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What is a Pontoon Boat?

The best place to start is with what a pontoon boat actually is. Generally speaking, it’s any sort of boat with a large, flat deck that’s mounted atop two or more metal tubes called pontoons. Boats with three pontoons are sometimes called “tri-toons.” These pontoons—or “tubes” for short—contain a lot of reserve buoyancy and allow designers to create massive deck plans fitted with all sorts of accommodations, such as expansive lounge areas, stand-up bars, and sun pads. Better tube design has also allowed builders to put ever-increasing amounts of horsepower on the stern.

Types of Pontoons

Though you will find a scattering of pontoon boats in coastal areas, they’re most commonly found on inland lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and the like. And their owners use them for all sorts of different activities, from watersports to fishing and everything in between. Let’s take a look at some of the various types of pontoons you’ll encounter and what they’re designed to do.

Performance Pontoons

If you’ve got a need for speed, a pontoon with lots of horsepower on the stern might just be your ticket. These “rocketoons,” as we’ve heard them called, can have as much as 900 ponies. And, with the right performance pontoon package as discussed above, you’ll be carving turns at thrilling speeds.

Watersports Pontoons

You can tow tubers, skiers, and wakeboarders with just about any pontoon that has enough horsepower and some sort of towing pole or mount, but there’s a class of pontoons that are designed specifically for the tasks. They often have metal sports arches with towline mounts, brackets for boards and skis, and splashy graphics and interior schemes.

Luxury Pontoons

Luxury pontoons are all about comfort. Think sumptuous, buttery upholstery and seating arrangements so comfortable it feels as if you’re lying on a cloud. Top-end models have joystick steering, twin engines, huge chaise lounges, full stand-up bars, and cool-looking LED lighting and fencing schemes.

Fishing Pontoons

If your boating adventures have a bend toward the piscatorial, don’t for a second think that you’ll have any trouble finding a pontoon boat that suits your needs. In fact, these boats are great for fishing, with lots of deck space for live wells, fishing rods, and other tackle. Pontoon boats also generally have a low draft, making them great for getting up into skinny water.

Family-Fun Pontoons

It’d be wrong to compare this class of pontoon boats to station wagons, so maybe it’s better to think of them as the SUVs of the sea: they do a number of things well. Whether sheer relaxation, exploring, or towing tubes is your game, a solid family pontoon has lots of lounge space, an ergonomic layout, and enough options to keep the comfort factor high.

Value Pontoons

Like the Honda Civics or Toyota Corollas of the automotive world, some folks are looking for a solid, enjoyable pontoon that won’t drain their kids’ college funds. The good news is there are plenty of models to choose from when it comes to buying a pontoon on a budget. And cheap isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Lots of manufacturers put together perfectly capable and comfy pontoons that will provide endless hours of entertainment, relaxation, and fun on the water—all at a reasonable price.

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