April 10, 2023

The Ultimate Pontoon Buyers Guide 2023: Essential Tips for Smart Purchasing

Pontoon boats have surged in popularity, offering versatility and comfort for those looking to hit the water. As 2023 unfolds, it's time to explore the key aspects to consider when purchasing a pontoon in the current market. This ultimate pontoon buyers guide will serve as your go-to resource, helping you make informed decisions whilst acquiring your dream vessel.

With an array of options available, it can be overwhelming to navigate the boat-buying process. Thankfully, there are numerous resources and advice available, from Boating Magazine's 2023 Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide to Godfrey Pontoon's Ultimate Guide. By breaking down factors such as pontoon boat types, pricing, specifications, and performance data, this guide will empower you to confidently make the right choice for your needs and preferences.

Throughout this article, we'll cover essential topics such as selecting the ideal pontoon type, reviewing key features and amenities, understanding the importance of your budget, and examining the significance of maintenance and seasonal considerations. Equipped with this knowledge, you'll be prepared to purchase the perfect pontoon boat to enhance your on-the-water experiences in 2023 and beyond.

pontoon boat buyer guide

Understanding Pontoon Boats

History and Evolution

Pontoon boats were first crafted in the mid 1900s as a more stable vessel for navigating lakes compared to traditional boats. Their popularity has grown over time, particularly for inland water locations. They have evolved from simple platforms on two tubes to aesthetically pleasing and versatile crafts with various features to suit every boating enthusiast's needs.

Pontoon Boat Construction

The basic design of a pontoon boat consists of a flat deck mounted on two or more pontoons. These pontoons are generally made of aluminum and provide increased buoyancy and stability on the water. Over the years, construction techniques and materials have evolved, improving the durability, performance, and overall quality of these boats.

Modern pontoon boats usually incorporate marine-grade aluminum alloys and corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel to ensure longevity. Additionally, the deck is typically made from treated marine plywood or composite materials, covered with marine-grade carpet, vinyl, or alternatives like woven vinyl flooring for added durability and easy cleaning.

Types and Sizes

There are varying types and sizes of pontoon boats to suit different preferences and activities. Some common types include:

  • Recreational Pontoon: These boats are perfect for leisurely cruising, family outings, and sightseeing.
  • Fishing Pontoon: Outfitted with fishing amenities such as rod holders, live wells, and swivel seats, these boats cater to anglers.
  • Performance Pontoon: Designed for speed and power, performance pontoons come with larger engines and often feature a third pontoon for improved maneuverability and stability.
  • Luxury Pontoon: With high-end amenities, these boats provide a comfortable and sophisticated boating experience.

Pontoon boats vary in size, with smaller models typically ranging from 16 to 20 feet and larger ones going up to 28 feet or more. Smaller pontoons are great for intimate gatherings and easy towing, while larger ones provide more space for additional passengers and amenities, making them ideal for those looking to entertain larger groups2.

select right pontoon boat

Selecting the Right Pontoon

Purpose and Usage

When choosing a pontoon boat, first consider its intended use. Some pontoons are designed for leisurely activities, while others cater to recreational fishing or watersports. Understanding your requirements will help you select the most suitable pontoon boat for your needs.

Seating Capacity

Another critical factor to consider is the pontoon's seating capacity. Pontoons come in various sizes and layouts, each providing different passenger capacities. Think about the number of people you expect to have onboard most of the time and choose a boat that can accommodate your needs without compromising on space or comfort.

Some popular options to consider include:

sun track boat

Engine Performance

Pontoon boats offer various engine options to cater to different performance levels and budgets. When selecting an engine for your pontoon boat, consider the activities you plan to engage in and the speed and power necessary for those activities.

For example, if you plan on towing waterskiers or wakeboarders, a more powerful engine is crucial. However, if leisurely cruises are your main priority, a smaller and more fuel-efficient engine may suffice.

While comparing engines, make sure to evaluate factors such as fuel efficiency, top speed, and reliability. This information can often be found within pontoon boat reviews and manufacturer specifications.

