When looking to acquire a new pontoon boat, there is a wide variety out on the market today. Which are the best pontoon boats for you simply depends on how you intend to use it and what your main priorities are for purchasing a pontoon.
Pontoon boats are generally defined as a two-tube (or three) keeled watercraft with a flat base attached on top of the pontoons. There can be one large or several medium-sized outboards that propel the vessel at a very fast speed. They generally have a shallow draft, as low as 8 inches, allowing them to be used in a wide variety of locations out on the water. Pontoon boats are usually 16-30 feet long, and can accommodate up to about 25 people. Because they have such a wide platform relative to their length, pontoons are incredibly stable for their size and weight, and yet can still be easily trailered and moved between different places.
With such a wide range of characteristics, it is no surprise that they are a favorite vessel for a variety of uses: fishing, family friendly, luxury, as well as the smaller inflatable pontoon boats specifically designed for fishing with only one or two people onboard. Here are some pontoon boat reviews of the top choices in each category.
Best Fishing Pontoon Boats
Premier Pontoon 220 Cast-Away
The Premier 220 Cast-Away is an excellent choice for a pontoon boat equipped solely for fishing. It has a composite fish station located aft, as well as two fishing chairs for the ultimate comfort while waiting for that fish to bite. It has a bait prep station overtop of a built in live well centrally located on the pontoon. There are built-in rod holders and tackle trays, to keep everything conveniently located.
There is an additional live well at the helm, as well as a sink and fish finder included. The Premier is 22.5 feet long built on two 25 foot pontoons, with an outboard capacity of 115 horse power (hp), making this an ideal and convenient fishing platform for any angler.
Sweetwater 2086 FC Model
The Sweetwater 2086 FC model is 20.6 feet long, but still maintains an 8.6 foot beam. It comes with a bow rod lockable storage box with tackle tray included, as well as an aerated live well and several rod holders for fishing convenience. It has two 23 foot pontoons, with an outboard of only 90 hp, although it has multiple captain’s chairs for the ultimate comfort while fishing.
Berkshire STS Fishing Series
The Berkshire STS fishing series is another affordable and excellent pontoon choice for the fisherman in the family. It is available from 22 to 25.7 feet long, with up to 350 hp for up to 14 people on board. There are two aft fishing chairs alongside two rod holders for convenience, as well as a 15 gallon live well/baitwell. There are also two special racks specially provided for storing fishing line. The vessel comes standard with a Humminbird Helix 5 GPS/fish finder, and a full instrument package.
Best Family Friendly Pontoon Boats
Avalon LS Quad Lounge
The Avalon LS Quad Lounge is an affordable pontoon for the whole family. It is available in 20, 22, and 24 foot options, and has two seats forward and aft that face the water, allowing for the whole family to enjoy the perfect view. All seats are mounted on aluminum lifetime metal frames, ensuring that the boat will last and not break down with use. There is a pop up privacy curtain and frame, allowing for a quick wardrobe change for the indecisive member of the family. There is also a standard ski tow bar, as well as a stainless steel grill: the perfect way to celebrate a day out on the water.
Bennington 21 SLX Premium
The Bennington 21 SLX Premium would be an excellent choice for a family friendly pontoon boat. It is 21.1 feet long with a beam of 8.6 feet, so there is plenty of room for the whole family aboard. With a 90 hp outboard, it can run at speeds up to 30 mph, and accommodate 10 people on board: perfect for that day trip with the family. It comes standard with a deep step ladder, easy for any family member to re-board the pontoon.
There are 4 foot and 6 foot long lounge chairs in the bow, as well as a 9 foot long L-shaped lounge chair at the stern: all constructed of a soft-touch vinyl. Overall, it is more spacious and affordable than the average pontoon boat, making it a clear choice in this category.
SunChaser Eclipse 8523 LR DH
The SunChaser Eclipse 8523 LR DH is another family friendly option for the pontoon boater. At 23.1 feet long and allowing for up to 12 people onboard, this model includes all the conveniences a family would require. It comes standard with a pop up changing room, with the optional porta potti if that is a necessity.
There is plenty of seating available on the boat, and if watersports are an interest, an optional ski tow bar and stainless steel four-step ladder can be added. The large open transom allows for easy access as a swimming platform, and to stay out of the shade, a 10 foot bimini is included in the standard options. This would be a perfect boat for the family to take out for the day and ski or tube around the lake.
Sylvan Mandalay 8525 Sportlounger
The Sylvan Mandalay 8525 Sportlounger is another all-around excellent family option. At 26.1 feet long, and able to accommodate 14 people onboard, it has the space for the whole family to enjoy a day out cruising on the water. It is very similar to the SunChaser, in that a pop up changing room is standard, but the port potti is an extra option.
There is also an optional ski tow pole and stainless steel grill, which would be mandatory for a day out with the family. A rear entry boarding ladder does come standard, to assist with re-boarding the pontoon after swimming. Overall a very comfortable and usable pontoon boat to facilitate the entire family.
Tahoe Vista Funship
The Tahoe Vista Funship is one of the ultimate kid friendly pontoon boats. It comes in a 24 or 26 foot option (both very similar). Full size lounge chairs line the forward area, with a queen sized cushion and seat back in the aft section, allowing for plenty of room to sunbathe. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to take the Funship out for a ride, there is also an upper sundeck with an attached water slide.
The ski/tow bar comes standard, as well as the privacy curtain and frame, cooler and storage in the lounge chair arms. To make the Funship more adult friendly or for the fisherman in the family, an optional live well under the seat bench can be installed, as well as an electric wine rack, grill and refrigerator center. A great choice for the whole family!
Best Inflatable Pontoon Boats
Sea Eagle 285 Frameless
The Sea Eagle 285 frameless pontoon boat is a one person (or up to 450 lbs) portable inflatable fishing boat that gives you the most space for your money. It is only 9 feet long by 4 feet wide, and weighs 59 pounds, yet with a 3 hp outboard it can run at speeds of up to 5 to 7 mph and only has a draft of 4 inches. It takes five minutes to assemble and inflate, so it is incredibly portable and can be stowed in the truck of a car when not in use. The floorboards are wood, which provide stability and plenty of standing room for casting, as well as a pedestal swivel seat that turns 360 degrees allowing for reeling in that trophy fish.
Classic Accessories Colorado
The Colorado pontoon boat is an even less expensive inflatable fishing pontoon compared to the Sea Eagle. It is also 9 feet long and almost 5 feet wide, but weighs almost 72 pounds, making it a bit heavier and more difficult to move and put together. It has a steel tube frame, which has to be put together, taking anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to assemble the entire boat. It does come with an anchoring system, making it very convenient to stay in one location while fishing.
The general pontoon boat reviews on this product have been excellent, with a few users complaining of the heaviness of the vessel, as well as the oars being a bit bulky while using. But overall, it is a decently priced inflatable one person pontoon boat.
Bucks Bag High Adventure Pontoon Series
The Bucks Bag High Adventure Pontoon Series is a good middle of the road inflatable fishing pontoon boat. It also has a steel frame, with the pontoons made of PVC coated polyester with an internal vinyl air bladder. It has its own patented Line-Lock anchoring system, making anchor release and retrieval quick and easy. It is only 8 feet long and 4.5 feet wide and weighs 60 pounds, but can accommodate one person up to 350 pounds for a long day of fishing out on the lake.
NRS 14' River Cataraft
The NRS 14’ River Cataraft is the luxury and yet ultimate sportsman’s version of the basic inflatable pontoon boat. At almost 14 feet in length and weighing 72 pounds, it has a large upper frame allowing for 2-3 passengers, all the while carrying gear for those trips to that overnight campsite. The pontoons are made of heavy-duty Pennel Orca material which is super abrasion, chemical and UV-resistant for extra durability.
The tubes are comprised of three air chambers, allowing maximum peace of mind in any emergency situation. The Cataraft has a 10-year retail warranty, which goes a long way to ensure they stand behind their product. This is the inflatable you would raft down a river with and have no worries that it would pop on the first rapid you came across. The Cataraft is built to last, and strong enough to endure some major force in its everyday use.
Best Luxury Pontoon Boats
Aqua Patio 250 Express
The Aqua Patio 250 Express would definitely fall under the luxury category of pontoon boats. It is sleek and stylish with its curved lines and sporty structure atop a triple pontoon base. It has multiple lounging chairs, as well as a rear-facing rumble seat allowing for a different viewing angle. A sleek and yet multi-functional tow tower with an attached bimini for shade complements the curved lines of the vessel. It is made for speed as well, with up to 350 hp on the 27 foot boat allowing for speeds up to 50 mph, while still having a capacity of carrying 16 people onboard.
Premier Dodici 310
The Premier Dodici 310 is a luxury model which comes in a pub or club specific option. It is available in a 29 or 31 foot length, with a 12 foot beam, making it extremely spacious. As a result, with the 31 foot option, it can accommodate up to 26 people. The pub option includes a full stand up bar with swiveling bar stools, while the club package provides more seating area for relaxing and lounging. But spaciousness is not its' only plus: it also has three 300 hp Evinrude E-Tec G2 outboards to keep your guests impressed while they wine and dine (or simply lounge).
Manitou 23 X-Plode XT
The Manitou 23 X-Plode XT is the very definition of luxury and style in a pontoon boat. Its sleek exterior made of fiberglass accentuates the speed and sexiness of this model. It has a floorplan with split rear seating. The seats not only give excellent access to the built-in swim platform on the stern, but the seats also convert into full lounge chairs.
The X-Plode not only comes with all the standard boat equipment (lounge chairs, dinette table, lights, etc.), but also includes the four step ladder on the stern, a ski tow bar, the overhead tower with the bimini attached, various stainless cup holders, and also the privacy station for changing clothing or using the porta potti (optional). The entire boat was customized with luxury in mind, with the end result being a sleek, luxurious vessel with all the amenities.
Check out our Best Luxury Pontoon Boats for even more classy 'toons.
What to Look for/Consider When Buying a Pontoon Boat
With all the different choices of pontoon boats, it may be difficult to narrow it down to the one that fits your individual needs. There are many different factors you need to consider before you can pick the pontoon that works for you. Overall cost, the intended use or purpose of the pontoon, the length needed, the type of pontoon, which amenities or options are available with different models, and what type of warranty is being offered with the purchase. You will also need to take into account the various best pontoon boat brands available, as well as the overall budget you have to spend.
A large part of the cost will depend on the size of the engine: the more horsepower the engine has, the more the overall cost of the pontoon boat. Depending on if you need a family friendly boat, or perhaps a platform on which to land that trophy fish with a few buddies (or by yourself), or if a luxurious model that dictates a day of partying out on the lake are all different things that need to be taken into account.
The more people (aka family and friends) that will be on the boat at the same time will determine the size of the vessel that you will need. Many of the models come standard with basic boat amenities, but for quite a few even the basic models do not come with a swimming ladder, bimini, or other ‘necessary’ equipment. Depending on where the pontoon is purchased, or if it is new or used will also determine what type of warranty will be available. Just like buying a car, purchasing a pontoon boat is a long term investment that will require repairs and maintenance along the way.
With the plethora of pontoon boats available on the market, choosing which one works for you can be a daunting task. Deciding on the approximate size, type, and budget you have to spend before you head into the sea of salesman will help lessen the stress and take some of the guesswork out of the various brands. Narrow it down to about five to ten of the best pontoon boats available, and then compare and contrast the different models even further.
Hopefully the recommendations here will take some of the guesswork away, and by understanding and discussing the various models available, you will be able to find the boat that fits your individual needs. Once you have your choice narrowed down to only a few, don’t forget to check out the best rated pontoon boats as well, to see what other boat owners have commented about each model. And once you find the boat that fits your needs, all you have left to do is to take it out and simply enjoy some quality time out on the water!