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While pontoons may not give you the adrenaline-pumping action of center console boats, they are one of the most versatile water vessels you’ll ever come across. Since they aren’t exclusively built for fishing or water sports, they offer a great compromise for people who like a bit of both.
Did we mention how comfortable they are? Yeah … we probably should have led with that. Imagine how great it would be to have your living room couch on the river or lake without having to fork over loads of cash for a luxury yacht? Well, that’s what you get with a pontoon boat.
Now, if you’re thinking of those simplistic old-school-looking box-like structures mounted on two hulls, and with a couple of garden chairs inside, well, let’s just say they’ve come a long way from what they once were. Today’s models are designed for luxury and functionality.
We’ve put together an in-depth review of the 10 best pontoon boats, and a buying guide to help you choose the best one.
It is loaded with tons of top-of-the-line features, which include bow premium interior upholstery, luxury amenities, lounge seats, stereo speakers, and USB chargers to keep your electronics juiced-up while you spend quality time with friends and family out on the water. Our top pick for the best pontoon boat is the M3 CRS Sylvan. It has a somewhat futuristic appeal to it that’s a far cry from what pontoon boats once were in yesteryears.
One look at the M3 and you’ll immediately tell it was built to deliver maximum comfort and relaxation. That’s why it’s number one on our list.
● Packed with loads of comfort and convenience features
● Great for fishing and water sports
● It’s a beauty to behold
This 24-foot long cruising machine has a set of reclining helm chairs and a wood-grain table-top with mounted cup holders, so you don’t have to worry about spilling your drink while enjoying the ride. Throw in the Bluetooth capability, GMR-3 stereo, and the pillow top furniture, and you have the makings of a luxury boat. If you’re in the market for a high-quality pontoon boat that guarantees versatility, durability, and reliability, then you will love what the Crestliner 240 Rally DX brings to the table. One notable feature about its construction is that it can easily be used for fishing, waterskiing, or cruising. It’s as versatile as they come.
The best thing is this particular range of pontoons is fully customizable. So, you can get the manufacturer to add features based on your specifications.
● Ideal for fishing, waterskiing, and cruising
● Fully customizable
● Aerated Livewell to store your catch
They say beauty is skin deep. But, hey, that’s what draws you in, right? The Harris Crowne SL 270 sure is one helluva beauty. One look and you’re hooked. It exudes luxury and elegance and is chock-full of interior features that let you know its beauty isn’t just superficial.
Its built-in entertainment galley, power-adjustable seats for superior comfort, and retractable ladders are just a few of the things SL 270 fans love about this boat. It also has a side-console configuration making it one of the most well-thought-out pontoon boat designs we’ve come across so far. It’s a definite winner in our books.
● Sleek glossy finish
● Designed for entertaining
● Side-console configuration creates more room
Fun fact: Gas-powered watercraft are prohibited in some lakes and rivers. The Princecraft Brio E17 is an eco-friendlier solution to conventional pontoon boats. It is powered by a Torqeedo electric engine, so you don’t have to worry about any emissions polluting the marine environment underneath.
The fact that it is also quieter than gas-powered pontoons means that you can enjoy your day out on the water without all the racket.
Remember how we said pontoon boats are the perfect compromise between fishing and water sports? The Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 DLX is the perfect example of this. It has two fishing chairs mounted on it that can be folded if you need to use the space for something else.
The L-shaped lounge of the Sun Tracker pontoon boat has handy storage underneath, and consoles with mounted rod and drink holders to free up your hands when reining in your catch of the day. Talk about convenience.
● Ideal for fishing
● Aerated Livewell
● Ample storage
Pontoons aren’t traditionally built for speed. The Regency 250 LE3 is the exception to the rule. This sporty model can achieve speeds of up to 50 mph, thanks in large part to the 350 HP Verado engine that powers it.
This particular vessel is not only fun to drive, but also great for kicking back, putting your feet up, and enjoying a soothing ride down the river. You’ll particularly like the luxury lounges in the aft section of the craft.
● Capable of high speeds
● Great for cruising, waterskiing, and fishing
● Comfortable ride
Pontoon boats aren’t exactly small, which is perfectly fine since they are designed to host family and friends for a nice afternoon chatting away on the water. However, large pontoons also come with a somewhat hefty price tag attached to them compared to the smaller versions.
The Lowe SF 212 is one of the few mid-sized pontoon boats available on the market today. It is chock-full of comfort and convenience features that you would expect to find in a luxury cruiser. We particularly like the two pedestal seats it comes with, making for easy maneuvering when fishing.
If you would rather kick back and relax, the Jensen built-in stereo with Bluetooth will belt out your favorite tunes to elevate your boating experience.
● Not as large as other pontoon models
● Pedestal seats are designed for angling
● Backed by a limited lifetime warranty
● The engine gets pretty loud at high speeds
8. Avalon Excalibur Quad Lounge Windshield (Best Family Pontoon Boat)
The Avalon Excalibur Quad Lounge Windshield is easily one of the most attractive pontoon boats we’ve come across. Its sleek design oozes elegance, class, and sophistication – nothing like the old ugly pontoons of the late 90s/early 2000s.
