What is a Pontoon Boat? 10 Things You Should Know.

What is a Pontoon Boat? 10 Things You Should Know.

Pontoon boats have a lot of great qualities. Find out if it is the right type of boat for you.

By Brand Ambassador | January 4, 2022

What is a pontoon boat, you may ask? Many boaters would say it is the perfect way to spend a day on the water. While pontoon boats are great all-around vessels, they have certain limitations and are not a good fit for everyone.

Pontoon boats have a lot of wonderful qualities but also unjust expectations. Understanding what a pontoon boat is and what it is not will help you decide if it is the right type of boat for you.

Our article below will answer some of your biggest questions about pontoon boats. 

What's the point of a pontoon boat?

While it may not look like your typical watercraft, a pontoon boat is an incredibly versatile style of boat. They are easy to maintain, simple to operate, and very safe under the right conditions. Pontoon boats can be the perfect choice for the first-time boat owner. They’re highly customizable and can be rather luxurious. Not just for leisure, pontoon boats also have a purpose commercially. Some uses of pontoon boats are:

Recreational

  1. Fishing
  2. Entertaining
  3. Moderate-level water sports
  4. Snorkeling

Commercial

  1. Tours
  2. Ferry
  3. Utility
  4. Mini-barge

What is the difference between a deck boat and a pontoon boat?

Deck boats and pontoon boats serve a similar purpose: they can comfortably accommodate many people. With an open and flat deck, the typical pontoon will have more walking space and hold more guests than a comparably-sized deck boat. Conversely, a deck boat will typically have less walking room but more storage area.

The most significant difference is the type of hull each boat has. Pontoons have a catamaran-style hull with two parallel floats, whereas a deck boat has a single V-hull. Both are easy to operate, but deck boats will have more adept handling. Deck boats are also a bit more expensive.

As manufacturers improve design and function, the line between a pontoon boat and a deck boat becomes increasingly blurred. They’re both fantastic types of watercraft. If you’re choosing between the two, it may just come down to style. If you plan to give one a try, read our handy guide to renting a boat in Florida.

Do pontoon boats go fast?

Pontoon boats deservedly got a reputation for being slow, clunky, and hard to maneuver. But all that is in the past as manufacturers have designed modern pontoons with performance and handling in mind. Hitting 25 mph in a pontoon was once considered speedy. But today, even the typical off-the-lot pontoon can reach nearly twice that speed. Some high-performance pontoons can even eclipse 100 mph! While still not typically an option for advanced watersports competitors, pontoon boats are undoubtedly capable of the speeds needed for recreational sports.

Are pontoon boats safe in rough water?

When used in calm water, pontoon boats are remarkably stable. More so than a traditional single V-hull boat, in fact. In rough water, the opposite is true. But with the appropriate precautions, pontoon boats can operate safely, even in moderately rough water. Keep in mind that larger pontoons are more stable than smaller ones. Consider a larger craft to compensate if your usual boating spot typically has choppy water. The most important safety precaution is knowing your boat’s limitations and planning accordingly. Always check the forecasts, and don’t be afraid to cancel your day on the water if necessary. Your next fabulous boating day is right around the corner!

What size pontoon boat is best?

Pontoon boats vary significantly in size, from small one-seat personal craft to over 30 feet in length. Consider the capacity and your activities to determine the right-sized boat for you.

For entertaining a handful of people, a 15-footer will suffice. For six to ten people, you’ll need to look between 16 to 20 feet. For more than ten, you’ll need a pontoon over 20 feet. For those into watersports, you’ll need a large pontoon, at least 22 feet long. Bigger pontoons can accommodate the bigger motors necessary and are more stable at high speeds.

Before you buy, most importantly, review your state and local regulations for size restrictions. Even specific bodies of water can have limitations. You don’t want to end up with a boat you can’t use. 

What size motor does a pontoon boat need?

You’ve found the perfect pontoon boat. But that’s only half of the puzzle. How well you’ll be able to enjoy it depends upon finding the right-sized motor. But when choosing the best motor for you, there are a few factors that come into play: 

Size/Weight

As you can imagine, the larger the boat, the larger the motor will need to be to reach the same speed. It’s also important to consider the highest weight your vessel is likely to have. Having just a couple of extra guests and a full tank of gas will make a considerable difference in weight and, therefore, affect performance.

