Pontoon Boat Buyer’s Guide
Boating with a pontoon boat just might be the most relaxing way to spend a day on the water! Since pontoon boats offer more space and more carrying capacity than any other boating segment, feel free to invite the whole family & all your friends.
Shopping for a pontoon boat can get a little overwhelming. So many brands, so many different floor plan layouts it is hard to know where to begin. Wed like to offer some advice that will help to simplify your buying decision. This is a pontoon specific guide. For more generic new boat buying tips, see this bog post here. Whether you are shopping for a new pontoon boat, or a used pontoon boat, these guidelines should help. The most important question to answer is “why” you are buying a pontoon. Uncover that by going through this exercise.
Ask yourself several questions:
Once you have determined how the boat will typically be used, you are better prepared to make smart choices about a practical layout for your familys needs. Asking these questions will narrow the choices significantly.
Fishing is on the agenda. Seek out models with swivel fishing chairs and maybe a livewell. The die-hard fisherman may look at a model that supports fishing from all 4 corners. If inviting a couple of families out for the day is more your style, perhaps you should consider a pontoon boat with lots of couches. This will obviously increase the seating capacity, and also greatly improve the on board storage space under each couch.
Your New Pontoon Boat
Once you get through all the steps for buying a new pontoon boat, youre closer than ever. Depending on the time of year and your dealers inventory, you may have to order the boat as there is a chance the dealer wont have it in stock.
You may also want to order the boat so that you get the exact color scheme and options you want added. In doing this, there will be a gap between signing the purchase agreement and taking delivery of the boat.
If youre wondering when you will get your pontoon boat, weve got the inside scoop on lead times and what affects the timeline. Rest assured, your new pontoon boat will be worth the wait.
If youre interested in starting the shopping process visit the Barletta website and use our Shop tab to start your journey or build one online here:
Should You Buy A New Or Used Pontoon Boat
If you are new to boating, especially new to pontoon boating, then it might be worth considering a pre-owned pontoon boat.
Pontoon boats arent cheap! And as a pontoon boat has its own characteristics when on the water, the skills required to drive a pontoon boat are probably better acquired on a less expensive boat than on a brand-new vessel. It could prove very costly otherwise if things go wrong.
Spending time on the water, in a less expensive, used pontoon boat will also allow you to gain the experience needed to make a more informed choice about what type of pontoon boat is the ultimate fit for you.
Advantages of buying new pontoon boats are going to be similar to buying a new road vehicle in that they provide warranties, finance options, dealer support and so on. New pontoon boat providers also supply accessories, trailers, safety equipment and so on as well as being able to offer you sound advice about all of the above.
There is of course the flip side to buying a new pontoon boat.
Disadvantages to buying a new pontoon are also similar to those encountered when buying a new road vehicle in that they depreciate in value very quickly. Having the financial worth your new shinny boat sliced by a third the minute it leaves the dealers yard can be difficult to swallow after spending a great of money.
Consider a smaller boat first
You should consider startinging you pontooning experience with a smaller boat.
Its all about accessories
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Selecting The Right Pontoon Boat For A Family
And finally, if you are family-focussed, and looking for something to suit your and your brood, Ive put together a guide specifically for this market. Tips include:
- Why plenty of seating is of paramount importance.
- How a pop-up changing room will be needed.
- The protection a decent Bimini will offer.
- How storage space should be a huge consideration.
- Why vinyl flooring might be better than carpeting.
- How watersports might change which boat you buy.
- The types of inflatables you can buy.
- What safety gear you will need for your family.
- Why a boarding ladder will be essential for kids.
Read my family-friendly guide to choosing a pontoon boat if you have kids.
Do Pontoon Boats Keep Their Value
Pontoon boats do not keep their value, although there’s a lot of value from using them. After the first years of usage, the value tends to drop really fast, however, the speed of depreciation reduces significantly after the first years of usage. I dont think this should be a reason not to get one and have some fun time with your family.
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Match Outboard Engines To The Task
Twin-toon boats require little power, depending on the load and the speed required. Outboard engines of 50- or 60-hp can generally push an 18 to 20 twin toon at 15 or 16 mph. That is about as fast as they will go and putting a larger engine on and winding it up will make the boat go a little faster, but it will do little more.
