View Full Version : Pontoon purchasing suggestions

03-22-2011, 01:59 PM
I am new to the pontoon market - I am looking at selling the MC for a few years :rolleyes: get a new one in a year or two after the family gets a little older.

Thinking I am looking for something in the sub 20K range (or less)
I really want a pontoon boat with plenty of speed to cruse and still economical to operate.. We live 20 miles or so by river to downtown Wilmington and make it in the MC in about 45 min.
I was thinking 4 stroke outboard to avoid a lot of maintenance and make it easier to use it year round...
We need plenty of sun cover for the family as I have a 3 year old and one in the oven :D

I don't have much of a starting point as to the class of boats ie Mastercraft vs Moomba being top and bottom of the range.

Anyone point me in the right direction ?? -- much appreciated.

03-22-2011, 02:20 PM
My family has a Harris flote boat at our lake house in Indiana. It has held up pretty well over the years seeing how it is the first boat dropped in the water in the spring and is the last one pulled when the dock comes out in late fall. It has a cover but spends the entire summer in the water. No tears or splits in the upholstery and the original carpet still looks good. None of the seat bases are loose or need replacing. It has the honda 40hp engine which is a good little engine hasn't had an issue with it either - and it is quiet when it is running. Not sure exactly what model it is, but I would guess it is similar to their Cruiser model now (ours is gotta be around 8 years old now).

03-22-2011, 02:47 PM
In my opinion you dont get any better than a Bennington. Harris is a pretty close second. More important than the brand of boat is the brand of motor. Honda, Suzuki, Johnson, as long as it is a main brand, EFI, and 4-stroke. You are good to go.

03-22-2011, 03:07 PM
Bennington are the MC's of pontoons. My folks have one. Beautiful construction and the fit and finish is top notch. Don't know if you'll be able to find one for under $20, but they are really nice if you can

03-22-2011, 04:05 PM
I agree with barefoot, Bennington's are about the best. I'm not an O/B person but Honda makes a good one. Guy I know here has 28' or so with a good sized Honda, can't feel or hear it when idling. Speed wise it'll probably go 35-40mph.

03-22-2011, 04:29 PM
Might be a little over your budge but you can get it with a blown big block!


03-22-2011, 06:01 PM
If you're looking for a new boat under 20k, about the best you may find is a Bentley. We've been renting them for 6yrs now and havent had any real issues. Obviously not the boat a Bennington or other higher-end boat is, but for the money its a quality ride. I'd go with a 90hp Merc or Yamaha. Not a big difference in 90 and 115 and anything else will get pricey. Our Bentley 24ft with a 90hp Merc runs about 25 mph. Now if you're looking for used, you'll have many more options.

03-23-2011, 08:02 AM
I have a 22 foot Premier which is a great pontoon boat. It has a composite floor and oversize pontoons. It has a Honda 50, 4 stroke on it which is great for cruising around the lake, but I would go with a larger engine if I had to do it again. Probably a 90 would be best especially if you need to go 20 miles to town. Good luck.

03-23-2011, 08:20 AM
Don't get a pontoon, get a tri-toon, they ride much better....try one before you buy a pontoon, you'll be happy you did.

03-23-2011, 11:26 AM
Tri toons dont turn very well. Make sure you drive one. Ive seen alot of people trade in tri-toons to go back to two toons

03-23-2011, 12:03 PM
Great information - Tx!!

TX.X-30 fan
03-23-2011, 12:14 PM
Great information - Tx!!

I am going to the Bennington dealer today to get an idea on price and set up a demo - What is the advantage of a tri-toon?

I didn't even post........:D

03-23-2011, 03:16 PM
Stick with Sanpan or Aqua patio. AP is best value. Go for Honda 90 HP with VTEC. Same engine as in Civic. Bullet proof. If out of budget the new 50 HP VETC is a great value.

I have owned and sold these at a dealership and we never had complaints oe callbacks.

