A Zip-Lock bag provides protection from the elements for an exposed fish-finder while this pontoon boat is docked between trips.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Explore brands to find more information on models and pricing.
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.
When buying a pontoon boat, one of the major considerations is your top speed. Since pontoon boats are generally not built for speed, skiing and tubing behind one can be difficult unless you take care to select an engine, weight, and pontoon style that will be conducive to speeds required for skiing and tubing.
Your initial response is probably “the faster, the better” but in reality you likely don’t need to go as fast as you think. While speeds certainly vary according to the tastes and abilities of your riders, consider the following as good average speeds for various water sport activities.
If you are new to boating, that is probably a little eye-opening. Before, you thought you needed as much speed as possible, but as you can see from this breakdown, the optimal speed for most watersports is only 22 mph (36 kilometers). Just about ANY pontoon boat with a 90hp motor can do that as long as it isn’t loaded down with people. With a 115, you should be hitting the optimal speed even if your boat is pretty well loaded down with people. For most pontoon boat captains, the real goal is to hit the golden 22 mph (36 kph) mark. At that point, your fishing/cruising rig becomes a nice watersports rig as well.
Prepare yourself for a horrible generalization. This depends dramatically on the specific boat and the setup, but just as a guestimation aid, for every thousand pounds you add to your boat, you’ll lose about 15% of your speed. So a 22′ boat with no load may get up to 29mph, but will likely slow down to 24.5mph with 1,000 pounds of people in the boat (5 or 6 adults).
Intrigued by owning or building a pontoon tiny house?
They could be your answer to low-cost houseboat living. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Especially when you can’t afford bigger liveaboard boats, don’t like the idea of marina living or want something more customized than cheaper boat living options.
With the tiny house trend on the upswing, growing interest is spreading across the world. (Check out this pontoon tiny home video.) While they seem practical and break the cuteness scale, there’s a lot to consider before investing in one. So let’s weigh your options.
Pontoon tiny houses are custom homes designed to fit onto a pontoon base (tubes). You can enjoy all the comforts of home on the water, without the huge cost (and labor) of owning an enormous houseboat.
You can buy one pre-built or have one custom designed, which all depends on your budget, desired size and how you plan to use it.
You love this idea, and I’m right there with you! But, like me, you still have questions: Is it safe? Are there special rules and regulations involved?
And then there’s the biggest question of all: How much will it cost?
This guide can help you with all that. You can read on to find information on state law and permit guidelines, types of tiny houses to consider, costs, transportation, and more.
If you’re as intrigued as I am (mine’s already built in my head!), read this guide to get answers and maybe even get started.
How do you plan to use your pontoon tiny house? Will it be solely for recreational and entertaining purposes, or do you plan to use it for extended fishing trips? Or both? Either way, there are a few considerations to think about.
If you plan to use it for leisure and fun, consider these optional accessories and features:
If you plan to use your pontoon tiny house for fishing, there are various pontoon fishing accessories. Some of which may take pre-planning and/or installation during the building process. Consider these accessories and features for a tiny house built for fishing:
For a better idea, look at these series of custom pontoon tiny homes by, Le Koroc, which come in two designs: Fishing Series and Holiday Series.
Interested in a kit? Check out these clever pontoon tiny house kits and ideas.
Solar power is another option to consider: Check out this solar-powered pontoon tiny houseboat. It’s awesome!
All these options are features you might wanna think about, depending on your needs and plans. But you absolutely need to plan ahead to avoid later regrets.
Once you decide how you intend to use your pontoon tiny house and have chosen some of the features mentioned above, you’ll next need to consider these basic underlying features.
Will you float in freshwater or saltwater? Will the house be used year-round or only in summers? These are important considerations before building or buying.
Water types are an important consideration.
Plan to sail your pontoon tiny house in oceans? Make sure it’s saltwater worthy. This includes all hardware, electrical connections, plumbing, and even motors, which can all be affected by saltwater brine. Since saltwater causes erosion, you need to ensure your pontoon tiny house is saltwater worthy throughout. To do so, here are a few must-haves:
Use maritime paint and maybe corrugated steel roofing (check price on Amazon) to withstand the elements.
You can even install solar panels for the roof (if there’s room in your budget). Yes, these cost more up front, but save you money in the long-run. Not to mention, it’s these small investments that help protect your bigger investment.
Discuss this with your builder or dealer. Before making the final payment, or signing any final documents, consider having your new tiny house inspected to be certain it’s saltwater worthy. This is crucial if you’re sailing year-round. Your boathouse baby will be exposed to the elements for longer periods, so plan ahead for this to avoid later problems.
Your pontoon base and tubes will be determined by your pontoon tiny house’s weight and length.
It will also be determined by your budget. Can you afford new tubes or used tubes?
Consider a used pontoon tubes age and condition. Older tubes need to be thoroughly inspected for holes, dents and drainage problems. Generally, also, how it currently floats.
If it fails the test in any of these areas, it’s a major safety issue. This is when you should consider buying new bases for better safety and security. (Not to mention the investment in the house you might’ve already built!)
How Many Tubes?
Two tube or three tube pontoon?
Ask your builder or dealer to determine this. An assessment of your needs, along with the house size and weight, can help the builder/dealer make this call.
And here’s a pre-fab float system to consider: Look at this Pontoonz Modular Float System, created in New Zealand. This is an innovative option you may wanna think about. (For cost, you’ll need to contact the dealer.)
