What is a Pontoon Boat and What is it Used For?

what is a pontoon boat

Any boat dealer that is aware of current trends and hot topics should know that pontoons are angling to be the future of recreational boating activities from fishing to watersports to simply living life in the waters. It is therefore important to answer the question, "what is a pontoon boat?"

In this guide, we will walk you through how the pontoon craze managed to create a movement and way of life, what features and benefits pontoons bring to the table, and which outdoor activities can be done under the sun with pontoons.

If you are ready to dive in and embrace the marine life through pontoons, then continue reading!

What is a Pontoon Boat (What Makes a Pontoon a Pontoon?)

A pontoon is a flat vessel that relies on buoyance against the water to float. Yes, pontoons are essentially like barges or makeshift rafts and rely on float-like mechanics to keep maneuvering through the waters.

The pontoon is called a pontoon essentially because of the two hollow aluminum tubes that keep the vessel afloat. Manufacturers have done their due diligence to create different varieties of pontoons which is why getting a new pontoon boat is a struggle because of how many options there are today.

What Pontoon Boats are Used For

Pontoons serve a lot of functions, most of which fall under recreational activities and casual boating adventures. Listed below are a few of the most prominent uses and functions of pontoons:

Outdoor Activities (Marine Life)

If you love anything water-related and are just about ready to fully embrace the so-called "marine lifestyle," then a pontoon is an excellent approach to getting acquainted with what said marine lifestyle has to offer.

Staying on deck aboard pontoon boats, just taking a look at the water and all the outdoor marine wildlife in a river or lake will just take your breath away and help you create an energy of peace.

Outdoor activities can help you find your so-called center and will rejuvenate you to the point that you will be ready to bounce back to actual, non-marine responsibilities with an invigorated spirit.


Watersports, otherwise called water-based sports activities, involve wakeboarding, waterskiing, and tubing. Most of these activities can be done with pontoons, fortunately.

So, if you are bored hanging out in the lounge of your boat and would like to take on more thrill-seeking activities, then go and have some fun doing any of the most popular sports activities with the help of pontoon boats.


If you are not the type of person to go on week-long adventures and would just like to temporarily depart on a boat for a couple of hours, then pontoon boats will definitely fit the bill.

On this boat, you can enjoy a short break doing fishing, socializing with friends, or simply relaxing by your lonesome.


For those who love fishing, a boat like a pontoon may not exactly be the powerhouse sportfishing vessel that you have been dreaming to acquire. However, when it comes to a diverse, casual, and relatively affordable boat, a pontoon is definitely the way to go.


Pontoon boats are great for sightseeing. If you are interested in taking in the wonders of nature by sightseeing, visiting regions of lakes and rivers that are not easily accessible by land, and traveling to forests and other interesting areas of nature, then visit your local dealer and either rent or purchase pontoon boats with friends to start your adventure!


Pontoons are great for relaxing. If you feel like the lounge on deck is your best friend when going out on trips in the waters and if speed is not important, so long as you can feel the constant breeze of wind brushing up against your face as the boat slowly cruises down a river, then rest and relaxation is just for you and is just what pontoon boats are perfect for.

Dining and Social Gatherings

If your boss or business associates called you and requested that you host a lavish dinner party or get-together, then having an event on the deck of a pontoon will knock their socks right off (especially if they are not used to such activities on boats).

What Pontoon Boats Look Like

what is a pontoon boat used for

Pontoon boats are flat, square-like vessels that come in a variety of dimensions. They are powered by an outboard motor engine and cruise at normal speeds in calm bodies of water. Designers and engineers were very particular with the shape and float mechanisms found in this vessel and manufacturers were quick to pick up on creating different sizes of pontoons.

Compared to tritoon boats, pontoon boats only have 2 hollow tubes that help maintain buoyancy.

Based on models created by pontoon designers, a typical pontoon would feature a rigid structure, a sun-exposed lounge, a bimini to cover a portion of the boat, lights in strategic places, and handy features and accessories such as comfy cushions, a lavatory, and a relatively small dining space.

As you ride on a pontoon, spectators would usually view you as someone who loves the outdoors (marine life), especially the waters, engages in watersports, frequently goes out for casual boating, and loves to ride in style.

What truly makes pontoons stand out from other types of boats is the fact that their power not only comes from the engine but also the float mechanisms found in the hull (the tubes or the tube system). This creates a stable platform across the entire vessel and is especially good for water skiers looking for a good anchor to pull them around the body of water.

General Cost of Pontoon Boats

There are a variety of pontoon boats that have different features, different accessories, different aluminum tubes (or tube mechanisms), and are provided by different manufacturers and dealers.

On average, we would place the cost of a brand new pontoon at approximately $160,000. However, we can almost guarantee that you can find a new pontoon boat worth $50,000 or a pontoon boat worth over $300,000.

