You may have never known you wanted a pontoon boat until reading this article. However, if you have been around the water before, you likely have seen a pontoon boat before.
Pontoon boats are gaining popularity quickly in both recreational and commercial sales, and families nationwide are enjoying these virtually unsinkable boats for all types of fun activities.
This article will explain what a pontoon boat is, give you a list of pros and cons, and share the most affordable pontoon boats on the market.
Table of Contents
What is a Pontoon Boat?
According to a Boatsetter article, a pontoon boat is “a flatboat that uses pontoons (or tubes) to float.” The pontoon is a perfect example of Achimedes’ physical law of buoyancy- do you remember that one from your middle school science lesson?
Essentially the hollow, air-tight pontoon structure utilizes buoyancy to keep the flattish-type boat above the water. Manufacturers produce the pontoon structure by welding together aluminum sheets, and each boat has at least two of these floats attached to its underbody.
Besides the pontoons themselves, a highly sought-after feature of these boats is the large flat deck that they support. As a boat owner, you have almost unlimited freedom in how you outfit and accessorize your deck.
This flat-top feature is becoming a family favorite due to its high-capacity storage options and relative ease of operation. But, the pontoon boat is a commercial fan-favorite because of its versatility and range.
We recently celebrated my son’s fifth birthday party aboard a private pontoon boat spotting three different species of dolphins in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Taranto, Italy. Not only was the ride quiet, but it was also spacious, comfortable, and felt very safe even with my two-year-old aboard.
Pros of Buying a Pontoon Boat
The most enticing aspect of a pontoon boat has to be its versatility. Whether you want to go fishing, rival the competition in your favorite water sport, or are simply looking for an excellent way to create lasting memories with your family, the pontoon boat will serve you well.
Here are some of the top reasons I believe a pontoon boat should be a serious contender for your first or next boat buying experience.
- Extremely comfortable- so much that it may be hard for you to get off at the end of the day. Although various configurations are available on the market, pontoon boats have couch-style seating that you can sink in for a good snooze.
- Crazy amounts of storage space allow everyone in your family or even guests invited aboard for a day or more of fun in the sun to have ample storage for personal belongings, coolers, and more.
- Very safe, and as I said before, pontoon boats are virtually unsinkable. Just like the pontoon boat we spent my son’s birthday on, railings around the perimeter of the deck protect anyone from accidentally falling overboard.
- Excellent driveability- with its raised body, pontoon boats are much easier to handle near shallow waters and rocky shorelines. In addition, you can bring it right up to the beach, unlike typical v-shaped cruisers.
- Easy to maintain- pontoon boats do not damage very quickly, and if it does, maintenance costs are generally much cheaper than for other boats. If you need to replace decking or seating, the open deck design makes any work you may have to do much more accessible. Lastly, cleaning cannot get much easier than for a pontoon boat- trust me, I have seen my friends struggle with cleaning their speedies and cruisers.
- You can outfit and accessorize your pontoon deck with almost anything imaginable (grills, canopies, or even a portable toilet if you have kids or plan to be at sea for an extended period).
Cons of Buying a Pontoon Boat
Despite all the advantages that I hope I have done an excellent job explaining to you, it is time that you also consider some of the cons of owning a pontoon boat.
- Not ideal for extreme watersports- although I know I told you that you could indulge in your favorite watersports by being towed by a pontoon boat, I don’t foresee this as the best option if you intend to win world-class competitions.
TIP: You should also research local laws to see any restrictions to being pulled by a boat with an outboard motor. Traditional towboats have their engines tucked up under the boat, making it a safer choice for water sports enthusiasts.
- Not built for speed- although pontoon boats can typically reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour (approximately 30 knots), they are not speed demons by any means.
- Rough water menaces- due it is bulkier stature and broad build (compared to a v-shaped boat), pontoon boats tend to attack rough waves by plunging into them rather than riding over them. Although it is practically impossible to capsize a pontoon boat, you should try your best to stay away from highly rough waters and return to shore immediately if there is any chance of a storm coming over.
- Difficult to trailer and tie down- the high profile of a pontoon boat makes trailering a bit more technical than v-shape boats that slide into cushioned railings on a trailer. Also, in the case of severe storms, it is much more difficult to tie down a pontoon boat with its higher-set structure.
Now that you have a better idea of what pontoon boat ownership entails, I encourage you to find a rental dealer and take a few different models out for a spin to become more familiar with handling a pontoon boat.
9 Most Affordable Pontoon Boats (with extras)
Affordability is too generic a term when referring to one’s financial capabilities. We live in a day and age of plastic- when the convenience of buying now and paying later is almost too enticing to ignore when we want something badly.
I am a proponent of holding out until you can purchase the said item outright so you don’t find yourself in an uncomfortable predicament later on down the road. And when it comes to a big-ticket item like a boat, it is all the more important to use sound financial judgment rather than act on emotional impulse.
Well, that’s my two cents on maintaining financial peace, so now I will introduce you to several brand new affordable pontoon boats that can be yours for under $30,000.
#1) SunTracker Party Barge 20 DLX
First up is the quintessential family-oriented pontoon boat by SunTracker, a trusted American brand of almost forty years strong. This pontoon boat is a 2022 model with all the bells and whistles.
