Sun Tracker Party Barge 20 DLX Review
Ian Fortey Updated on March 16, 2023. In Pontoon Boatsby
Sun Tracker has been a big name in the pontoon game for years with their Bass Buggy, Fishin’ Barge and their Party Barge lines. As the name indicates, the Party Barge is a step away from the fishing focused pontoons they may be more famous for, and instead focuses on making the vessel fun for the whole family in a variety of ways. Is fishing still on the table? Of course. But there’s a lot more on offer as well. Regardless, your crew’s size will often determine what you can have the most fun doing and how. Let’s take a look at what makes the Party Barge 20 DLX stand out and if it’s worth your time to have a closer look.
Features and Specs
Because this is a recreational craft it’s really designed with increased versatility in mind. To that end, Sun Tracker has really gone all out adding features that are both useful and fun for a variety of people and activities. This pontoon boat packs a lot into the space it has. Here are some of the most noteworthy:
- 10′ powered Bimini top that features a push-button stow & deploy function, storage pockets, LED lights and a protective boot for storage.
- Indigo blue fencing colors as well as charcoal fencing colors, depending on preferences
- Nylon gate latches and strong, heavy duty hinges.
- LED navigation lights on the port and starboard sides and LED courtesy lights
- Four mooring cleats that fold down
- Sport steering wheel
- Wraparound sport shroud and tinted windshield
- Cooler/storage space located below the console
- Illuminated tachometer, trim & fuel gauges a well as rocker switches
- USB and 3.5 mm console ports for stereo plug in
- Built in footrest
- Tons of storage including what they call the Stow More system which maximizes storage space behind and under seats
- Storage in dual bow couches at port and starboard as well as aft lounge area. You’ll find a lockable storage compartment in the aft as well and lots of underseat storage.
- Helm is a bucket seat with self-leveling arms, high back and reclining feature
- Aft features a full width swim platform
- Removable table w/padded insert, 4 molded-in drink holders & 1 pedestal base location
- Interior lighting
- Wheelchair access gate
- Pressure treated deck
- Full-width heavy-duty extruded Z-bar deck supports that are thru-bolted to M-brackets
- All aluminum transom
- Rear boarding platform with a 4-step telescoping boarding ladder & grab rails
- Reinforced bow structure
- Protective exoskeleton rail & panel system for durability & a quieter ride
- 24″ diameter high-buoyancy multi chambered pontoons w/internal bracing for additional strength
- Rotomolded couches & backs for furniture
- All-welded, all-aluminum extended motor pod with a built-in EPA-compliant fuel system
The Sun Tracker Party Barge 20 DLX offers the 60 ELPT FourStroke Command Thrust Mercury FourStroke as the “standard” engine choice if you don’t make any tweaks but it’s one of 4 motors that the manufacturer offers as options. The other three are:
- 9.9 ELPT FourStroke Command Thrust ProKicker
- 20 ELPT FourStroke
- 90 ELPT FourStroke Command Thrust
Based on the manufacturer’s own specs, the default 60 ELPT would give you 18 – 23 mph while the 90 offers up 23-29 mph. They don’t detail the mph for the smaller engines but, based on the user experience of others the 20 would likely offer you about 10 – 15 under ideal conditions. I couldn’t find evidence of anyone using the 9.9 but I imagine it’s pretty underpowered for a boat this size and, if you had it loaded with gear, you would very likely just be crawling at a snail’s pace.
- Overall length: 21’11”
- Deck length 19’10”
- Deck width: 8’6”
- Max HP: 90
- Max person capacity: 10 people (I’d recommend less, however)
- Max person weight: 1370 lbs or 137 lbs per person on average
- Max weight with gear: 1900 lbs
- Dry weight: 2080 lbs
Design and Construction
As you can tell from the layout with the seating, the overall design of the Party Barge, as if the name wasn’t a giveaway, is for having groups of people on board. The maximum capacity is set at 10 people but keep in mind what I said above. The max person weight is under 1400 lbs which means they expect every person to average out to 140 lbs. That’s a pretty conservative weight estimate. Plus, if we’re being honest 10 people would start to feel cramped on board. I feel like 8 people would be pushing the comfort limits to their extremes but if you have 5 or 6 people on board you should be pretty comfortable and still have an enjoyable ride.
Being a pontoon, it’s built to make good use of that deck space so you and your passengers should feel comfortable and have room to enjoy your trip.
