A pontoon boat can be a great way to get out on the water, whether you’re fishing or just enjoying some family fun. Like any boat, though, they represent a major investment in time and money, and so it’s good to ask as many questions as you can before buying. “How long do pontoon boats last?” is one of the most common, and most practical questions to ask before buying a pontoon boat. Primarily because we want to get many years of enjoyment out of such a large purchase. So let’s answer that question, shall we?
How Long Do Pontoon Boats Last?
New pontoon boats typically last 10 to 20 years, before they need any major repairs done or components replaced. The exact lifespan of your boat will vary based on the brand, building materials, how well you keep up with maintenance, whether it’s used on fresh or saltwater, and how often the boat is used.
Most pontoon boats are made of aluminum, and these will consistently last closer to twenty years, and possibly much longer. Aluminum is very durable and it’s easy to repair if it gets dented or scratched. I recently purchased a 20+ year old pontoon boat that we got several years of fun out of, though it had regular issues that had to be repaired. Nothing major.. but it did seem like there was always something that needed to be repaired. I have since sold that boat and am eyeing a newer one.
Fiberglass boats can last as long as aluminum boats, if they’re properly maintained. They aren’t as easy to repair when they get damaged, though, and so they often last closer to ten years. Again, if you’re willing to repair it when it gets damaged, there’s no reason a fiberglass boat can’t last a lifetime, many people simply aren’t willing to do that.
Are pontoon boats reliable?
Reliability, to a large extent, will depend on the maker of the boat. Pontoon boats are generally considered safer and more stable than other boat styles in rough water, although they are not meant for use in the open ocean. However for most people shopping for a pontoon boat, it will be for lake use only.
Pontoon boats are also easier to maintain than other boats, which makes them a bit more reliable (and ideal for beginners.) As long as you understand some basics about boat maintenance and you’re willing to take the time or spend the money to keep the boat in good shape, your pontoon boat will be very reliable. They’re also great for families as they have plenty of room, even for big families of 8 or more.
Are pontoon boats expensive to maintain?
On average, it costs about $3200 per year to maintain a pontoon boat. That’s factoring in the cost of storage, insurance, licensing and repairs. You may spend less if you have your own storage, although with pontoon boats that’s more difficult than other boats. More traditional boat styles can cost as much as $5,000 per year, but they can also cost as little as $2,000. In other words, pontoon boats aren’t necessarily any more or less expensive to maintain than any other boat.
I know that when I had my pontoon boat a few years ago it was over $2000 per year just for the slip rental, and that was a good deal! Then once you factor in maintenance, gas, repairs, I easily hit that $3,200 mark.
Are pontoon boats a good investment?
Yes and no. Just like a car, the monetary value of a brand-new pontoon boat will depreciate as soon as you take possession of it. That doesn’t make it a bad investment, though. A properly cared for pontoon boat will can last for decades, and that’s decades of fun for you and your family. For plenty of people, that’s enough to make it a great investment.
Basically if you are trying to look at a pontoon boat (or any boat really) as something you can sell down the road and make a profit from, then a pontoon boat is not a good investment. However, if you are simply investing in the happiness of you and your family then I say absolutely! A pontoon boat is a great investment in that regard.
How much do pontoon boats cost?
Expect to spend between $18,000 and $80,000, depending on the make, model, and size of the boat you buy. Prices will also vary somewhat based on where you live and other factors like the motor you buy with the boat. Here are some popular models and their starting prices:
- 21.4’ Lowe 115 ELPT PRO XS Command Thrust FourStroke, 115hp engine – starting at $22,668
- 25’ Tahoe Pontoons Vision Rear J Lounge, 300hp engine – starting at $72,265
- 24’ Sun Tracker Party Barge XP3, 115hp engine – starting at $34,555
- 23.5’ Lund LX220 Pontoon Boat, 200hp engine – starting at $26,422
- 22’G3 Suncatcher X22RF Fishing Pontoon, 115hp engine – starting at $28,500
Remember that boat prices can change based on location and even the time of year, so use these as a rough guide. The price may be different when you actually go to buy your boat.
How much is a used pontoon boat?
If the price of a new boat is just too steep, don’t worry – used boats can be much more affordable. The price will still vary depending on the make/model and condition of the boat, of course.
You can find used pontoon boats for as low as $1200, although they can cost up to $12,000 for more recent models and some even go for as much as $20,000 and higher if they’re in good condition and have lots of luxury features. Bear in mind that the lower the price, the older the boat, and probably the worse the condition it’s in. Some used boats won’t be much cheaper than a brand-new one, if they’re still relatively new and in good shape.
As a real world example, I paid $6700 for my used pontoon boat a few years ago. At the time of buying it, it was over 20 years old. I knew the people I bought it from and trusted them so I was pretty confident in the purchase. As I mentioned above it did have a few small problems, but that’s just part of owning a used boat. All in all I was happy with the boat and I think I got a fair deal.