20k may not do it for what you are looking for in a new 'toon and engine,

captain planet
03-24-2011, 10:58 AM
If you are looking for quality of construction in the pontoon world you can end your search at JC. They are tanks. They have U-toons as opposed to cylindrical toons. This gives the deck a flat surfact to be mounted and spreads out the weight over a larger area than a pontoon with cylindircal toons. My parents and my brothers both have JC's and they are rock solid and are both approaching 15 years old or older.

Here is a link to the site describing why a U-toon is better.


Hope this helps.

Panda Cub
03-24-2011, 12:24 PM
we've got an old 28ft tritoon. works good. great for drinking beer, beer bongs, louisville chugger, beer pong, chugging beers, etc.

not much experience actually driving it, we drive it to the middle of the lake, and park it.

03-24-2011, 01:00 PM
A pontoon with plenty of speed is almost mutually exclusive unless you get a tritoon that can get up on plane. You might do better looking for a deck boat.

03-24-2011, 02:43 PM
If you are looking at a honda or suz look just remember if you take the toon on trips anywhere that dealers for those two are tougher to find. If you want to get up on plain you are going to want to be in the 90 to 115 HP. I beleive in the E-tec and Optimax there is only a 400 dollar difference between the two. Merc also came out with a 125 that is 400 more then the 115. All the outboards are great and most will have a 5 year war.

03-24-2011, 02:49 PM
I purchased a Bentley 20' with 50hp 4-Stroke Merc in 2007 (new) and it was just under $20K with single axle trailer and TTL. It was a great boat and used it a ton. The Bentley is a good "starter" boat. Even in the "starter" boat range, you will start to add $$ and exceed your budget if you go larger than 20', 3 toons, and bigger than 90hp.

I just purchased a new 2011 South Bay (Forest River, owned by Warren Buffet/Berkshire) 22', two toon, 115 Merc 4-Stroke last week and it is heads above the Bentley but also more expensive. The 500 series South Bay is a mid-grade boat. I looked at Sun Tracker, Bennington, Harris, etc. and the South Bay fit my needs for now - when I get a bit older and sell the MC and Jet Ski, then I will invest in one of the $60K pontoon boats.

Tri-toons are nice and should be considered if you have to deal with rough water but they add $$.

More HP means more $$. If you have far to travel and you want to crusie in the 20mph range, then 115hp+ is necessary.

More footage adds a LITTLE more $$ but not too much BUT the longer the boat, the more HP it can take and that cost $$.

Once you get over 20' in length, you have to get the tandem axle trailer with brakes (generally required by law) and that starts to add up.

So long story short, with a budget of $20K, you can get a new Bentley with 90hp OR you need to start shopping the used market OR get out your checkbook and be prepared to spend $30K - $50K (or more).

Good luck!

03-25-2011, 05:02 AM
We got our pontoon 5 years ago (24 ft) and loved it so much we sold the big boat and just this year got a smaller ski boat (190). Here's our abridged experiences, for what its worth.

The boat is little older, a 91 or 92. It was low hours, but the upholstery was pretty much gone. I think it was a low-grade material when it was built. After having the seats recovered we really haven't had to do much to it until last summer. For shade it came with a rear bimini, and we added a front bimini from poontoonstuff.com. Now we can shade the whole boat. Great with babies and little kids.

Last summer the original motor, a 90hp Force 2-stroke, gave up the ghost. It served us well for those 5 long summers and we racked up a ton of hours on it. We had always wanted to upgrade to a new motor but never got around to it until we were forced to. After shopping around and reading everything we could, we settled on a 90hp Evinrude E-tec. I know some people don't like them, but for me it was the best choice. I think it was one of the best buys we've made. Its seriously about 1/4 the noise the old one was, and uses very little fuel. The old motor would run through the 12 gallon tank in a weekend of running around the lake. I filled the tank when we put the new motor on in august and didn't add any gas for about 3 weeks. It was crazy.

Long story short, if you're on a budget you might look for an older boat in the size you want and do some updates as time and money allow. I couldn't swallow the 30-40k for the really nice newer poontoons, so it wasn't really an option for us. Would I buy one of those 30-40k boats if I had the cash around? You bet. Since I didn't, we went with the updated older boat and couldn't be happier. The battery-powered blender I found at a yard sale does help though.