For those who want to go fast or tow skiers and tubers, we recommend a tri-toon with a 150-hp outboard or larger. Larger tri-toons can easily handle 300-hp engines and some models now handle two large outboards, and we have even tested a 32 tri-toon with three large outboard engines.
High Torque Matters. . All pontoon boats are hard to get moving fast and this fact places a premium on outboard engines that have high torque in the low RPM ranges. Owners who want to engage in tow sports would do well to consider 2-stroke engines or those with superchargers. Both are well-known for creating greater torque at the low end. That, together with four-blade props will probably provide the best performance for nearly any pontoon boat application.
This 2-stroke Evinrude E-TEC G2 250-hp outboard engine pushed the 25 tri-toon pictured here at over 46 mph. It went 0 to 30 mph in six seconds.
Other Things To Consider
Even after purchasing a pontoon boat, you arent really safe from spending more money. There are other necessities that will require you to spend more money on your pontoon boat. Some of them are
Maintenance: This involves keeping your pontoon in good shape which will involve purchasing gas for your pontoon, under maintenance, theres also boat insurance that will cost you from $100-$300 every year. You will also need to get a license which may vary in price depending on your location. The average price for a license is from $55 to $65.
Boat Trailer: The purpose of the boat trailer is to enable the user to transport their watercraft. They are different kinds of boat trailers each having different prices. This usually costs $2000-$5000
You also have other expenses such as Safety Equipment – $1000- $1700 and Repairs – $1000. Most of these prices are to be paid yearly, while some are one time payments.
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+ What To Avoid When Buying A Pontoon Boat
Buying your first pontoon boat is one of the most exciting things you can do. But its a process fraught with indecision and massive choices to make, as in most cases, you are going to spending a lot of money so you need to get it right. First time.
Ive seen plenty of first time pontooners taking home far more boat than they actually needed to buy, purely because they didnt have the knowledge and experience needed in order to make the best decision to suit them.
I cant imagine there being anything more soul-destroying than getting your boat onto the water for the first time, and then not having the necessary seamanship skills in order to handle it, or simply having something not fit for the purpose you actually bought it for.
Thats where this pontoon boat buyers guide is going to help you, so please do feel free to print it out and study it in detail in your own time. Lets get straight into it.
My Recommendations On Pontoon Gear
Last but not least, I would love to be a part of your pontoon adventure from this research period, right through your period of ownership.
I hope that this essential buyers guide to pontoon boats has helped you with your decision-making process, but believe me, theres a lot more to come in the future.
There are going to be things you that you will want to know how to install, operate, or simply want advice on what the best accessories and products are to buy.
With that in mind, I have developed a recommended gear section which details all the major aspects that pontoon boat owners need to be aware of, with recommended products for every conceivable scenario you might encounter. Please do bookmark the Pontoonopedia website to your favorites and feel free to ask me any questions you might have, not matter how it relates to your new pontoon!
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What About My Pontoon Boat Engine
For almost every pontoon model we carry, from 16 to 30 feet, engine performance comes down to a matter of torque. Our Mercury – “Pick Your Power” – engine option is designed to help you decide what amount of propulsion will be perfect for all your activities. When it comes to propulsion, consider how fast you really want to go, the fuel efficiency you desire, and what youll be using the pontoon boat for most.
How Much Speed Do You Need
Finally, think about how much power you need.
- For relaxed cruising, 40 hp is fine.
- For faster rides, look around 150 hp.
- For tubing, water skiing, and extreme speed, look around 300 hp.
Many buyers place too much priority on horsepower keep in mind that a more powerful engine can really push up a pontoon boats price.
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Pontoon Boat Buying Guide: Essential Advice For First Time Buyers
When I decided that I wanted to buy my first pontoon boat, I was stunned by the lack of information and advice online for first-time buyers. It took me a good 6 months to do my own research online, as well as at boat shows, and also down by the water before I finally took the plunge.
It was the best decision I have made, but I do wish that there had been a comprehensive online guide that told me everything I needed to know in just one place. It would have saved me a lot of time and research .
