Pontoon vs. Deck Boat: What’s The Difference?

Not sure if you should buy a pontoon boat or a deck boat? Both these boats have their unique features and specialties. In this article, you will discover the many similarities and differences between pontoon boats vs deck boats. Then you will be better informed to determine which style of boat may be right for your needs.

What Is The Difference Between Deck Boat And Pontoon Boat?

So, what is the difference between a deck boat and pontoon boat? The most obvious difference is the hull design. A deck boat is built our of fiberglass (usually) and has a monohull design. A pontoon boat hull is made out of round aluminum cylinders called pontoons.

This isn’t the whole story though…

Let’s dig deeper into the differences between the pontoon boat and deck boat.

The Evolution Of These Boats

Before getting into the basic differences between deck boat and pontoon, we need to keep a few things in mind. Earlier, there were some big differences between these two boats, but over the years, the differences have narrowed down significantly. Pontoon boats, around a few decades ago, were considered to be slower, clumsy and awkward but were used because they were cheaper when compared to deck boats.

If we wish to do a fair comparison between the two, then we should look at the various functionalities and then find out how pontoon boats compare with deck boats. We are listing down some of the main differences between the two boats as far as functions are concerned.

Speed And Performance

Gone are the days when pontoon boats had a maximum of 90 horsepower. Today, you have pontoon boats that come with 115 to 200 HP engines and they are capable of cruising between 40 to 60 mph and even more.

There are some pontoons that are capable of touching three-figure speeds but they are few and far between.

Fastest Pontoon Boat Ever [YouTube Video]

In terms of horsepower and speed, both pontoons and deck boats have quite a few things in common.

  • However, when it comes to maneuverability, experts still believe that deck boats are a better option. If you are looking for speedy features and agility then there is hardly any doubt that deck boats are a better option. Deck boats resemble ski boats and bowriders and therefore they can make sharp turns and also cut through the water at high speeds. Further, deck boats have extra space. But when it is fully loaded, speed or balance might get compromised quite a bit. Deck boats can easily reach speeds of 60 to 70 mph.
  • Water sports lovers: Pontoons with their powerful engines can also be suitable for amateur skiers and tubers, who are learning the first few lessons in various water sports. However, if you are an advanced skier, then it may not be able to offer the kind of pep or excitement that is offered by deck boats. This is because deck boats have engines that can generate up to 300 HP and the v-shaped hull also takes care of the speed that is so essential for water sports lovers. Even for two water sports, deck boats are considered a better option, but new technologies in pontoon boats are trying to bridge this gap as much as possible.
  • Picnics and Other Such Events: Pontoon boats are almost like fenced patios and also floating at that. So, if you plan to spend time on the water and enjoy the best of wine, barbecue, music and lounging, you will find pontoon boats to be a great option. Hence, when it comes to parties and other such events, often people go in for pontoon boats.

Deck boats are roomy in their own way. However, when it comes to replicating a floating patio, it is unlikely that you will be able to match a pontoon boat. Deck boats are more suited for those who love to have some exciting fun skiing, scuba diving and engaging in other such water sports. Both are great in their own right, but as the saying goes, the customer is the king.

Value / Price Comparison

  • Value for money: Pontoon boats could cost anything from $15K to $ 60K depending on the fixtures, fittings and other facilities. Deck boats, on the other hand, are more expensive and the price range could be in the range of $30K and it could go up to $80K and even more. If you are looking for a budget boat, then pontoon is a good option. But, if you have purse strings that are not too tight, then you would do better to go in for a deck boat. The customer again is the right person to decide as to which is a better option based on his or her specific needs and requirements.

Looks, Design, and Style (The Main Differences)

Here are the main differences as far as looks, design and style are concerned.

  • Build and Physique: There could be areas where there could be very little to differentiate as far as the build and physique of pontoon and deck boats are concerned. But there are some obvious differences that can easily be identified. Deck boats are known for their sleek and aerodynamic appearances. They do have a very good aesthetic appeal.

