Pontoon Boat vs Ski Boat: Compared!

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We’ve all been there. It’s a hot and humid summer day, and you’re dying to get out of the house and do something refreshing.

Nothing can quite match the refreshment and excitement of taking to the waves on your new boat. But it can often be a challenge to decide what type of boat is right for you.

Today, we’re going to compare two types of boats so you can figure out which of them would be best for you. We’re gonna do a head-to-head Pontoon Boat vs Ski Boat battle!

The first kind of boat that we’re going to look at is the pontoon boat. These boats are not as stylish as some of their sportier cousins. But pontoon boats are quite practical and have their share of advantages.

We’ll also cover ski boats. They are a purpose-built alternative to pontoon boats. They’re sportier, but not necessarily more fun.

Before getting into the details, let’s look at why it’s so important to pick the right boat.


Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats are a unique type of boat that uses hollow pontoons for buoyancy.  Pontoon boats come in a few different varieties. They are distinguished by the number of pontoons they have mounted and where they’re placed.

Yet, the main similarity between all types of pontoon boats is that they tend to feature a flat hull.

Under, pontoons are there to keep the boat afloat. They are made out of steel or lightweight metals like aluminum. Some older pontoon boats use steel. Modern toon boats come equipped with aluminum pontoons.

The two main varieties of pontoon boats are distinguished by their pontoon layout. The traditional variety features two pontoons, and triple pontoons (or tri-toon).

Pontoons were a dying breed, as manufacturers struggled to make them compete with other boats’ speed.  Thanks to new advances in pontoon boat technology, many of these boats can now compete with other types of vessels when it comes to speed and handling.

Pontoon Boat Advantages

1. Affordability

One of the main benefits of a pontoon boat is that it will likely be relatively affordable. This is because pontoon boats have a simple design that only gets easier to manufacture.

The pontoons themselves are easy to produce. Yet, they’re one of the most critical parts of the whole boat.

The reason why high-end pontoon boats get so expensive is due to their accommodations and bells and whistles. Some of the top pontoon boats are downright luxurious, trading performance for style.

This is for comfort and allowing the passengers to lounge about, bringing us to our next point.

2. Lots of Space for Passengers

Another thing that you’ll love about pontoon boats is that they tend to feature plenty of space. You can bring all your friends and family along for a ride on them. Pontoon boats are popular choices for people looking to host parties while on water.

Some pontoon boats are even big enough to have couches installed on them. You won’t have to deal a rocking motion, thus countering seasickness.

3. Versatility

Pontoon boats are so capable and flexible. They’re incredibly versatile and can be family boats, party boats, fishing boats, ski boats, etc. But they don’t excel at any one thing.

Pontoon boats are so capable and flexible. They’re incredibly versatile and can be family boats, party boats, fishing boats, ski boats, etc. But they don’t excel at any one thing.

Pontoon boats are popular party boats, and people love to deck out their toons with fun lighting and style. Most people recognize that they’re not the most stylish boat, but many enthusiasts embrace the toon community.

Toons are workable for water-skiing, tubing, and other water sports. But they’re not primarily focused on these activities, and they’re not going to be quite as good as a genuine ski boat. They don’t have the handling ability, engine torque, etc.

Pontoon boats also make excellent fishing boats due to their stability. Just grab that fish finder! Also, the amount of space you have available on the deck can be useful to reel fish in.

Some pontoon boats even have fully enclosed cabins. This gives you a space to brave the elements if you want to take your boat out on the water in the colder months.

4. Ease of Maintenance

Pontoon boats are also easier to maintain than other types of boats.  Their pontoons don’t sustain damage as fiberglass hulls of other boats.  Most pontoons are made of aluminum.  They’re more likely to get dented than to break or shear, like less resilient materials.

This means that pontoon boats are a lot more likely to last you a long time (just be sure to maintain them!).

And,  that’s aided by the huge market of aftermarket pontoon boat parts. You can find things like replacement furniture without having to search far and wide. We’ve seen plenty of pontoon boats that have been out on the water for over 15 years.

5. Storage Room

The amount of space on pontoon boats can be used for more than just passengers. The vast majority of pontoon boats feature storage cabinets and chests. This is where you can store all your safety gear and other equipment.

Whether for storage or just a place to put the beer cooler away from the sun, a pontoon boat should have you covered.

6. Safety

Pontoon boats are safer than most other types of boats. Also, they’re an excellent choice for families.  Their fenced-off decks make a child less likely to get into a sticky situation.

Pontoon boats are also stable. They’re harder to flip with abrupt movements of the controls, even at high speeds.

Pontoon boats are safer than most other types of boats. Also, they’re an excellent choice for families. 

However, one thing to keep in mind is the pontoon effect.  This can cause a pontoon boat to suddenly capsize if an excessive force is exerted on one end of the deck. This issue can be exacerbated on pontoon boats with a high center of gravity.

So you may want to keep the weight lower on the deck of a pontoon boat.

7. Cost and Value

The cost of a pontoon boat depends on the model that you’re getting and the amenities it comes equipped with.

Tri-toon boats tend to be more expensive than standard pontoon boats. They require more material and are a more complex design.

The most popular pontoon boats are somewhere in the range of $30,000 to $40,000, depending on how they’re equipped. There are also more affordable models for as low as $18,000. Some may even be cheaper if you’re willing to check the used boat market.

Ski Boats

Ski boats are a type of towboat, as they’re designed to tow water skiers behind them. Ski boats are designed to create the best possible experience while doing water sports.

Ski boats are designed to create the best possible experience while doing water sports.

Ski boats tend to have a unique layout. Some models feature a direct-drive, mid-engined layout.  It creates a flat wake with good handling characteristics.

More and more ski boats are now being designed with a V-drive. V-drive ski boats feature a rear-mounted engine that creates an even taller wake.

No matter what kind of ski boat you’re looking at, these boats are  make water skiing and wakeboarding easier. V-drive boats tend to be preferred by wakeboarders. This is because of their taller wakes. 

But if you want a dedicated water skiing boat, nothing can beat a direct-drive model.

These boats also tend to be relatively luxurious. It has a  plush interior that are as comfortable as possible for the driver and any extra passengers.

But, this also makes ski boats a little more expensive than other kinds of vessels, on average.

Ski Boat Advantages

1. Performance

Ski boats are designed for performance. These vessels are designed to accelerate as fast as possible from a stop.

 This is because faster acceleration makes it easier for a water skier to stay balanced. until the boat gets to the ideal speed for water skiing.

Some boats are even equipped with water ballast tanks that allow you to lower the rear of the boat even further. This will create an even taller wake. Making them versatile enough to  both wakeboarding and water skiing platforms.

2. Storage Space

Ski boats are designed with water skiing, tubing, and water sports in mind. They tend to have enough storage space for water skis, tow lines, PFDs, etc. This allows carrying all the key equipment for the sports.

Thus, not  getting in the way of the boat’s passengers. This is crucial when you consider how much space is taken up by the engine!

This has the existing space more comfortable for any passengers who may be along for the ride. You’ll also often find dedicated storage spaces under the seats and benches on ski boats. Thus, providing you with a little bit more extra room.

3. Style

Ski boats definitely look cooler than pontoon boats. Yeah, we went there. Very few people are going to argue that a speedy, aggressive, gracefully-curved ski boat isn’t more attractive than the quaint, slightly homely style of a ‘toon.

4. Safety

Ski boats themselves tend to be about as safe as regular speedboats.

You don’t want to get anywhere near the tow line.  Because it can cause serious injury or even death to anyone that gets in its way.

This is why it’s essential to stay well clear of the boat’s stern while someone is water skiing.

Aside from this, the main danger associated with skiing boats is with the activity itself. Water skiing is inherently hazardous. 

5. Cost and Value

Due to their specialized design, ski boats tend to be some of the more expensive boats on the water. This is often due to their unusual direct-drive design. It takes a lot more work to design and install than a typical outboard motor.

 On the other hand, wakeboarding boats tend to be a bit more affordable. Thanks to their stern-drive design.

You’ll find many ski boats available for around $125,000 to $150,000.  There are even more expensive models that can cost as much as $200,000. If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable some used boats can be had for in the range of $50,000.

Pontoon Boat vs Ski Boat

We’ve covered the key aspects of both Pontoons and Ski boats. Depending on what your need is, and what your budget is, either of these boat styles could be perfect for you.

If you want versatility, and want to embrace the funk, go with a pontoon boat. These are excellent boats for families, they’re easy to drive and tow (get trailer guides), easy to launch, safe, and flexible.

If you’re all about the watersports and really want a boat that excels at speed, handling, and tow power, then you’re going to want a ski boat or maybe a (wakeboarding boat). But you may find that when you want to sit back and have that wine and cheese plate after an afternoon on the water, you don’t have as much room!

Oh, and your wallet will be a lot lighter, too.


At the end of the day, the choice between a pontoon boat and a ski boat is a matter of preference.

 Nothing can beat a purpose-built, direct-drive ski boat for water skiing.

On the other hand, a pontoon boat is a much more versatile choice. It can be used for a wide range of aquatic activities, including water skiing, fishing, and leisure use. Pontoon boats also have the advantage of being more affordable than ski boats, particularly if you want to buy new.

We hope that our guide has managed to make the differences between these boats clear.

Have fun out on the waves!