Pontoon boat sizes range from as little as 15 feet to over 30 feet, with assorted sizes suiting different purposes. Fortunately, choosing the right size doesn’t have to be complicated. Different deciding factors including storage, carrying capacity and intended function will most likely determine the exact size you need.
There are several questions you should ask yourself when deciding on pontoon boat size. For example, where will you store it when it’s not in use? How many people are coming with you on your adventures? Where are you going? What do you want to do when you get there? Answering these questions will help you determine the best type of pontoon boat for you.
Towing and Storage
First, you need to think about where you’ll store your boat and how you’ll move it. It’s a real disappointment to buy a new boat only to realize it’s too big for your dock or too long to fit in a trailer.
For transport, check the towing capacity of your vehicle. Add the weight of a pontoon boat to the weight of the trailer needed to move it, and make sure the combined weight is within your vehicle’s towing capacity. To ensure safe transport, the boat should be able to fit completely within the trailer.
For dock storage, take the measurements of your dock space before purchasing a pontoon boat. When measuring a boat, remember to include the length added by the outboard motor (typically 2 to 3 feet).
Pontoon boating is more fun when friends and family come along. Before you buy a boat, consider how many people you expect to carry on it. For one to five people, a 15-foot-long boat is sufficient. For six to 10 people, you’ll want something in the range of 16 to 21 feet. If you want to take along an even bigger crowd, you should consider a model that’s 21 to 28 feet long.
In general, smaller boats are preferable for small, calm bodies of water. Small boats can navigate smoothly through shallow lakes and rivers. If you’re planning to take your pontoon boat to an area with no large waves, a model that’s between 17 and 22 feet long is appropriate.
For the ocean or lakes with significant wave action, a larger boat is needed. Large pontoon boats are less agile but more stable, which makes them better at handling rough water. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in large bodies of water, look for a model that’s between 23 and 28 feet long.
Some boating locations restrict the types of boats permitted based on size. The rules vary from state to state, so be sure to check pontoon boat safety rules and size restrictions based on your local area.
Pontoon Boat Activities
Once you know where you’re going, you need to decide what to do when you get there. The range of options for pontoon boat activities is growing, and it’s important to get the right size for the right experience.
Some people are passionate about fishing, while others consider it a casual hobby. If you belong to the former group, you want a pontoon boat around 22 feet long. If you’re bringing lots of gear along — fishing rods, coolers for your catch, and so on — then choose a large boat with plenty of storage space.
As mentioned previously, sizes vary depending on what body of water they’re designed for. If you’re sticking to freshwater fishing in lakes and streams, a small boat can handle the job. If you’re going fishing in the ocean, you’ll want a larger size.
But let’s say you find yourself wondering, “What size pontoon boat do I need if I want to fish and relax?” In that case, you can save some money by buying a smaller boat. Pontoon boats in the 18-to-20-foot range can comfortably handle a typical pleasure cruise with occasional fishing, especially if only a few people in your group want to fish.
For activities like swimming and snorkeling, you don’t need to worry about storage space. Simply count how many people are coming and pick a boat based on the suggestions given in the “Carrying Capacity” section above.
Activities like water skiing or scuba diving are a different matter. If you’re bringing a lot of equipment along, you need to make sure you have enough room to accommodate your gear and all the people who will be on board.
For wakeboarding, water skiing, or anything else that requires the pontoon boat to pull an object through the water, there’s a very important factor to consider: the motor. A motor for these water sports should have at least 90 horsepower. Anything less won’t be strong enough to effectively pull your equipment. Larger, more powerful motors are preferable, but a bigger motor requires a bigger boat to carry it. Choose accordingly.
Sunbathing and Lounging
Maybe all you want to do on your pontoon boat is relax. In that case, the main size factor you should consider is deck space. You don’t need a big motor or lots of storage space if you’re just planning to hang out on the boat with your friends or family. Instead, you’ll want a large deck and comfortable seating.
Find Your Perfect Boat
You’ll encounter a dizzying array of pontoon boat sizes on the market, and knowing which one to buy can be tricky. Luckily, the decision process can be broken down by considering the factors detailed above. Check out Avalon’s newest pontoon models and find the boat that’s right for you.