Pontoon Crazy - Coming to a Lake or Waterway Near You!
By: Pontoon Crazy
Picture Credit - Forest River Marine
Everybody Needs A Pontoon Boat!
They Just Don't Know It...
Until now! With so many families getting in on the Pontoon trend that is growing beyond industry expectations. In 2018 many manufacturers, dealers and Pontoon Rental businesses saw a huge increase in consumer demand. What drives this narrative ? Well we believe it's really simple, so simple that it can actually be summed up in one word- Exposure!
With technology being at the forefront of almost everything we do, the ability to share information is greater than ever. In today's world we can simply slide open the handheld device (formerly known as a cell phone) to a world of information, all coming at light speed. However, to understand how this impacts the Pontoon Boat segment, you need to look no further than your closest form of social media.
Our research shows that Facebook is number one in consumer participation. Pontoon Boat manufacturers, dealers, & rental businesses are starting to also see the value in a healthy social media campaign. Due to our very large web based platform, that is 100% exclusive to the Pontoon Boat category, we have a real good sense of what is working. The number one factor being, participation - do you like to network with others ? Well if yes, you already know the impact it has on you. Pontoon Crazy is just a bi product #LivingTheToonLife
Like our Living The Toon Life group page it is a closed group. What does that mean ? You must register with us, answer a few Pontoon related questions, and your in. Now you can network with like minded people who share the same interest in your favorite past time. We also encourage you to visit some of the other groups that are out there, that provide vast amounts of knowledge around Pontoon Boat ownership. Most have a database full of information that any new Pontoon owner, or seasoned pro could benefit from. These above are just a few of the sites we recommend you visit.
Pontoon-Depot also has a super cool Facebook group, join today 'Pontoon Enthusiast."
Discover Boating | Buying A Pontoon Boat | Pontoon-Depot!!
By: Discover Boating
The pontoon boat has undergone quite an evolution in the past few decades, and what was once a simple boxy floating platform is now a luxury-laden pleasure-boat that can offer everything from a relaxing day on the lake to invigorating thrill rides. If you haven’t been on a modern pontoon you’ve got to step aboard one to believe just how amazingly advanced—and comfortable—the best pontoon boats have become.
Activities You'll Most Enjoy
Pontoon boats are loved in all corners of the nation because they can be used for so many different activities: watersports, swimming, day cruising, and of course just lounging about. There are fishing pontoon boats, performance pontoons with big outboard engines that will have you blasting across the lake or bay with the wind whipping in your hair, and luxury-oriented pontoons equipped with everything from a blender to a bathroom. There are big pontoon boats and small pontoon boats, you can get a pontoon trailer and explore far-flung waterways, and in all of these cases the options for what to do on your pontoon are essentially unlimited.
Perfect fishing platform
In some areas, you’ll discover that there are more fishing pontoon boats than other types of fishing boats. The reason why is simple: they are amazingly stable and comfortable, they hold large numbers of people, and they make an ideal fishing platform. Added bonus: modern fishing pontoon boats have all the angling accessories you need built right in, ranging from rod holders to aerated livewells to tackle boxes.
Used for skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding
If watersports are your thing, today’s pontoons won’t let you down. The best pontoon boats for skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding have tow-bits, storage lockers large enough to hold water skis or knee-boards, and swim platforms with large, stable ladders for climbing on and off the boat. They also have plenty of power and can give the kids a safe but spectacular thrill-ride. Even small pontoon boats usually have all the basics you need to enjoy watersports on some level.
”Party barge” to entertain family and friends
There’s a reason pontoon boats are often called party barges, and it’s quite simple: with oodles of deck space, excellent stability, and variable furniture arrangements, you can have a pontoon that’s just as ideal for relaxing as a lake-side patio. The one difference—and what makes a pontoon boat even better—is that you’re afloat instead of on land, and you can take the party wherever you’d like.
Pontoon Boat Brands
Explore brands to find more information on models and pricing.
