp.

Harris:

Harris offers comfort and versatility on smaller pontoons. They also offer plenty of luxuries.

The Harris 180 Cruiser has four possible floor plans.

Two of these are for entertaining, one is made for fishing, and the fourth is for enjoying entertaining as well as fishing.

This model allows up to 60 hp to be mounted when equipped with the sports package.

Harris also allows you to upgrade your standard features with an extensive list of options to help you design the perfect pontoon for you.

Lowe:

Lowe offers a no-nonsense design approach that allows their pontoons to be less expensive than the other options.

The Lowe’s Sport SS series is the main focus of Lowe’s pontoon lineup.

The seats on the Sport SS series are functional as well as comfortable. This pontoon has lounges and plenty of seating that ends at the swim deck.

It also features plenty of storage. The swim deck and ladder on the back are not too cramped.

If you are budget conscious and not looking for too many fancy features, this pontoon is a well-built option with high durability.

3. What are the Pontoon Brands to Avoid?

This question is often asked but does not have an easy answer. While certain brands are better than others, there is not really a certain brand to avoid.

Any pontoon manufactured since the year 2000 has been held to high standards and follow the safety ratings and regulations.

Instead of looking at a certain brand you will want to look at the overall workmanship of each boat.

Check for things such as:

  • Whether or not the rails and decks were screwed in or bolted through. Bolting will last longer and will have lower maintenance costs.
  • Look at the brackets and welding for signs of damage or patching.
  • Look at the engine and its condition.

You can also look for a brand that fits your needs and budget. Some brands are more expensive and offer more luxurious options, but most brands will hold up and provide fun for you and your family.

4. Tips for Getting the Best Deal on a Pontoon Boat

Guy doing an inspection of a tiny house on wheels

Getting a good deal is high on everyone’s list when it comes to buying anything, and pontoon boats are no exception.

Some tips to get the best deal on a pontoon boat includes:

Timing Is Everything!

Timing is very important when it comes to purchasing any type of boat. While timing can vary, based on location, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

If you are located in an area that has an on-season and off-season, meaning somewhere that has cold winters, you often find the best deals in the off-season.

Dealerships often try to get rid of old models in the fall to make room for newer models. If you plan to purchase through a dealership, fall or early winter will be a great time to get a good deal.

If you are buying from a private seller, winter might be your best option. Private sellers are more likely to sell their boats in the winter when they are not using them. This is because they might still be making a payment, but not getting any use out of it.

Even if a private party wants to sell their boat, they might hold off in the summer months while they are using it.

You should also check your local financial institution. They will often offer deals on boats during winter or early spring to boost their loan numbers.

If you live somewhere that has a boating season that lasts all year, you might not get lucky during any particular time and will want to keep an eye out for deals and sales.

If you live somewhere without an off-season you might consider tax season.

Dealerships often offer deals during tax season because they anticipate people with tax returns being able to afford things they might not be able to during the rest of the year.

5. Boat Shows Are Great For Buyers

Boat shows also offer deals for people purchasing boats.

In warmer climates, these shows generally take place in the winter. In colder climates, you should look for them in the spring.

In addition to discounts, you can also gather information at these boat shows that will be valuable for your future boat hunting. At a boat show, you can compare different companies and models for features and other products.

6. Shop Around Til You Recognize A Good Deal

You are not likely to get a good deal if you only visit one location. Make sure when buying your boat, you shop around for different dealerships, models, and manufacturers.

Like any large purchase, you will want to make sure you do the research to make sure that the boat you are buying is the right model for you and that you are getting the best deal possible.

If you feel overwhelmed you can even hire a boat broker to shop around for you. As the buyer, it is unlikely that you will pay your boat broker. Commission for a broker generally comes from the seller of the boat.

This can be a low-risk way to get exactly what you are looking for at the best price as well as getting advice from a professional.

7. Finance through a Marine Lender:

Marine lenders usually know more about boats and their financing than a commercial bank will. This allows them to finance your boat and sometimes they will be able to offer you a better deal.

You also should be able to deduct your interest when you do your taxes.

Just like when shopping for boats, make sure you shop around for lenders and go with whoever can offer you the best deal.

When looking at financing pay special attention to interest rates and loan fees.

8. Insurance:

Like any other purchase, you will have to get insurance for your boat, especially if you have a loan for it.

Make sure you shop around.

Saving money on insurance will really add up in the long run.

You can also speak with your insurance company that handles your homeowner or auto insurance. Insurance companies sometimes offer a discount if you bundle insurance types.

Should I Buy, Rent, or Lease?

You might be asking yourself, do I really need to buy a pontoon? Maybe you are considering other options than outright boat ownership.

