Boat Buying Advice

Deck Boat vs Pontoon: Which is Best for You?

Deck Boat and Pontoon running

Pontoon vs Deck Boat

When it comes to on the water family fun, plenty of seating is vital. The two best boats designed with comfort as their primary characteristic are pontoons and deck boats. If you are looking at these types of boats, you may be wondering which is right for you. This guide will help answer the most common questions prospective boat owners have.

What is a Pontoon?

Gaining in popularity over the years and now sure to dot lakes and rivers across the country, pontoon boats are distinguished by having two or three hulls providing incredible stability with a flat deck connecting them. The wide deck space gives manufacturers plenty of flexibility to arrange furniture and accessories to suit any activity or interest, from watersports, to fishing, to lounging and entertaining.

Pontoon Boat Types

The best way to determine which type of pontoon boat is right for you is to start with a clear idea of where you will be boating and how you most like to spend your time on the water. Pontoons and their three-hull cousins tri-toons can vary in design and cost. They can range from basic all aluminum models for the budget conscious to luxury versions with molded fiberglass sections for a sleek and beautiful aesthetic. Many manufacturers have useful resources to help guide you through the process of deciding which model you may want to focus on.

Capacity & Sizes of Pontoon Boats

Where pontoon boats really shine is the stability of the platform makes them able to carry a lot of weight, which translates into a high passenger capacity and room for the whole family. Most manufacturers have models ranging from 17-18 feet on up to 25-26 feet. Even a modest 17-foot boat can carry eight or nine people, significantly more than a comparable center console. A 28-foot pontoon could easily carry 15-18 people, with plenty of room for gear, food and beverages. Most pontoon manufacturers have very detailed websites that help you understand how pontoon boat sizes impact the number of people you can bring with you on your next adventure.

Boat Activities & Uses

Manufacturers produce many different models tailored to the specific activities their customers prefer. For example, high-performance, twin-engine versions are perfect for tow sports. Fishing models are equipped with ample storage and special seating that allows for easy casting without getting in the way of other anglers. If your idea of time on the water involves laying out and enjoying the sunshine, lounge versions have seating that lets your guests stretch out. For those less concerned with the destination and more interested in the journey, cruising pontoons have a variety of seating options and stern swim pads for the ultimate in flexibility. Luxury models may be equipped with LED lighting, high-end sound systems and even a bar for entertaining.

Pontoon Boat Engines

Pontoon boats of the past used to be floating barges with minimal engines that would gently push these floating parties around. As outboard technology has developed, pontoon manufacturers have taken advantage of higher horsepower and adapted their hull designs to perform with the added speed and maneuverability. The shape and stability of pontoon boats also are perfect for twin engines and with a wide beam, the engines can be mounted wider apart for better low speed maneuverability and ease of docking that will leave most powerboaters jealous.

deck boat

Deck Boats can accommodate either an outboard or an inboard/outboard engine.

What is a Deck Boat

Building on the incredible layout options of pontoon boats, deck boats offer exceptional comfort, but on a more traditional powerboat hull. This innovative design lets guests enjoy the comfort of ample seating, with the maneuverability and cornering of a center console. The more aerodynamic hull design also handles slightly rougher water and provides a drier ride.

Deck Boat Types

Like pontoons, deck boats come in a variety of layouts and designs based on the primary activity. Deck boats can be set up for lounging with a bow rider layout, sport models for towing, center console versions for fishing and there are even models that look just like a pontoon from the deck up if you are interested in cruising or entertaining.

Layout & Sizes of Deck Boats

Most manufacturers produce a variety of sizes and like pontoons, the size of the vessel impacts capacity. Ranging from 18- to 26-feet, deck boats have a maximum passenger capacity of between 9 and 14 people. With a molded fiberglass construction, deck boats have excellent storage for gear and water toys, with compartments under the seats and in the deck.

Deck Boat Engines

While pontoons rely solely on outboard propulsion, deck boats stand apart in that they can accommodate either an outboard or an inboard/outboard engine. The inboard/outboard engine is housed inside the hull, with just a sterndrive in the water. This allows for an uncluttered back deck which is ideal for lounging, easy water access for swimmers and clear sightlines for watching water skiers.

high-performance pontoons with twin outboards

High-performance, twin engines are perfect for tow sports.

Purchasing a Pontoon vs Deck Boat

Regardless of which design is right for you, the purchase process of either a pontoon or deck boat is similar. Once you decide which type of boat is right for you and your family, your primary on-the-water activity and the body of water that you intend on and the layout and size you prefer, it’s time to find a dealer for either your new pontoon or deck boat and start your purchase.

Cost of Pontoon Boats

The cost of a pontoon varies, and you can find models that range from affordable to extravagant. Most manufacturers offer online resources for estimating the cost of your new boat. They also offer online boat builders that let you add options to see what the end price should be. Keep in mind that the base cost of a pontoon doesn’t include additional considerations like optional equipment, water toys, safety gear, trailer or towing equipment, covers and storage. All major manufacturers offer financing for new purchases, and it is best to work with your dealer to find the right option for you.

Cost of Deck Boats

Like pontoons, deck boats vary in prices based on length, layout and options. Since they are more utilitarian than the higher end pontoon boats, deck boats typically are a little more affordable than the most expensive pontoons. Inboard/outboard deck boats will be a little more expensive than comparable outboard powered deck boats. Of course, additional equipment will add to the overall cost of the boat.

Boat Activities & Uses

Once you buy your new boat, it’s time to add all the fun toys that will complement your experience. If fishing is your favorite activity, shopping for poles and lures are next on your list. Water sports enthusiasts should be looking for snorkel gear, tow ropes and water skies. For those looking to cruise, there are plenty of toys to help you just relax. Once you have all of your accessories, it’s time to get out there and have fun. After all, that’s why you started this process in the first place.