Pontoon Buyer’s Guide

 

If you’re in the market for a new or used pontoon, you’ve probably taken the time to peruse the online markets, such as “Boat Trader”, or better yet, made a visit to your local marine dealership.  Unfortunately for most, this begins a long a sometimes-frustrating process to find that “perfect” boat, for the “right” price.  Our goal in providing the following information, is to give you and your family, the tools necessary to make an educated purchase decision.

 

As a dealership, looking for a pontoon line to represent, we used the same criteria recommended below, to evaluate the various pontoon manufactures.  Boatland chose to represent SunChaser Pontoons, as they provided quality construction, a wide range of models, and the best value for our customers.  Located in New Paris, Indiana, SunChaser, who is manufactured by Smokercraft Boats, has been building high quality aluminum boats since 1903. Lastly, like Boatland, Smokercraft has always been family owned & operated.

 

First, take a moment to sit with your family, and discuss the following set of questions:

    1. How do we plan to use our pontoon?
      1. Primarily as a “Family” boat?
      2. Primarily as a “Fishing” boat?
      3. Primarily as a “Family Performance” boat?
    2. How many guests will be on board on a typical outing?
      1. Here, you are looking for an “average” number of guests, not a max.
    3. What kind of “Performance” would you like?
      1. Family cruising, occasionally pulling a tube, and hanging out in your favorite cove?
      2. A multi-purpose boat with skiing and wakeboard capabilities?
    4. How much horsepower do we really need?
      1. This answer is typically affected by question #3.
    5. Will you trailer the boat, or prefer to leave it in a slip?
      1. What size trailer will I need?
      2. Will my trailer require brakes?
      3. Is my current tow vehicle adequate?

Unlike many of the older generation pontoons, today’s pontoons come in a wide variety of models, and trim levels, to meet the needs of this ever-expanding market.  So, whether you’re looking for the family cruiser, or the high-tech “Tri-Toon” skiing machine, you’re bound to find lots of available options!  Let’s take a closer look at the various pontoon styles available today.

 

PONTOON BOAT STYLES

As mentioned above, pontoons have evolved greatly from the slow, unstable people movers, to Stylish, High-Tech, all-purpose family boats.  Pontoons can generally be split into 3 basic categories:

∙  Pleasure:  These models make up the majority of the market, and can be found in many different seating configurations.  They typically only have twin pontoons, with power options ranging from 10HP to 125HP.

∙  Fishing:  Fishing pontoons, sometimes referred to as “4-Points”, due to the location of the 4 fishing seats, will offer all the amenities any fishing enthusiast would need, such as live-wells, rod holders, and trolling motors.  New last season, SunChaser even makes a “Center-Console” model, for the fisherman who prefer to battle the larger catches.

∙  Performance:  These represent the “Tri-Toons”, the newest and fastest growing segment in the pontoon industry today.  These bad boys are high-tech machines, that can be equipped with up to 350HP, or even twin 300HP on some models.  If its speed and performance, mixed w/comfort you’re looking for, then these are the boats for you.

PONTOON CAPACITY

Regardless of the style you choose, the next decision to be made is what length of pontoon is required to meet your family’s needs.  Each model, will be limited to a “max capacity” for guests and gear.  While there are many variables involved in this decision,  we have some general guidelines listed below:

∙  For a 4 to 6-person average:  A pontoon in the 16′ to 20′ pontoon would be sufficient

∙  For a 6-to 10-person average:  A 20′ to 22′ pontoon would be sufficient

∙  For a 10+ person average: A 24′ or larger pontoon would be highly recommended

HORSEPOWER

For some customers, this may be the most difficult decision in the entire purchasing process.  Unlike their fiberglass counterparts, which are typically sold with 1 or 2 engine options for any typical model, pontoons allow you to choose from a wide range of horsepower options, which will be dictated by the pontoons intended use.

As with the capacity of the pontoon, each model with have a “max horsepower” rating based on the model’s configuration.  An example would be the SunChaser 20′ Geneva Cruise, which has a max rating of 115HP.  Add the “Extreme Performance Tri-Toon Package”, and the max rating increases to 200HP.

Please note, your purchase price may fluctuate greatly, based on your choice of outboard.  Listed below are some performance examples based on the pontoon size and horsepower package:

18′ to 20′ Pontoon:

  Minnkota E-Drive Electric Propulsion:  3 – 8 MPH  (Required on some private lakes)

  9.9HP Mercury 4-Stroke:  5 – 12 MPH

∙  50HP Mercury 4-Stroke:  18 –  22 MPH

∙  90HP Mercury 4-Stroke:  21 – 27 MPH

22′ to 24′ Pontoon:

  50HP Mercury 4-Stroke:  17 – 21 MPH

  90HP Mercury 4-Stroke:  23 –  27 MPH

∙  150HP Mercury 4-Stroke:  26 – 30 MPH

* It is important to note, the speeds above are estimates only, and do not take into account variables such as the number of persons on-board, or environmental conditions, which can greatly affect a boats performance.

