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What You Want In A Pontoon Boat

The most important features to look for when considering a new pontoon boat.

September 9, 2005
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Lazy days, cruising idly along, misty glass of iced tea in hand. The shore glides by, a heron stalks a minnow … and … ”Oh, look! The Joneses added a deck to their lake house. Huh, it isn’t as big as our pontoon boat. And our deck furniture is much more comfortable than theirs.”

Pontoon boats are best when delivering boaters from point A to no point in particular. They’re about cushy comfort and elbow room. They’re about viewing nature from something like your living room. We often rate pontoons by the number of built-in cup holders because a secure place for a Pepsi is as important as another seat.

Don’t discount pontoon boats as lumbering beasts. They’re most popular with 40- to 70-hp outboards, but many are now coming with surprising performance options that can feed your need for speed.

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What You Want
1. A comfortable swiveling captain’s seat is the privilege of rank — a guaranteed La-Z-Boy on board.

2. Transom entry allows easy dockside boarding and provides a handy platform for diving or re-boarding with the ladder.

3. Long ladders. A big guy needs at least two full rungs reaching about 3 feet deep to haul himself from the lake.

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4. Bi-toon or tri-toon. Two pontoons are economical and super for cruising with mid-range power. Three ‘toons turn a pontoon into a Steady Eddie, race-ready patio with higher horsepower.

5. We like the outboards in midrange horsepower best for their quiet, economical cruising at all speeds. Big outboards, especially the new DFI models, provide blistering acceleration. Inboard/Outboards are hard to beat for economical, smooth operation at every speed; plus, your neighbor’s long, pointy, go-fast boat may have to eat your wake.

6. Hydraulic steering is a $200-$300 option on nearly every boat we tested. Trust us. Order it on your new pontoon.

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7. If you’re gonna fish, better get some livewells and a trolling motor.

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