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Pontoon Boats – Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the pontoon boat and pontoon boating.
Seeing as we here at www.PontoonStuff.com are the pontoon specialists we thought it important to provide a brief historical overview of how exactly the modern pontoon boat came about and who the major players in the pontoon boat industry are. In this section we will also write in great detail about the different pontoon boat manufacturers and provide some comical comparison between the pontoons of the past which were basically barges with cheap pontoon boat seats & furniture and the new pontoon boats cruising the lakes and water ways in luxury and style today.
I. The History Of Pontoon Boats
There are several companies that lay claim to being the originator of the “modern” pontoon boat. Without stepping on anyone’s bragging rights it seems that several companies who had manufacturing capabilities started building pontoon boats in a very small way around the same time.
People familiar with Kayot pontoons tell the story of the owner of this auto parts store wanting pontoon boats for his family. After they fabricated the pontoon boats, people on the lake saw them and wanted one. The Kay Auto Parts Company was forgotten and Kay-Yacht Pontoon was founded later changing their name to Kayot Pontoons by the mid 1950’s. We suspect this may have been the case with many of the early pioneering pontoon boat builders. Aqua Patio – Freeland Co., of Sturgis, MI was making galvanized steel pontoon boats in the early 1950’s and sold to the Godfrey Conveyor Company in the mid 1950’s. Godfrey Pontoons kept the Aqua Patio name and has expanded to become one of the leading manufacturers of pontoon boats in the industry. Harris Pontoon Boat Manufacturing of Fort Wayne, IN was a pioneering pontoon builder with the Harris Flote-Bote. In the late 1960’s Harris rocked the pontoon boat community by installing deluxe upholstered pontoon furniture on their pontoon boats. Sylvan Pontoons of North Webster, IN was a pioneering pontoon boat builder. John Cripe was the founder of the pontoon company and widely accepted as one of the pioneering pontoon designers. Sylvan was sold to the Shrock family and years later John Cripe found JC Pontoons. Weere’s Pontoon Boats of St. Cloud, MN was another early pontoon boat manufacturer; their 1967 pontoon sales brochure proclaims the company’s 15th year which would have dated them to making pontoon boats as early as 1952. Crest Pontoon of Owosso, MI which was founded as Maurell Products by Maurice Schell in 1957 manufacturers one of the broadest lines of pontoon boats in the industry and has done so for more than 50 years.
There are of course dozens of companies building pontoon boats today and there are bound to be others that started early. We will continue to try and build up the history of this great boating past time and welcome any information you may have concerning pontoon boating. Also, we are trying to build up a collection of old pontoon boat brochures. Please contact PontoonStuff if you have any information you’d like to see added to this section. Contact Us
II. Learn About Pontoon Boats
The Pontoon Boat - also known as the "Party Barge" has as a hull constructed of round tubes (called sponsons or pontoons). These pontoons are attached to the outside, bottom edge of a large flat pontoon deck traditionally constructed of sheets of marine grade plywood that are bolted or screwed down to aluminum cross channels that span the width of the pontoon deck and hold the pontoon tubes in place. Some pontoon boat manufacturers are beginning to offer an aluminum pontoon deck as an option to 3/4" marine plywood and in some cases a composite plastic material is used in place of plywood or aluminum. The deck of a pontoon boat is surrounded on all sides by a safety railing referred to as pontoon railing or fence which was originally constructed from 1" square steel tubing. Today's pontoon boats use extruded larger aluminum square tubing which is either anodized or powder coated and covered by coated aluminum paneling that displays matching stripping and graphics and act as framework for the pontoon furniture. The interior of the pontoon boat has evolved a great deal since the first pontoon boat was created. The first pontoon boats were basically platforms with a pontoon console in the center of the deck with lawn furniture for seating or basic bench seats in the rear. The following images display some of the original pontoon boats and the basic design that help gain them the nickname party barge.
The pontoon boats seen in marinas today are a far cry from the ones in the pictures above. Today you can pay up to $50,000 for a top of the line performance tri tube pontoon boat with built in changing rooms, toilets, sinks, bars, fiberglass helm stands and I/O engines capable of propelling your pontoon boat up to 50 knots. Odyssey Marine even built an I/O pontoon boat that set the world speed record for pontoon boats by hitting 84mph!