At a listing price of $26,295, you can easily accommodate up to ten persons powered by a 60 ELPT Mercury four-stroke command thrust motor rated for speeds between 18-23 mph.
Suppose you do not opt for a bigger engine or additional accessories. In that case, you can remain under budget and acquire a tandem-axle trailer with fully-functioning brakes for an extra $3,550.
This first pontoon boat is perfect for making memories.
#2) Lowe SS 210 Dual Helm Conversion Lounge
If you are looking for a sleek and impressive pontoon boat that even features an aft conversion lounge for sun-bathing, then look no further than this Mercury-powered option.
For an MSRP of $25,563, the base model is an excellent starter pontoon boat for all your favorite water activities. In addition, the Lowe Boats website has a built-in boatbuilder feature with tons of accessories and options to select from.
You can be sure to have plenty of fun with your family aboard this premium pontoon boat that has served American families for years.
#3) Bennington S Series S168SF
With an upgraded 40-horsepower motor, you and your family can get out onto the water in a classic Bennington pontoon boat for right at the manufacturer’s price of $27,414.
Bennington offers an incredible line-up of pontoon boats with various configurations depending on your usage requirements. With their handy-dandy boat building feature, you can spend a couple of hours with your loved ones browsing through and selecting the parts and accessories that are most important for your fun and enjoyment.
#4) Berkshire 20 CL LE
If you love new, how would you feel unwrapping a brand new 2022 model Berkshire pontoon boat with an added performance package? I know I said I would keep you under $30,000, but if you can fish out an extra $3 worth of coins lurking under your car seat or in between your couch pillows, then this model could be yours with a 15 horsepower Yamaha engine.
There are tons of goodies on this boat, and you can be sure that your family will be safe aboard this pontoon boat whose outstanding building composition is a step above the competition.
#5) Viaggio Del Mar Model F
An extremely well-designed pontoon boat with a 60 horsepower engine is undoubtedly a fashionable way to hit the water this summer. The Viaggio Pontoons boat company was founded 32 years ago and has stood by its Italian namesake to provide your family with a ‘journey’ that they will never forget.
Check out this video for a sneak peek into Viaggio’s world-class design suitable for water-lovers of all types that will enjoy its full-size lounger chairs after a day packed with sunshine and fun.
#6) PRINCECRAFT BRIO 210-2S
Built well to Canadian specifications, a whopping $22,216 will bring one of the most affordable and possibly greenest pontoon boats home to your driveway (with additional freight costs if necessary).
I played around with their boat building toolkit and decided to plunge for their Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 RL electric engine, equivalent to a typical ten hp motor, and added a trailer that still places me comfortably under budget.
#7) Suncatcher Select 16C
Live up to its name, and take this pontoon boat out with your family to catch some sun. Priced affordably with the American family in mind, you can gift yourself this sixteen-foot model pontoon boat with the Yamaha F25LC Four Stroke engine for just $26,052.
With a transferable warranty between owners, Suncatcher Pontoons values “quality, performance, and satisfaction.” So whether you want to go swimming out in the middle of the lake, entertain friends, go fishing, or get a tan, the Select series is a great way to hit the water in style.
#8) Cypress Cay C171 Cruise
I loaded up this Cypress Cay Cruise series with many great features, including the full black mooring cover, LED docking and interior lights, Jensen stereo with marine speakers, and the Mercury 50 HP ELPT 4S Command Thrust engine with factory engine installation for only $22,157.
If that is not a steal, I don’t know what is. This pontoon boat will last and is ready to seize any opportunity for adventure. So soak up the sun and cruise off into the sunset with your friends and family.
#9) Sylvan Mirage Series
The Mirage Series begins at a price point of $24,299, and if you stick to basic options (fancy enough if you ask me), you should be able to fit a good motor on the back and still stay under our budget aim of $30,000.
Excellence is nothing new to the Sylvan Marine company, and so they have packed their pontoon boats with a range of no-extra-cost high-end features (including base models).
The Mirage Series pontoon boat’s versatility and performance handling are sure to impress- and did I mention that it comes with the best warranty in the industry?
I believe that the point of owning a boat is to significantly impact the amount of fun that you can have in the water environment. The excellent design of the contemporary pontoon boat is versatile in its application and configuration, sure to fit almost any leisure activity or sport imaginable.
I believe the best characteristic of the pontoon boat is that its open-deck design provides you and your family and friends an opportunity to socialize and have fun together in a safe and comfortable boat-after all, life is all about smiles and sunshine.
I hope to see you out on the water soon in one of the most affordable pontoon boats listed in this article for under $30,000, and please make sure to post your pictures in the comment section below.
Joseph Fabiano is a writer, nature enthusiast, and stay-at-home father of two wild and free boys. He enjoys starting his day with a good run, hot mug of coffee, and a jump in the Ionian Sea, no matter the weather. Currently based in the Apuglia region of southern Italy, he enjoys discovering the world with his best traveling buddies (his little monkey’s and beautiful wife) at every given opportunity. Every trip, long or far, should be made an adventure according to Joseph as he believes inspiration and creation is right in front of you.