Pontoon Boat Ownership Costs
Buying a modern pontoon boat can be just as expensive or as economical as you’d like, and there are pontoon boat prices that fit every budget. There are even some mini pontoon boats that cost far less than the most affordable new cars. When you research out the ownership cost of a specific pontoon boat, an important factor to figure in is storage or mooring costs, if you can’t keep it on a pontoon trailer at your house. Visit our Boat Loan Calculator to learn more about what fits with your budget.
You’re not likely to encounter maintenance costs on a new pontoon boat for several years, beyond basic care items like cleaning supplies. Its engine, however, will have a regular required maintenance plan. These vary from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer so to figure out just how much you’ll spend on items like oil and filter changes, you should refer to the manufacturer recommendations. Note that most pontoon boats on the market today and the engines that power them carry substantial warranties that should protect you from unexpected maintenance costs for years to come.
The main operational cost for a pontoon is fuel. Just how much you burn will depend on the size of the boat and engine, how often you use it, and how far you run it. You may also want to plan in insurance costs (see Insuring Your Boat for more information.
Of all the different boat types out there, pontoons have seen some of the biggest technological advancements in recent years. Today many boast touch-screens at the helm, and seats with space-age fabrics that are resistant to UV light, mold and mildew, and staining.
As pontoons have become more advanced they’ve also become better-equipped. You can find models with rather extreme stereo systems, fully-equipped wet bars, and even things like automatic sunshades that rise at the press of a button. In fact, if you look at the list of optional features on a high-end pontoon you’ll see that often goes on for pages and pages.
12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat
By: Boat Test
First and foremost, a pontoon boat is about having plenty of seating space.
Pontoon boats have been among the most popular models for the past few years and there are no signs of that trend slowing down. Manufacturers are listening to consumer requests for more performance, more styling and more luxury. Regardless of whether a family is looking for a boat to putt around the lake at sunset or a do-everything model that can run fast enough to surprise some bowriders and tow watersports, there are some features that we would want in any pontoon boat.
1. Match Boat Size to Number of Guests
A smart captain knows how many people he’s going to have aboard. As boats increase in size, their passenger capacity usually goes up. For example, Sun Tracker’s Party Barge 18 DLX is 20’ long and it is rated for nine people. Step up 2’ and the passenger capacity goes up by one. In other words, it’s a good idea for a captain to know how many passengers he’s planning to have on board before deciding on a size. Most boats have a capacity plate. Check it to verify a boat’s passenger capacity. Do not exceed it.
A capacity plate is the best way to know how many passengers a boat can hold.
2. Seating Configuration
Not only should an owner know how many people he’s going to be carrying, he needs to know what his passengers want to do when they’re on board. If maximum numbers are the priority, get as much seating space as possible. If the family is made up of teenage girls who like to sunbathe, get a boat like the Regency 220 LE3 that has aft-facing chaise-style lounges. Got some kids who like to fish? Get a fishing package that has two fighting chairs up front.
What grade of captain’s chair is required? They vary wildly from the basic to the super luxurious.
Where to put the wheel chair? Pontoon boats are idea for old salts, but you will need a gate wide enough to get them aboard and then once aboard a place to lock them in place.
Sunbathers would love the aft-facing lounges on the Regency 220 LE3.
Shown here is the bow of the Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 22 DLX, complete with fishing chairs, rod racks and a trolling motor.
This is a pretty conventional floorplan layout for a pontoon boat with the focus on providing as much seating capacity as possible.
3. Raised Helm
A captain needs to be able to see over the passengers sitting in front of him, so we prefer boats with a raised helm like the one found on the Regency 220 LE3 Sport. The captain’s chair mounts to the elevated fiberglass console, putting the driver in a position that gives him better all-around visibility.
This helm station is raised 3” off the deck, which puts the driver in a better position to see over the people seated on the lounge ahead of him.
4. Boarding Gates
Pontoon boats are about convenience and one of their most attractive attributes is that they are easy to board. Most have a minimum of three gates, bow, stern and port ( or starboard) side. Additionally, you should also make sure that side boarding gates are wide enough (32”) to accommodate a wheelchair.
Gate latches can be easy or somewhat difficult to operate. Make sure you like the device on the boat you buy.
Side gates make it easy to board from the dock and should be at least 32” wide to accommodate a wheelchair.