Two of the most impressive features of new pontoon boats are the consoles which are similar to what you'd find on an expensive cruiser and of course the pontoon furniture and seating which has evolved from very little pontoon seats to the fully furnished pontoon interiors seen today on new pontoon boats. While there are many types and sizes of pontoon boats all of them come standard with deluxe upholstered pontoon boat furniture. The pontoon boat also has a great deal of seating capacity that truly set the pontoon boat apart from other types of boats. With a pontoon boat you can enjoy water sports such as skiing and tubing and you can also fish, cruise and entertain large groups of people comfortably. On a pontoon boat you can take your family out on the water for hours of enjoyment and not feel cramped, it truly is the best family fun boat you can buy and has been one of the only segments in the boating industry that has experienced significant growth. As the average boating consumers has aged it has lead to a desire for a boat that not only will provide the ability to perform well but more importantly allow you to spend time with your family and not have to squeeze into a small runabout or bow rider. A pontoon boat provides the best of all worlds; you can get performance, luxury and space all in one package. Below are some images of new pontoon boats followed by some pontoon boat basics.
6 to 15 people.
Powered by outboard generally between 10 to over 200 hp models and some newer pontoons even come with dual outboards. Today's newer pontoon boats are also available with V8 I/O engines with center tubes for more performance and better handling of your pontoon boat.
12 feet to 30 feet in length.
The hull is constructed of 2 or 3 welded, aluminum tubes (called sponsons or pontoons), tapered at the forward ends to facilitate movement and speed. These pontoons are attached to the rigid deck platform by means of an aluminum frame, which forms a deck made out of aluminum, wood, fiberglass or plastic.
How do you trailer a pontoon boat?
Pontoon boats are very easy to trailer though a special pontoon boat trailer is needed, these are available in either bunk styles which support the pontoon tubes on raised bunks or you can purchase an up/down model that supports the pontoon boat underneath the aluminum frame work of the deck. These trailers are very popular if you wish to set the pontoon boat on the ground or move more than a single pontoon.
It is ideal for taking your family and friends out for an afternoon cruise on small, inland lakes, rivers or other protected waters. Pontoon boats are also a fine, stable platform for still fishing.
Pontoon boats are NOT good sea boats. You want to be very careful when taking your pontoon boat out on larger bodies of water such as the Ocean, the Gulf and the Great Lakes. As an example a customer of ours who recently completely refurbished his pontoon boat with a new deck, pontoon carpet, and new pontoon furniture had his boat crushed by a 6' wave 100' yards off the shore of Lake Erie. The was wave created from 2 large yachts, he was trapped and the wave smashed into the side of his pontoon and tore his pontoon railing off and pulled his new seating out of the deck causing massive damage. It was a complete disaster so please be very careful if you ever try to venture your pontoon out of the safety of inland lakes or small rivers.
New: $8,500.00 to $50,000.00 - with motor (US).
Used: $1,500.00 to $15,000.00 - with motor (US)
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III. Refurbished Pontoon Boats - Remember you can always purchase an older pontoon boat and refurbish it for much less than the cost of a used pontoon boat. As long as you don't over pay for a used pontoon boat which has a good frame, pontoons and railing (say more than $3,000, preferable less if the entire things needs to be rehabbed) In all honesty you can get a great rebuild pontoon boat for around $1,500 if you take a little time looking. There are nearly 1 million pontoon boats in existence and there are at least 400,000 pontoons that are lurking around somewhere in disrepair waiting to be snatched up and refurbished. PontoonStuff.com stocks all the needed pontoon supplies; pontoon boat seats, furniture, pontoon ladders, accessories and seating. Below you'll find some detailed information on what to look for when thinking about refurbishing a pontoon boat and how to go about buying one:
How to check out a used pontoon boats condition:
Buying a used pontoon can be frustrating and often disappointing. Knowing what to look for will help to ease the anxiety. The basic appearance is not the best way to choose the best pontoon boat for immediate use or a project pontoon to fix up.
The most important items are the pontoon logs (sponsons or tubes). The best option is a pontoon boat with aluminum tubes. While fiberglass pontoons are unique and appear a bit sportier they can have problems that are not seen by the casual observer even if they look very closely and you don't want to worry about costly repairs. Metal pontoons can have rust problems that have been hidden by a patch and paint plus these old pontoon boats have smaller tubes and tend to best used as scrap. Aluminum pontoons can look shiny or dull. This does not effect their durability. Anodized aluminum logs often look dull or cloudy. Check each log for any possible punctures not only on the exterior but also under the pontoons deck, if the pontoon tubes have valve stems in them you can pressurize them and spray a soapy solution around the welds to check for leaks. Check the strength of the fins on the front of the tubes. These fins often take abuse when docking and trailing. Holes and fins on aluminum tubes can be repaired by any welding shop but you want to make sure the cost and extra hassle is covered by a lower price for the pontoon boat.
