Tritoon vs Pontoon: The Differences & Which is Right for You

tritoon vs pontoon

The tritoon vs pontoon saga originated in the early 2000s when tritoon boats (or triple-tube pontoon boats) were all the rage within the luxury segment of boating and fishing, despite being introduced in as early as the 1950s (pontoon) and the 1980s (tritoon).

The demands for either boat were relatively limited. As long as either was able to take on small bodies of water such as a calm lake and peaceful river, buyers would flock to whatever toon was available. However, it was from around 2005 onwards the sales for tritoon boats really skyrocketed, allegedly capturing around 80% of the market share by the end of the decade.

So what is it exactly with these toons? Do they actually have any difference outside of motor speeds, performance, money requirements, and buoyancy? This guide will help you learn more about the two toons: tritoons and pontoons.

If you are ready to find out the key differences between the two, then continue reading!

The Differences Between a Pontoon Boat and a Tritoon Boat

If you are pressed for time and would like to learn the general difference between the pontoon boat and the tritoon boat, the answer can be found in the number of aluminum tubes (or pontoons). As you may already know, both the pontoon boat and the tritoon boat rely on heavy-duty hollow aluminum tubes to keep them afloat.

Pontoons would generally have a dual-tube setup, with one on either side. On a tritoon, on the other hand, you should expect to see a third tube, situated right in between the two tubes affixed on each side.

Now that general picture has been painted for the tritoon vs pontoon boat debate, let's dive into the specifics of what makes a pontoon boat a pontoon and what makes a tritoon a tritoon.

Pontoon Boats, Explained

Built for family and friends, pontoon boats were created in the 1950s and started to gain popularity in the mid-1960s. Although these boats were not necessarily known for their performance, power, or cruising speeds, these pontoons were openly accepted by the luxurious crowd as a vessel that can hold all kinds of events, from boating and dining all the way to fishing and watersports. Pontoon boat models were readily available across the United States and there was no vessel that could compare to the deluxe feel of leather seats and the premium features and build of most of the pontoon boats ever since.

From an engineering and construction standpoint, if we were to break down a pontoon into its bare bones parts, we would see a deck and two hollow tubes that serve as floatation devices. Aside from generally keeping the boat buoyant, these tubes assist with the pontoon boat's lift and thrust when cruising through shallow waters.

You would typically find a pontoon boat's engine to be around 90 horsepower. However, a lot of the modern-day pontoon boats, especially the ones with updated technology (and better upholstery), can go for as high as 150 horsepower, which would be more than enough for a boat with two tubes.

Tritoon Boats, Explained

A tritoon is essentially a pontoon with a third tube situated right in the middle or, in other words, a triple-tube pontoon. Production of tritoons started in the 1980s but its rise to fame only happened in the early 2000s. People were looking for bigger, stronger, and more stable pontoon boats that could carry more passengers in lakes but would still compare to the eloquence and luxurious vibes a pontoon exudes.

Tritoon models can handle calm bodies of water and are relatively better at handling rough bodies of water and rough weather conditions. In terms of storage and capacity, the deck can definitely carry and accommodate more people and objects. This is one of the main highlights or advantages it has over its pontoon counterpart.

This boat also excels in water sports when paired with a high-power performance engine. Paired with such an engine, the tritoon can definitely hit speeds that would be ideal for waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding all while maintaining a good center of gravity and stability for the entire ride.

The Key Difference

Three tubes is the primary distinction between a tritoon and a pontoon. But, there are so many other factors to consider such as the type of lake, weight, horsepower, money implications, trailering, and many more. All of the important factors will be discussed in the following section.

Which Boat is the Right One for You (Factors to Consider)


Understandably, a lot of first-time pontoon and tritoon buyers would be confused between the two, especially when it comes to which of the two is the most ideal.

Take a look at all of the factors mentioned below to have a clearer picture of what to expect and what to look out for when buying pontoons (double-tube vs triple-tube).

Weight and Capacity

Regardless of the size of the boat, model, engine, or dimensions, the third tube affixed in the center significantly helps in terms of weight and capacity, particularly when it comes to stability.

A pontoon boat model would typically be ideal when the boat is used primarily for family-only events and getaways. However, a tritoon model would be the best-case scenario if you regularly have friends, colleagues, and business partners coming over to spend time with you and cruise on the boat for fishing or other recreational activities.

Engine Size and Power

The performance and speed of the boat, across all toons, is heavily dependent on the engine size and the engine power, specifically the horsepower rating.

For a more effective ride, larger boat models are equipped with additional trolling motor mechanisms to provide more power through a lake or other areas of water.

However, under typical circumstances, the type of motors commonly used are outboard motors. These motors come in different sizes and horsepower ratings, so make sure to consider what kind of motor comes with your toon before finalizing the purchase.

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to what kind of engine to get for a particular water toon. However, we would recommend getting a tritoon only if the engine's horsepower exceeds 100. If the horsepower is below 100, we suggest sticking with a standard two-tube pontoon boat.

However, if you are after speed and are looking to target a speed figure of an average of 60 miles per hour, then you may want to go for one of the smaller toons with larger engine displacement for better speed ratings.

Water Conditions

The tubes offer stability, lift, buoyancy, and consistency in cruise speeds. If your boat is consistently subjected to unpleasant water or rough water conditions on an average day, then perhaps a third tube right at the center is better for you.

If you are coasting through a pleasant or peaceful body of water or calm water conditions (most often felt in a lake or river), then the differences between the two types of pontoons should not matter as much and therefore, a two-tube pontoon will be the ideal water-based method of transportation.

Handling, Driving, and Docking

If you have driven all sorts of land-based vehicles before, then you would know that the driving and parking mechanics of a sedan or a hatchback are significantly different from that of an RV trailer or medium-sized truck.

When it comes to water-based vessels, the concept stays relatively the same. Handling, driving, steering, maneuvering, and docking tritoons is significantly different from pontoons, so keep that in mind when you are out fishing or engaging in watersports activities.

Trailer, Housing, and Storage Space

Mounting tritoons into trailers is going to be an entirely different challenge compared to pontoons. First off, when it comes to trailering tritoons, you would have to go with a larger trailer, and may even have to resort to custom-built trailers with specialized equipment and lift mechanisms, the cost of which will be larger than that of an average trailer.

Next, when it comes to housing and storing tritoons, consideration has to be given to the middle aluminum tube. The platform for tritoons should be specifically designed to accommodate the third tube without damaging any of the other components of the boat. This, again, will come at quite the cost.

Pricing, Budget, and Maintenance

A new pontoon boat would cost anywhere from $15,000 to $175,000. Tritoons are within the same range, except that they typically start at the $35,000 price point.

Although the cost or pricing may be similar, you also have to consider the accompanying expenses such as fuel, storage fees, trailering, and maintenance.

So, if you are on a tight budget, opting for a two-tubed toon might be the more logical and beneficial choice.


The tritoon vs pontoon argument has gone on for decades amongst fans of the luxury vessels. Whether you are a two-tube kind of person or the triple-tube type, make sure to know your stuff and keep the details here in mind before making this wonderful investment.

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