The construction of the vessel makes use of welded aluminum and corrosion-resistant materials to ensure it looks good and stays strong after a lot of use and it’s true, this is a tough boat. Sun Tracker knows what they’re doing when it comes to pontoons and the quality and reliability is as present here as it is in their fishing boats.
The gates are secure, the deck and seats are easy to navigate and deal with even when the boat is in motion and there’s a real sense that the boat is sturdy and well built.
The exterior hull is going to take some abuse like any hull will but it should be able to hold up against some scrapes and dings that weaker boats may suffer. Keep in mind, the hull and the welds are all covered by that warranty so there should be no issues with materials or workmanship and, if there are, the company will cover them. That said, accidents are not covered and you still need to following the manual guidelines for maintenance to keep it running smoothly.
With a name like party boat you expect to be able to party here and that shouldn’t be an issue. You may not be dancing like it’s a night club but with the space and the removable table you can take family and friends out for drinks, a cruise, swimming and some fun in the water, and even a meal. There’s a lot of fun to be had on board.
The storage space also ensures you can easily adapt the boat for fishing if you want to as well. Obviously this is not fishing specific and if your main focus is fishing you’ll likely not find what you’re looking for in this model. But if you’re a casual angler and feel like slowing down to catch a few with the kids, a buddy or whatever, then you can really make the most of this boat by having it serve dual functions.
Performance and Power
As mentioned above, Sun Tracker has four engine options when it comes to this boat. The maximum HP rating on the boat is 90 and their most powerful motor option is a 90 hp Mercury. For my money, I would absolutely choose that option. It bumps up the overall price by $2,000 to upgrade from the 60 hp to the 90 hp but I think it’s worth it.
Sun Tracker lists the 60 hp as being able to achieve 18-23 mph but that’s very generous and probably under ideal circumstances with a very specific weight. If you have the boat loaded down we all know how those numbers change, even if you’re not overloaded.
This isn’t meant to be a speed boat and it’s not one for doing tow sports at any great speed either, so don’t expect to be blazing a trail through the water. But it’s good to be able to get at least some wind in your hair at full speed and for that you’d want the 90 hp Mercury.
The weaker engine options will save you money but I don’t think it’s worth it. If you’re looking for something easier on the wallet I’d probably consider a different boat instead, maybe something smaller. Unless you really only want this boat for very gentle and smooth, soft cruising at low speed, the performance of the weaker engines will likely be a disappointment to most boaters.
Keep weight distribution in your mind when you’re using the boat as well, especially if you’re hitting close to those weight limits. People often forget that even the best pontoon boats can swamp if the weight isn’t distributed well and, with the motor already weighing you down at the stern, if you have too many people and too much gear, you could be lifting the bow and swamping the stern.
If you have never driven a pontoon before, the handling can be a little unusual and it takes some practice to master. That said, Sun Tracker pontoons are very user friendly and the performance is top notch so you should get the handle of maneuvering fairly quickly. Remember, you’re on the water, not in it like a normal v-hull. That means when you hit chop it’s harder to manage because you’re not cutting through waves, you’re riding over them. For that reason you need to be aware of when the weather turns or when you’re around the wake of other boats and act accordingly.
Comfort and Convenience
One thing Sun Tracker has really hit hard is comfort and this boat delivers. If you’ve ever sat for a few hours on an uncomfortable jon boat bench, you will be stoked when you try the reclining helm seat or one of the benches here. Really soft, supple material and comfort at the forefront for you and your passengers.
The boat has been designed to offer a smooth ride and if you hit the water on a calm day you can fall right asleep on one of these benches.
Tons of storage space on board means you should have lots of room for drinks, snacks, towels, games or whatever else you and the family are looking to bring out. If the order of the day is fishing, you can find a way to accommodate that as well. There are no livewells on board but a cooler works just as well for most anglers, and there’s enough space that passengers can enjoy themselves doing whatever they like while another one or two people fish off the bow.
The bimini top is a great added feature for those days when the sun is a little too merciless.Remember, on the water, you have sun and reflected sun to worry about and that can lead to faster burns. The top ensures you can enjoy some shade and relief from those UV rays or brutal heat if it’s bad enough. Makes for a nice tough if you’re out swimming and need a place to relax afterwards.
Safety and Reliability
In addition to the sturdy design features mentioned above, the boat also comes with a horn and fire extinguisher as well as an interior depth of 26 inches. The railings are secure and easy to grab and hold onto as you navigate around the boat even when it’s in motion.
Like any pontoon you’re going to want to be careful when you hit some chop in the water and it’s important to have a life jacket for every passenger just in case. But overall the boat is designed to be sturdy and durable. The ride is smoother than you might expect and you never feel like there’s a big risk of taking a tumble or falling overboard, which is good.
