Buying a pontoon boat, huh? We know that this decision was not made lightly. So we’re a hundred percent behind you and can definitely help you find the best pontoon boat that’s right for you! In this article, we will be discussing how to buy a pontoon boat and all the factors you should consider, research and prepare for. Plus, we’ve also thrown in a few tips and advice to make sure you get your money’s worth, and more!

How to buy a pontoon boat

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Let’s talk about budget

Of course,we’re coming in hot with the most burning consideration when making a new purchase. How much are you willing to pay? How fast, big, accessorized and luxurious your boat will be—these all depend on how much you are able to drop on your pontoon boat. 

Do note that aside from the initial cost of the boat, there are also operation and maintenance costs. These expenses include fuel, insurance, repairs and maintenance, docking and storage, accessories, and even upgrades. Usually, the pricier and bigger your boat, the bigger the increase in these other aspects. 

Your pontoon boat lifestyle

Pontoon boats come in all shapes and sizes so it’s important to get the right one for you. With all the selection out there, it can get quite confusing. Choosing the best pontoon boat for you and your family largely depends on your chosen pontoon boat lifestyle. Here are the most important questions to ask yourself when buying a pontoon boat.

What kind of activities will you be doing most frequently?

For what purpose will you often use the boat? Are you a leisurely lounger, adventurous cruiser or wild fun seeker? Or perhaps, all three?  The beauty of pontoon boats is that they are multipurpose boats. But if you’re using it primarily for one pursuit or the other, then you’ll want a boat made to be efficient in the said activity. With how the industry is growing, there’s now a pontoon boat for most everyone out there.

A party pontoon boat will likely require lots of space. Diving boards and sports towers are great additions too. Fishing boats will have live-wells, bucket seats, and rod holders. Boats for pulling skiers and tubers will have to be the fastest pontoon boats out there. While families would most likely want a sedate boat with various child-safeties in place. Motor size, speed and horsepower, passenger capacity, layout, structure, accessories and the like all factor into what pontoon boat model would best serve your purpose.

Some common pontoon boat activities

Fishing

If the purpose of your pontoon boat is for fishing more than half the time, you’ll want to get one that’s equipped and designed for fishing.

But if you’re only going to go fishing just 50% of the time or less, you’ll want either a fishing or cruising pontoon boat.

Watersports

Planning on doing some activities that are more heart-pounding than fishing? To be able to pull toys like wakeboards, tubes, skiers, and other water sports equipment, a motor with at least 90 horsepower should be your choice. Anything less than this and you’ll have an inefficient boat that’s not powerful enough to tow these water toys along.

Boat party

For this one, you’ll want a bigger pontoon boat. Many party boats also have a solid sound system and some even come with a bar, slide, bathrooms options, and even a second floor.

Sunbathing & Swimming

You might also plan to use your pontoon boat for swimming and sunbathing mainly. For this, large sun loungers and swim decks are great. You can even have a diving board, one of those ladders made for swimmers and even a changing room.

Where will you usually take your boat?

Where will you do most of your boating? The lake where you plan to spend the most time in your boat plays a considerable role in choosing your boat, especially the boat size. Make it your business to know the requirements, restrictions, and anchorage, etc. in the area. If the boats docked on the lake are mostly big boats, chances are you’ll need a big boat too. If they’re on the small side, a smaller boat of around 20-feet would be more ideal.

How many people will usually be in the boat?

How many people will be on board most of the time? Another important factor in our How to buy a pontoon boat series is the number of passengers. The average number of people that you’ll take on board plays a major role in how big your pontoon boat should be. If it’ll only be used by a family of four most of the time, then owning a boat that can seat 20 people would not be too practical. On the other hand, if you frequently have multiple guests, a bigger boat would be just the thing.

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Pros & Cons of buying your own pontoon boat

Pontoon boat Pros

Comfortable

Pontoon boats are spacious, comfortable and can easily seat a good number of people. They offer good capacity and are family-friendly. The roomy, flat floors allow passengers to walk around with ease. These and the gated entries also help keep everyone, especially children, safely inside the boat. 

Safe and Family Friendly

Pontoon boats are some of the most family-friendly boats there are. They provide plenty of space and are very comfortable. The even floor and the gated entries keep everyone, especially children, safely inside the pontoon boat. The fences and high rails also reduce the chances of anyone falling over into the water. 

Statistics even show that they are safer than many other types of boats. The total weight, lower average speeds, and a wide turn radius make pontoon boats very stable and unlikely to capsize.

Affordable and Low-Maintenance

Compared to other boats of similar functions or size, pontoon boats are remarkably affordable. They also don’t cause a lot to maintain, store and fix. 

Versatile

With a pontoon boat, you get a party boat, sailing boat and fishing boat in one. You can sail, fish, and enjoy various water activities. And yes, you can even go skiing or wakeboarding with the right engine.

Pontoon boat Cons

Rough waters

Yes, pontoon boats are safe but don’t go around charging waves in turbulent weather. These boats are largely designed for lakes and rivers. You’ll be safe enough if caught under extreme weather conditions, but it’s better to head directly to port under these circumstances.

