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.
Pontoon Boat Brands to Avoid – Read This Before You Buy
A question I’ve been asked a few times over the last year is if there are any pontoon boat brands to avoid. It’s understandable, as even a used pontoon boat is going to cost you a fair whack, so you don’t want to end up making a mistake.
But here’s the thing; I personally would not avoid any of the current pontoon boat brands.
Virtually anything that has been manufactured in the last couple of decades will have been engineered to the highest standards and passed the relevant safety ratings.
Where pontoon boats will truly tend to differ will be the quality of the fixtures and fittings plus how they have been constructed overall.
It’s very easy to get distracted by all the shiny functionality you see on the deck. When looking at a pontoon boat, don’t just take in the seating, carpets, accessories, tech, and gear that gets thrown in.
You need to do your own due diligence by looking under the console and deck to see what the workmanship is like.
As an example, some pontoon boats will have rails and decks that have been screwed in. Other will be bolted through. Through bolting will give you a much better boat that’s going to last a lot longer, possibly with a reduction in overall maintenance costs.
Another thing to look at is the brackets on the pontoon tubes. The M shaped brackets are much better. But don’t stop there, also look at how the welding has been done, and on used boats, look for signs of damage and patching.
These are just a couple of tips; there’s a lot more to it.
You will need to do a lot of research before deciding whether a certain pontoon boat brand and model is one that you avoid or choose to go with. That includes talking to other pontoon boat owners.
To help you with your decision-making process, I’d like to refer you to some of the more in-depth content on Pontoonopedia that I encourage you to read in full before you pull the trigger on a purchase.
Must-read buyers guide for buying a new pontoon boat
If you are looking to buy new, and don’t know what pontoon boat brands to avoid, then this buyer’s guide won’t tell you that, as all brands make great models. What it will do is give you some insight into:
- What to avoid when buying new.
- Size and capacity considerations.
- Pros and cons to buying a new pontoon versus used.
- How you know if it’s a good pontoon boat or not.
- Which factory options you should choose for you.
I suggest reading the entire buyer’s guide in full before you start your search this year.
What to look for when buying a used pontoon boat
I’ve put together a checklist of questions and things to avoid when buying in the used market. This includes aspects such as:
- What will you be using the boat for?
- How much deck space will you need?
- How to search for great deals and prices.
- What elements on the pontoon boat you need to check out.
- What state the engine is in and how many hours it’s done.
- What the fixtures and fittings are like.
- What additional features will you need.
- How to compare prices and get better price.
- Whether a manufacturer warranty is important or not.
- How to ensure you get a log of receipts and work done.
- Taking a used pontoon boat for a test drive.
- Asking for proof of ownership and the seller’s reputation.
- What you need from a survey and insurance.
To read the guide in full so you know what pontoon boats to avoid when buying used, read the full used buyer’s guide.
Some pontoon boat basics
If you’re still undecided on whether to take the plunge, you might want to get to grips with some pontoon boat basics. I have listed advice on:
- Passenger capacity.
- Launching and driving.
- Beaching and anchoring.
- Parking in slips and marinas.
- Safety basics and tips.
- Trailer and towing basics.
- Fishing set-ups and layouts.
For more detailed information on each point, go check out my pontoon boat basics 101.
Making your final selection on a pontoon boat
There’s also a lot more information you need to get to grips with on how to make your final selection. This selection guide includes advice on:
- How to choose the right pontoon boat for your needs.
- What size you need depending on your plans.
- Whether you will need a fishing set-up, or just leisure, or both.
- How much your ideal pontoon boat should cost.
- What makes a good quality pontoon boat design.
- Question to ask the boat dealers before you buy.
Selecting the right pontoon boat for a family
And finally, if you are family-focussed, and looking for something to suit your and your brood, I’ve put together a guide specifically for this market. Tips include:
- Why plenty of seating is of paramount importance.
- How a pop-up changing room will be needed.
- The protection a decent Bimini will offer.
- How storage space should be a huge consideration.
- Why vinyl flooring might be better than carpeting.
- How watersports might change which boat you buy.
- The types of inflatables you can buy.
- What safety gear you will need for your family.
- Why a boarding ladder will be essential for kids.
Read my family-friendly guide to choosing a pontoon boat if you have kids.
The last word…
So there you have it. If you’ve read through all those guides you will now be in a far better position to choosing the best boat and brand to suit your needs. As mentioned, currently I wouldn’t say there were any pontoon boat brands to avoid. It all comes down to suitability, budget, and your individual needs.
See What’s New In The Harbor - KSK Marine | 2019 MISTY TOUR
There is nothing better than an epic road trip, and we are starting the ULTIMATE trek this year across the USA! We’ll be checking out local waters and seeing what our Misty’s can do! Join our host Mekayla Eppers (Mrs. America, 2018) as she shows what it means to truly live the #MistyLife!
Our second stop on the Misty Tour is to Clearwater, Florida to our dealer KSK Marine. We’ll be doing some SCUBA diving off a Misty along with some fishing!.
Full Duplex Wireless Headsets, Truly Marriage Savers!
I’ve often heard wireless headsets referred to as marriage savers but before cruising full time I didn’t realize the accuracy of the nickname. Now after several years of regular use, I wouldn’t want to cruise without them. But there are multiple brands and types of headsets, and two we’ve used extensively each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Before getting into the details, I’ll explain when the headsets became important to us. Early on, it was fairly easy to tie up at our home slip in Chicago with dock lines preset and a well-understood plan, and unfamiliar docks were definitely the exception. But when we began cruising, nearly every docking was at a new slip and frequently prone to last minute changes. Chaos sometimes ensued.