It is made from fiberglass components, which are largely responsible for its smooth appearance. It comes equipped with a bimini top, which remains intact even at high speeds.
The pedestal table in the lounge area comes in handy when serving up lunch or snacks and can be moved out of the way when you need to make room for other activities. It is perfect for families looking to spend quality time together away from all the land-based distractions.
● Exquisite design
● Comes with quick-release bimini top and fender holders
● Has several comfort/convenience features
● Slightly pricey
9. Bennington S21 L Bench (Best Value Pontoon Boat)
The Bennington S21 L Bench is the perfect pontoon cruiser for a day out on the water or candlelit dinner under the moonlight. It comes with an L-bench with a sun pad that has a massive amount of storage underneath.
The great thing about this particular model is that it is available in 13 different configurations, which the manufacturer can customize to suit your taste and preferences. The price tag isn’t too bad, either.
● Great value for money
● Fully customizable
● Ample storage
If you’re looking for a pontoon boat that’s designed to deliver the maximum level of comfort and enjoyment on the water, then you’ll love the Bennington SV Narrow Beam Cruiser. It is arguably one of the best-selling luxury cruisers on the market today.
You can get it with bass seats that allow you to swivel them for a full panoramic view of the environment around you. It is available in several different configurations that you can customize based on your preferences.
● Built for comfort
● Bass seats make it ideal for fishing
● Premium aluminum and stainless steel construction make it corrosion-resistant
● Not built for speed
How to Choose the Best Pontoon Boats – Buyer’s Guide
If you’re a first-time pontoon buyer, you’re likely confused about which one to get from all the different options available. Although it may seem overwhelming, the good news is whatever you decide to go with will likely be able to meet your specific needs. Nonetheless, here are a few things you need to know before you buy your pontoon.
Once you’ve examined the pros and cons of other boat types and have decided that a pontoon craft is indeed the best vessel for you, the first thing you need to think about is size. Generally, you’ll need a pontoon that’s:
18-20 ft. to host 2-6 people onboard
22-24 ft. to host 6-10 people onboard
More than 24 ft. to host 10 or more people onboard
The size will also be determined by where you intend to use the craft. Pontoons that measure between 17 and 19 ft. are ideal for small and tranquil water bodies.
If you intend to boat on a river or lake with small waves, a 20 to 22-foot long boat will suffice. If, on the other hand, you’ll be using it on rough waters, then you need to look for a bigger boat, preferably one that’s 23 to 28 ft.
Not all pontoon boats were created equal. There are different types of vessels designed for specific activities. Below are a few of the various pontoon boats you’ll come across.
Fishing pontoons – If you intend to use your boat for fishing 60-70 percent of the time, opt for a model that’s custom-built for this. These pontoons usually have ample storage, Livewell tanks, and consoles with mounted rod and drink holders to free up your hands so that you can focus on the fishing task at hand.
Recreational/cruising pontoons – These types of pontoons have several comfort/convenience features designed to enhance your on-water experience. Check for models that have sinks, kitchen grills, stereo systems, seats which can convert into beds, and a wide range of other convenient amenities.
Swimming/sunbathing pontoons – If you intend to use your boat mainly for sunbathing and swimming, you’ll find models that come with swim decks, sun loungers, ladders, and slides for a fun time on the water.
Watersports pontoons – If you plan to use sports equipment like skiers, tubes, and wakeboards, consider getting a boat with a motor that generates at least 90 horsepower to get the speed required to pull these objects effectively through the water.
Inflatable Pontoons– These are great for avid anglers, waterway explorers and outdoor enthusiasts. They are more durable, portable and inexpensive compared to the other models, but are better for casual rides for 1 to 2 people.
We cannot overemphasize how important it is to pick the right pontoon brand. Go with a manufacturer that pays attention to performance and quality. Here’s a list of some top brands to consider:
Generally, you want to stick to manufacturers that have been in the pontoon-making business since the year 2000. That way, you can rest easy knowing that all vessels manufactured since that time have been subjected to high standards and meet all the required US Coast Guard-sanctioned safety requirements.
Beyond looking out for a particular brand, it is also important to consider the overall workmanship of the pontoon. Check the welding and brackets for any signs of patching or damage. You also need to look at the condition of the engine to ensure that it is in tip-top shape.
Finally, check whether the decks and rails were bolted through or screwed in. Bolting is a better option since it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.
Your Pontoon Is a Reflection of Your Lifestyle
Much like buying a car, finding the best pontoon boats requires a great deal of research. Weigh the pros and cons of each, decide on the features that matter the most to you, and pick a boat that best suits your needs.
Buying a vessel from any of the manufacturers listed in this guide is a safe bet. There’s a pontoon out there with your name on it. In the meantime, check out our detailed review on the best boats under $50,000.
Outdoors, I’m in my element, especially in the water. I know the importance of being geared up for anything. I do the deep digital dive, researching gear, boats and knowhow and love keeping my readership at the helm of their passions.