Speed

Pontoon boats speeds are nothing to scoff at but neither do they eat up the miles like a speed demon. A bigger engine and triple pontoons are available options but can be quite costly.

Maneuverability

Nimble water gazelles, pontoon boats are not. Try not to get caught in a tight spot. The heavier total weight and wide turn radius that adds to the boat’s safety don’t contribute a lot to maneuverability.

Getting a new boat vs. a used one

How to buy a pontoon boat, new or used? We give you the upsides of each.

Advantages of buying a new pontoon boat

Reassurance

Even if some used pontoon boats have been expertly well taken care of, they’re still bound to have suffered wear and tear, however used gently. Especially if they’ve been around for quite some time. All the normal situations that a boat goes through take their toll. Being in the water, and having been stored through the winter, for example.

On the flip side, having a new boat will give you peace of mind in knowing that your pontoon boat is free from these maintenance history. Any issues you may possibly encounter are minimal and limited to factory defects, etc. that are also most likely covered by warranty.

Warranty

Speaking of warranty. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen, but if there are any defects and issues you find will be covered by warranty. Along with repairs in the year or two. Having a warranty to your new boat could potentially save you a sizable amount.

Style

The pontoon boat industry is an ever evolving one and models of years past can get out of style fast. Brand new boat will probably be more chic, shiny and stylish.

Customizability

When you’re buying new, you naturally have the option to choose a customized boat. You’ll be able to get exactly what you want, with the latest tech and outfittings that you desire to have on your pontoon boat. Want a boat with a second floor, a huge bar and slide? Coming right up!

Advantages of buying a used pontoon boat

Cost

The biggest positive to buying a used boat is, of course, the considerable savings in price. Pontoon boats, just like any other boat and cars, depreciate in value once it’s been out a few seasons. This can potentially save you up to a quarter or a third of the original price in just a year or two.

Time-proven

We must say, everything aboard a seasoned pontoon has already shown their worth. The engine, tech, features, and even furniture, etc. have stood the test of time.

Plus, you don’t have to worry too much about brand-spanking new paint. What’s another ding or scratch, right?

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Owning a pontoon boat

When it comes to owning a pontoon boat, we think this article by Ecocampor is spot on. Now that you know how to buy a pontoon boat, here’s a glimpse of the next step. Owning a Pontoon Boat is easy and pretty low-maintenance. But it’s not that easy. Now that you’ve decided to have one of your own, here are a few tips on how to address common pontoon boat concerns for new owners:

Exposure

A pontoon boat is relatively maintenance-free. It’s easy to clean. The machinery is not complicated and the mostly vinyl covering can be wiped down in a jiffy.

However, if the boat is not properly stored and left exposed to the sun and the elements for long periods, the vinyl will deteriorate over a few years. This can be expensive to replace. Store the boat properly, preferably where it’s not exposed to the sun directly.

Pollen and other impurities can stick to the boat and cause ugly, unwanted growths along its crannies and exterior. A lot of these can be pressure-washed easily. Be careful with using bleach or strong cleaners for stubborn patches. Cover your pontoon boat when in storage and when not in use to add a layer of protection against growth.

Handling and Docking

Because of their wide sides, pontoon boats can be more susceptible to wind than other types of boats. A strong enough wind can throw you off course. It also makes it more difficult to park in a crowded dock. Take the time to thoroughly learn and practice maneuvering your boat.

Boat Speed

Earlier pontoon boat designs made them practically torpedoes in the water. Many pontoon boats today are larger with higher capacities. Big diameter, triple pontoons with high horse-power make fast boats. However, they are also quite pricey. Small diameter and low horsepower boats are more affordable but they are also slower. But don’t despair because boats in the comfortable middle range are still really quick. Ultimately, the boat speed factor comes down to preference. If you want the fastest pontoon boat in town, it won’t come cheap.

Depreciation

Pontoon boats, to a great extent, actually have the lowest depreciation in the boat market. This makes owning a pontoon boat extremely practical and inexpensive. But believe it or not, high-end pontoon boats, the ultra-luxury ones, depreciate faster. The more reasonably priced units can offer more value in the long-term.

Rough Waters

We’ve established that pontoon boats are extremely safe, buoyant and stable, even in rough conditions. However, when heading into a crosswind and with the wave coming at an angle to the bow, the tendency is the water sprays up and you and your passengers will get wet. 

Lifting and Transport

Pontoon boats are very narrow in between its pontoons and most trailers and lifting equipment slide up between the pontoons. If they’re not aligned right, the equipment can scrape up the inside. They won’t usually need repair but scratches are not ideal and it can be annoying. 

Another thing is that because these boats are fairly long, picking them up with a forklift can get quite tricky. If the balance point strays to the end of the forks, the majority of the boat’s weight will be placed on one cross member.

Now that you know how to buy a pontoon boat, ready to take the plunge? Let us know what you think! What pontoon boat are you planning to buy?