5. Bow Deck
It is surprising how many pontoon boats are on the market that have no bow deck. That is to say that the fencing or superstructure goes right up to the bow so there is no deck upon which to walk to tie-up or to set an anchor. Obviously this has been done to maximize seating space and keep costs down. That is a trade-off we don’t recommend. Every boat needs a bow deck, and 12” in the minimum fore and aft for this purpose.
A small platform on the bow makes it much easier to board a pontoon and to work with docklines. The deck seen here is minimum size we recommend.
6. Provision for Storing and Setting an Anchor
Every boat should have an anchor and a dedicated place to keep it. That includes pontoon boats. Yet, virtually no pontoon boat builder makes provision for one. Obviously, one reason for this is that most users take their pontoon boats from dock to dock, or from the launch ramp, back to the launch ramp -- and don’t anchor out much.
Required for Safety. Nevertheless, there are times -- even on protected lakes when going from marina to marina -- when an anchor might be a required item of safety equipment. What if the engine fails and the boat is being blown onto a rocky shore, a marina, or the toward a dam on a water reservoir? What if the boat is being used in a river, the engine has failed, and the current is strong? The times when an anchor is a necessity are too numerous to mention.
Further, there is no boating pleasure quite so fine as anchoring in a cove for lunch, or anchoring for sundown cocktails with family and friends. How do you do that without an anchor?
We recommend that the forward, portside seat locker be used as the dedicated anchor locker. Be careful to keep the rode coiled properly and not tangles with the anchor. Most pontoon boats have small cleats for mooring lines on the two corners of the bow, and they will have to do, as we almost never see a proper anchor cleat on the bow centerline. We would like to see a stout pull-up cleat for this purpose. Alternatively, a bridle using the port and starboard cleats will probably work best.
7. Re-Boarding Ladder
The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) guidelines call for a re-boarding ladders on all boats to extend 22” below the waterline. So that is the minimum requirement. Additionally, we’ve seen ladders made from sturdier material and larger stanchions with heavier-duty grabrails. Not everyone is an agile 150-pound teenager and having a heavy-duty ladder makes it easier for a larger number of people to use it.
There is a great difference in the ladder and re-boarding apparatus from one boat builder to the next. Check them out before buying.
This is a good example of the heavy-duty re-boarding ladders that more pontoon manufacturers are using. Notice the thick handrails that will be easy to grab and will support a large person.
8. 2 Pontoons or 3?
Recreational Pontoon boats had just two pontoons in the beginning, but 20 years or so ago builders started introducing tri-toons. Tri-toons cost more but they have many advantages when it comes to load capacity and speed.
Twin pontoon boats rarely can plane and generally are design for slower displacement speeds. They are fine for cruising around the lake at sedate speeds, and to provide a stable platform for swimming and entertaining. Putting large engines on a twin-toon boat will make it go marginally faster, but generally it will not provide satisfactory performance for towing sports.
Tri-toons, if properly powered and propped, can go as fast as most sport boats and can get on plane fast. These boats make good platforms for towing ports, but don’t expect them to make big wakes for wake boarding. However, they are fine for waterskiing and tubing.
This Sun Tracker tri-toon has multi-chambers. Note that the diameter of the toons is 26” and the center toon has a flat “pad” on the aft section of the center toon. This will aid planing and provides an ideal well for the outboard.
9. Match Outboard Engines to the Task
Twin toon boats require little power, depending on the load and the speed required. Out board engines of 50 or 60-hp can generally push an 18’ to 20’ twin toon at 15 or 16 mph. That 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 towing sports would do well to consider 2-stroke engines or ones with superchargers. Both are well-known for creating greater torque at the low end. That, together with 4-blade props will probably provide the best performance for nearly any pontoon boat application.
This 2-stroke Evinrude E-TEC 250-hp outboard engine pushed the 25’ tri-toon pictured here at over 46 mph. It went 0- to 30 mph in 6 seconds.
10. Pontoon Tube Size Matters
Pontoon boats obviously get their buoyance from the pontoons, and the greater their diameter generally the more satisfying the experience. 23” pontoons are about the smallest diameter toons we see and they are generally on smaller tunes, those under 20’. More typically we see 24”-25” pontoons on both twin-toon and tri-toon vessels. Occasionally, on some of the more expensive boats we will see 26” toons.