One overlooked cost is the cost of setting your new pontoon tiny house onto its new base.
Locate someone local who can do it and is willing to do it. But make sure to:
1) Get a quote
2) Ask for proof of insurance
Avoid working with someone who isn’t familiar with this procedure. And especially avoid someone without proper insurance to cover your boat, just in case.
Find a reputable company or individual. It’s worth the hassle to be worry-free and you’ll sleep better, too!
Just like regular boating, houseboat laws and permits vary from state-to-state. Even in each country.
Certain bodies of water, such as lakes and reservoirs, frown upon houseboat living, regardless of it being a pontoon tiny house. Although smaller than some yacht-like houseboats, they’re still considered houses in the eyes of the law. So restrictions vary.
Before building or buying, check with governing state authorities to verify precisely what’s allowed and what permits are needed. If you can’t have your tiny pontoon houseboat in the closest, most-convenient waters, it may not be worth pursuing.
To check your local laws, here are two places to start:
Check these sites for your state information, then check with the governing offices to ask any additional questions.
Houseboat insurance, big and small, varies from state to state. (Not to mention from agency to agency.) But, you’re required to buy it.
Your costs will be determined by many factors, like size and investment.
If you’re unsure who to contact for insurance quotes, check with the United Marine Underwriters for advice.
If you’re handy with DIY projects, build a pontoon tiny house yourself. It may help protect your wallet.
But whether you plan to hire a builder, buy a custom-designed tiny home or use a kit, there are additional costs to consider.
When planning a budget, you need to determine costs for many areas, not just basics.
As with any newly-built house, you’ll have these initial building costs: Foundation, walls, flooring, roof, heating and air. (These costs can vary greatly depending on what you choose.)
Then you’ll need to purchase appliances, such as sinks, a shower and a toilet.
And then there’s decorating: Paint, cabinets, hardware and mirrors.
You’ll need special furniture: Hidden bed/storage beds, chairs with storage and folding tables.
Then there are annual costs: Yearly maintenance, as well as fees, permits and storage costs.
Oh, and then there’s this…
You new tiny boathouse will need to be transported, whether it’s on the base yet or not. You’ll have to transport it to the base to be attached, and you’ll have to transport it to its final destination. (Geez… so much to think about!)
So, like I said before, locate a reputable company who can transport it for you, including a transportation quote and proof of insurance.
Then, you’ll need to transport it to either a storage facility, dock or it’s base to be attached.
And it’s best to keep that transport company in your contact list to transport your pontoon tiny house to a service provider for maintenance or repairs. (Hopefully not, but it’s best to plan.)
Transportation costs and fees can all add up, so get quotes first to include in your budget.
Just chock it up. You may not want to pay those few final inspection costs, but it could protect your investment. And even protect lives.
When having a tiny house built, you’ll need it inspected for proper building codes, laws and permits—just like a regular house. Don’t forget about saltwater compliance inspections, as I mentioned earlier. If you’re not doing the building yourself (or hiring it out), ask your dealer about the final inspections. Are they included? Who’s responsible for handling it?
Check the fine print in your contract. Once your tiny house leaves the dealer, you may have no recourse if proper codes haven’t been met.
Before transporting your tiny house, have it inspected to make sure it’s properly attached to the bases/tubes. If it isn’t, it can become damaged during transit. And you sure don’t want any problems on the water.
A smart option is to pay licensed inspectors for each building phase up until the point of base attachment. Safety is never worth saving just a few pennies.
You might need tiny house storage, either temporarily or in the winter. So start your search to locate a storage facility who can (and will) safely store it.
Most likely, they’ll need the weight and size before providing a quote. Once you get a quote, ask for proof of insurance. (Yep. I’m a broken record, but you can’t forget!)
If you can’t locate a viable storage facility close by, you’ll need to consider transportation costs to a neighboring city for storage.
This is a big deal, because safe, secure storage can protect your investment and give you peace of mind.
This is an awful lot to consider before building, or buying, a pontoon tiny house. But when you consider that it’s truly a house (even though it floats), there are many costs and considerations to think about.
Who knows? Thorough planning, research and a simple financial plan can guide you on your way to tiny houseboat living on your pontoon.
Won’t that all be worth it?
By: Dan Armitage
As many of my fellow pontoon boat club members readied their craft for the off-season, I grew intrigued by the DIY, alternative and after-market solutions some came up with for protecting their boats and related gear. Some of these non-traditional apps are put into use by my resourceful fellow boaters during the boating season as well, and are of value for those lucky pontoon boaters south of the Mason-Dixon Line who don’t know the meaning of “off” season and may enjoy their craft year-round.
For example, you will find covers intended for back yard use on chaise lounges and Adirondack chairs protecting the furniture of some members’ boats. The patio furniture covers are less expensive than semi-custom covers designed for the job, wear well under typical conditions, and the fact that the generic one-size-fits-all covers don’t fit all that tight allows air to circulate and the upholstery to breathe a bit, which can help prevent mildew in the damp environs the boats are subject to. And when conditions aren’t typical, and a loose-fitting captain’s (aka: Adirondack) chair cover goes gone with the wind, it’s less expensive to replace.
If you’ve run across any non-traditional uses for items aboard a pontoon —or any other watercraft – we’d like to see ‘em. Meanwhile, here are a few I stumbled across during a recent late-season walk around the local pontoon boat club – and one photo I snapped last winter that reminded me that going with cost cutting alternatives may not be the bargain you, well, bargained on…