Best Inflatable Pontoon Boat Of 2020 (Review And Buying Guide)
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An inflatable pontoon boat is a must-have accessory for avid anglers, waterway explorers, and outdoor enthusiasts. They’re more durable than your basic inflatable and they come without the hassle of a full-size boat. What’s more, they’re relatively inexpensive, easily portable, and incredibly versatile. But which one should you buy?
Inflatable pontoon boats come in a wide range of sizes, with different designs and features, geared towards very specific tasks. The vast majority of these inflatable boats are designed for fisherman, with comfortable seats for long hours of fishing, rod holders, and ample stowage space. Some are designed to accommodate an outboard motor, others have oars. So which one do you need?
We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best inflatable pontoon boat rigs on the market, ranging from small and compact models for putting around the lake to large-capacity vessels that can accommodate two people and handle choppier conditions. Hopefully, something on this list catches your eye—but stick around for our buying guide and FAQ below if you’re still in need of some pontoon-related advice!
Inflatable Pontoon Boat Buying Guide
What Is An Inflatable Pontoon Boat?
An inflatable pontoon boat is a basic type of watercraft that floats using two inflatable pontoons containing airtight bladders, supported by a metal frame that holds the pontoons together and acts as a deck that’s capable of supporting a passenger. Inflatable pontoons are ideal for those who want to experience the thrills and excitement of traveling over water but don’t want the hassle or expense of a full size boat. Inflatable pontoon boats can be inflated and deflated easily, and the frames can usually be assembled and deconstructed in minutes. They’re easy to store, easy to transport, and very stable on water.
Pontoon Boat Uses
Before purchasing a pontoon boat, it’s a good idea to ask yourself what you need it for. The most common users of inflatable pontoon boats are anglers who prefer to fish from the middle of the water rather than being restricted to the bank. If you’re into fishing, there are plenty of fishing pontoon boats to research. If you need space, a larger decked boat will be ideal for you. However, if you need something small and compact to navigate smaller waterways, a small single-seater might be best for you. Similarly, if you prefer to cast whilst standing, a dedicated fly-fishing pontoon will suit you best.
It’s not only fishermen who can benefit from owning an inflatable pontoon boat. Wildlife photographers, ornithologists, and waterway explorers can all benefit from the easy maneuverability and stealthy nature of a pontoon boat. However, it’s mainly fly-fishers who buy them.
Types Of Pontoon Boats
Single Seater Pontoon Boats
One person inflatable pontoon boats are the most common types you’ll find. They’re small and compact, with a maximum load of up to 400 lbs. These smaller boats are easy to transport, and fast to assemble and disassemble. The majority of them are designed with plenty of pockets and storage space, with rod holders and other fishing accessories. Some even have motor mounts for trolling motors. In terms of price, there are budget options starting from under $200, and prices can rise up to and over $1000.
Two-man Pontoon Boats
A 2 man inflatable pontoon boat is a great choice for those who prefer to fish with a friend. By nature, they’re not small, compact, or easily transportable. In fact, most anglers leave these fully assembled and trailer them to their destinations. They offer greater stability and durability, and can accommodate larger motors. They’re far more expensive and in some cases need to be registered with the authorities before being used, on account of their size. This kind of inflatable pontoon boat is better suited for more serious anglers.
Highly Portable Pontoon Boats
While almost all inflatable pontoon fishing boats are portable, there are some that are designed specifically for quick assembly and easy transportation. These kind of boats can easily collapse down into a carry bag and can be carried on your back. These boats are great for fishing in really remote places, but that portability compromises a lot of features. Don’t expect padded swivel chairs, motor mounts, or an abundance of rod holders. Don’t be put off though—they’re excellent choices for anglers who need something small, compact, and with no frills.
Fishing float tubes are not inflatable pontoon boats, but there are a couple that are tube-pontoon hybrids. These hybrids feature a U-shaped pontoon with a chair for the angler to sit in, with their legs dangling in the water. The tube is powered by leg power, with the angler kicking to steer and power the craft—though some have oars and oar locks. These are great boats for calm, flat waters, and for anglers who want something small and hassle-free to cruise around the water on. They lack a lot of comforts that other inflatable pontoon boats have, but they’re generally much cheaper.
Pontoon Boat Construction Materials
Almost all pontoons used on inflatable pontoon boats are manufactured from heavy-duty, abrasion-resistant PVC materials which have been designed to resist the extremes of hot and cold weather, and endure any potential risks of being submerged over long periods of time. Many pontoons are also treated with a strong outer layer of Nylon for added protection. The internal air-bladders are tough and durable, with punctures rarely being reported. The only thing we recommend noting when it comes to buying a pontoon boat is how the materials are bonded together: with glues, thermo-bonding, or sewn. A bad join literally be the boat’s undoing.
The majority of low-cost inflatable fishing pontoon craft have a deck that is supported by a metal frame. Cheaper options use powder-coated mild steel, which is strong and long-lasting but weighs quite a lot. More expensive choices may feature an aluminum frame, which is lighter and more durable. These frames are usually designed to be slotted and fitted together easily for quick assembly and disassembly. If you’re looking for a cheap inflatable pontoon boat, then a steel frame is the best option. Aluminum frames are even better, but usually more expensive.
Frameless Pontoon Boats
Some argue that the best inflatable pontoon boat type is the frameless kind. These frameless pontoon boats don’t have a conventional metal frame. Instead, they have a series of extra air bladders that support an inflatable deck. The extra air allows for a greater maximum load capacity, and the lack of a rigid frame makes the boat more maneuverable and durable in white water conditions. Plus, with no frame to assemble, it makes storage easy and improves portability. The downside is the price. These are more expensive, but they are worth the extra expense.
