If you’re here, then you’re most likely interested in purchasing a new pontoon boat!
Like many first-time buyers, you’re doing your research to ensure that you invest your money wisely.
Are there pontoon boat brands to avoid? Not really, most brands are fine. It’s the engine, components, and features you want to worry about.
As expensive as brand new pontoon boats can be these days, we’re not here to judge. Our main goal is to help you make a well-informed choice when it comes to boating and marine recreation.
Before we get into what brands not to buy, we should clarify some of the trouble areas on pontoon boats. These can go bad no matter what brand you end up going with.
Common Problem Areas With Pontoon Boats
So there is a bit of truth to the age-old saying that boats are money pits.
Like any heavy vehicle with a large combustion motor and many moving parts, there’s a lot of room for error. It becomes even worse when you consider the wet marine environment!
Manufacturers do their best to sell you a brand-new product. But over time a lot of small issues can start to arise that you’ll have to deal with.
The good news: Pontoons tend to be lower maintenance than your standard powerboat. But even these simple watercraft need to be cared for if you want them to last for any extended amount of time.
Pontoons tend to be lower maintenance than your standard powerboat.
This is especially true for the boaters who plan on using their pontoons in saltwater.
While pontoon boats are commonly thought of as freshwater boats, they can be used in saltwater under calm conditions. Of course, that saltwater will be harsher on the boat than freshwater will be!
Saltwater or not, though, every machine is going to face its problems. Let’s talk about some of the most common troubles and problem areas that pontoon owners may face.
We’re not trying to be pessimistic, but a little bit of preparation never hurt anybody!
1. The Engine
For the most part, toons are simple. The engine is usually an area where you’ll have to devote the most time and maintenance as far as your pontoon goes.
A lot of this depends on the brand of engine you’re running. How much horsepower it has, how well it’s taken care of, and the ratio of engine power to the weight of the boat it’s pushing.
When you’re looking for a new pontoon boat, the best piece of advice is to do your research into the engine — it’s probably more important than the boat brand.
Check the local Facebook classifieds in your small lake or beach town. You’ll see a host of affordable pontoon boats begging for your attention. The prices are often so low that you’ll start to wonder what’s wrong.
Nine times out of ten, if the boat seems unreasonably affordable- it’s got engine problems.
That said, let’s take a quick look at some of the most common problem areas with pontoon boat engines.
Fuel Supply Problems
One of the most common (and easiest/cheapest to repair) is the fuel supply and lines. If you don’t already know, you need to use ethanol-free marine fuel for your boat. While this may be a bit hard to find depending on where you live, it’s worth the extra $1/gallon and 15-minute drive.
Ethanol is added to regular gas to reduce our reliance on petroleum. But it can have a disastrous effect when it’s allowed to build up in a marine engine. Ethanol often separates from the gas itself. This causes fuel line blockages and engine build-up.
Any marina will only sell ethanol-free fuel.
By switching over to 100% ethanol-free marine fuel, you’ll save yourself a ton of headaches.
Also, if you’re buying a used pontoon make sure that the original owner used only marine fuel.
Apart from the fuel itself, lines often become clocked or corroded over time. These small rubber tubes are usually easy and simple to fix. But you’ll probably have to do it every few years.
The next fuel supply issue is with the fuel pumps. As the name implies, these pump fuel from your fuel tank to your engine. Over time, they often fail due to corrosion, UV light damage, and general wear and tear. These can cost a few hundred bucks to repair. So, make sure that the pontoon you’re looking at has a well-designed fuel pump.
Loss of Power
If your engine ever feels like it’s not running at 100%, is making straining noises, sputtering, etc. Then chances are that your engine needs a closer look.
Most commonly, this problem is caused by an engine misfire. Misfires are usually caused by a bad engine cylinder, ignition coils, or spark plugs.
Loss of power could also be caused by a clogged fuel line. The engine may not be getting enough fuel to run at maximum power and efficiency.
Try to get the dealership or owner to do a test run of the engine while it’s hooked up to a water hose before the purchase.
Smoking Engine Block
While these often sound band, they’re usually simpler to fix than they look. Smoking engines are usually caused by a dirty or contaminated fuel mixture.
Most old motors will emit a small amount of smoke when they’re first turned on. This is because they burn out old fuel on start-up, so don’t be alarmed.
You may need to purge your fuel system with fresh gas and possibly if an engine cleaner like seafoam. It’s always best to consult the engine manufacturer first before attempting this.
Engine Running Hot
If your engine is running hot, then you could have a problem with the water cooling system. Instead of using a coolant fluid, outboard boat engines run a constant stream of fresh water. It passes through small tubes around the engine to keep it cool.
If your engine suddenly starts to run hot, the problem is that your cooling lines are clogged or blocked. This is very common with outboard motors. This is because they’re sucking up water from around the propeller to run through the system.
If you’re going through sandy and shallow water, marshes, and beaches there’s a very high chance of your cooling lines sucking up a small bit of mud, kelp, stick, or even a small lifeform!
