If you like waterborne activities ranging from wakeboarding to fishing to swimming, a pontoon boat can provide a perfect platform. If you have a large family or lots of friends who enjoy time on the water, again, pontoons are ideal. And if you want the amenities of home when you hit the lake, once again, a pontoon boat can fit the bill.
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These craft may look boxy, and they aren’t designed to take on big seas, but when it comes to fun-filled days on the lake or calm bay, their versatility and functionality are tough to beat. Since pontoon boats have a rectangular footprint, every inch of boat provides usable deck space. That means there’s room for a crowd, and it’s not unusual to have space for a dozen people when the same length V-hulls can only handle half that number.
In most cases, that deck space is complemented with gobs of seating, lounges, and pop-up changing rooms with portable bathrooms. They can easily be outfitted with rod holders and livewells for fishing or tow bars for watersports, and the high sided rails (fences, in pontoon parlance) make them safe for kids and inexperienced boaters.
Practical pricing is another pontoon perk. They often cost about half what a similar length V-hull fiberglass boat would, and you can get some 18-footers for under ten grand. Part of the reason is their efficient nature, because many boats of this type can run with relatively small powerplants.
Another reason is their construction, which is a far simpler process then building a molded fiberglass boat. Two aluminum “logs” are welded or bolted to a deck, which is usually marine plywood covered in outdoor carpet. Roto-molded furniture is affixed in place, an outboard engine is bolted on, and the boat’s ready for action.
You don’t want to plod along the lake at slow speed? Up the ante with a third center log, and enter the race with a high-performance pontoon. These top-shelf party platforms can carry as much as 300 horsepower, travel at highway speeds, and often come rigged to the teeth with extras like high-powered stereos and wet-bars. The logs are also designed a bit differently, with strakes or fins, added supports, and extended engine pods. As they get more complex, naturally the price goes up, but these super-pontoons can offer performance rivaling that of V-hull boats.
The bottom line? Although pontoon boats aren’t appropriate for large waves and big waters, and most look more boxy than sporty, in many lakes and bays they’ve proven themselves as the ultimate do-everything craft.
For more information on specific pontoon models, see some of our recent pontoon boat reviews.