Optional Features and Accessories

Entertainment Systems

Pontoon boats are perfect for socializing and entertaining friends and family. The addition of a high-quality entertainment system can greatly enhance the boating experience. Many modern pontoons come with options for premium audio systems, such as marine-grade speakers and amplifiers, that provide crisp and clear sound even in challenging conditions.

Additionally, it is worth considering the installation of entertainment extras like LED mood lighting or underwater lights to add ambiance to evening cruises. Large-screen TVs and Wi-Fi capabilities are other popular options for those seeking an on-the-water home theater experience.

Fishing Amenities

For anglers, pontoon boats can be tailored to provide a great fishing platform. Some available fishing amenities include:

  • Integrated fishing rod holders and storage compartments
  • Live wells for keeping bait and catches
  • Fish finders and GPS navigation systems
  • Trolling motor mounts and setups
  • Portable BBQs to enjoy your freshly caught seafood

Many manufacturers allow you to customize the layout of your pontoon boat with fishing packages, so you can create the ideal angling setup for your needs.

Water Sports Equipment

Pontoon boats are versatile, allowing you to enjoy various water sports. There are accessories available that can transform your pontoon into a water sports hub:

  • Wakeboard and waterski towers for attaching ropes and equipment
  • Swim platforms, ladders, and slides for easy water access
  • Powerful outboard engines for towing water sports enthusiasts
  • Ballast systems for creating custom wakes

By equipping your pontoon boat with water sports accessories, you can turn a casual day on the water into an action-packed adventure for all ages.

Budget and Pricing

When considering a pontoon boat purchase, it's essential to have a clear understanding of your budget and the pricing factors involved in the decision. In this section, we will explore new vs. used pontoons and various price considerations to keep in mind.

New vs. Used Pontoons

One of the first decisions to make when shopping for a pontoon boat is whether to go with a new or used model. New pontoons offer the latest features, full manufacturer warranties, and the reassurance that they have not been subjected to wear and tear. However, they tend to be more expensive than used pontoons.

On the other hand, used pontoons can be more affordable and may still provide many years of enjoyment. Make sure to carefully inspect the boat's condition and consider the costs of possible repairs or upgrades. It's also wise to check the boat's history and verify if it has been well-maintained.

Price Considerations

Various factors influence the price of a pontoon boat, including size, brand, features, and materials. Here are some aspects to consider when estimating the cost of a pontoon boat:

  • Size: Larger pontoons often come with higher price tags due to the increased material and manufacturing costs. Generally, more extended and wider models provide additional space and stability but may require larger engines or heavier-duty trailers, increasing expenses.
  • Brand: Well-known brands, such as Princecraft, Premier, Crestliner, and Manitou, tend to hold their value better and offer a higher level of quality and customer service. However, they may also come at a premium.
  • Features: Additional features, like premium audio systems, high-end furniture, and advanced fishing equipment, can significantly increase the boat's price. It's essential to prioritize features that align with your intended usage and preferences while remaining within your budget.
  • Materials: The materials used in pontoon construction, such as aluminum or fiberglass, can also influence the price. Consider investing in a boat made with robust, high-quality materials to ensure longevity and performance.

It's also important to consider associated costs, such as insurance, storage, fuel, and maintenance. Make sure to factor these expenses into your overall budget before making a final decision on a pontoon boat purchase.

boat maintenance and care

Maintenance and Care

Proper maintenance and care are essential to ensure the longevity and performance of your pontoon boat. In this section, we will discuss routine cleaning, inspections, and repairs to keep your pontoon in optimal condition.

Routine Cleaning

Regular cleaning is vital to maintain the appearance and functionality of your pontoon boat. Begin by rinsing the boat with fresh water to remove any debris, dirt, or salt residues. Use a marine-safe boat cleaner to clean surfaces such as vinyl seats, carpets, and the boat's exterior. Ensure that all compartments and storage areas are clean and dry to prevent mildew and mold growth. It is advisable to apply a marine wax with UV filters to protect the pontoon's surface from sun damage and environmental factors.


