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Types of Pontoons

There are a vast number of varieties of pontoon boats available for purchase by potential boat owners. You should consider several factors before buying a pontoon boat. Think about considerations such as what sort of water conditions you'll encounter with your pontoon boat, the location where you're planning to use your pontoon, and how you'll be transporting your pontoon boat to the water. Do you want a pontoon boat that is collapsible and can be carried on your back or do you want a massive party cruiser than can accommodate a dozen or more of your closest friends? Do you want to catch fish or sunrays while enjoying time on your pontoon? Do you want to casually drift and enjoy tranquil waters in your pontoon boat or do you want to race along the lake or river towing a water skier? Every pontoon boat has specific advantages and disadvantages and nearly all of them can be uniquely customized to meet your specific wants and needs.

All pontoon boats have a few points of similarity. The most basic common feature of pontoon boats is their method of flotation—two or three floating cylinders that form a foundation for a deck. Almost all pontoons have an aluminum frame and resemble other types of motor boats, but a few varieties are inflatable. Generally speaking, pontoon boats are very stable and are resistant to rocking or capsizing. You will find that pontoon boats are far more stable in the water than other sorts of boats. However, all pontoon boats share the commonality that they are usually not suited to open or choppy water and perform best in rivers or other sheltered bodies of water. This is because they lack the high hulls common to other sorts of marine vessels. Beyond these characteristics, however, the shape, form, and function of many pontoon boats can vary wildly. For example, pontoon boats can range from 6 feet to 40 feet in length, can hold one person or accommodate an entire party, and can feature many amenities common to a modern house (such as a sink or a marine head) in contrast to other pontoon boats that have the barest necessities for flotation and locomotion. The sheer variety of pontoon boat types and sub-types is astounding and perhaps a bit overwhelming.

Larger, motorized pontoon boats have a flat deck and maintain flotation with 2 or 3 cylinders between the sides of the deck. They are sometimes called party barges due to the large number of people they can hold and transport. The actual size of these sorts of pontoons can go all the way up to 40 feet in length. These pontoons can be used for a variety of purposes, from entertaining, to water sports, to fishing. They are roomy enough to accommodate a fishing expedition with a lot of gear, yet light and powerful enough to pull water skiers. Additionally, they are highly customizable to the individual needs of pontoon owners and can be outfitted with a variety of specialized accessories, such as pontoon furniture, ladders, carpet, and tables. These pontoon boats are much larger and more permanently structured compared to inflatable pontoons. However, much like their smaller counterparts, you should avoid taking these kinds of motorized pontoon boats out on rough waters because their bow is only a few feet off the surface of the water.

Motorized pontoon boats can be further segmented into two groups—trailerable and midsize day cruisers. Trailerable pontoon boats are narrower than 120 inches, which is the maximum size for transport by trailer allowed by federal law. Because of this, very few trailerable pontoon boats are longer than 21 feet in length. These pontoon boats are lightweight, can achieve impressive speeds, and are relatively easy to remove from the water during chilly off-seasons. In contrast, midsize day cruisers are wider and longer and typically run between 21 and 30 feet in length. This longer length necessitates more width, meaning that midsize day cruisers are, with few exceptions, illegal to tow on highways. Because of this, most pontoon cruisers stay in the water year round and may be inconvenient or unrealistic for some pontoon owners' lifestyles.

Whatever their size, larger motorized pontoon boats can be further segmented into subgroups according to their purpose and general use. The variety of pontoon boat subgroups underscores the vast potential for customization available to pontoon boat enthusiasts. Fishing pontoon boats may have rod lockers and aerated livewells for bait. They are also characterized by open space for casting room and often have a large, open foredeck. Family pontoon boats are roughly similar to fishing pontoon boats, but often include amenities such as sinks, toilets, ice chests, and ample room for seats and tables. Single-deck pontoon boats strip the pontoon concept down to the bare essentials and offer more of a "living room” feel, with plenty of space for pontoon furniture, seats, and tables. These pontoon boats are especially well-suited for entertaining, but like other pontoon boats, one should stick to the safety of protected waterways and rivers. Sundeck boats add a hard-top cover that nearly doubles the available seating capacity. These covers can usually hold several people and provide room for sunbathing up top and a great deal of shade below. Houseboats, although technically also a type of pontoon boat, are typically relegated to a different category than casual recreational pontoon boats, and are in stark contrast to the bare bones design of single-deck pontoon boats. Houseboats usually provide many of the amenities common to houses, such as running water, air conditioning, beds, and other modern conveniences.

Your specific needs will determine the right type of pontoon boat for you. There are many pontoon brands available that offer a variety of models. The top five manufactures in the pontoon boat industry are Tracker, Bennington , Godfrey, Crest, and Premier. In summary, you should be aware of the many options that are available and weigh the advantages and disadvantages offered by each before purchasing a pontoon boat.