How Fast Does a Pontoon Boat Go?
Pontoon boats are not really built for speed. That’s something to understand right off the bat. Of course, boaters being who they are, people have rigged up some really fast pontoon boats over the years and you’d be surprised at just how fast some can go. But most manage a more leisurely pace. So how fast do pontoon boats go? Let’s see.
Average Pontoon Boat Speed
Expect most pontoon boats to hit speeds of just over 30 mph on average. The internet offers a range of potential answers to this question but that is the sweet spot. Keep in mind that a lot of these figures are determined by doing some simple math. If we take 50 different pontoon boat models, look at the speed charts and then average it out, we get around 30 miles per hour. Just remember, these are ideal or max speeds. They may be calculated with a medium or light load. Most pontoon boat captains aren’t hitting maximum pontoon boat speeds all that often. Consider your car – what’s the maximum speed it can reach? Do you drive that fast very often? And can it even attain that speed? So there’s something to be said about average speed on paper and the average speed most people operate their boats at.
With that in mind, if you’re in a two tube pontoon boat under ideal conditions on the water, your average speed is probably going to be somewhere between 20 mph and 25 mph.
Keep in mind, some pontoon boats are not built to even achieve those speeds, so when we say average we mean it. Your slow speed is mixed with the speed of the faster guy who’s way ahead of you and that’s where the average comes from. There are a good number of pontoon boats that are marketed as leisure and family boats that are not meant to go fast at all. Some have very low horsepower and therefore a lower max speed. Consider something like an 18 foot Sweetwater pontoon boat. As is, the motor produces just 25 horsepower for a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour.
Average Tritoon Boat Speed
A tri toon boat is still technically a pontoon boat, it just had a third tube. Nothing in the name pontoon indicates we’re only talking about two pontoons. If a boat has any pontoons it’s a pontoon boat. That said, most people like to distinguish between two pontoons and three pontoons. Three pontoon boats, or tritoons, can perform a little better on the water. They’re more stable and they go faster. Not a lot faster, mind you, these still aren’t racing boats by any means. But while a typical pontoon boat may max out at around 40 mph a tritoon boat could hit speeds of 50 mph or more in the right circumstances.
The average speed of a tritoon boat is usually much higher than, and seems to be in and around 45 miles per hour. The difference is thanks to the fact that all tritoon boats seem to have a much higher average speed than two tube boats. While some two tube pontoons can get up to 50 miles per hour, we’re balancing these averages against a number that only get to 10 mph to 20 mph at top speed.
How Fast Should a Pontoon Boat Go?
Here’s a question not a lot of people ask but it’s worth considering. How fast a boat can go and how fast it should go are different things. Remember how a pontoon boat is set up and what it’s usually used for. There’s a lot of deck space on a pontoon boat because your buoyancy comes from underneath in the pontoons themselves. The boat doesn’t need to be as narrow as some, and there can be more room because it’s all just on top of what’s keeping you afloat. That makes them great for having a lot of people and gear on deck, which is what most people want a pontoon boat for.
With all the gear and passengers on deck, speed should usually be limited. Of course if you’re playing around with a pontoon boat and seeing how fast you can make it go, that’s another matter. People tweak their boats all the time and you can even race pontoon boats if you’re looking to do that. But for general leisure use, a pontoon boat is best operated at pretty leisurely speeds. That 30 mph is not something you’d really want to exceed in too many circumstances. If you’re cruising the open water and just having fun then sure, open it up. But when you hit shallower water, when you’re maneuvering, or when there are other boats around, slower speeds work best on a pontoon boat.
Water Sport Speeds
Now when it comes to how fast you need to go for water sports, well, what are you doing in your pontoon boat? If you want to do some water skiing, you’re going to want your boat to hit somewhere between 20 mph and 25 mph for a pretty average ride on two skis. A little faster is ideal for people who know what they’re doing. You can also manage skiing at slower speeds but if you drop it down to 15 mph you’re really pressing your luck. I would say 15 mph to 20 mph are good average speeds for something like tubing rather than skiing. You’ll have a pretty adventurous ride but you may want to slow down if there’s more than one rider. As you can see, these are reasonable speeds for a pontoon boat, so you can still have some fun on the water with family and friends.
If you have very young kids with you, a pontoon boat is ideal. You’ll want to slow things down for tubing and even 10 mph would be good, or slower depending on their age. A pontoon boat offers a lot of versatility this way, making it a really good family boat.