Regular inspections play a crucial role in pontoon boat maintenance. Check for signs of wear and tear, such as loose bolts, frayed ropes, and damaged upholstery. Ensure that the boat's electrical components and connections are in proper working order. Inspect the pontoons for any dents or leaks that may affect their buoyancy. It is also essential to examine the engine, fuel system, and steering components for any potential issues regularly. Maintaining up-to-date inspection records can help identify trends and address potential problems before they become significant concerns.


Addressing minor issues promptly is essential to prevent further damage or expensive repairs. If you detect any defects in the pontoons or structural components, consult a professional to assess the damage and perform necessary repairs. Upholstery and carpeting should be repaired or replaced if damaged, ensuring a comfortable and safe boating experience. Routine engine maintenance, such as oil changes and filter replacements, should be performed as recommended by the manufacturer to maintain optimal performance.

In conclusion, regular maintenance and care are crucial to the longevity and performance of your pontoon boat. By following a routine cleaning schedule, conducting thorough inspections, and addressing minor repairs, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable boating experience for years to come.

Insurance and Legal Matters

When considering the purchase of a pontoon boat, it is essential to understand and address the insurance and legal matters associated with boat ownership. Insurance may be required depending on your financing plan, state laws, and potential dockage, as some banks and marinas require proof of boat insurance before allowing you to dock your boat.

Typical coverage plans for pontoon boats include property damage liability, collision damage, bodily injury liability, and fuel spill liability. It is essential to research and compare insurance plans to ensure you select a plan that best suits your needs and provides adequate coverage for your pontoon boat as well as any equipment and accessories onboard.

Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with legal requirements and regulations surrounding boat ownership, registration, and operation in your state. Requirements may vary by state, and there may be specific laws pertaining to pontoon boats due to their unique design and function. Compliance with these laws is crucial not only for your safety but also to avoid potential fines and penalties.

When purchasing a pontoon boat, it is also important to obtain any necessary licenses and certifications for boat operation. In many states, you need a boating safety education course or certification to operate a pontoon boat legally. Research your state's specific requirements and enroll in any courses needed to obtain a valid boating license or certification.

Lastly, remember to check local boating rules and regulations, such as speed limits, safety equipment requirements, and pontoon boat-specific restrictions in your area. Familiarizing yourself with these regulations will help ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience for you and your passengers.

What We Know

Finding the perfect pontoon boat in 2023 involves thorough research, considering key factors such as size, budget, and intended use. It is important to leverage resources such as the 2023 Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide and consult with knowledgeable dealers to make an informed decision.

Potential buyers should also explore the advantages of choosing a small pontoon boat, as they offer easier maneuverability and affordability, as discussed by Maritime Page. It's crucial to inspect the vessel, examine included accessories, and discuss the maintenance plan with the dealer, ensuring a seamless ownership experience.

Visiting boat shows can provide valuable insight into different models and allow for a hands-on evaluation of the pontoons on display. Comparing various brands, carefully assessing their features, and inquiring about warranties are essential steps in the pontoon boat buying process.

By following this ultimate pontoon buyers guide for 2023, boating enthusiasts will be well-equipped to make an informed purchase, ensuring countless hours of enjoyment on the water.

Q&A With Top Sales Reps (The Inside Scoop)

Charlie: Hi everyone, this is Charlie from Sea Magazine. We're discussing the best pontoon boat brands for our reviews and buyers guide. Starting with Sarah, tell us about Bennington's new pontoon boat models.

Sarah: Thanks Charlie. At Bennington, we're excited about our new LX Concept pontoon boats. They feature a slick exterior & sporty new lights that create a high-end vibe.

Charlie: Intriguing! Now, James, what can you share about Harris Pontoon Boats' top-rated offerings?

James: Well, Charlie, Harris has a diverse lineup, but our Solstice boat models are getting rave reviews. These bold looking, cost-effective options don't compromise on key features that ensure an adventureous day.

Charlie: That sounds like an economical choice for many pontoon boat owners. Maria, what about Sun Tracker? What's new in your lineup?

Maria: Absolutely, Charlie. Sun Tracker prides itself on quality pontoon boat models. We recently introduced an updated boat, the "Sun Tracker Party Bargee", which has been highly acclaimed for its innovative design.