Thankfully, your engine has a small filter that won’t allow debris to run through the engine. This rarely can cause lasting damage. The only real damage that can happen is if you continue to let your engine run hot without water to cool it.
This means that it’s vital to stop your engine as soon as you realize it’s overheating.
Usually, the clog can be removed by sticking a length of wire or pipe cleaner up the intake hole. The intake hole is usually located towards the bottom of the engine, close to the propeller.
Start your boat back again once you run your wire through the hole. You should be able to feel if you’ve removed whatever debris was blocking the system. As long as it starts to shoot water out again, you’re good to go!
If not, then your clog may be farther up the line and may need professional attention.
2. The Hull
Apart from the engine, the hull is another commonplace for small problems to appear. Aluminum pontoon boats are made to be sturdy and are close to unsinkable. But they do bear the brunt of all the waves, tides, sand, and rocks that hit the underside of your craft.
Here are some of the common problems that can arise with your hull. As well as items that you should also inspect your boat for before purchasing;
Pontoon boats are held together with a series of brackets, screws, and other securing items.
If you buy a brand-new pontoon boat, then you will rarely have to deal with this particular problem. But, once you start getting into the used boat territory, you’ll want to inspect the brackets on the craft.
The pontoon is supported by two large tubes that serve as the flotation mechanism. These tubes are bracketed to the deck which holds everything together.
Over time, the brackets can loosen which can decrease your hull integrity. This can cause strange rattling noises, and eventually turn into a bigger issue.
Make sure to take a close look at the undercarriage to ensure that all brackets are in top shape.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is the bracket type. Cheaper pontoon boats use a V-shaped bracket that gets the job done. But, it is more susceptible to problems down the line.
Higher-quality pontoons instead use an M-shaped bracket to connect the tubes to the deck. These M-brackets are more durable and can better stand the test of time.
Much of the hull and deck are held together with sturdy brackets. Yet, there are several areas where you’ll want to inspect the welds. Make sure that the welds are deep so that you won’t have to worry about anything popping loose while you’re in the water.
Over time, welds can become weakened. So, if you’re purchasing a used pontoon boat, make sure to pay extra attention to the weld points.
Holes and Corrosion
Pontoon hulls and tubes are typically made from anodized aluminum. It tends to be corrosion-resistant, But over time the anodized coating can wear off. This can result in the metal becoming susceptible to rust and corrosion, particularly if there’s no antifouling paint or protective layer.
It’s especially true if your pontoon boat regularly sits in the water.
Holes are also another thing you’ll want to look out for if you’re buying a second-hand pontoon.
It’s quite common for pontoon tubes to have a rough landing onshore. Sometimes it runs into an unexpected sand bar and hit a rock that puts small punctures in the tubes.
Should you find any unwanted holes, they’re usually very easy to fix with a bit of welding. But you want to know about those holes before you buy!
This is one of those things that can go wrong with any boat. Most pontoons feature an electric power steering system. It uses hydraulics to turn the motor and change its speed. Brand new boats will seldom have an issue, but used boats can be a little bit worse for the wear.
Before making your final decision, make sure that both the steering wheel and shifter work smoothly.
Also, be sure to check and see if the button that raises and lowers the motor is working. This will be very important when you take the boat in and out of the water.
Pontoon Boat Brands To Avoid: The Truth
Well, it’s time we made an apology- we did use a “clickbait title” to catch your attention.
The reality is that there aren’t any “bad” brands of pontoon boats!
The reality is that there aren’t any “bad” brands of pontoon boats!
Sure, there are luxury pontoons. These feature top-of-the-line leather seats, high-tech dashboards, solid electrical systems, and extra-powerful motors.
There is also a range of mid-range pontoons that feature high-quality, low-maintenance designs, and average-power motors.
They’re all designed to a certain standard of quality that ensures boaters’ safety. And, these boats have to pass rigorous regulations imposed by the U.S. Coast Guard. As well as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and various state laws.
So What Is Important When Shopping for a Toon?
At the end of the day, what’s important is that you do your research on the boat that you’re buying.
You could pretty much pull up to any pontoon boat dealership. Buy a brand-new or lightly-used pontoon, and you would have absolutely no problems.
The most important feature to pay attention to in searching for a new pontoon isn’t the brand or who made it. It’s the engine, hull, materials, and quality of construction.
It’s the engine, hull, materials, and quality of construction.
Most of the major pontoon brands on the market feature several models. These range from affordable boats with no bells and whistles to higher-end models with more nice features. But no brand stands out as being terrible or outstanding.
Buying a pontoon boat is one of the most rewarding, fun investments that you can make.
These boats are large enough for your entire family. Light enough to tow with an average truck. And require a lot less maintenance than your average powerboat.
Every boat owner and dealership will have their own opinion on what motors are good. What makes a good hull, and how much money you should spend.
Ultimately, though, you’re going to need to make your own decision based on your budget. Consider the size of the boat and motor you’re looking for, luxury features, and more.