Pontoon boats were once slow and steady, but these days, powerful outboards and lots of fancy features means they are definitely upping their sex-appeal. We’re talking waterslides, stand-up bars, sun pads, fishing equipment, watersports tow bars, and BBQs. But they can also come with some eye-watering price tags—luxury models can easily reach $150,000. The trusty float boat is a common feature on the lakes and coasts in summer, and while it’s always been popular, pontoon boating has boomed in recent years.
See our list of pontoon boats for sale.
Fortunately, the pontoon boat market is reassuringly varied, and there are plenty of excellent pontoon brand manufacturers offering good value for your hard-earned cash. The question of affordability is completely relative, of course, so in this article we have used the average price of a new mid-range car in the United States, of $30,000 as a benchmark budget.
Photo credit: Starcraft Marine
What are the best, most affordable pontoon boat brands?
Pontoon boats come in all shapes and sizes, most between 16 and 25 feet long, although there are some pocket-sized 13-footers. There are models designed for family fun, others equipped for fishing or watersports, and most are also serious party boats. Ultra-fast models with huge outboards are suitable for coastal adventures as well as lakes, while others trundle at a gentle pace for relaxed cruising.
When it comes to the many pontoon boat brands on the market, the choice is simply huge. Some of the best pontoon boat brands include Bennington, Harris, Barletta, Godfrey, and Bentley (see our guide to Small Luxury Boats with a Difference) but these don’t sit within our $30,000-price bracket and are considered more upmarket brands. The list of brands producing more affordable pontoon boats is impressively long and includes;
- Cypress Cay
- Pond King
Ways to save money when buying a pontoon boat
The base price is only the beginning when it comes to buying a new pontoon boat, and the dealer will offer you lots of extras and accessory packages. It is here where you can make big savings by being careful about what you add on. With a bit of consideration and frugality, you could bag yourself a high-quality pontoon boat for much less.
- Don’t add unnecessary extras such as lighting packages, flooring upgrades, accent colors or stereo upgrades.
- Choose a less-expensive, less-powerful outboard motor
- Look at the used market and buy an almost-new model whose big depreciation jump has already taken place
Best pontoon brands for fishing
Pontoon boats are often overlooked as fishing boats, but their stability, deck space, and low draft actually make them very good options. Brands are today offering pontoon boats designed primarily as fishing or wildfowl hunting boats, with a whole lot of equipment and accessories as standard. Some great affordable options include;
Best pontoon boats for tight budgets: Pond King
If we told you it’s possible to buy a brand new fishing pontoon boat for around $3,500, you probably wouldn’t believe us. But Pond King, long known for their affordable pontoons, have an extraordinary range of simple, pocket-sized mini pontoon boats. At 10 feet long, with a 3.5-horsepower electric outboard, you and a friend can spend a day bass fishing or duck hunting on a simple but stable rig.
Family friendly pontoon boats: Suncatcher
Suncatcher has a huge range of pontoon boats, and know how to appeal to families who like to fish, with clever use of space, comfy seating, stern fishing platforms, and livewells. You can get yourself a 16- to 20-foot pontoon for under $30,000 which can be used in both saltwater or freshwater, and seats up to 10 people.
Best value for money pontoon boats: Avalon
Avalon’s whole ethos is to produce affordable pontoon boats of extremely high quality, and their fishing range is no exception. Offering excellent value for money you get a large, well-designed platform, the option of a center console, and the range of fishing gear you’d expect from a luxury brand.
Photo credit: Avalon
Best pontoon boat brands for families
Pontoon boats have always been well loved as family boats, offering lots of space, plenty of seating, convenient swim platforms, and room to take along all the necessary snacks, a grill, and water toys. The size, layouts, and accessories vary massively, so the choice is extensive. Some of our favorite, affordable brands producing family pontoons include;
Affordable electric pontoon boat brand: Princecraft
If you’re looking for a quiet, environmentally sensitive family pontoon, then Princecraft’s electric range deserves a close look; surprising to us is that, for a high end brand, it fits well within our budget. Starting at 17 feet, their range offers a beautifully designed, spacious, and comfortable platform suitable for five to seven passengers powered by a Torqeedo electric engine.
Best pontoon boats for versatility: SunTracker
Being able to cruise in different environments and locations is a huge plus for families wanting to trailer their pontoon on vacations, and SunTracker offers a range designed for both freshwater and salt. With a big Mercury FourStroke on the back, they’re great for watersports, have sun loungers to accommodate up to 10 passengers, and a bimini for much-needed shade.
Comfortable pontoon boats: Starcraft
Starcraft has a vast range of pontoons to choose from, and they’re some of the comfiest on the market. With big sofas and plush helm chairs, plus a host of extras including a boarding ladder, swim platforms fore and aft, and lots of deck space, they’re perfectly geared towards families and groups of friends.
Photo credit: SunTracker
Best pontoon boat brands for watersports
It’s not a summer on the lake if you haven’t enjoyed some serious watersports fun, and pontoon boats offer plenty of scope for splashing, towing, swimming, and hanging out aboard tethered inflatables.
Best pontoon boats for large groups: SunChaser
When it comes to watersports, everyone wants a go, and SunChaser has made their sports pontoons with enough space for up to 11 friends and family. With big swim platforms, powerful outboards, and dozens of layouts to choose from, you’re bound to find the one for you.
Top quality pontoon boats: Lowe
Lowe is a big name in the pontoon world, and they offer some seriously affordable, high-quality boats that come in well within our budget of $30,000. With a set-up that allows for watersports and towing, as well as fishing—including a walk-through design, ski-tow arch, swim platform, and powerful Mercury outboards—you’ll be soaring across the lake in no time.
Easy trailerability pontoon boats: Cypress Cay.
While most Cypress Cay pontoon boats come in above our budget, their 17-foot models are perfect for putting on the trailer and spending a day at the lake enjoying watersports. While they’re not hugely over-powered, they still pack a punch and offer lots of fun on the water tubing and swimming.
Photo credit: SunChaser
Best value pontoon boat brands
Choosing an affordable pontoon boat doesn’t mean you have to compromise on quality, and there are many top brands offering high-quality boats for a fraction of the price of their premium models. As we’ve seen, being careful about which extras packages you choose (as well as looking at used pontoon boats for sale) means you can get a high-spec model within our $30,000 budget. Here are some brands offering the best pontoon boats for the money:
High-end accessories: Sylvan.
Sylvan is proud to offer some of the high- end features that you would expect on more expensive boats, but still just within our budget. We’re talking features like seating areas that convert into bars when you’re entertaining, as well as an ultra-sleek design, docking lights, Bluetooth stereo systems, and under-deck and underwater lighting.
Size and space: Berkshire
Near the top of our budget, you can get a 22 foot Berkshire with oodles of deck space and massive corner sofas perfect for lounging and entertaining. There’s a 10-foot bimini, ski-tow bar, and space for 11 people on board with ease and comfort. Berkshire has a reputation for its higher-end models, but this range of good-sized, affordable pontoons is a real bargain.
Multi-use pontoon: SeaDoo
We’ve looked at pontoons designed for fishing, watersports, families, and more, but what about a truly versatile and affordable pontoon? Enter SeaDoo. New to the pontoon market after years of making outstanding JetSkis, SeaDoo’s brand new Switch range offers adrenaline-pumping speed, watersports accessories, and plenty of seating, all in an ultra-compact and easy-to-trailer package (which is included in the price).
Photo credit: Sylvan Marine
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