Whether or not to buy a boat will completely depend on the individual and their needs.

Below is some information on options available:

9. Advantages Of Leasing A Pontoon Boat

Oftentimes, people looking for a new automobile will look into leasing it. This would allow for smaller payments and the customer would be able to upgrade vehicles more quickly.

You might be wondering if leasing is also a viable option for your marine purchase.

There are a few types of leasing deals that you could look into when looking at recreational boats.

If you belong to a boating club, you might be able to do a lease share.

If you belong to a boating club, you are often allowed to try boats in the boating club’s fleet. This option is often included in your monthly payment.

You could also look at a timeshare approach when working through a boating club. This would allow you to lock in blocks of time to use the boat of your choice.

Leasing this way is a viable option if you are not sure exactly what type of boat you would like or how large of a boat you will need.

You can also look into leasing with a purchase option.

This option works in a very similar manner to leasing a car. If you choose this option you will want to look closely at the terms of the lease.

It is important to make sure you look at what the value of the boat will be when the lease ends.

You will also want to make sure you can walk away when the lease is over if purchasing the boat does not look worth it.

Leasing can be beneficial if:

  • You do not intend to own the boat for very long.
  • You do not intend to use it very often.
  • You cannot commit the time and money needed for maintenance and upkeep.
  • You cannot afford storage fees while the boat is not in use.

10. Advantages Of Renting A Pontoon Boat

Renting a boat is also an option that is available.

Renting a boat means that you buy the right to use that boat for certain periods of time, but you will never actually own it.

Some pros of renting include:

  • Expense:
    • It is less expensive when it comes to renting a boat over buying it. However, if you plan to rent regularly, this could add up and might be more expensive than buying. Make sure you know how often you plan to use the boat.
  • Look into your Options:
    • If you are not sure what type of boat, or even what size boat will best fit you and your needs, renting is a great option. This will allow you to try out some different things before you make a final decision.
  • No Maintenance:
    • Often when you rent a boat, you do not own it and are not in charge of its maintenance. You are likely to not even have to clean it.
  • No trailering:
    • If you rent a boat, you can visit new places and different bodies of water without having to trailer or haul your boat.
  • No Storage:
    • You will also not have to store your boat while you are not using it. This can become costly, especially if you live in a climate where you will have to winterize the vessel. Buying a slip and winterizing your boat can be very costly.

There are many benefits to renting a boat but there are also disadvantages.

If you rent a boat you will have to load and unload your equipment every time and you will never have the same sense of ownership in your vessel.

You will also not have the same freedom that comes with owning your own vessel.

11. Advantages Of Buying Your Own Pontoon Boat

Purchasing your own boat has many advantages and disadvantages as well.

One major disadvantage is cost. When you own the boat all costs fall on you. This includes maintenance, storage, fuel, upkeep, and other costs.

You will want to make sure that you will use the boat enough to offset all the costs. Owning a boat can be a major expense. This means you will want to make sure you will get enough use out of your boat to make the costs worth it.

If you buy your boat, you will also have more freedom on where you go and when you take the boat out. You will also have a sense of ownership and pride in your vessel. There is nothing better than the satisfaction of owning your own boat and putting pride in its upkeep.

Deciding between leasing, renting, and buying is a choice every individual has to make based on their own circumstances and there is no right answer.

12. What Should I Look for When Buying a *NEW* Pontoon Boat?

When buying a new boat, you will have more freedom to customize your boat and get exactly what you want.

When buying a new boat you can choose add on packages, features, or even pick your layout and seating arrangement.

In addition to size and type of pontoon boat, there are some other factors to look into when picking which one you want.

These factors can include:

  • Seating Configuration:
    Depending on how many people you have and what you will be doing, you should pick a seating arrangement that fits. You can choose a seating arrangement that maximizes seating, or add additional lounge areas, or even upgrade the captain’s chair.
  • How many Pontoons:
    Most pontoon boats have two tubes, but you can even get 3 tubes. Tri-toons can go faster with more stability. This allows them to be faster for water sports and other activities.
  • How Big of a Motor:
    Make sure you pick a motor with the proper power for the intended use for your boat. If you are going to participate in water sports you will need the proper power to do so. You also want to make sure that you do not overpower your boat.
  • Addition of a Bimini Top:
    Bimini tops are canvas tops that provide shade while out on the water. You will want to make sure you get a sufficient Bimini top. You should also try and use it before you purchase it to make sure it is not too difficult.
  • Comfort Amenities:
    You are also able to pick your amenities with a new boat. These can include cupholders, tables, privacy space, and other optional amenities.

Buying a new boat can be great and it is easier to get exactly what you want. However, new options are often much more expensive.

If you are trying to remain budget-conscious, you will likely want to look at a used boat.

