Pontoon boats are ideally suited for Central Florida waterways in both form and function. The deck is mounted on two or more metal tubes called pontoons. These pontoons (sometimes referred to as “tubes”) are very buoyant and provide a great deal of stability. They also draw very little water and can navigate shallow water well. Pontoons will also accommodate a higher number of people compared to a similar size traditional boat.
Over the last 10 years pontoon boats have undergone a renaissance, transforming once boxy slow moving “Party Barges” into sleek, luxurious, comfortable fast boats. The addition of advance multi-tube designs, new building materials with higher horse power engines has increased the versatility of these boats exponentially. It’s allowed builders to create clever deck plans fitted with all sorts of accommodations, such as expansive lounge areas, stand-up bars, and comfortable seating thru-out. If day cruising with lots of family and friends is what you want to do, pontoons or a tri-toon should be on your shopping list.
Types of Pontoons
Typically they are flat deck craft ranging from 16’ to 32’. They are normally powered by outboard engines but some have stern drive(I/O) power plants. Hull designs are very similar below deck. Above deck there is an extremely wide variety of layouts with accommodations suited to various activities. You’ll be amazed at the choices of manufacturers and boats on the market. Let’s briefly look at a few:
FamilyFun- You’ll find these boats in the 18’ to 24’ range. If sheer relaxation, exploring, or towing tubes is your game, a solid family pontoon has lots to offer. Plenty of lounge space, ergonomic layout, and enough options to keep the whole crew comfortable enjoying a day on the water. You’ll want to stay on the higher end of the engine horsepower to enjoy towing tubes and other recreational watersports. Prices will vary with the size of the boat and motor starting in the low $20’s to upper $30,000.00
Value- A solid, enjoyable pontoon in the 18’ to 22’ range 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. Most will come with lower horse power engines. Low end price points here begin around $18,000.00 topping out in the mid to upper $20’s.
Fishing– Found in the 16’ to 24’ range these boats feature wide open decks, live wells, fishing seats, rod storage and trolling motors. You won’t have any trouble finding a pontoon boat that suits your needs. Pontoon boats also generally have low draft, making them great for getting up into skinny water. Same a value pontoons these boats start in the upper teens and can go as high as $35,000.00.
Luxury- These pontoons are all about comfort. These are normally in the 22’ to 30’ size range. 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. The ultimate “Out Do The Jones” pontoon boat. Expect to see these boats start in the mid- $30’s to over $100,000.00 for a 30’ tri-toon with multiple 300 hp outboard engines. It’s quite a range with some spectacular models to choose from.
Watersport/Performance- Can be summed up as Tri-Toons. Ranging in the 20’ to 26’, by adding an additional tube or larger tubes, lifting strakes and/or keels, under-deck skins, or tubes that are specially shaped to create a planing surface combined with higher horse power engines these boats are capable of reaching speeds 40 to 50 MPH plus. Not only is speed increased, but also handling and maneuverability. This adds more versatility especially for watersport recreations like towing tubes, skiers, and wake bordering. This class of pontoons are designed specifically for the tasks. They often have sports arches with towline mounts, brackets for boards and skis, splashy graphics and interior schemes. Price wise you’ll find these boats in the low $40’s to $60,000.00.
It’s worth noting that most manufacturers today offer this “Tri-toon” enhancement to all the types of pontoons we noted above except the value category. Remember a tri-toon requires higher horsepower engines to achieve the best performance characteristics. This combination can add $10,000 to $20,000.00 to the price of a standard pontoon boat.
What makes a pontoon boat a great choice for Central Florida lakes and rivers is its versatility, ease of operation, comfort and capacity. They’re very well suited to the activities people enjoy like day cruising, fishing, and swimming. Adding the performance enhancement of a tri-toon adds the full spectrum of watersport recreation. The pontoon boat has undergone quite an evolution in the past few decades. What was once a simple boxy floating platform, is now a luxury-laden pleasure-boat that can offer everything from a relaxing day on the lake to invigorating thrill rides. If you haven’t been on a modern pontoon you’ve got to step aboard one to believe just how amazingly advanced—and comfortable—the best pontoon boats have become.
That’s good news for new buyers. Lots of choices means you can find exactly what you’re looking for, whether it’s your first boat or fifth. Lots of choices can require more effort on your part to find what you want. Searching for your first boat is exciting and fun, but it can be confusing. Here at Mt. Dora Boating Center has been helping new boaters get on the water for over 30 years. “Boating Made Easy” is not just a tag line, it’s the way we do business. We take the extra time to learn what experience you want to enjoy on the water than put our expertise to work making your buying and ownership experience as easy and enjoyable as possible. Other sources you might want to research to learn more: