Pontoon with Top

What To Avoid When Buying A Pontoon Boat

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Pontoon boats are perhaps the most famous watercraft used by water enthusiasts. They use it to fish, engage in watersports, and explore shallows,  rivers, and lakes.

But buying a very good pontoon boat is a tricky endeavor.  Especially if you have very little idea about pontoons.

What to avoid when buying a pontoon boat should rank high on your to-do list before you become a pontoon boat owner.

Luckily for you, we have all the information you need! In this article, we will address what to avoid when buying a pontoon boat.

Let’s begin!


Pontoons 101

Pontoon boats are flat leisure boats that stay on top of the water using specialized floats.

These floats are also called tubes. This is because they look such with extra buoyancy.  This allows the manufacturer to provide a large, spacious, flat deck for passengers to enjoy.

Most pontoon boats are quite popular because of their flexible designs. You can install a lounge, bar area, sun pads, shelters, lighting, and other features!

It’s a bit like a house — but not a houseboat!

Suffice to call it a house on top of the water, and you will be right. But bathrooms can be tricky.

Toons generally have outboard motors and are considered cruising boats. Additionally, these boats are very light weight. This makes them one of the best vessels for navigating shallow water.

Other heavier boats will run aground and get damaged. Pontoon boats are the exact opposite.

Toons generally have outboard motors and are considered cruising boats. Additionally, these boats are very light weight. This makes them one of the best vessels for navigating shallow water.

What To Avoid When Buying A Pontoon Boat

Regardless of whether you’re buying a used boat or a new boat, there are a few key things to avoid.

1. Not Doing Your Due Diligence

There are really no bad brands of pontoon boat, but you do need to make sure the boat was well-maintained before you buy! The marine environment is just so much harsher than a land environment, maintenance is critical.

Make sure the engine is in good shape, with records of proper care. Make sure the hull is good, no cracks in the aluminum pontoons, no unexplained damage anywhere.

Check everything: the electrical system, motor, hull, etc.

2. Overpaying For Your Toon

One mistake many shoppers make is to overpay for a pontoon boat out of excitement. You need to relax since you often can’t test drive it before you can buy it.

Patience is key, there’s always another one that will come along! New toons are made every day, so don’t be in a hurry. What you should be looking for is a boat whose price is worth its value.

The best time to buy a pontoon boat or any other boat for that matter is during the off-season. During this period, prices can be slashed by as much as 30%. This is because sellers look to sell off old ones so they can restock new ones for the upcoming boating season.

While the off-season is not the perfect market condition for sellers, it is a buyer’s market so take your time. Search for great deals, and you will be amazed what you can get during the off season!

3. Getting the Size Wrong

Be sure to pay attention to size, and think about how the size will impact trailering, storage, and use.

For instance, you may want a boat that can accommodate 10 people, and such a boat will have to be at least 22ft long. The larger the boat, the more difficult to move, the larger the engine, the more gas, etc.

Size plays a big role in the experience of a pontoon boat. Smaller toons are easier to maneuver and easier to tow, but may not be as fun as a larger boat with more options.

Here are some sizing recommendations:

  • 2-6 seats (18ft-20ft)
  • 6-10 people (22ft-24ft)
  • More than 10 people (24ft and above)

4. Buying The Wrong Build-Out

There are different types of pontoon boats with differing build-outs. If you use the blanket term when shopping for it, you may end up with the wrong vessel that needs to be re-outfitted for your needs

The type of pontoon boats you buy should depend on what you wish to use them for. If you want a boat for water sports, avoid buying one that is designed especially for fishing!

For fishing, a boat that is ideal for cruising will work just fine. For watersports, go for a model that works with an outboard engine of 90hP.

For leisure activities like swimming, sunbathing and other calm activities, buy a model that has a lot of shelter.

5. Skipping the Warranty

Another mistake to avoid is to buy a pontoon boat without a manufacturer’s warranty, or one that has only a warranty for 6 months or less.

The idea warranty should be at least one year and above. Reputable brands offer a parts warranty of at least three years.

Used boats should be thoroughly tested, and maintenance records should be reviewed.

6. Boats Without Money Back Guarantees

Just as it’s bad to buy a pontoon boat without a warranty, so also is it risky to buy one without a money-back guarantee. The boat you buy should have at least a 30-day money-back guarantee. This one-month timeframe will give you enough time to test run the vessel to see if it meets your needs.

If it doesn’t, you can always return it and request your money back. If you buy one without this guarantee, you can’t request your money back if it does not have any structural error.

Note: For money-back guarantees, you may be responsible for shipping the boat back to the seller.

Pros Of Buying A Pontoon Boat

There are several pros to owning a pontoon boat that attracts many a buyer to opt for one over any other vessel. Here are some of them.

1. Spacious Flexibility

As we pointed out in a previous paragraph, many pontoon boats are very spacious. There is sufficient storage space for men and cargo. Due to its flat deck, it has enough space for seats and outer edges. This allows room for more than a few passengers, depending on the capacity of the boat.