If you want to try wakeboarding, a pontoon boat is still a great choice. In fact, wakeboarding works better at slower speeds than skiing anyway. A good, average speed for wakeboarding would be 15 mph to 25 mph. So, again, a lot of pontoon boats can easily manage this. You can slow it down for the younger ones just like with tubing, as well.
Barefoot skiing is really one of the few sports you may not want to try in a pontoon boat, but that does depend on the weight of the person doing it. The formula for figuring out barefoot skiing speed is to divide your weight by 10 and then add 20 to get the mph you need to hit. So if you weigh 150 lbs you’d divide by 10 to get 15 and add 20 to get 35. That means you want to hit 35 mph to barefoot ski. That’s a little above the average of many pontoon boats, so it may not be feasible.
One thing worth noting when you’re wondering about how fast a pontoon boat goes, at least in terms of what you can do with it, is that most watersports are best done with an optimal speed between 20 mph and 25 mph. Since many pontoon boats can still achieve those speeds pretty well, there’s no need to fear that you’re sacrificing fun for space or safety when you get a pontoon boat.
Pontoon Boat Speed Chart
There are a lot of sizes and a lot of speeds out there for pontoon boats. Here are some of the most popular brands, lengths, how much horsepower they have, and their corresponding top speeds. This by no means covers every pontoon boat on the market, but it should give you a good idea of what you’re working with.
- 20 feet – 75 horsepower – 24 mph top speed
- 20 feet SFI – 75 hp – 25 mph
- 21 feet SLX – 135 hp – 38 mph
- 22 feet 2275rl – 140 hp – 50 mph
- 22 feet RLI tritoon – 150 hp – 38 mph
- 23 feet 2275RCWL tritoon – 250 hp – 51 mph
- 23 feet 2375RL – 225 hp – 47 mph
- 24 feet S tritoon – 150 hp – 40 mph
- 24 feet 24SSLX – 150 hp – 40 mph
- 25 feet 2575 – 225 hp – 40 mph
- 25 feet 2577RFSi tritoon – 225 hp – 43 mph
- 28 feet QR27 – 250 hp – 51 mph
- 22 feet Cruiser 200 – 90 hp – 26 mph
- 25 feet – 150 hp – 27 mph
- 27 feet Crowne SL 250 – 350 hp – 63 mph
- 21 feet JC NepToon 21TT Tritoon – 150 hp – 38 mph
- 22 feet JC Spirit tritoon – 150 hp – 35 mph
- 24 feet JC – 90 hp – 18 mph
- 25 feet JC Marine 25 NepToon – 250 hp – 46 mph
- 20 feet – 75 hp – 23 mph
- 21 feet StarDeck – 115 hp – 30 mph
- 24 feet – 90 hp – 22 mph
- 26 feet CX 25 DL Bar – 175 hp – 44 mph
- 21 feet Classic 8520 CrS – 90 hp – 28 mph
- 22 feet Smoker Craft – 115 hp – 31 mph
- 24 feet 8522 LR – 150 hp – 30 mph
- 26 feet Eclipse 8523 LR DH – 250 hp – 50 mph
- 16 feet Bass Buggy – 40 hp -15 mph
- 18 feet Bass Buggy – 75 hp – 21 mph
- 20 feet Bass Buggy – 60 hp – 26 mph
- 21 feet PB – 90 hp – 38 mph
- 22 feet – 115 hp – 25 mph
- 22 feet fishing barge 22 – 90 hp – 33 mph
- 22 feet Regency 22 – 115 hp – 25 mph
- 22 feet Regency Party Barge 22 – 115 hp – 31 mph
- 27.5 feet Party Barge 254 XP3 – 200 hp – 45 mph
- 18 feet – 25 hp – 10 mph
- 20 feet 2086 – 50 hp – 15 mph
- 21 feet 2286 – 50 hp – 20 mph
- 23 feet 2386 – 115 hp – 25 mph
- 24 feet tritoon – 150 hp – 44 mph
- 20 feet 8520 Cruise – 50 hp – 19 mph
- 20 feet Cruise – 115 hp – 29 mph
- 21 feet 8520 C&F – 150 hp – 39 mph
- 23 feet 8522 tritoon – 150 hp – 38 mph
- 24 feet tritoon – 150 hp – 35 mph
- 24 feet 255RFX tritoon – 115 hp – 27 mph
- 25 feet X-25C – 150 hp – 36 mph
- 27 feet 255RFX tritoon – 250 hp – 41 mph
Can You Buy Faster Pontoon Boats?
Make no mistake, some pontoon boats go very fast. Let’s take a look at some of the fastest you can get your hands on right now.