Charlie: Fantastic. Let's discuss pontoon boat accessories. What are some essentials?

Sarah: At Bennington, we recommend a high-quality cover to all pontoon boat owners. It protects the boat from harsh weather, extending its lifespan.

James: For us at Harris, we focus on comfort. So, luxury seating, premium sound systems, and a well-stocked cooler are key.

Maria: Sun Tracker values safety above all. Therefore, must-have accessories for us include life jackets, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits.

Charlie: Excellent suggestions! Lastly, any advice for those looking to buy a used pontoon boat?

Sarah: Always ensure to check the boat's history and have it professionally inspected. It can be a cost-effective way to get on the water, but safety is paramount.

James: Absolutely, and compare the costs. Sometimes, a used boat may seem economical, but promotions or financing on new pontoon boats can make them more affordable.

Maria: That's correct. And at Sun Tracker, we're always available to provide information on the history and maintenance of our used boats.

Charlie: Let's continue, Beth. Can you share about Sketo Bars' mini pontoon boat models and their features?

Beth: Certainly, Charlie. Our mini pontoon boats are compact but designed with ample deck space for fishing and socializing. They're highlighted in our pontoon boat reviews and buyers guide as a cost-effective choice, offering a smooth ride and generous storage capacity.

Charlie: That sounds efficient. Polk, could you talk about the unique design of StarCraft Morning's pontoon boats?

Polk: Of course, Charlie. Our pontoon boats are designed with a center tube for increased stability. We have the "StarCraft Morning" similar to the Sea-Doo Switch. It's compact yet offers ample deck space. A popular feature is the Tobar that allows a relaxed sitting position, ideal for fishing.

Charlie: That's quite interesting. Hellen, how about Aqua Patio's offerings?

Hellen: Thanks, Charlie. We're proud of our "Tracker Party Barge" model. It's highlighted in most pontoon boat reviews for its expansive deck and seating arrangements. It's equipped with all the amenities including a waterslide, making it a favorite among pontoon boat owners who enjoy entertaining.

Charlie: Brilliant! Let's touch on safety gear and how essential it is when buying a pontoon boat.

Beth: Safety should be a buyer's first consideration. We equip all our boats with a safety railing and ensure enough space for storing life jackets and other safety gear.

Polk: At StarCraft Morning, safety is paramount. We recommend a Bimini top for sun protection and a tool holder for necessary repair equipment.

Hellen: Absolutely. Aqua Patio includes a comprehensive safety package with all boats. We strongly suggest a sea trial with your local dealer to understand how to operate the safety gear.

Charlie: Great advice! Finally, what would you advise someone considering their first boat purchase?

Beth: Look for a pontoon boat that fits your needs and budget. Consider what you'll be using it for – fishing, parties, etc. And don't forget about the cost of maintenance and insurance.

Polk: Definitely, and consider how much horsepower you need. For most pontoon boats, 50-100 HP is sufficient. But if you're pulling water skiers or tubes, you'll want more.

Hellen: And remember, the best pontoon boats are ones that bring you joy. Whether it's the Sea-Doo Switch or the Aqua Patio, choose a boat that you'll love to drive.

Charlie: Let's pick up from where we left off. Polk, what can you share about StarCraft Marine's pontoon boats and their unique Tobar sitting positions?

Polk: Absolutely, Charlie. Our StarCraft boats offer unique Tobar sitting positions that provide both comfort and easy access to the water. Along with that, our boats have plenty of storage space for fishing gear and safety equipment, making them a great choice for first-time buyers.

Charlie: Brilliant. Beth, how about Tobar Pontoon Boats? 

Beth: Thanks, Charlie. At Tobar, we focus on maximizing space. Our more boat storage design makes it easy for owners to keep their gear organized. Plus, all our models include built-in coolers and cupholders for added convenience.

Charlie: That's handy indeed. Hellen, tell us about Helm Station's offerings.

Hellen: We pride ourselves on our comprehensive helm station, which offers all the necessary controls, including a Bluetooth stereo and USB ports, at your fingertips. Our pontoon boats also feature a waterslide for added fun and a third tube for added stability, especially in big waves.

