11 Best Pontoon Boats for 2023
Sylvan L-3 DLZ (Best Pontoon Overall)
Harris Crowne SL 270 (Best Luxury Pontoon Boat)
Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 DLX (Best Pontoon Boat for Fishing)
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.
1. Sylvan L-3 DLZ (Best Pontoon Overall)
Description: The L3-DLZ can outperform the competition and it looks great doing it. Thanks to its versatility, sleek design and outstanding performance. It features a multi-position lounger in the back that can seat six, plus two forward facing loungers in the bow and the ability to swap in a table and make it a dining or bar area.
The deck area feels open but secure and the floor plan is fairly unique among pontoons.
The L-3 DLZ offers great comfort and versatility for any group out on the water. The dash layout is simple and easy to use with all the features you need including a Helix depth finder, AM/FM stereo with 4-6 speakers, USB and easy to read gauges. Performance is top notch and you’ll find the L-3 DLZ great for fishing, cruising and even watersports.
The quality of Sylvan’s workmanship comes through in the handling and look of this pontoon. The options including Big Water, Performance and Coastal packages means you can customize your pontoon for whatever you need.
Why We Chose It: Sylvan’s L3-DLZ has high class features from accents to upholstery to the functional design for a reasonable price that starts under $50,000. Plush upholstery, a ski tow bar, a stainless-steel boarding ladder and a pop up change area for privacy ensure there’s plenty of fun to be had alongside some creature comforts you won’t get on every other pontoon.
The extended rear deck is great for those looking to have fun on the water and the versatile but comfortable seating ensures this is a great option for groups large and small. There’s even a bar variant which, like the name says, allows you to convert the bow seating area into bar seating for drinks and partying. No other boat can match these options and look this good without bumping up the price considerably and that’s why Sylvan takes the top spot.
● Packed with loads of comfort and convenience features
● Great for fishing, entertaining and water sports
● It’s a beauty to behold and comes at a good price
● Not ideal for rough waters
2. Crestliner 240 Rally DX (Best Versatile Pontoon Boat)
Description: 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. It offers up 5 configurations to meet whatever needs you have and seats up to 15 people, making it a true party boat compared to a lot of the competition.
Why We Chose It: 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. This is what made us choose the Crestliner as the most versatile and it was an easy choice.
● Ideal for fishing, waterskiing, and cruising
● Fully customizable
● Aerated Livewell to store your catch
● Not built for high-speed cruising
3. Harris Crowne SL 270 (Best Luxury Pontoon Boat)
Description: It’s hard not to notice what makes the Harris Crowne SL 270 stand out just at a glance. 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. There’s a reason Harris won a design innovation award when they introduced this line of pontoons.
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.
Why We Chose It: It nails luxury in a way that seems effortless but more than that, all the features work and make for a great pontoon as well. It’s not just luxury for luxury sake, it’s solid boat engineering that looks great and performs amazingly well. It’s fun to be in this boat and you’re going to feel good when you take it out on the water. For those reasons, the Harris Crowne truly takes the crown when it comes to luxury pontoons in our opinion.
● Sleek glossy finish
● Designed for entertaining
● Side-console configuration creates more room
● The engine can get pretty loud
4. Princecraft Brio E 210-2S (Best Eco-Friendly Pontoon Boat)
Description: Gas-powered watercraft are prohibited in some lakes and rivers. That’s not a problem when you go electric. Princecraft has overhauled their Brio electric pontoon line for 2022 and the 210-2S is a real standout. Replacing the polluting and noisy gas-powered outboard, the Brio makes use of a Torqueedo electric engine. You have three options here – the Cruise 2.0, the Cruise 4 and the Cruise 10.0. To put that in gas equivalent terms they function about on par with a 6-hp, a 10-hp and a 20-hp engine.
The newer design is well-balanced and lighter which means the electric engine can offer more power overall. Battery power lasts about 4 hours depending on how hard you hit that throttle but you can also rig 24V and 48V solar panels and extra batteries to extend that as well. There’s also a fast-charger to get you away from shore quick and easy. All told, you can extend your stay on the water up to 6 to 10 hours depending on conditions and set up, (extra battery, solar panels and not pushing the throttle to the max) which is vastly better than many other electric boats on the water today. All of that for under $23,000.
There’s room for nine and plenty of space on the deck, plus the seating, full camper enclosure, folding forward fishing seats, and other amenities really make for a nice experience overall. Remember, this boat was designed around this electric motor, it’s not an electric motor slapped onto an already designed boat. For that reason, it makes the most of what it has.
Why We Chose It: Thanks to the smooth ride, the reliable Torqueedo engine and the fact this boat was designed to be fully electric, you won’t find many other electric pontoons at this early stage of the electric pontoon game that can offer as good an experience. With your rig kitted out with extra batteries and the solar charging option, the Brio 210 leaves the competition before for performance and time on the water. For those reasons, it nabs our top spot for best electric pontoon.
● Relatively quiet ride
● Ample storage
● Not as fast as gas-powered crafts
5. Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 DLX (Best Pontoon Boat for Fishing)
Description: 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. Pop a trolling motor on and take advantage of the live wells and rod storage to maximize your time on the water and truly make the best of any fishing trip with family and friends.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a generic pontoon that can also be used as a fishing boat, this is a fishing boat you can use for others. You won’t be water skiing on this and sure, you could have friends on for a party but they’d like it a lot more if they all brought rods and reels. But if the kids do get bored, the swim platform is right there and you can chill on deck while people take a dip.
