Boat Buying Advice

Buying a Pontoon Boat: The Ultimate Guide

Pontoon boat running

Pontoon boats are one of the most popular, fun styles of boat on the market, and deciding to buy one is always exciting. But if you’re not sure how to go about buying a pontoon boat, this guide is the best place to start.

Selecting a Pontoon Boat Type

The first choice to make is what kind of pontoon boat you want. All pontoon boat types are good options, but there are some differences between them. Learning more about each pontoon style will help you decide which is right for you – read on to find out more.

Pontoon Boat

Pontoon boats were first crafted in the mid 1900s to be vessels would be more stable on a lake than a typical boat. With two tubes and a flat deck, pontoon boats are great for both a slow, entertaining ride around the lake and fun-filled watersports activities. Pontoon boats are often in high demand, particularly for inland water locations.

Tritoon Boat

Tritoons are a variation on the classic pontoon boat style, with the key difference being a third tube. Typically, this third hull is mounted a little lower than the other two tubes or is slightly larger in diameter. Manufacturers began experimenting with this structure in the 1980s in hopes of improving the performance and handling of pontoon boats, and now, many pontoon boat models are offered with a choice between the two or three hulls.

Boating Lifestyle, Boating Cost, Saving Money Budgeting, Waterway Guide

Budget is an important factor in selecting your boat.

Consider A Budget for Your Pontoon Boat

Deciding what type of pontoon boat is right for you, including variations in size, engine, layout and optional features, is a key element of estimating how much your boat will end up costing. Therefore, it’s essential that you think about what you want to use the boat for, and then begin calculating your potential cost.

Your Ideal Pontoon Boat Lifestyle

Take the time to consider what your idea of a good time out on the water with your pontoon boat will look like. Is it a fun-filled day with family, chugging around the lake and visiting swimming spots? Is it towing water skiers or tubers all afternoon? Also try to consider how much wear and tear you might be likely to put on your boat, especially related to how often you intend to use it. This can factor into a decision related to how much of an investment you want to make into your vessel to ensure its longevity.

Create Your Budget

Once you’ve decided what exactly you hope to get out of your pontoon boat, you can begin to think about your budget. Make sure you’re realistic about how much you can and are willing to invest in your new boat. Pontoon boats can be relatively affordable vessels, and once you have the cost of the boat itself worked out, you can begin to budget for other necessary expenses and accessories. You can also work on pontoon financing options and make a decision on how you will pay for your boat.

Buying a Used Pontoon Boat vs New Pontoon Boat

Once you’ve picked which pontoon boat style is right for you, the next step is to look at your options for owning one. There are many choices for purchasing a boat, but they boil down to a few possibilities: buying a new boat, buying a used boat or trading in your existing boat for an upgrade. So, which one is best for you?

Used Pontoon Boats

Many boat-owners opt to buy a used pontoon boat in order to get more boat for less money. That way you won’t have to worry about being the first person to put a dent in it, and you can feel more comfortable upgrading later if necessary. Make sure you do thorough research before you buy, and try to get a detailed history of who owned the boat before you and how did they use it.

New Pontoon Boats

A brand-new pontoon boat can be truly thrilling. Being a boat’s first owner means that you won’t have to worry about past use, and you can customize it however you want. This option may be more expensive initially, and you will be more likely to contend with securing a boat loan, but once you make a boat down payment and set up your boat loan payment schedule, you’ll be the very first to make memories on it.

Trade In a Pontoon Boat

If you already own a boat, trading it in is a great option. It negates the effort required to sell your old boat, and if it has a high trade-in value, you may even be able to get more money to spend on your new boat. To start, you need to know what your pontoon boat value is and then you can see if this is the right option for you.

Pontoon boats, double vs triple

Research where to buy your pontoon, from a dealership to a boat show or online...decide what is right for you.

Where to Buy a Pontoon Boat

With your pontoon boat type selected and your choice made on whether to buy new or used, you next need to consider where to buy your pontoon boat. There are many options, and you should research prices and other details before you decide which is right for you.

Pontoon Boat Dealership

A pontoon boat dealer is a good place to start for first-time buyers. A dealer will not only help guide you through the buying process, but they will probably be where you go for maintenance throughout the lifetime of your boat and may also be where you go for storage.

Pontoon Boat Show

Boat shows are fun to attend, but they can also be a good place to purchase your new pontoon boat. Manufacturers and dealers exhibiting will be able to show you all of your options and many different products for you to compare and contrast. You can examine your chosen boat up close and make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you. Many will also offer boat show discounts.

Buy Online

An experienced boat buyer who knows exactly what they want from their new pontoon boat, buying online might be the right option. There are many sources on the internet for you to do your research and still feel confident that you’re making the most informed choice possible.

How to Buy a Pontoon Boat

Now that you have your pontoon boat type chosen and know how you’re going to purchase it, the next step is to get down to the business of actually buying your dream boat.

Request a Sea Trial For Your Pontoon

Test driving is vital to buying a car, and it should be similarly important for buying a boat. Try to think about how you intend to use it and experiment accordingly. Make sure you ask questions of the dealer and feel free to take notes for when you make your final decision.

Ask For a Marine Survey

Product inspections by a qualified professional are a good idea, particularly if the boat you’re are buying is used. Getting a certified marine surveyor to look over your new boat can make sure that you and your passengers are safe, as they can determine the condition of your pontoon boat and let you know of any potential issues. Even if you’re an experienced boat owner, it may be beneficial to have an unbiased opinion on the matter. Plus, some insurance and financing options require a survey, making a marine survey a good idea regardless.

Negotiate Pontoon Boat Price

Before you sit down to negotiate on your pontoon boat’s price, you should ensure that you have all the necessary facts and information about your boat and its projected value, as well as typical pricing. Call on your prior research to make requests for things you want and need. Be sure you’re getting the best deal you can so you can enjoy your pontoon boat to its fullest potential.

After Your Pontoon Boat Purchase

Now that you’ve made it to the end of the process of buying your new pontoon boat, you may realize that there’s still more to do. You should be sure that you’re operating your boat safely and correctly, as well as following local regulations.

Pontoon Registration

Just like cars must be registered and can’t be driven without a license plate, you must register your boat and display its assigned number and current use sticker for the state you’re operating in. You should also be sure to carry your boat’s registration paperwork on board. Regulations about registrations vary between states, so be sure to research before you get out on the water.

Pontoon Boat Insurance

Insurance may be required depending on your financing plan, state laws and potential dockage – some banks and marinas require proof of boat insurance. Typical coverage plans cover property damage liability, collision damage, bodily injury liability and fuel spill liability. Having insurance can also give you peace of mind while you’re out on the water.

Boating License

As with other regulations surrounding boats, the rules on boating licenses vary by location. But the education portion of the licensing process can be invaluable in making you a confident and capable boater. Even if your state or locality does not require a license, it’s a good idea to take boater safety courses.