Charlie: Excellent! Let's discuss the importance of the capacity plate for potential buyers.

Polk: The capacity plate is crucial. It tells you the maximum weight your boat can safely handle, including passengers, gear, and even the weight of installed accessories. It's vital information, especially for first-time buyers.

Charlie: Let's touch on maintenance costs and the benefits of annual maintenance.

Beth: Annual maintenance is key to ensuring a long life for your boat. It can seem costly on a seat basis, but it can prevent more significant repair costs down the line. 

Hellen: That's right. And the best boat is a well-maintained one. Regular maintenance also ensures a smooth and safe ride, whether in calm water or big waves.

Charlie: Lastly, how do built-in amenities like a perfectly adequate Bluetooth stereo and comfortable seating factor into the decision to buy a pontoon boat?

Polk: They're a big draw. Comfortable seating allows for extended outings without discomfort, and a quality Bluetooth stereo enhances the boating experience. 

Beth: Amenities are the cherry on top when buying a pontoon boat. They make the experience more enjoyable and convenient, which is why we include them in our Tobar models.

Hellen: I agree. Our Helm Station boats are designed for comfort and convenience, which definitely influences a buyer's decision.

Charlie: Let's dig deeper into the new pontoon boat models. Beth, what can you tell us about Sketo Bars' new offerings?

Beth: At Sketo Bars, we are thrilled about our new fishing-focused pontoon boats. These mini pontoon boat models are compact yet provide ample deck space. We've also included built-in coolers and cupholders for convenience during those long fishing trips.

Charlie: Sounds like an angler's dream! Polk, what's new from StarCraft Marine?

Polk: Thanks, Charlie. StarCraft Marine is excited about our latest pontoon boat models. We've introduced a compact new boat with a unique tow bar feature allowing a relaxing seating position. It's ideal for fishing, but also well-equipped for other water activities.

Charlie: That's an impressive design. Hellen, what about Sun Tracker's new offerings?

Hellen: Charlie, our new "Sun Tracker Party Barge" is quite the boat. It's designed for fun in the sun with a built-in waterslide and a Bluetooth stereo for entertainment. Plus, it has plenty of storage space for all your gear.

Charlie: Very exciting! Let's touch on the cost of these new pontoon boats. 

Beth: Our Sketo Bars models are designed to be cost-effective without compromising on quality. We aim to provide the best boat for the price, whether you're looking for a new or used boat.

Polk: Similarly, at StarCraft Marine, we offer various price points to fit different budgets. And remember, the cost of a pontoon boat isn't just the purchase price - maintenance and accessories should be considered too.

Hellen: Sun Tracker prides itself on offering high-quality boats at a fair price. And our Bimini tops and tool holders are standard, adding value for our buyers.

Charlie: That's fantastic to hear. As we wrap up, any final advice for our readers looking to buy a pontoon boat?

Beth: Look at our pontoon boat buyers guide. It's a comprehensive resource that will answer a lot of your questions.

Polk: Always consider what you'll use the pontoon boat for. This will influence the features you need. For example, if you're into fishing, make sure there are enough seat bases and storage for gear.

Hellen: And don't be afraid of big waves! A well-designed pontoon boat like our Sun Tracker models can handle a variety of water conditions.

Charlie: This has been insightful.

Thank you all!

Charlie Hardcastle
Meet Charlie Hardcastle, the undisputed king of the sea, and Editor-in-chief of Sea Magazine. Charlie's passion for boating runs deeper than a kraken's lair, and his years of experience on the water make him the ultimate boating guru. When it comes to boats, Charlie's knowledge is as vast as the ocean. He knows everything from the latest technology to the best locations for water enthusiasts. But Charlie's expertise isn't just limited to boating mechanics and history. He's also a marketing whiz, with a keen understanding of how the industry is adapting to changing consumer preferences. He knows how to effectively reach new audiences, whether they're looking for a luxury yacht or a modest pontoon boat. In short, Charlie is the complete package, a one-stop-shop for all things boating. So if you're looking to learn about the latest technology, marketing strategies, or just want to hear some epic sea tales, Charlie Hardcastle is your guy.
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