Other Features To Look Out For
Buying a personal pontoon boat isn’t as easy as just selecting a model that you like the look of. Even if you’re happy with the type of boat, the construction materials, and the overall shape, there are still a few extra things to consider. Here are some of the often overlooked features that fishing pontoon boats can have that might be useful to you:
Many anglers are quick to look at the maximum load capacity of a boat, but don’t look closely at the storage options available. Luckily, most personal pontoon boat models have plenty of pockets available, and special recesses and storage areas. It’s always a good idea to check the product images before buying to make sure that the boat in question has pockets and storage space exactly where you need it!
Swivel seats aren’t necessary, but they may improve your fishing experience. Some pontoon boats come equipped with 360-degree swivel seats to give you unfettered access to your surroundings, allowing you to fish and cast wherever you want to, without any hassle. A swivel seat might not seem like much, but it could drastically improve your fishing experience.
Rod holders are must have inflatable pontoon boat accessories. Most one man pontoon boats come with these as standard, but it’s important to look at what settings and positions they have. Multiple positing setting are more desirable. Make sure to check before buying!
Distress equipment, SOS signaling tools, life jackets, and other safety gear usually don’t come as standard with most pontoon boats. However, if you’re not a strong swimmer or you’re venturing into more dangerous waters, then it’s a very wise idea to find a boat that has some integrated safety features, or enough storage space to carry safety equipment. Safety first!
A motor mount isn’t always standard equipment on an inflatable pontoon boat. Many of them come with them, but don’t assume that every single one will have the facility. Even if your desired pontoon fishing boat has a motor mount, be sure to check that it can accommodate your motor. Many small one man pontoon boats can only handle a trolling motor of up to 3 horsepower, so do check the specs before investing.
Lastly, make sure you check the dimensions of your pontoon boat. It’s worth noting the packed dimensions as well as the fully assembled dimensions. Ask yourself if it will easily fit in the trunk of your car, or whether it will fit on your trailer. It’s also worth considering your garage dimensions too. Many owners prefer to leave their inflatable pontoon boat fully-assembled at all times, and store it in their garage when it’s not in use. Pay attention to the sizes and make sure you can easily transport and store your new boat.
Legality: Do I Need To Register My Pontoon Boat?
Laws differ from state to state and we recommend that you check with your local authorities before launching your inflatable pontoon boat. Many anglers wrongly assume that pontoon boats are exempt from registration purely because of their simplistic nature, but that’s not necessarily true. For example, in California, even sail-powered vessels over eight feet in length are subject to registration at the DMV. While pontoon boats aren’t sail-powered, it’s still worth checking if your boat is longer than 8 feet.
If you’re operating your pontoon boat with a trolling motor, you will almost certainly have to register the vessel with the DMV or get documentation from the U.S Coast Guard. If you’re using a motor of any kind, electric, diesel, or gasoline, it’s best to assume that registration is necessary.
Registration Documents And Fees
If your state requires that your boat needs to be registered with the Marine Board, you will need a title in order to get registered. The documentation required includes a manufacturer’s statement of origin or bill of sale, an application form for the title and registration, and the necessary fees.
In most states, there is a $50.00 fee for the title, as well as a fee of around $4.50 per square foot of the vessel of in question. Rules vary depending on your location. Be warned though, in busy periods boat registration can take up to 10 weeks.
How To Inflate A Pontoon Boat
Unpack your pontoons and carefully roll them out and unfold them, checking for any holes or tears in the inflatable walls. Be sure to unroll your pontoons out onto a clear patch of ground with no debris or sharp edges nearby.
Prepare The Valves
Remove the protective valve caps from the end of each pontoon as per the manufacturer’s instructions. This will provide access to the inflation and deflation valve. Some valves operate differently, but the majority of them have a spring and pin mechanism opens or closes the air valves.
To inflate, push the spring inwards and turn the pin counter-clockwise. This should lock the valve in position, allowing air to enter but not escape.
Using the correct sized valve adapter and either a hand, foot, or battery-powered pump, place the valve adapter into the end of the pump hose, and connect the valve adapter into the pontoon valve. Begin pumping air into the pontoon until the pontoon is fully inflated. This should be at around 2.5 psi in the main air chambers. Different products have different specifications.
Over time, air can escape from your pontoons, so it’s recommended that you keep a pump nearby at all times. Also, it’s worth noting that different weather conditions can cause your pontoon to increase or decrease in pressure. Avoid exposing your inflatable pontoon boat to extreme temperature changes for the best results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where to put registration sticker on inflatable pontoon boat?
Registration numbers should be placed on both sides of the boat’s bow, on the forward half of the vessel. These numbers mustn’t be obscured by anything, and should be written in bold block letters that are a minimum of 3 inches high. The colors must be highly visible and in contrast to the background color.
If you don’t know your bow from your stern, check our useful boating glossary for more information.
What size battery for my inflatable pontoon boat?
Check the size of the battery box recess on your inflatable pontoon boat for an idea of what dimensions your battery needs to be. A lightweight 12-volt trolling motor battery is powerful enough and light enough to power all one-man pontoon boats. They’re relatively inexpensive too.
What size trolling motor for inflatable pontoon boat?
Most anglers recommend Minn Kota electric motors, especially the Endura 30. It offers 30 lbs of thrust which is more than enough for most inflatable pontoon boats—and it’s small enough to fit in the trunk of your car.