Besides the seating space, there are enough spaces to walk around on the deck. Some even have extra furniture like decks for the captain and other lounges. Pontoons also have space for luggage for water sports like tubing and waterskiing.

This allows crew members to bring aboard their gear and other personal effects.  These would ordinarily be left behind if sailing on other smaller leisure boats.

2. Flexible Sitting Arrangements

We had to address this point separately. Pontoon boats have room for flexible seating arrangements. This is due to the versatility of their design. Rather than work with a single, rigid sitting plan, You can transform the vessel into any sitting arrangement of your choosing.

Different sitting plans you can implement aboard a used pontoon boat include:

  • Captain’s chair
  • Co-Captain’s chair
  • Forward-facing
  • Rear-facing
  • Daybeds
  • Bartop
  • Fishing chairs

These flexible options provide boaters with plenty of choices. You can go from floating living room to fun ski boat with ease!

3. Extra protection

Pontoon boats are designed for use in calm waters, lakes, rivers, bays, etc. Due to their flat design, it is pretty easy to get covers, bimini tops, etc. Stay in the shade, out of the wind in your floating living room.

Due to the floating tube design of a toon, passengers are kept high above the water. It’s pretty rare that anyone gets wet unless they want to climb down the ladder to the water — or jump in!

4. Stable rides

Though toons aren’t really designed for rough water, they have a particularly stable ride. The lifting strakes allow the toons to plane out quicker than conventional boats. This allows the vessel to cruise quickly on top of the water to create smooth and stable rides.

There are other designs like nose cones to cut through the water as you go through. The cones and tamers bear the brunt of the waves.

5. Easy maintenance

Cleaning a boat can be a pain, especially if it is a big one. But pontoons are easy to maintain. There’s very little teak to do, and very little to paint, except for the aluminum bottom paint.

Even the outboard engines it uses do not require intensive maintenance. If you service it at least every six months depending on the pontoon brands and ensure that it has enough fuel and oil at all times, it will stay in shape.

Just don’t forget to winterize!

6. Family-friendly vessel

Pontoon brands are perhaps the ultimate family-friendly vessels. They will suit crew members of all ages. The abundant space and flexible sitting arrangement make it a top choice for families who like to have fun in the water.

Some have safety railings to prevent crew members from falling overboard by accident. A storage area for keeping personal effects is also made available.

Cons Of Buying A Pontoon Boat

Despite the pros of buying a pontoon boat, there are several cons to bear in mind. Having these in mind will help you decide whether you want to buy one or switch to something else.

Unsafe for rocky areas

Pontoon boats may be lighter than many other boats; they are unsafe for rocky areas. Sailing across rocky water is dangerous. This may result in serious damage to the hull or even capsize the boat.

Pontoons are not ideal for intense watersports like kayaking across tough terrain. This should be avoided at all costs. Surfing with a pontoon boat is also illegal in some areas due to the potential hazards. They are only safe on small and calm bodies.

Bad For Night Sailing

Pontoon boats are not ideal for night sailing. Even if you have ultra-bright halogen lamps, it is still ill-advised to go sailing in them at night. The ones with tent enclosures may offer you some respite against the harsh weather. But they can do very little to protect you from a storm.

If you want a vessel you can live in water, we recommend going for a larger vessel instead. Pontoons are ideal for short-term trips on water, not extended ones that will keep you out for days.

Not Safe In Rough Weather

If the weather is rough and there is a storm coming, the worst possible move you will ever make is to sail out in your pontoon boat. This vessel is not safe for cruising or water skiing in the storm and cannot handle strong currents.

Pontoons are meant for calm waters, not rough ones. They also struggle when exposed to strong winds and may go off course. Boat owners are advised to triple-check the weather first before they sail out.

Making Wide Turns Is Hard

Making Wide turns with a pontoon boat is one of our most difficult things to do. This makes it pretty harder for boaters to react to an incoming vessel or object. So, avoiding a full head collision is difficult at short notice.

While other smaller vessels can make such wide turns at short notice, a pontoon boat cannot.

Unsuited For Large Water Bodies

Most importantly, pontoons are not suited for large water bodies like seas and oceans. This is because they are not built to handle such massive waves. Rather they are designed for smaller water bodies like rivers, lakes, and small water inlets.

The Lifespan of a Pontoon Boat

Pontoon boats are known to have extended shelf life. They’re usually not used in rough weather, and if the captain is competent, a toon will last a long time!

The average lifespan of these boats is about 40 years! When you go shopping for one, your goal should be to buy one that you can pass over to the next generation. The key to longevity is durability and maintenance.

However, if the former owner misused it, the toon will not last so long.

Make it a habit to wash the vessel after every use, and perform regular engine maintenance.

Also, avoid travel in rocky terrain to protect the hull from damage. Lastly, avoid overloading the boat and stay away from stormy waters!

Final Thoughts

Do your research and outline exactly what you need and want for your toon before you start shopping. Get a price point in mind, and stick to it. Keep in mind that off-season deals are significant, so try to shop when the prices are low.

Good luck, and happy tooning!