Have Another Day has a stern docking camera with a good view of the swim platform and a microphone in the camera. That microphone allows me to hear my wife, Laura, when she’s standing in our cockpit and frequently a dockhand standing near the stern. This could lead to dialogs that went something like this:
- Dockhand to Laura: Do you want this line cleated off?
- Laura (looking at the camera): Do you want the line cleated?
- Me (in a fairly normal voice): Yes
- Laura: Ben, do you want this line cleated off?
- Me (in a louder but still not shouting voice): Yes
- Laura (in a more insistent tone): BEN, do you want this line cleated off?
- Me (in a full shout): YES
- Laura (in an annoyed tone): Okay, but you don’t have to yell…
After a few of those exchanges, the need for better communications was clear. With a little research, I determined that there are two companies with strong products to suit our needs.
The Eartec UltraLITE headsets use DECT 6.0 — the standard developed for cordless phones that finally made them work reliably, if you remember those — in the 1900mhz frequency range. The UltraLITE headset is available in single and dual earcup designs depending on the user’s preference and up to five headsets can be connected to each other for full-duplex communications between all headsets. Full-duplex is the ability to both talk and hear the other person at the same time, unlike some alternatives like VHF handhelds.
Each UltraLITE system consists of one master headset and up to four remote headsets, and the master must be powered up for any headsets to be able to converse. Eartec offers their headsets in bundles with varrying configurations of single and dual ear-cup ranging from $385 for a two person, single ear-cup system to $1,020 for a five person, dual ear-cup system. All configurations include batteries, charger and a carrying bag. If more than five headsets are needed an Eartec Hub can be used which allows up to 9 headsets to converse.
Ultralite self-contained headsets can also be paired with the ULP1000 beltpack which supports a number of corded headsets. UltraLITE and beltpack headsets have an advertised range of 400 meters in open areas.
The headsets and beltpacks all use a common lithium-ion rechargeable battery back. Eartec includes either a 2 or 8 battery charger based on the number of headsets in the bundle ordered. Additional chargers are available to charge either two ($50) or eight ($80) batteries at a time. Eartec says each battery lasts 6 hours on a charge.
Sena’s line of headsets use Bluetooth to connect to each other and also to mobile devices. So, in addition to being used as an intercom, the Sena headsets can be used as a Bluetooth headset for phone conversations and as stereo wireless headphones to listen to music. Sena’s headsets can support up to four parties in an intercom session.
Sena has four different models two lightweight models and two more rugged and water resistant models. The $150 Expand with a short fixed microphone is the lowest priced model, the $180 SPH10-10 adds a flexible boom microphone, a jog wheel to control it and a wired auxiliary input. The more rugged Tufftalk series has sound deadening capabilities for high noise environments and also have FM radios built in. The $250 Tufftalk Lite is the entry model, while the $400 Tufftalk is the most rugged and heavily built of the lineup.
Sena says their headsets have a range of up to 800 meters in open areas.
How do they compare?
Whichever headset brand you choose you won’t go wrong, but the two companies’ products have quite a few differences and you may find one brand fits your needs better than the other. Overall, I’ve found the audio quality to be higher on Eartec’s headsets. The Sena’s audio quality is perfectly acceptable (I would equate it as similar to telephone call quality), but the Eartec’s quality is really good. But then again, Sena’s ability to make or take phone calls –like maybe with the marina office– or listen to some soothing music in the background may be more valuable to you.
All of Eartec’s self-contained units (those without a separate belt pack and headset) are over the head style and come in a single headband size. I have an abnormally large head and hence have had no troubles with UltraLITE staying on my head, but my more normal wife has found that if she leans forward too far the headset slips off. The Sena’s Expand and SPH10-10 are both behind the neck style which seems to better fit smaller heads.
The Eartec units are a little simpler to get connected for conversations between more than two headsets. UltraLITE headsets ship be paired to a master unit and can all be used together as soon as they’re powered up. The Sena headsets will automatically establish a two-party conference On power up, but each additional headset has to call one of the active pair to join the conversation. This isn’t hard to do — it’s initiated with a simple button press — but it’s another step that must be completed before everyone is talking together.
The Sena units are only available in dual-ear designs with both ears covered. In docking situations, I would prefer to have one ear uncovered to be able to hear what’s happening around the boat as well as what my crew is saying. Eartec has models with both single and dual ear cups.
Although the Sena headsets have a longer stated range, in my testing I found the Eartecs to work over greater distances. The Eartecs both went further before audio began to break up and worked a greater distance before the audio became so garbled it couldn’t be understood. Both headsets provide real-world range of several hundred feet with good quality and working through multiple decks into the engine room has never been a problem, so I don’t think range will be a major factor for either company’s headsets.
This summer while navigating a challenging area Laura used our dinghy to lead Have Another Day through the shallows. We’ve done this before with two-way radios but with headsets we were able to comfortably converse without breaking concentration or taking hands off the vessel controls for the radio. We also frequently use the headsets in a lock and while performing maintenance tasks in the engine room that requires someone at the helm.
We have been thrilled with the difference full-duplex headsets make while docking. Instead of minimal communication at a yell, we are able to carry on conversations in a normal speaking voice and calm tone. Docking can be stressful and nothing gets my stress up faster than having someone who can see part of the boat I can’t yelling something I can’t make out. I’m left to wonder: Should I stop? Should I throw the boat in reverse? Should I keep going? With headsets, I know the difference between “someone fell in so stop everything“ and “oh look, a dolphin.”