Why We Chose It: 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. Plenty of room for all your gear designed specifically with the angler in mind. Being on this boat just feels relaxing, it’s like sitting on a dock you can control. Factor in a really reasonable price and the Bass Buggy takes our pick as the best fishing pontoon out there.
● Ideal for fishing
● Aerated Livewell
● Ample storage
● Not built for rough weather conditions
6. Regency 250 LE3 (Best High-Speed Pontoon Boat)
Description: 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. Combine that with a luxury interior and you have a great cruising boat that leaves most other pontoons in the dust when you want to go tubing or water skiing. Trust me, when you’re holding a line getting towed behind this boat, it is fun.
Why We Chose 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. The fact that it can offer up that leisure experience so many crave from a pontoon while also giving you nearly unparalleled speed that’s probably going to more than satisfy kids, teens and adults interested in watersports makes this our top pick for a high speed pontoon.
● Capable of high speeds
● Great for cruising, waterskiing, and fishing
● Comfortable ride
● Has a large turn radius
7. Lowe SF 212 (Best Mid-Size Range Pontoon Boat)
Description: 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 splits the difference and offers up a mid-size pontoon that should meet the needs of most boaters without having to break the bank. Prices start at under $38,000.
With plenty of amenities for anglers and casual boaters alike including fishing chairs, a livewell, tackle center and wraparound lounges, there’s something for everyone.
Why We Chose It: 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. Lowe basically found a way to give you everything you’d want in a larger boat in a more reasonable space at a more reasonable price, and they did it better than anyone else offering pontoons of this size. That’s why we’re giving them top spot for mid-size pontoons.
● 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)
Description: 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 and features great additions like lighted cup holders, suspension seating and so much more.
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.
Why We Chose It: At 27 feet and with room for 14, the Excalibur Quad Lounge offers all the amenities and versatility you’ll need in a family pontoon. Based on every boat we’ve looked at, none offer up an equivalent mix of style, luxury, comfort and overall fun so well suited for a family.
● 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)
Description: 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. Bennington is known for making some of the best pontoons out there that feature high end design and luxury, but their more affordable S-line by no means comes across like a rushed job full of cheap materials like you might find in the cheaper models from other manufacturers. The seating here still looks and feels plush and the versatility of floor designs really makes you feel like you’re getting more than your money’s worth.
Why We Chose It: Bennington makes great pontoons from top of the line on down. This boat feels like it should be more expensive than it is. It gives you everything a similarly priced model could offer, but Bennington just does it better. That’s why it takes the top spot for affordable pontoons.
● Great value for money
● Fully customizable
● Ample storage
● The engine can get quite loud
10. Bennington SV Cruiser (Best Pontoon Cruiser)
Description: 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 line of cruisers. It is arguably one of the best-selling luxury cruisers on the market today. Bennington offers up several floor plans in three distinct styles – the Quad Bench, the L-Bench and the Fishing floor plan. All told, they have 11 options in the three styles to really offer killer versatility and functionality.
You can get it with bass seats that allow you to swivel them for a full panoramic view of the environment around you or a 27 foot Quad Bench with room for you and 13 others . It is available in several different configurations that you can customize based on your preferences.
Why We Chose It: This is Bennington so the design elements are all there. It’s well made, well-balanced, powerful, comfortable and the SV line is all really well priced. It’s a well rounded cruiser and that’s why it’s popular not just with us but with numerous boaters. It gets the number one spot for giving you what you need no matter what it is you need.
● Built for comfort
● Bass seats make it ideal for fishing
● Premium aluminum and stainless steel construction make it corrosion-resistant
● Not built for speed
11. Sea-Doo Switch (Best Jet-Propulsion Pontoon)
Description: The Sea-Doo Switch is arguably the first great innovation in pontoon boats in decades. Sea-Doo put their knowledge of jet propulsion technology to work in designing a new, unique and seriously fun pontoon experience. The price leaves a lot of similar, traditional models in the dust and the features are remarkable. The floor plan is modular and as a result you can add seating, storage and more pretty much as you see fit. It can boost the price up a lot, to be sure, but the creative control over the design is unparalleled. What’s more, once you get used to controlling the Sea-Doo style handlebars, this thing is a lot of fun to drive. It’s powerful enough for watersports, ideal for fishing, and a lot quieter than you might think.
Why We Chose It: Jet pontoons are still super new but could anyone hope to do them better than Sea-Doo? The style and design is top notch, you’ll be happy with the way the boat looks and feels. Control, balance and speed are all as good or better than you’d expect, but the price and the modular floor plans put this one way ahead of the pack to take our top spot.
- Jet propulsion offers a whole new pontoon experience
- Incredibly price
- Modular deck offers unparalleled versatility
- Lack of side gate makes boarding more difficult
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:
- Harris Boats
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.
Categories: Boats, Pontoon Boats
Don Mccunniff on September 7, 2021
what are your thoughts about the JC Pontoons …..246 and Sport toon models