On the other hand, pontoon boats have a more boxy appearance and they also are less nautical in their appearance. However, this difference is getting blurred as new models of pontoon boats are getting into the water.

Size And Space

The average length of a pontoon boat would be around 20 feet. They also have an average width of 8 feet. They also come with two pontoons having a diameter of around 24 to 26 inches. Smaller boats could have a length of around 12 to 14 feet with a width of 7 feet.

On the other hand, the average length of a deck boat would be around 19 to 23 feet or 6 to 7 meters. You also can find shorter ones and also deck boats that come with a width of 8 meters or 26 feet. We often come across small sized deck boats and believe that they are small in size. This is wrong because there can be deck boats that are quite big and in some cases bigger than pontoon boats.

Whether it is a pontoon boat or deck boat, the main objective is to travel in them either for fishing or for other purposes. If you have a big family and friends, then it perhaps might make better sense to go in for pontoon boats. Standard sized pontoon boats can accommodate around 10 to 20 people and therefore they are chosen for large-sized group travels.

Deck boats on the other hand, can comfortably accommodate around 8 to 12 people. This is not a bad deal, considering the fact that deck boats are used as multipurpose water carriers.

Hull, Stability And Ride Quality

The shape and functions of the hull are perhaps areas where there is significant difference between the two boats. Deck boats are known for the trademark V-shaped hulls. On the other hand, pontoons hulls remain flat on the water.

The deck of a pontoon boat balances itself on two or three aluminum tubes. While deck hulls help in cutting through water and are suitable for speed, pontoon hulls may score better when it is about stability in water even during rough weather.

As a boater, you have to choose between speed and stability. If you are the adventurous type of water-explorer then it would be better to go in for deck boats and pontoon boats could be the right choice for those who love parties, barbecues and drinking sessions atop the deck.

How Much Does A Pontoon Boat Cost?

There are many sources of information that could give you the right answer to the question, how much does a pontoon boat cost.

However, as the end-user, you have to decide whether you are looking for a used pontoon boat or a new one. New pontoon boats come in different price ranges. The price could range from $18,000 to $60,000. Here is a list of 3 pontoon boats that could give you an idea about the price.

Pontoon Boat Prices

*Prices offered here as a guide based on a web search for comparison purposes only. These are not recommended prices. Work with your local boat dealer for the best deal on boats.

Sun Tracker Pontoon Boat
  1. 2019 Sun Tracker 18 DLX Pontoon boat comes with a price tag of $17,295.00.
  2. Catalina Cruise 2185 CR is another affordable pontoon that is available for a price of around $22,770.00
  3. Avalon LS Pontoon Boat – 8 feet wide could be suitable for those who are looking at a medium-sized boat. It is available in different variants and the price starts from $19,000.00

Deck Boat Prices

Tahoe Deck Boat
  1. Tahoe 1950 Deck Boat model is a mid-sized boat that comes with a length of around 19.5 inches and a beam length of 102 inches. It can easily accommodate around 10 persons. It is suitable for a small family with friends and has quite a few amenities and facilities.
  2. Stingray 212sc Deck Boat – This is a quality deck boat that is suitable for around 12 people. It can carry a load of roughly around 2600 lbs. It has a fuel capacity of 57 gallons. It is priced at around $44,000.00
  3. NauticStart 223 DC is another wonderful deck boat. Priced at around $51,400.00, it comes with a length of around d 22.7 feet or 6.88 meters. The beam is sized at 102 inches. It generates a maximum horsepower of 225 HP. It can accommodate around 10 people and has a maximum weight capacity of 1854 lbs.

The Final Word

Whether you are leaning towards buying a pontoon boat or deck boat, I’m confident the right boat is out there to fit your personal boating needs.

In thirty years of boating, I have to admit I have never found the “perfect boat”. For this reason, buy the boat you can afford now, whether that is a pontoon boat, deck boat, or some other style of boat.

Get out on the water, discover what you personally like and dislike. If you are a first time boat buyer, don’t feel like you have to buy a “forever” boat the first time out. Just buy a boat and get on the water for a little family and fishing fun.

Happy Boating!