In some tri-toon models the center toon is of a greater diameter. This aids in turning with a slight lean inward, as well as giving the boat the buoyancy it needs to go fast.
The greater the size of the diameter of the pontoon the more stable the boat will be and the faster it will go. All toons should have 3 or 4 air-tight chambers. This not only give the tubes more integrity but also provides a measure of safety should a chamber be punctured.
This Sun Tracker has a 24” pontoon diameter. Note how it rides with four adults and one child aboard.
11. Bimini Tops Are a “Must Have”
Virtually all pontoon boats have a Bimini top available either as standard or as an option. They are important to the guests’ comfort and we recommend getting the biggest ones available. Look for one that is easy to deploy. Some boats even have power Bimini tops. Make sure you operate the Bimini before buying as some can be aggravating to set and put in their boot when it is time to call it a day.
All boats should have canvas to protect the upholstery from UV degradation to say nothing of the soot and grit that might be in the air. Those living near highways will be familiar with the light rain of tire rubber and unburned diesel carbon that settles on everything. While a playpen-style full cover might seem like a good idea (they are certainly the cheapest), individual seat covers are much easier to deal with. Unless a boat is stored in an area where the deck can get covered in leaves or pine needles, go with seat covers.
This Bimini top provides some protection but consider the optional Bimini extensions that some builders offer.Individual seat covers are easy to handle and stow.
Individual seat covers are easy to handle and stow.
12. Comfort Amenities are Important
Consider your family and guests and ask yourself how they can et the most enjoyment out of the boat you plan to buy. Heading our list of welcome amenities is the changing curtain so that guests can wiggle out of wet bathing suits and get into dry cloths. Most builders make these available as an option, if not standard. Also, a porta-potti can be fitted in some of them, but not all.
Other convenience items worth mentioning are portable cub holders that sit on the seats and pedestal tables. Generally the pedestal tables are small and are limited to drings and snacks. Those wanting to serve dinner al fresco will need to find a boat with a proper table, and long with a grill.
These days builders of pontoon boats are providing more and more amenities. Sinks, running water, refrigerators, gas grills and more are available in the premium-level pontoon boats.
A table adds to any boat’s versatility. On most pontoons there are receptacles fore and aft for a table.
Coveted for the privacy it provides, a pop-up changing curtain is often a welcome feature on a pontoon boat. Some are large enough for a porta-pottie.
For all your accessories and/or flooring options visit our site pages. PontoonDepot.com
- Amy Cabanas
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PONTOON BOATING SAFETY GUIDELINES & REGULATIONS FROM STATE TO STATE
Recreational boats create wonderful opportunities for memorable family times, romantic cruising, or parties with friends. But owning a boat also carries certain responsibilities, and smart boat owners should know how to keep their guests safe on the water.
Adhering to marine laws is fairly simple, despite varying guidelines from state to state. The basic principals tend to be the same, so operating with common sense is the best place to start. Consulting the guidelines for the particular state you intend to boat in is step two.
See below for links to boating regulation guides for all 50 states.
THE RULES OF THE WATER
As with any form of transportation, boating carries its own set of rules and regulations for both boat operator and any guests onboard. Standard roadways are governed with state and federal laws, and waterways are protected and monitored in similar fashion. Guidelines that can vary from state to state include:
- Granting right-of-way and passing on a particular side given the situation
- Minimum operator age
- Mandatory life jackets for everyone onboard
- Illegality of operating a watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Towing restrictions
- Boating license and insurance
Good advice before hitting the lakes is to carefully study your state's requirements and adhere to them fully. Just as automobile drivers can be ticketed or arrested for irresponsible behavior on the road, boat operators can be fined or imprisoned for reckless behavior. Even worse are the prospects of injury or death.
If the full set of guidelines in your state is overwhelming, at the very least make sure to watch your speed, stay alert, lay off the alcohol and keep passengers from getting rammy. Too much fun can quickly turn into no fun.
Click on any state below to read its boating guidelines: