BE APART OF THE MINORITY – Consider what most people purchasing a pontoon don’t.
Are you in the market for a pontoon boat? Finding the perfect one is no easy task. It can be extremely time consuming with numerous floor plans, options, and brands to consider. With the 2020 Toronto International Boat Show appoaching quickly we want to ensure you’re able to make an informed decision.
The first step is to know what you’re looking for. What kind of water-sports/activities do you want to participate in? How many passengers will you be taking out on average? What types of water bodies do you want to visit? Do you want protection from weather? If you know what you want to accomplish with your pontoon boat before hand, you will be off to a good start.
In recent years, locating the details necessary to make an informed purchasing decision has become increasingly difficult. On average, pontoon manufacturing companies have one page regarding construction processes. The only information that’s being published are the details marketing professionals are confident consumers will pay attention to.
Have you ever met someone who swears they drive the nicest car but don’t know the size of engine underneath the hood? That’s because focus has shifted from ‘how it’s built’ to what kind of social status or experience the product can offer. We’re here to encourage you NOT to buy a pontoon based solely on how it looks. We want you to feel comfortable purchasing because you’re CONFIDENT it will keep your family safe and satisfied for years down the road.
Many companies use the same materials, build multiple brands within the walls of one factory, and are owned by the same parent companies. So what makes a certain brand the best? We’ll show you what to look for with our 2020 Pontoon Boat Comparision.
Here’s the main message we want you to take with you:
2020 Pontoon Construction Comparison Chart
CONSTRUCTION AND QUALITY SHOULD COME FIRST.
During the first few weeks of December 2019 I set out to recreate the 2019 version of Boater’s Chat pontoon comparison. The article goes over a series of important construction features, as well as highlights which brands and specific models exhibit them. You can find a copy of this article at: https://tomdwelsh.com/2019/01/16/2019-pontoon-boat-comparison.
For disclosure purposes, Huntsville Marine is a dealer for Manitou, Suncatcher and Cypress Cay pontoons. The only resources utilized were brand websites and the accompanying brochures. Our best effort was made to ensure the validity of the following information but all individuals are encouraged to confirm any details necessary.
This exercise allows us to mimic the buying process of a consumer and what information they are able to easily access. Some inferences had to be made in order to provide an adequate comparison.
The brands below will be displayed at the 2020 Toronto International Boat Show from January 17th till 26th. The comparison narrows in on mid-level, 23′, 3 tube models. Each unit selected had a horsepower rating close to 250.
Why Does this Matter Anyways?
- Drop in the centre pontoon
Do you care about how your new pontoon will handle? Then you should care about whether or not your centre pontoon has a drop. Manitou is a pontoon manufacturing company that features a v-toon hull. The drop in centre pontoon creates a 5.25″ differential. A Manitou handles like a v-bottom monohull instead of your average pontoon. You will notice that it banks corners better than any other pontoon on the market. This type of hull construction is making pontoon boats one of the most versatile boats you can own.
2. Patented Design
Whether or not a company has a patent on their hull typically signifies the amount of dedication they have towards innovation and engineering. Manitou and Bennington are two examples of manufacturing companies that that have patents on their hulls. In fact, Manitou has such a significant patent, that no other company can make a v-toon quite like they do.
3. Type of Aluminum
This information isn’t always readily available, but if you do come across it, then it would be good to note. Alloy 5052 is known for its ability to be shaped and withstand marine environments. What you will normally see used for pontoon boats is 5052 H34 or H36.
4. Tube Thickness
The amount of wear and tear your pontoons experience is never consistent along the entire length of the tube. Thicknesses should be increased in high impact areas (i.e; transom area and nosecones). As you take off the nosecones experience the impact, and once you’re planing on the waters surface, your transom area will experience the highest impact. If you plan to beach your pontoon often, tube thickness might be something you want to take into account.
5. Chambered and Pressurized Pontoons
How your pontoons are constructed has a lot to do with overall safety. At one point in time, all pontoons had drain plugs in the transom area. If any water got into the tubes, you would pull the plugs to clear it out. This wasn’t the safest method because if a log were punctured it would fill entirely and you’d risk capsizing. Many drain plugs are unable to be pulled while the boat is still submerged in water. Chambers reduce the risk of this happening because only the punctured section will fill up. Pressurization strengthens each chamber and reduces the risk of punctures happening to begin with. Many companies say they have sealed pontoons but still feature a drain plug in case the tubes get ‘condensation’ or accidental water. This is contradicting because properly pressurized, sealed and chambered pontoons have no possibility for condensation forming or water entering.
6. Center Pontoon Extended
You should be assessing whether or not the centre pontoon is extended or if it’s a partial log. Many manufacturing companies call their boats a tri-toon even if the centre log doesn’t extend back to the transom. This component can affect how your pontoon performs… for the handling you desire we suggest getting a hull that features a full length centre log with a drop.