PONTOON CONSTRUCTION

As we have discussed previously, modern pontoon boats are far superior to their predecessors.

∙  Decking:  Although most manufacturers still use wood decking, improved treating techniques, combined with the newer vinyl floor coverings, such as Sun Chaser’s Sea Weave® option, now come with a “Limited Lifetime Warranty” from the manufacturer.  These decking sheets are typically “bolted” or “screwed” down, with the seams positioned on the cross beams, with a tar strip in-between, to prevent any water from seeping up from below.

  Pontoon Tubes:  The boats “Pontoons” are quite literally the boats hull.  The strongest and most popular type among manufactures today, are the tube-shaped pontoons.  SunChaser, incorporates this type of pontoon, using heavy gauge aluminum for puncture resistance.  Additionally, each tube contains up to 3 baffles for safety, which prevents the entire tube from filling with water, in the unlikely event a tube were to be punctured.  SunChaser also incorporates a full length extruded “keel”, which adds an additional layer of protection to the bottom of the pontoon tube.

∙  Furniture:  Once again, modern pontoon furniture has seen huge improvements.  Not only is it stylish & comfortable, today’s pontoon furniture is strong and durable.  SunChaser uses durable Roto-cast® seat structures, which hold their shape, and include integrated water channels to drain moisture effectively.  For convenience, SunChaser also unitizes “Double Drop Hinges” which allow for easy access to the under-seat storage areas, without the seat wanting close as you lean over it.

POPULAR FEATURES & OPTIONS

Modern pontoons are now available with a bevy of options and accessories.  These are mostly factory installed features, but may also be available from your dealer.  Here are a few options and/or features you may encounter when researching for your pontoon purchase.

  Mooring Cover:  Likely included in the cost of the boat, the mooring cover offers superb protection of your pontoon’s interior.  Typically, color matched to the boats bimini top, the cover will attach to the outer railing of the boat.  In some instances, pontoon owners may elect to install individual seat covers in-lieu  of the mooring cover, as they are easy to remove and store, and provide instant access to the interior of the boat.

  Stereo & Electronics:  Marine Stereos are often pre-installed in the boat and offer typical AM/FM reception, as well as Bluetooth, and Satellite capabilities.  Additionally, most manufacturers offer simple in-dash depth finders, or High-End Sonar for fishing enthusiasts.  Be sure to ask your dealer what type of electronic upgrades are available, and how they can improve your boating experience.

CHOOSING A DEALER

Once you have narrowed the field of pontoons & manufacturers,  the next, and probably most important step in the purchasing process, is visiting and choosing a dealer.  Remember, regardless of the quality, features and performance, of your selected pontoon, your dealer will be your source for warranty, storage, and service work in the future.  A competing dealer often will not offer timely service on a boat purchased elsewhere.  Boatland is full-service dealership, whose mission is to provide the best products, service and purchasing experience possible.  We want to “Earn” your business!  Please consider the following:

∙  Dealer Service:  What type of services are provided?  During dealership visit ask to meet the service manager, take a tour of the service facilities! This says a lot about the dealership.

  Facilities and Staff:  When touring the service, ask if all the technicians are full-time and “factory-trained”.  A dealership without full-time technicians may be understaffed, causing delays when you your boat is in for service, especially during a service departments peak periods during the spring or fall!

  Parts department:  Does the dealerships parts department have a large selection of factory parts?  Ordered parts can delay you getting your boat back in a timely fashion.

∙  Dealer a Dedicated Marine Dealer:  This may sound as an unusual question, but many dealerships today have begun to expand their focus to other recreational products such as RV’s.  Unfortunately, customers typically end up competing for service if the dealer is not properly staffed.

∙  Dealership History:  In a day and age of online shopping and ordering, a dealership with strong roots in the community it serves, is often overlooked.  Remember when you may your purchase, you are entering into a relationship with your dealer as well.  Boatland was established in 1961, and is still run and operated by the same family today.  In fact, our staff have all been with Boatland an average of 10-years or more.  This consistency allows us to provide the quality of service we have become known for!

 

We hope this guide has proven helpful in selecting the pontoon package that is right for you.  Our family prides itself on creating a lasting partnership with each of our customers.  Benjamin Franklin once stated “The bitterness of poor quality, remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten”.  For this reason, Boatland has carefully chosen to represent only products that we ourselves would be willing to take our families aboard.  A boat purchase, unlike an automobile, is an investment in time with your family & friends.  We would love the opportunity to “Earn” your business!!