Hold on to your wallets - there’s a new pontoon boat in town. The expanding pontoon boat is the latest, greatest recreational watercraft game-changer. Offering the perks of a compact boat for easy storage and maneuverability, the expanding pontoon also flexes a deck that sizes up for roomy comfort - at the press of a button.
Now, if you’re reading about these revolutionary boats for the first time, you’re not behind on the news. Expanding pontoon boats have only been around for the last couple of years, and they’re not too widespread just yet for obvious (cost-related) reasons. But if you’re curious and you want to know more, here’s the low down.
What is an Expanding Pontoon Boat and How Does It Work?
The name explains itself, really. An expanding pontoon boat is a lot like your average pontoon, with the distinction that it comes with an extending deck. The technology isn’t new though. The expanding RV has been around since the early 2000’s. This is essentially the same tech that’s used for the modern expanding pontoon boat of today.
To get the boat to expand, all boat owners need to do is press a button. The whole process can take a few minutes depending on the size of the pontoon. But once fully expanded, the boat will usually be able to accommodate double the number of passengers.
Different Sizes of Expanding Pontoon Boats
There really isn’t a set standard when it comes to the sizes of expanding pontoon boats. That’s because manufacturers expand their boats depending on the limits of that specific design. For instance, a boat that’s 8.5 feet across can be made to expand to double that, allowing a final width of 17 feet.
On average, expanding pontoons will allow a deck floor area increase of 27% to 30%. keep in mind though that as the technology evolves, it can be possible for these boats to further increase the limits of the technology without sacrificing safety and boat integrity.
Expanding Pontoon Boat Models
Today, there aren’t too many choices when it comes to expanding pontoon boats. Manufacturers are still working hard to come up with practical designs that don’t push the price too far. But there are a few models up for grabs:
Island Boats Expanding Pontoon
Released in 2014, the Island Boats Expanding Pontoon features a design that separates down the lengthwise midline to reveal a deck extension that increases the floor area up to 27%. This is one of the more basic models, with nothing setting it apart from other pontoons aside from the fact that it can extend its deck.
2X Marine Pontoon Boat
The 2X Marine Pontoon Boat features an 8.5-foot deck that expands to a 17-foot extra wide deck at the push of a button. The intuitive design also touts a retracting sunshade that pops out of the flooring and covers almost the entire extended deck area when the expansion is deployed.
Barletta EX23Q Slide Toon
If you’re looking for sophistication, this one is it. The Barletta EX23Q features one of the fastest expanding slideouts that gets the whole extension process done in under a minute. Their design provides 5 feet and 5 inches of boat width that can cruise and glide effortlessly over the water even when the extension is deployed.
How Much Do Expanding Pontoons Cost?
A typical pontoon will cost an average of about $50,000. But how much does an expanding pontoon cost? Well, you’re going to want to sit down for this one. The stripped down Barletta EX23Q Slide Toon (which doesn’t come with any of the fancier add-ons) costs about $128,699.
Yup, these babies can get pretty expensive. If you want all the upgrades and added features, you could be looking at an initial price of $132,762. That’s like buying two brand new pontoons and one second hand.
How Do Expanding Pontoon Boats Perform?
That really depends on the kind of boat you’re getting. Some of them -- like the one from Barletta -- can expand and operate while fully extended. That means you can cruise along even when it’s full-sized. That entails using a motor that’s designed to handle the boat at its extended size.
Then there are others that can only expand when stationary. These boats offer the extending feature to accommodate guests when the pontoon is docked. Otherwise, it will have to be retracted when underway to prevent any damage to the deck. A good example would be the older Island Boats model.
Can You Customize Them?
In the wonderful world of pontoon boats, anything can be customized. So there are a bunch of changes you can make to your expanding pontoon boat to match your fancy and improve your overall experience. Some upgrades and custom features include:
Of course, you’re going to want slide out floors that match the rest of the deck. Typically, manufactures use vinyl or other types of non-absorbent flooring for expanding pontoons to prevent scuffing, damage, and dirt accumulation when the slide outs are deployed or retracted.
Sunshades and Bimini Tops
More sophisticated models have shades that pop up and out of the floors when the slide out floors are activated. But since some of them can’t be deactivated unless you're retracting the deck, that also means you can’t cruise while the floors are expanded.
Presently, manufacturers are unable to fix furniture to the parts of the boats that slide out when extended. But you can buy removable furniture that you can set up while the boat is in full size.
This includes things like kitchens and bathrooms. Sure, they can hike up those prices by a lot. But they also provide far greater convenience and comfort than boats that do without.
Bigger is Better
The expanding pontoon boat just proves that bigger is better. So whether you’re looking for a way to accommodate more guests, or if you want to be able to size down your boat for transport, this revolutionary tech promises to satisfy. Sure, they can be pricey. But if money is no object, they make a great investment.