The Playcraft PowerToon X-Treme
PlayCraft’s PowerToon X-Treme boats come in several different models. There are a few tweaks to performance but these are usually able to hit 60 mph to 65 mph without any augments whatsoever. Mind you, you’re looking at a price above $225,000 as well, so they don’t come cheap.
South Bay Supersport 925
This boat boasts a stunning top speed of 90 mph. Not a lot of pontoon boats will ever give you whiplash, but this one will try. It doesn’t come from the manufacturer at that speed, that requires a little tweaking, but once it’s in place you’re looking at a speed demon on the water. In 2012 one got over 112 mph with a triple engine rig.
South Bay 925CR Tritoon
With three Mercury Pro Max 300x engines installed, this boat broke a record in 2015 by hitting 114 mph. My personal recommendation is not trying to reach that speed. It’s pretty amazing that the boat stayed on the water, to be honest
What Could Be Slowing My Pontoon Boat Down?
Like we said, not every pontoon boat is going to hit those listed speeds in the charts. So what is holding a pontoon boat back on the water when the speed on paper is higher? There are a handful of things that slow a pontoon boat down.
Overgrown Pontoons: This is one that some boaters don’t consider at first because it’s out of sight. Dirty pontoons affect speed. Your pontoons, like the underside of any boat, will attract algae, barnacles and more. Because of the size and shape of pontoons this can get worse than it can on a standard bottom boat. Tritoons are affected even more because of the extra tube. What happens is the layer of algae, if it’s allowed to get too bad, becomes like a thick, fuzzy carpet you’re dragging through the water. If it’s really bad, and you have long algae and maybe barnacle growth, you can literally drop 15 miles per hour or more in speed as a result. So if you’re not getting the speed you need, check and clean your pontoons.
The Bimini Top: A bimini top is a great thing to have on the pontoon boat on a hot and sunny day to provide shade. But as you start moving, if that top is still up, it becomes like a drag chute. You can expect your top speed to drop by as much as 3 or 4 miles per hour if you have the top up while you’re trying to hit speed. If you’re heading into the wind it can get even worse. You’ll be working your engines to the max and seeing really poor results. So if you feel you’re going to slow, make sure you take that into consideration.
Engine Mounting: This is a tough one for newer boaters. You have a new boat and you need to mount the pontoon engine. You head back to the transom and take a look and there’s three or four ways you can mount it. So which one is right? You can absolutely pick the wrong one and your performance will suffer. Too high and your props won’t be in the water when you’re at speed or turning. Too low and you have a bad angle. You need to make sure you mount the boat’s engine as the manufacturer recommends for optimal performance. That said, if you find it doesn’t work well in that position, maybe it’s sitting too low, you can always change it after and see if it makes a difference to your speed.
Weight: The strength of a pontoon boat can also be its downfall. The size and space really make you want to make the most of the space. There are pontoon boats literally called Party Barges, so the idea is to pack on people and have fun. Even if you aren’t having parties, if you have a pontoon boat it’s probably to have family or friends on board so you can fish or cruise in comfort. So pay attention to just how many people you’re bringing on and how much gear you have. Most average speeds have been calculated with a medium load. It’s surprisingly easy to cross over the maximum load capacity of a pontoon boat without realizing, especially if your forget things like the fuel tank. And it doesn’t need to be so heavy you sink the ship. But you can weigh it down enough that it’s too low in the water which will greatly reduce speed.
Wrong Prop: The prop affects speed. Some people love to fiddle with their boats even when they’re not sure what they’re doing. This can be especially damaging when it comes to changing propellers. If you have the right motor on your pontoon, it probably has the right propeller already. If you’re an expert in this sort of thing already then you’re probably not even reading this article and know what prop might give you better performance. But if you’re not, think twice about swapping propellers. A 4 blade propeller might give you better acceleration, but you’ll suffer more drag overall and go a little slower. Likewise, a big prop could increase the pontoon’s speed for you, even if acceleration suffers. As you change sizes, RPMs and so on you may gain in one area but lose in another.
The Bottom Line
Pontoon boats are definitely not speed boats and they have a reputation as being safe, reliable boats for family and parties. And while that’s true, a pontoon boat is also usually able to hit the speeds you’ll need to ensure you can still have fun out on the water as well. One pontoon boat captain may keep the pontoon boat’s speed way down. Another may push it to the limit. . Make sure you check the top speed of the new pontoon boat you’re interested in if you want to know for sure whether it will meet your needs. With speeds that range from 10 mph to 114 mph there’s obviously a lot of wiggle room there. As always, stay safe and have fun.