Intended Use

If your typical day on the water is cruising leisurely on a quiet lake with a couple of friends, you’ll be able to get by on a minimal motor. If you participate in watersports or entertain large numbers of people, you’ll need to consider a powerful motor. 

Budget

While it is better to err on the side of a slightly larger motor than necessary, try to avoid overpaying for a motor that is well beyond your needs. Higher horsepower motors can cost as much, if not more, than the boat itself. 

Choosing your motor is as important as choosing your boat. So it’s advisable to speak to a knowledgeable dealer who can help you calculate your needs and find the right motor for you and your lifestyle.

Do pontoon boats have inboard or outboard motors?

Outboards are by far the most commonly used motors on pontoon boats. While pontoons can have inboard motors, there isn’t a big market for them. Unless you partake in tow sports, like skiing, where the added power and an open transom are essential, you probably wouldn’t see any of the advantages of having an inboard motor. And depending on placement, an inboard engine block can significantly encroach on your deck space. So, unless you have a specific need for an inboard motor, stick with the tried-and-true outboard motor on your pontoon.

What is the difference in a pontoon and a tritoon?

What makes a pontoon boat a pontoon boat are the two equal-sized, air-filled tubes that run lengthwise along each side of the boat (called pontoons). A trioon is just a pontoon with a third tube. The tritoon’s central tube generally sits lower or is slightly larger in diameter than the outboard tubes. There are many factors to weigh when considering the purchase of a tritoon over a pontoon:

Tritoon Advantages:

  1. Safety - Tritoons are safer because they are more stable at higher speeds and in rough or choppy water.
  2. Smoothness - You get a smooth ride similar to that of a v-hulled boat but with the stability of a pontoon.
  3. Performance - Larger and more stable, tritoons handle larger motors and are more suitable for higher-performance watersports.

Tritoon Disadvantages:

  1. Cost - Tritoons are significantly more expensive, costing as much as 75% more than a pontoon.
  2. Size - The average tritoon is much larger. Consider the additional size when docking, storing, or trailering your boat.
  3. Skill - If you plan to take advantage of the larger engines and higher performance, it will require more skill to operate.
  4. Calm water - If you’re simply planning on slow cruising on gentle waters, you’re essentially paying a premium price without seeing any of the benefits of a tritoon.

Is a pontoon boat good for shallow water?

Pontoon boats are an excellent choice for shallow-water boating. They have a small “draft,” which is the depth the boat goes down into the water. The average minimum draft of a pontoon boat varies from as little as 10 inches on a smaller pontoon to about 12 inches on a larger vessel. Achieving these types of drafts requires even distribution of the boat’s weight and the outboard engine trimmed up. Safely operating a boat in these extremely shallow conditions takes enhanced skill and careful attention so as not to cause potentially costly damage. Two feet of depth is considered safe for an experienced boater to handle a pontoon boat, though three feet is advisable.

Can you fish on a pontoon boat?

Pontoons can work well as fishing boats. But unless you find a specific pontoon boat designed for fishing, some modifications may be necessary. Luckily, they are very customizable, so retrofitting a pontoon for fishing is relatively straightforward. Things to consider when using your pontoon boat for fishing: 

  • Rod Holders – Add rail-mounted fishing rod holders to both the bow and stern. You can purchase them or even make them yourself.
  • Livewell – If you’re using live bait, do yourself a favor and add a livewell. The convenience will be well worth it.
  • Net – Keep in mind that you’ll need a long-handled net, as you will most likely have to reach over the fencing to net the fish.
  • Trolling Motor – It can be great for navigating the shallows with your engine trimmed up. And make sure it’s remote-controlled, as your fencing may obstruct a handle.
  • Retractable Bimini Top – A fixed bimini top can make casting difficult. Change to a retractable bimini top, and casting will be a breeze.

Try out a pontoon boat today!

So what is a pontoon boat? Now you know it’s one of the most fantastic all-around, family-friendly boats. But is it the right fit for you? Before buying a pontoon boat, why not give one a try? Renting a boat at Jensen’s Marina™ couldn't be easier. Our hassle-free process will have you on the water in just a short amount of time. We have pontoon boats up to 24’ accommodating up to 12 passengers – rent for a few hours or several days! You can even stay at one of our historic cottages and be steps away from your boat. At Jensen’s Marina™, our friendly, knowledgeable staff is available for all of your marina service needs.

Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina and Cottages™

15107 Captiva Drive
Captiva, FL 33924

(833) 668-7768
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