Pontoon Boat Draft: What is the Average Draft of a Pontoon?

pontoon boat draft

There’s a reason why the pontoon boat has often been dubbed the ultimate recreational watercraft. These boats are much more versatile than other boat out there, letting you enjoy water sports, fishing, and cruising on a boat that you can customize to your heart’s content.

And unlike other boats, the pontoon is one of the few that can glide through shallow waters. That’s mainly thanks to the fact that it has one of the shortest drafts on any boat you’re likely to find. What is the average pontoon boat draft and what does that mean for you? Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Pontoon Boat Draft?

Before we get right into it, let’s define some of the terms. A ‘draft’ is essentially the half of the boat that’s submerged under the water’s surface. Boat’s with a V-shaped hull tend to have a deeper draft because they sit lower into the water. This also means that they can go much faster as they can slice through the waves.

And then there are pontoon boats. These boats have what you would call a double hull. That’s because it has two tubes that sit on the water. And while they’re much higher above the surface than your typical V-shaped hull, they’re far more stable. That’s why you rarely ever hear about pontoon boats capsizing. The obvious downside is that they can’t go quite as fast.

Keep in mind that when we talk about a pontoon boat’s draft, we’re actually pertaining to its draft at the aft. Its forward will always be slightly higher up out of the water than the rear. Pontoons are designed that way so that it doesn’t nose dive when met with strong waves.

What is the Average Draft of a Pontoon Boat?

The draft of a pontoon boat isn’t set in stone. There are a number of factors that can affect how high or how deep in the water your boat will go. However there are average numbers to let you know if your boat is up to code. So what is the average draft of a pontoon boat? Here are some estimates:




18-20 feet



20-24 feet



If you’ve got a tritoon (that is, a pontoon boat with three tubes) then it’s going to sit lower in the water because of the added weight. To find out the draft, make sure you check the manual or contact the dealer or manufacturer.

Factors Affecting a Pontoon Boat’s Draft

The pontoon boat’s draft will change by several inches depending on a number of factors. The most significant one is the weight on board. The more load you place on the deck, the heavier the pontoon boat will be, and the deeper in the water its tubes will go.

Alternatively, if you’ve got a very light pontoon boat, then the draft will be much shorter and less of the tubes will sink into the surface of the waves. It’s important to know your weight capacity because it should tell you how many people and how much weight you can accommodate on board.

Overloading your boat puts you at risk of poor stability, and may cause damage to the underside of your tubes if you’re traversing particularly shallow waters. You should have a capacity plate somewhere on your boat to tell you how much weight and how many passengers you can have on at a given time.

Another thing that can affect your boat’s draft is the position of the propeller. Trimming up will shorten your draft. This means that your boat will slightly rise up out of the water when you trim the propeller up and out of the waves.

How Can Draft Measurement Protect Your Pontoon?

If you’re fond of taking your pontoon boat to areas where shallow water is common, then it becomes doubly important to know your draft measurement. A draft that’s too deep can cause damage to the bottom of your tubes, and may even rip a hole, impairing your boat’s functioning and costing serious repairs.

Boat owners who know their draft measurement are at an advantage to avoid these types of accidents by using their knowledge to anticipate disaster. You can also get yourself a depth sensor that lets you know when your boat is in an area that’s a little too low to avoid damage.

But because pontoon boats travel at a speed of about 15 to 25 mph, it might be a little too late to react to a depth sensor when you’re cruising even at below average speeds. So experts recommend setting the depth sensor at double the draft so you have time to adjust your speed and your prop before things get too shallow.

Why and How to Trim an Outboard Motor

If you check back on the chart above, it’s easy to see that there’s some serious difference between the draft of a boat with the prop up versus having the prop down. If you’re traversing particularly shallow water, trimming your outboard motor up gives you up to 4 inches more of clearance under the surface of the water.

This means that you can avoid obstacles in shallow water and prevent damage to the undersides of your pontoon tubes. In fact, lightly loaded, smaller pontoon boats should be able to glide over water that’s as little as 5 inches deep, but it’s important to make sure that the bed is absolutely free of hazards that jut out from the bottom.

To trim your motor, gently pull on the trim lever at the helm. You should actually feel your aft slowly lift out of the water as your prop comes out of the waves. To tell if your pontoon's propeller has lifted up, you can check the wake you’re leaving. If it’s much less prominent, then you can safely assume your prop has been trimmed up.

The More You Know

There’s a lot more to a pontoon boat draft than you might think. The simple measure can do a lot for your boating experience, helping you protect your boat and even explore new territory with your beloved pontoon. Keep this information in handy the next time you find the desire to tread shallow water, and keep your tubes scot-free as you move along.

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