Thats the motivation behind the guide to buying that you are seeing here today, as I wanted to put something together that was simple and easy to understand for first-time buyers of a pontoon boat.
I hope you find it useful, and its the first step for you in helping to decide whether or not this is a good choice for you, and what you need to know before you open your wallet regardless of the multitude reasons you could be deciding to buy.
How Much Horsepower Do I Need On A Pontoon
This is the most important question. Many pontoon buyers get tricked into the low price point 50HP special at the local Boat show or dealer lot only to find out once on the water you can walk faster than that boat will go. If you plan to take the family out and do any type of water sport you need at least 115HP and 150HP or up is where you really want to be. Listed below is a speed chart for the approx. speeds you should see from a pontoon.
- 250HP = 48 to 53
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Buying Tips For Pontoon Boats
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.
How Much Do Pontoon Boats Depreciate Each Year
The depreciation may vary for the models, regardless, we have made a table showing the average percentage of depreciation per year. Check out the table below.
|4th||+ 5-6 %|
Is a boat a bad investment?The depreciation may also slow down to 1-2% per year, this is also based on models and the year that it was produced. For example, a 2007 pontoon boat must have lost value over the years, its not bad to buy a 2007 pontoon boat in 2021 or 2022. However, if you are concerned about value, your pick should be the latest version.
A boat can be a great or bad investment, as a novice, before you buy a boat, you should first read a buying guide that would give you information that will gear you towards buying the perfect boat that suits you. Also, owning a boat is mainly for the pleasure or sweet adventure that comes with having it.
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Whats Your Body Of Water Like
Depending on where you boat, you may have to choose a pontoon that meets the needs of the water. Are you on a large reservoir with rough chop or a small smooth lake? This will matter when choosing between a pontoon and a tritoon.
Big water such as large lakes, the intercoastal, and big rivers will require more boat all the way around. In this case, I recommend shopping for larger floorplans, a third toon, and a big engine. If you plan on putting around small, calm water, you can consider shopping for smaller models if thats what fits your needs.
If you boat on the intercoastal or any type of salt water area, you will want to look into saltwater safe pontoon boats. Most brands offer saltwater editions in their model lineup so be sure to learn what that entails. You will want to find a brand that includes things like large anodes, saltwater safe components, and reinforced nose cones.
Dont be fooled by the brands that just slap a saltwater sticker on the side of the boat and call it good. Knowing your body of water will play a part in buying a new pontoon boat so make sure youre aware of where you boat.
How To Determine True Length
First, its important to know the differences between a couple of lengths offered. Most manufacturers will give you the deck length and the tube length to work with.
Both deck and tube lengths are exactly what they sound like. The length of the deck will be longer than the tubes as it does extend out over the tubes.
That said, every manufacturer is different in how they designate their models. For example, here at Barletta, we create model designations based on the tube length of the boat.
So, the L23U has a tube length of 236 and a deck length of 256. These are important figures to know, but the boat will be longer still.
Some manufacturers, like Barletta, have a transom on the back of the boat that will stick out further than both the tubes and the deck. You then have to figure in the outboard engine to get the overall length of the boat.
Depending on the make and model of the engine, it could add 2-3 to the boat itself. So, for instance, on my L25UC, Ive got a deck length of 276, but the entire length of the boat and engine are right around 29.
Although the deck length will help you determine the overall length of the boat when all is said and done, its important to know the tube length for reasons such as buying the appropriate pontoon trailer or boat lift.
As I mentioned, all manufacturers will vary slightly in how they calculate total length, so make sure to do your research while shopping different brands.
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Try Before You Buy When You Rent A Pontoon
A pontoon boat is a flatboat that uses pontoons to float. Pontoon boat heights can be as shallow as eight inches, which reduces the risk of running the boat aground and causing underwater damage. When you rent a pontoon boat through Boatsetter, it is a good way for you to try the boat out by doing some fishing and exploring shallow waterfront areas. These types of boats are some of our most popular rental options due to their easy maneuverability and compact size. It is generally quite easy to dock your pontoon boat rental at docks or even some waterfront restaurants. Once you have tried out your pontoon boat rental for a day or two, youll have a better idea of whether or not you may want to purchase a boat of your own in the future.