7. Thickness, Reinforcement & Type of Nosecones
As you’re travelling the nosecones take a great deal of impact from the water. We recommend barracuda nosecones, not just for their strength but also for their superb ability to cut through water and enhance the ride. Barracuda nosecones feature multiple keels, these add strength and durability to the aluminum. In addition to the keels, they also feature a thicker gauge of aluminum.
8. Tube Diameter
Do you want to adventure on larger bodies of water or carry large groups of people? If so, this is where tube diameter comes into play. We recommend a 25″ or larger diameter, as well as a v-toon hull if you wish to achieve high speeds comfortably and safely. With a larger pontoon diameter there is more potential for buoyancy, load capacity and better overall handling in rough water.
9. Lifting Strakes
Lots of manufacturers use lifting strakes, but that doesn’t mean they’re using them properly. Many companies are using negative angle strakes, which help the boat plane but also cause a bumpier ride. Positive angle lifting strakes do the same important job, but instead ensure a smooth ride. These strakes help with lift, handling, overall efficiency and performance. For horsepower ratings between 200 and 250+ you should ensure that there are lifting strakes on either side of each tube. Many companies are also using variations of lifting strakes, there is limited evidence online that illustrates the effectiveness of these variations (i.e.; fins, extra-wide strakes).
10. Sealed Transom
This is an easy way to ensure safety, reduce drag and enhance performance. Unsealed transoms readily collect water and have an opening that a small foot could slip through by accident. Only two manufacturers are using sealed transoms in 2020.
11. Type of Crossmember, Number of Bolts and Spacing
If you don’t know what a crossmember is, then now is the time to find out! They are what attaches everything from the deck up to the pontoons on the bottom. We recommend the use of hat channels because they provide the opportunity for two high grade bolts versus the one that a c-channel would exhibit. Your crossmembers should also be placed closer together in areas that experience high levels of torque, this ensures adequate reinforcement.
12. Full Length M-Brackets
G3 is the only pontoon brand that doesn’t require brackets or risers. This is because they have U-Shaped logs that can fasten directly to the crossmembers. With circular pontoons there is no flat surface to bolt the crossmembers so we must use a bracket that raises and connects the deck to the hull. Full risers only feature two points of contact where as ‘M’ brackets have four. Bennington is an example of a company who uses partial ‘M’ brackets and covers them with full length skirting.
13. Underdeck Shielding
When you look underneath your pontoon boat your shouldn’t see your crossmembers. Underdeck sheilding prevents drag by putting a smooth running surface directly under the crossmembers. This is commonly overlooked component and it also protects any controls or wiring from the weather.
14. Maximum Horsepower Rating
For a high horsepower rating the accompanying boats typically feature a higher tier of construction and/or a longer LOA. Larger engines create torsional shift in the chassis of the boat as a result of their torque. To ensure the longevity of your boat and its ability to withstand this constant torsional pressure, a well constructed hull and chassis is necessary.
15. Comfort of Furniture
We agree that being comfortable on the water is important, but we don’t want it to be all you’re assessing in the search for a new boat. There is actually a myth that the softer the furniture, the more comfortable you will be. Often times you will find hard vinyl seats on pontoon boats, this is because there is built in shock absorption foam. With soft seats you run the risk of ‘bottoming out’ when experiencing rough waters.
16. Aesthetic Appeal
Everyone deserves a boat they think is beautiful. Spend an equal amount of time considering your colours as you do assessing the construction. When deciding on wall panels you should ensure the paint is anodized, including the graphics. Many companies use stickers to spice up the look of their boats. Decals are known to peel or fall off when consistently exposed to the marine environment.
17. Dry Weight
The best way to compare contrusction is to compare dry weights. Less weight typically means less aluminum. The type and thickness of crossmembers, grade of marine alloy, diameter of pontoons, and LOA all have an impact on weight. Pontoon boats are not built to be extremely light, and if you find one that is questionably light, you should look more into the construction to ensure it is of high quality.
Critical Analysis – What has Changed Between 2019 and 2020?
Between 2019 and 2020 there has been a significant decrease in construction information made available online. If the information isn’t published on the official brand website, are these companies using marketing to their advantage? Are they trying to avoid the inclusion of important details because it might be a disadvantage compared to their competition?
Some companies are leaving out details such as the dry weight with a performance package upgrade. This is detrimental information that needs to be provided. Without the proper dry weight, the consumer may not know if they are able to safely tow their pontoon.
Legend is an example of a company who has gone consecutive years without providing easy access to construction information. This includes the types of crossmembers, M-brackets, transom type and so much more.
It’s also possible that manufacturing companies may be constructing pontoons to mimic the traditional chambered, pressurized and sealed tubes but instead including drain plugs and vent holes between the chambers.
Condensation cannot form on the inside of properly sealed pontoon because there is nowhere for air to enter the tubes, thus there is no need for a drain plug. If there are holes, the air that might enter the tube is likely to contain water or create condensation.
These are just a couple of examples that illustrate the importance of providing adequate construction information to consumers.
We don’t want you to purchase a boat only to turn around in a couple years and have it be a headache. Take preventative measures to avoid making a bad purchase. You can do this by using knowledge to your advantage and fully understanding your purchase.