Pros vs Cons
We’ve covered a lot above so let’s break down the pros and cons in a quick point form to see where the boat and its features fall.
- Tons of space not just for gear in all the storage areas but for people as well
- The seating is really comfortable and makes an extended stay on the water relaxing and enjoyable
- The design and look is sleek and enjoyable
- The boat offers decent versatility for entertaining, cruising, relaxing, fishing and more
- Great warranty covers a lot of what you’d want to see and is superior to many other warranties for similar vessels
- This is actually a fun boat to drive so if you’ve never tried a pontoon before, or even if you have, you’ll probably enjoy how this handles
- For some people the price may be a little prohibitive. Also, be wary of buying the boat from different dealers as I have seen the company’s no haggle price greatly inflated without any added features from some dealers. Don’t pay too much if you don’t have to.
- Trailer is not included in the price
- Some of the engine options are underpowered for a boat this size
- The weight limits are not entirely realistic. I wouldn’t recommend putting 10 adults on this boat, just to be safe.
- If you’re a fan of speed you probably want to look at a different boat
Who Do We Recommend It To?
This boat is 100% recommended for families and those who like to entertain. More specifically, those who want to entertain frequently. The value of this boat comes from having enough people on board to use it. So if you’re a family of three or four this might not be what you need unless you regularly bring friends. Or you just want the extra space. But if you think hitting the water with a crew of 6 or more people is something you’ll do a lot, then the Party Barge may be the answer for you.
For those who like fishing, you can definitely fish from the Party Barge but I wouldn’t call it a fishing boat. So if fishing is priority one and recreation is priority two, then maybe this boat is also the wrong choice. But if the reverse is true and fishing is just kind of a fun afterthought, you might find what you need here.
Straight from the Sun Track website you can get a brand new Party Barge 20 DLX for $29,995 which is their no haggle price. That comes with the 60 ELPT FourStroke Command Thrust Mercury FourStroke motor but not the optional trailer. So, compared to some boats of a similar size, you are paying a little bit more but of course you’re also getting more here than you’re getting on a regular, bare bones jon boat or bass boat, as well.
This is a pontoon with a good deal of space and some exceptional features. Plus that 10+ Life limited warranty. There’s a lot that warranty covers and some things it doesn’t so let’s break it down here in terms of value offered.
- 10 year bow to stern warranty on factory-installed parts and materials. That means electrical systems, the vinyl upholstery, your bimini top, the livewells, and pretty much everything you can touch as well as the way it works, which is great. The Mercury engine has its own separate warranty covered by the manufacturer and not Sun Tracker.
- Structural and deck warranty covers the pontoon logs, motor pad, deck supports, rails and gates for the life of the boat.
- The warranty can be transferred to a new owner.
- Sun Tracker promises one-stop warranty resolution. So if an issue under warranty comes up, all you need to do is take the boat to a licensed Sun Tracker dealer. Whatever needs to be done from there, so long as it’s a covered issue, they will take care of it.
To be clear, this is a great warranty but there are things not covered as well. Those include:
- Normal wear and tear
- The engine (which is covered by its own warranty), outdrives, batteries, propellers and controls.
- Misuse and improper use meaning anything damage or issues they deem have been caused by operate misuse or negligence will not be covered. That can include improper trailering, failure to comply with local laws, and so on
- Defects caused by a lack of routine maintenance. So if damage could have been prevented but wasn’t, that’s on you.
- Accidents or acts of nature
- Anything repaired by a non-authorized repair person
- Tears in soft materials like vinyl and canvas
- The windshield
- Colorfastness of paint or materials
So you can see the warranty is extensive but not all-encompassing. Regardless, the value of the Sun Tracker warranty is impressive and, compared to many other industry warranties, is actually quite a standout.
Given the price plus warranty coverage and overall quality of the boat, the Sun Tracker Party Barge 20 DLX definitely shows worth and value and if it’s in your price range, I think it’s worth the money.
The 2023 Sun Tracker Party Barge 20 DLX is a spacious recreation pontoon boat. That means it’s a multi-use boat ideal for family get-togethers, fishing and cruising. It offers a lot of storage space and convenient features to ensure your time on the water is enjoyable, as well as fairly smooth operation and performance. Overall it’s good value for the money if you need a boat that is versatile, comfortable, and enjoyable for larger groups rather than just an individual boater or fisherman.
Categories: Pontoon Boats