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The 5 Best (and Affordable) Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats are having a moment. These sturdy, comfortable vessels are ideal for entertaining friends or a day of fishing on the lake, and you can even use them for certain watersports.

You’re probably wondering how much work it takes to maintain one of these watercraft. And, of course, price is a factor as well.

We found five of the best, most affordable pontoon boats on the market. If you’re itching to get out on the water, keep these rides in mind.

Let’s dive in!

What Are Pontoon Boats?

If you spend a lot of time on lakes or rivers, chances are you’ve seen a pontoon boat. Unlike their deck boat cousins, pontoons don’t have a v-shaped hull. Their hulls consist of two side-by-side floats. Since the floats cause them to sit higher on the water, these boats are generally easier to board and exit than other models.

Most pontoons have large decks perfect for big groups, and many contain enough room for lounge chairs and other furniture. They also make great vessels for fishing, snorkeling, and waterskiing. 

Best of all, pontoons are some of the safest boats money can buy. Their square construction keeps them steady even in rough water. And because they’re usually built with high railings, you won’t need to worry about a child or pet falling overboard.

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Women in pontoon boat
Cruise about a lake or river on a pontoon boat.

What Is the Most Common Size Pontoon Boat?

These boats come in all kinds of sizes. The smallest pontoons are 15 feet long, while the biggest can be as long as 30 feet. The average size for this vessel is between 20 and 25 feet. You’ll need to think carefully about the size before buying a pontoon boat.

The size of your craft will determine your storage method. Make sure your vehicle has the towing capacity for the size you choose. Consider how many people you want to fit on the boat, too. A 15-foot model accommodates up to five people, while a 30-foot model fits more than ten.

Size also matters if you plan to use your vessel in specific ways. Are you planning to stick to small lakes and rivers? A modest boat is fine. But you’ll need a larger size to withstand the big waves and choppy waters of big lakes or the ocean.

Are Pontoon Boats High Maintenance?

Pontoons are perfect for boaters who don’t have the time or patience for lots of upkeep. In fact, their design makes them easier to maintain than other models.

Most of these crafts have aluminum hulls that don’t rust easily, and their increased height makes them less susceptible to damage during trailering. Even the pontoon boat’s outboard engine is easy to access and repair.

Of course, low maintenance doesn’t mean zero maintenance. Water vessels need routine checkups just like cars. Get your boat looked at every year or after every 100 hours of use, whichever comes first.

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Pontoon boat on the water
Pontoon boats are great low maintenance boat options.

#1 Lowe Ultra 180 Cruise

The Lowe Ultra 180 Cruise is just under 20 feet long and accommodates up to nine people. It has a Mercury 25ELPT FourStroke engine, a 6.6-gallon fuel tank, and anti-feedback steering. It features fold-down seats and lounge benches with under-seat storage.

A four-step ladder makes the Ultra 180 Cruise easy to access when getting in and out of the water. This model has a nine-foot top to keep passengers cool and shaded. The consoles also get sun protection thanks to a gel coating that prevents cracking and discoloration.

The Ultra 180 Cruise base model starts at $19,445.00.

#2 Sea Doo Switch

The Sea-Doo Switch is a compact model measuring just 13 feet. It’s also one of the most unique compact pontoons on the market.

Unlike many pontoons, this boat doesn’t have an outboard engine. Instead, it features a Rotax 1630 ACE with 100 horsepower. The Switch has a distinctive handlebar steering system and a Polytec triple-log float system. And the deck is just as nifty: thanks to a proprietary tile system, you can move chairs and cupholders wherever you want. This makes fitting items like toolboxes, coolers, and fishing equipment a breeze.

The Sea-Doo Switch base model starts at $17,999.00.

#3 Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 18 DLX

The Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 18 DLX is 20 feet long and seats up to eight people. You can choose different motors, but the base model features a Mercury 9.9 ELPT FourStroke. This vessel also comes with a 32-gallon fuel tank and no-feedback steering.

Like the Ultra 180 Cruise, the Bass Buggy 18 DLX has a nine-foot top. It has under-seat storage and perks for fishermen, including a livewell, rod holders, and fishing chairs. This boat is even equipped with fun extras, like a Bluetooth stereo and built-in LED lights.

The Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 18 DLX base model starts at $20,475.00.

#4 Starcraft LX 16R

Starcraft’s LX 16R measures 17 feet in length and seats six people. With a modest 40-horsepower engine, this model is best used for cruising and socializing. But what it lacks in speed, it makes up for in comfort!

This ride has plenty of room for lounging, including three plush couches and a captain’s chair with armrests. There’s a five-step ladder and swim platforms for easy water access, and cup holders and a shade top ensure you’ll stay comfy all day.

The Starcraft LX 16R base model starts at $20,299.00.

#5 Bennington 20 SLX

Bennington’s luxurious 20 SLX is 21 feet long and accommodates up to eleven people. The base model comes standard with a Yamaha FourStroke 50-horsepower engine but can handle up to 115 horsepower. Its fuel capacity is 21.4 gallons.

This is another model that’s designed for lounging and relaxing. The 20 SLX includes plush benches, seats, and couches with under-seat storage, plus a shade top to keep you out of the sun. It also features a built-in stereo and LED lights with more than a dozen color modes to keep the party going.

The Bennington 20 SLX base model starts at $24,599.00.

Is a Pontoon Boat Right for You?

Pontoon boats are roomy, fun, and functional. Whether you like getting your friends together for a lake day or prefer the silence of early-morning fishing, this style of boat can do it all. The low price point of these vessels is another reason to consider buying your own.

Just remember to plan ahead and select the pontoon that’s right for you. Before you know it, you’ll be on the water enjoying fun in the sun.

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