13. What Should I Look for When Buying a *USED* Pontoon Boat?

The major thing to remember when buying a used boat is to make sure it is properly inspected and this is no different when it comes to pontoon boats.

When shopping for a used boat make sure to inspect:

  • The Hull:
    The most important thing on any boat is the hull. Check for cracks, patches, or chips. These can get worse over time and need to be properly taken care of.
  • Pontoon Tubes:
    You will want to make sure your pontoon tubes are straight. You will also want to check these for cracks, dents, holes or anything else that might require repairs.
  • The Engine:
    The engine is very important when it comes to buying a boat. If there isn’t a functioning engine the boat will not be useful. You will want to look for any smoke, seepage of liquid, rust, or other signs of decay or corrosion.
    You will also want to look at how many hours are on the engine or if there were any repairs made.
  • Interior:
    You will also want to check the interior such as the floor and furniture. Make sure there are no cracks, mold, or rotting.

One way to make sure you are buying a boat with minimal to no issues is to get it inspected. An inspector is a professional and will be able to spot things that you can’t.

If you can, it would even help to take the boat out for a test drive.

You can also see if there is an available warranty on the boat depending on its age.

You will also want to make sure to look at used boats that meet all of your requirements in advance.

When buying a new or used boat, you will want to make sure you look at options inside your budget. It can be very tempting to make irresponsible fiscal decisions when looking at a boat outside of your budget or price range.

To prevent buying a boat that is too expensive, you will want to make sure that you don’t even look at them.

14. Do Pontoon Boats Hold Their Value?

For both land and marine vehicles, the value depreciates shortly after purchase. While pontoon boats do not hold their value, you will still get value from using them.

Pontoon boats lose their value quite a bit in the first couple of years. After the first few years, the depreciation will slow down.

If you are buying a pontoon boat to make a profit, you will be disappointed because it is incredibly unlikely to sell for more than you purchased it for.

What you lack in profit, you will make up for in fun family activities and cherished memories.

Tip
We have done some extensive research into exactly how fast pontoon boats depreciate. Here’s everything you should know about depreciation for pontoon boats (and other boat types as well)

15. How to Define a Pontoon Boat?

A pontoon boat is a flat boat that relies on two or three metal pontoons to float. The pontoons, or tubes, are what keep the boat afloat while allowing a flat deck.

Pontoon boats are excellent recreational vehicles because their flat decks allow for lounge areas, stand up bars, tables, sun pads, and other types of deluxe accommodations.

Pontoon boats are used for pleasure boating, water sports, fishing, swimming, lounging, and other recreational activities.

Pros & Cons of Pontoon Boats?

Like anything else, there are pros and cons associated with owning a pontoon boat.

16) Typical PROS Of Getting A Pontoon Boat

  1. Family Friendly:
    Pontoon boats are family-friendly and provide plenty of space and comfort for multiple people. Their design is also good for small children since most models feature doors or gates at all entrances and exits to prevent falling in.
  2. Storage Space:
    In addition to having plenty of space on board for passengers, there is plenty of storage space on a pontoon as well. This means that you can bring more out on the water with you without worrying about clutter.
  3. Versatile:
    Pontoon boats can be used for many different activities including fishing, pulling up to a nearby beach, watersports, grilling, and other activities.
  4. Durability:
    Pontoon boats are incredibly durable and the maintenance that is required is often easy enough to accomplish it yourself. This makes them cheaper to own in the long run, especially if they are properly taken care of.
  5. Simplicity:
    Pontoon boats are easier to use and harder to damage during use than boats with v-shaped hulls. You are also able to take them into shallower waters.
  6. Safety:
    Pontoon boats are one of the safest types of vessels you will come across. Their pontoons make them highly stable and the chance of tipping or capsizing is very low.

17) Typical CONS Of Getting A Pontoon Boat

  1. Speed:
    It is rare that you will find a pontoon boat that reaches high speeds. Depending on what engines you get, you can increase the speed, but a pontoon is not meant for high speeds. On average pontoon boats can reach between 28-35 mph.
  2. Rough Water:
    While pontoon boats are generally safer than v-hulled vessels, in extreme weather they can become very dangerous. Make sure you know how to handle a pontoon in rough or high water.
  3. Wake:
    Pontoon boats have twice the wake of a v-hulled vessel. This might not be important to everyone, but you will have to keep a closer eye on your speed in a “no wake” zone.
  4. Handling:
    Pontoon boats are easy to handle but you will not be able to make turns as tight as you would in a v-hulled boat.
  5. High Engine Noise:
    If you have a pontoon with outboard engines, these can be noisy. Especially if you get large motors or even multiple motors on your vessel.
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