However I will definitely fork over some more cash for a newer boat on my next purchase. It’s worth it not to have to worry about getting stuck on the lake and needing a tow to the marina (that did happen once and it wasn’t fun).
What to look for when buying a used pontoon boat
- Inspect the hull – look for cracks, dents, or patches
- Check the furniture and flooring – these are the first things to wear out
- Deck space – 16 to 19 feet will comfortable fit 8 passengers, for instance. If you want more passengers, you need a bigger deck
- Motor is in good working order – a boat is only as reliable as it’s motor
- Make sure the seats are comfortable
- Take it for a test drive – if the current owner won’t let you test the boat on the water, that’s a huge red flag. Walk away.
- Drive it around the lake for a little while, then cut the engine and let it sit. Then restart it to make sure it will fire back up.
Should I buy a new or used pontoon boat?
If you’re still having trouble deciding between a new or a used pontoon boat, we can help with that. The decision isn’t an easy one and there’s no one right answer.
Buying a new pontoon boat
New boats have a lot going for them. For starters, they’re brand-new, so they’re in great condition. They likely won’t have any major maintenance issues for a long time, the motor will run great, the fabric on the flooring and seating will be perfect, etc.
Plus, the boat will still be under warranty for a while so any issues that come up in the near future should be fixed for free. If you buy new, you know you’ll have at least a decade and likely a good bit longer with your boat.
The downside, of course, is cost. New pontoon boats are expensive, and they depreciate immediately after being purchased, so once you’ve paid for it you’ll never be able to get all that money back. In that sense, it’s just like buying a new car. Really though, it’s worse than buying a new car because of seasonality. Used boat values fluctuate pretty wildly throughout the year, used cars will hold pretty steady.
Buying a used pontoon boat
A used boat, meanwhile, is very affordable. Starting off at around $1200, they’re a tiny fraction of the cost of a new boat, and they don’t depreciate the way new boats do. If you buy a used pontoon boat and decide you’ve made a mistake, you can sell it and get most, if not all, of your money back. It’s a much less risky purchase.
That said, to get a used boat for $1200 you’ll be buying a boat that was built in the 1990s, or even much older. One thing I’ve learned about used boats though, is that the actual year of the boat sometimes doesn’t mean much. It’s the age of the motor and the condition of the boat and hull that really matters.
As long as it’s been maintained well, you can still get a very sturdy, reliable pontoon boat. But, you don’t really know how well the previous owner kept up with the maintenance, and you don’t know how much life that boat has left in it. It’s possible you’ll only get a year or two of use (which translates to months because of seasonality) out of the boat before you have a major issue.
What’s more important to you? If you want to save as much money as possible, or want to experience pontoon boat ownership before really investing a lot of money into, buy used. Or, if you’d rather have a boat that you know will last you decades, and you don’t mind spending the money, buy new.
If this is your first boat purchase and you aren’t even sure if you’re going to be a “boat person”, then I say buy used.. but buy a nice used pontoon boat. Don’t just look for the cheapest one you can find though. Then if you love your new used boat and decide you want an upgrade, you’ll be a lot more knowledgable in your next pontoon boat purchase.
Pontoon boat FAQ
Can pontoon boats flip over?
It’s very unlikely. The double or triple hulled design of pontoon boats makes them incredibly stable, even in very rough conditions. Extreme weather conditions may, in rare cases, flip a pontoon boat, but you shouldn’t be out on the water in such weather anyway.
Can I leave my pontoon boat in the water?
If you live in warm climates, you can leave your boat in the water year-round, provided you haul out periodically for cleaning. If the water freezes where you leave, you cannot leave your boat in the water during winter.
Is it OK to beach a pontoon boat?
Yes, just be careful. Avoid beaching in rocky areas, raise the trim on your motor, and go slow. You should experience no problems this way. Most pontoon boat owners beach their boats regularly and never have any trouble.
How deep does the water need to be for a pontoon boat?
Two feet of water is enough for most pontoon boats, but always check the owner’s manual for information specific to your boat. Some boats may need more depth, especially larger models. Bear in mind, too, that if your boat is carrying a lot of weight it will sit lower in the water. This effect is less pronounced in pontoon boats, but it still happens.
Is it difficult to drive a pontoon boat?
No; in fact, one of the reasons pontoon boats are so popular is that it’s fairly easy to drive them.
How much weight can a pontoon boat hold?
Most pontoon boats can hold about 2,000 pounds, although this does vary with the size of the boat.
Can you go fishing in a pontoon boat?
Absolutely you can! However I suggest a good trolling motor if you choose to use your pontoon boat for both leisure and fishing.