Pontoon Boats: Fastest Growing Segment in Boating - 06/13/2007
We Test 27 models in all price ranges. Find the Best One for You.

Premier 310 Boundary Waters


The modern pontoon boat has been around for at least 60 years. But over the past decade they have morphed into much more than just Spartan platforms of the past. The best of them are now as well-built and well-appointed as any aluminum boat and most fiberglass boats in their size range.

No longer is the pontoon boat a simple platform for boozy evening cruises around a small summer lake. Now a number of companies are building pontoon boats for fishing, all manner of watersports, and extended river and lake cruising. And buyers are not limited to aging boomers. Young families are increasingly finding them an ideal, inexpensive, and safe way of getting their children on the water with evolving uses as the children get older.

They are ideal for inland lakes, reservoirs, river systems, the ICW, and even protected saltwater bays – on sunny summer days they even appear in western Long Island Sound and the northern Chesapeake Bay. Pontoon boats – just like all other classes of recreational vessels – must meet ABYC standards to receive NMMA certification.

Hundreds of companies are now building pontoon boats because they can be relatively simple to make and the cost of entry into the business is extremely low. But most pontoon builders build only a score or two of boats for the local market, serving the needs of residents on just one or two summer lakes. By-and-large these companies tend not to be NMMA certified, nor do they usually meet the materials and quality standards set by the couple of dozen companies that lead the pontoon industry.

Overall quality, fit and finish, and customer service in pontoon boats stretches from the ridiculous to the sublime, so buyers must choose carefully. It is a competitive market and many companies make price their strongest selling point, something to remember if that is your primary buying criteria. Of course, the quality of construction and fit and finish of the lower-cost boats usually falls well short of the higher-end vessels. Price-boat owners may have to deal with corroded hardware, faded cushions, or failing electrical systems must sooner than owners of higher-end craft.

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to view the 27 pontoon boats that we have tested during the last couple of years from companies secure enough in their product that they allowed our captains to get aboard and put the boats through their paces.

Visit PONTOONtest.com.

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