The next important items are the pontoon fencing and aluminum trim pieces. These can be replaced if necessary; however, the cost is usually very high. The color of the panels can be changed if they are not desirable by simply painting over them and using new decals. The condition of the square tubing is of highest concern as it is impossible to get a matching piece of fencing and finding new railing in general is a tremendous task. Check the trim around the edge of the deck and the corner caps and note if any are missing, the corner caps can be replaced easily and we stock them at www.PontoonStuff.com. Matching the exact same trim can be nearly impossible but you can have new trim made by an aluminum fabricator or purchase some extruded aluminum from a local aluminum extrusion distributor. Remember that the custom aluminum pieces, like the tubes, railing and side trim are the hardest things to replace and it is usually better to look for another pontoon boat if any of those things are in such bad shape that they cannot be repaired easily, if you need to replace a tube or any of the railing look for another pontoon boat.
It is important to get on the deck of the pontoon and look around. Even a nice looking carpet can hide a rotting deck. The deck will likely have rot closest to the fence where it mounts directly to the deck. Water tends to gather there and through the years the water breaks down the wood fibers. Most of the weight on a pontoon is in the back because of the motor. This causes the deck to be higher in the front when it is in the water. The deck will be more likely to have problems in the back half of the pontoon because of this. If there is pontoon furniture on the pontoon open it up and look inside of each piece. Walk up and down the center of the deck. If the deck seems spongy it may need to be replaced or will need to be replaced soon so take this into consideration. Remember, for between $1500 to $2500 the deck, furniture and carpeting can all be replaced with quality pontoon seating, marine plywood and new marine carpet.
Sit in the captain's seat and look over the steering console. When sitting in a pedestal seat check to verify that it swivels with little difficulty. Turn the wheel (make sure the motor is clear of other objects first) to determine its condition. If the wheel takes a lot of effort to turn the steering may need to be replaced. The steering system can be a little more stiff when the pontoon is not in the water or has not been used for a while. Pull the switches to see if they are operational even if there is no battery hooked up. If there is a battery hooked up check the lights, horn, and accessories. Note any gauges that may be mounted and ask if they still work.
If the pontoon is being sold with a motor check with the service man that will be taking care of the motor to verify its reparability. Older motors can be hard to find parts for and costly to maintain so it is important that they are in good working condition. Remember that most pontoon boats are not used year round and are stored for half the year so most used pontoon motors will be in fine shape.
If the pontoon comes with a trailer look over its general condition. Check the tires for cracking on the side walls and near the wheels rim. Note the condition of the lights and the winch. Often pontoon trailers don't look like much. The concern is usability not general appearance.
How much a used pontoon should cost is not easy to determine. Even a hot summer will make its value greater. Much of its value is based on the items that may need to be replaced. Add up the cost of the items that need to be replaced and decide if the entire package is still worth the total cost - remember as long as the tubes and railing are in good shape all the rest can be easily and economically replaced and updated.
The pontoon is the most popular boat for the family. Refurbishing an older pontoon can be a great experience the whole family can enjoy. The end result offers satisfaction and endless hours of pleasure without the expense of monthly payments year round for a new pontoon boat.
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II. Pontoon Boat Manufacturers – Pontoon Boat Builders
Okay, so in this section we’ll be listing each company that has built pontoon boats. This list will continue to grow as we learn about more and more companies that have been involved in the pontoon boat industry. At the top of the list will be the largest current manufacturers of pontoon boats followed by the smaller manufacturers of pontoons. As always we welcome your feedback and if you know of a pontoon boat company that is not listed let us know and we’ll update it.
Top 5 Manufacturers of Pontoon Boats
1. Tracker Pontoon Boats – Learn more about their Pontoon Boats
a. Sun Tracker Pontoons
b. Bass Buggy Pontoons
c. Party Barge Pontoons
d. Fishin Barge Pontoons
2. Bennington Pontoon Boats – Learn more about their Pontoon Boats
a. Bennington Pontoons
3. Godfrey Pontoon Boats – Learn more about their Pontoon Boats
a. Sanpan Pontoon Boats
b. Aqua Patio Pontoon Boats
c. Sweetwater Pontoon Boats
4. Crest Pontoon Boats – Learn more about their Pontoon Boats
a. Crest Ultra Pontoon Boat
b. Crest Savannah Pontoon Boat
c. Crest Caribbean Pontoon Boat
d. Crest III Classic Pontoon Boat
e. Crest II Pontoon Boat
f. Crest Sport Pontoon Boat
g. Crest Super Sport Pontoon Boat
h. Super Fisherman Pontoon Boat
i. Family Fisherman Pontoon Boat
5. Premier Pontoon Boats – Learn more about their Pontoon Boats
a. Boundary Waters Pontoon Boat
b. Grand Majestic Pontoon Boat
c. Escapade Pontoon Boat
d. Alante Pontoon Boat
e. Legend Pontoon Boat
f. SunStation Pontoon Boat
g. Eclipse Pontoon Boat
h. Cast-A-Way Pontoon Boat
i. Explorer Pontoon Boat
j. Gemini Pontoon Boat
If you need to install fishing seats or bass boat seats, see our guide here: Install Boat Seats