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Pontoon Boat Buying Guide

By The Ahoy! Crew
Published August 5, 2022

Maybe you can already picture the fun times with friends and family aboard your new pontoon boat. The sun is shining and the crew is having a great time, waving at other boaters as you go by. A pontoon is the perfect platform for relaxing, watersports, fishing, and more.

Now let’s think through how to get you there. 

Step 1: Learn the basics of pontoons

Pontoon boats are a great choice for novice and experienced boaters alike. These boats have two or three (tritoons) buoyant tubes and a spacious deck that makes sure no one misses the boat and everything is stored securely. The outboard engines are easy to drive and easy to maintain. 

Most pontoons have walls or railings around the sides, making time on the water safer for youngsters and anyone who needs a little extra stability. The flat deck makes pontoons easier to move around and the best option for handicap accessibility.

Pontoons have a shallow draft which reduces the risk of running aground and extends the cruising area of a body of water. You can get closer to the beach and even pull the pontoon ashore for a picnic.

You might think pontoons are only suitable for slow cruises around the lake or pond, but different boat layouts cater to a variety of experiences. If your crew likes wakeboarding, tubing, water skiing, or other high-speed towing fun, consider looking into a  “sport toon”. Those looking for a professional-level experience in fishing and other water sports may be happier with boats specialized for that purpose. 
Pontoons are a great option for those with a permanent place on the water and they can also be trailered or stowed in dry storage. Pontoons are wider than other power boats of similar size, but with practice you will be headed down the road with ease.

Step 2: Develop your purchase criteria: size, layout, and more

Before getting lost scrolling boat listings, contacting sellers, and touring boats, take some time to develop criteria for your ideal pontoon. 

Some questions to consider:

  • What type of waterways will you be cruising? 
  • Will you be hosting large gatherings, cruising as a couple, or somewhere in between? 
  • Would you like to purchase and customize a new vessel or save by buying a used boat?
  • What type of activities will you and loved ones enjoy while underway?

Pontoon boats have varying weight capacities and typically measure 18-25’ in length (though there are pontoons that are longer than 30’). Always abide by manufacturer guidelines for weight and be sure to select a boat suitable to your activities.

As you consider the size, don’t skimp on storage space for safety equipment. At a minimum, you need one personal floatation device per each person on board, including children. For more on USCG safety requirements, see here

Step 3: Consider the time and expense of ownership 

Talk to a few boaters and do some additional research for expenses beyond the sticker price. These may include financing, maintenance, fuel, storage, and of course, boat insurance. Considering these expenses ahead of a purchase will keep boating fun, rather than a stretch to afford. 

Pontoon boats are made of durable materials that are easy to clean. Most flooring can be power washed at the end of the season and the marine vinyl seating common on most pontoons can be maintained by simply wiping off water and soap. With a pontoon, you won’t worry over spills or fussy maintenance.
The outboard engine can be serviced by a professional or on your own time with some DIY gumption. If you live in a cold climate, winterizing your pontoon is a must. Read here.

Step 4: Finding the One

After your purchase criteria are clear, it’s time to get shopping! The internet is a great resource for finding local dealers, boat shows, and tapping into the used boat market. Local boating groups can also be a boon for listings and advice. 

Whether your boat is new or used, a lake test drive is essential to confirm that it is fit or to identify flaws. Issues not included in the listing could lower the purchase price or help you decide to walk away.

Step 5: Protecting your purchase with boat insurance created by boaters like you

If you want to understand the true cost of buying a boat, talk to a seasoned boater. If you want to get a clear picture of the risks associated with boating, talk to someone who spends time on the water boating. If you want insurance tailored to your specific boating needs, talk to the boaters at Ahoy! Insurance. We’ve combined our passion for boating with our knowledge of insurance and technology to design the most comprehensive, innovative insurance solutions on the market. Our “First Mate” concierge service offers non-intrusive assistance when you need it most, and our mobile app offers support to help prevent risk.

Start building your quote today.


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