For those looking for a new pontoon boat package (including the trailer and the entire set of accessories), you can grab a good average-sized one for around $120,000 at your local boat center or dealer.

Take note, however, that dealers and manufacturers (as well as after-market suppliers) may upsell you on certain products and add-ons that you might not necessarily need. So you better know what you are paying for in order to stay within your intended market budget.

Average Weight of Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats have a wide variety of sizes and weight configurations. On average, a pontoon boat (including its engine and other vital mechanical components) would weigh approximately 2,000 pounds and can accommodate an additional 2,000 pounds worth of people, gear, and equipment.

There are certain pontoon boats, however, that can go well below and well above this measurement.

For example, the 18-foot Avalon LS Cruise pontoon boat has a dry weight estimate of 1,350 pounds. The 27-foot Harris Grand Mariner, on the other hand, has a dry weight of a little over 3,500 pounds.

Take note that dry weight does not include the weight of the trailer that carries the pontoon boat. This piece of equipment usually weighs around 1,200 pounds.

If you would like a more detailed explanation of the weight of a typical pontoon boat model in comparison to other boats or boat models, check out our guide over at this link:

Width of Pontoon Boats

A typical pontoon boat would have a width of 8 feet and a length of 26 feet. This is in reference to what is categorized as the "small pontoon boat."

As for medium-sized pontoon boats, you would usually find them to have a width of 8 feet to 10 feet and a length of roughly 30 feet.

If you prefer the largest class of pontoon boats, then there are a limited number of pontoons that are 11 feet to 12 feet wide and approximately 30 feet long.

The dimensions of pontoon boats matter only if you have a number of people in mind that the boat should be able to accommodate on a regular basis.

Otherwise, we would suggest going with the traditional "small" pontoon boat with a small deck and lounge.

How Fast are Pontoon Boats?

Under a normal load, an average-sized pontoon boat can plane and hit a speed of up to 25 miles per hour.

Larger pontoons, on the other hand, usually cap at 20 miles per hour.

These estimates, however, are based on traditional engines fitted into pontoon boats (usually 90 horsepower to 150 horsepower). If you get a pontoon boat with a larger engine displacement or horsepower rating, you could easily double the speed of the pontoons.

Are Pontoon Boats Hard to Drive and Dock?

One clear advantage that pontoons have over some of the more traditional boats (such as deck boats and bowriders) is the fact that they were designed to be easier to drive and maneuver.

The flat appearance and the versatile cruising speeds offered by pontoons contribute to what makes adventures on boats a great experience.

Whether you are out fishing with friends or simply boating with family and relatives, whoever is in charge of operating the boat will not have to stress himself/herself out when navigating the waters.

Docking the boat, on the other hand, may present a slight difficulty curve, as is the case with all boats. We say this because of how the tubes interact with the water and how the driver has to make sure that no tube comes in contact with (or gets snagged) by any random rope or apparatus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions we get from our readers and acquaintances regarding pontoon boats:

What is a pontoon good for?

Pontoon boats are buoyant, tube-dependent vessels that are fantastic for a lot of recreational activities when you live near a calm body of water such as a river (or have a local body of water that you could easily transport your pontoon to).

These boats are great for having a party with friends on deck, doing water sports around the lake, or partaking in a short fishing session with your family and relatives.

Are pontoon boats dangerous?

Pontoon boats are generally safe in calm bodies of water such as rivers and lakes as they rely on tubes to keep them in a float stance. However, during unruly weather or in areas where waves are particularly large, fast-moving, and strong, pontoon boats are not the best option because of how it is designed.

Although pontoon boats are versatile in terms of water sports, social events (like a party), and fishing activities, the buoyancy, flat design, and cruise speeds can only go so far in terms of safety and protection.

See our detailed guide on "Are Pontoon Boats Safe?" for more on this.

What does a pontoon boat look like?

Pon-toons typically observe the form of a flat boat (with a unique, square-shaped hull) that relies on buoyancy brought about by (typically) 2 large hollow aluminum tubes (or aluminum sponsons) as opposed to tri-toons which have 3 tubes.

In certain aspects, pontoons share the same flat structure, float mechanism, and buoyancy as a barge. The distinction between pon-toons and tri-toons is basically the number of tubes that are attached to the vessel's hull.

What is a pontoon boat used for?

Pontoon boats are very diverse and accommodating, even for casual or first-time boat owners and enthusiasts who love to spend time in lakes and rivers. Pontoons are used for outings with families, watersports, catching fish, and cruising along a lake or river.


Now that you have a comprehensive answer to the question, "what is a pontoon boat?" you can confidently visit your local boat dealer and check out different pontoon boats to find out which among the boats suits your needs best. 

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