By: Ashley Lizzi on March 16th, 2021
Choosing Your Pontoon Boat Series (AKA Trim Levels)
Have you ever been introduced to something new that your friend just bought and thought immediately, I need that thing? Then, when you went to purchase that item, you were shell shocked by the price tag?
Never in your wildest dreams did you think this magical gadget could be so incredibly expensive and out of your budget. This type of situation can be the ultimate letdown. Here you are, falling in love with something that you cannot justify paying all that cash for.
This can happen in the boating world easily. You get comfy in your friend’s big new pontoon boat and bam, reality hits that it’s out of your budget.
I’m here to help you avoid that heartbreak. As a member of the Barletta Pontoon Boat team, I’ve got the inside scoop to help you understand what different series, classes, or trim levels, mean for your shopping experience.
Here’s the breakdown of what qualifies different classes. This should help set your expectations based on your budget.
I want to first explain that the trim levels, sometimes referred to as classes or series, offered in the pontoon boat market emulate that of automobiles. There’s a class that meets any criteria and most manufacturers will offer a wide variety of choices.
With each trim level, you will see that the number of standard features will change. This is one of the main factors behind how a certain “class” is formed.
With cars, the higher-end trim packages include more luxe features such as sunroofs, heated seats, and high-grade technology. That same thought process goes into the high-end trim levels for pontoon boats.
Different trim levels will include different standards, different options offered, and sometimes different construction. If you’re looking for a fully loaded, high-end pontoon, you will want to shop the brand’s top trim level or class.
Just the same, if all you need is a simple boat with only the most important features, you may want to shop a couple of tiers down from the high-end trim level.
Price Points Make all the Difference
The first thing to ask yourself when deciding between pontoon boat trim levels is, what's my budget? Knowing this before you start shopping will help curb that heartbreak I was talking about in the beginning.
If you’re in tune with how much you’re willing to spend, you will have an easier time narrowing down which classes to explore. If you’re unsure where to start price-wise, you might try building a few pontoons online to get a feel for different price points.
You might be surprised to learn how much a pontoon boat costs and how many standard features are included at each level. Having an idea of base model pricing will help you understand which trim level you should choose.
Just like with cars, the price will increase with each step up. That’s because there are more features included as you go up in trim levels.
Standards at Each Level
Standard features will be the factor that fluctuates the most between series. The necessary standards will run through a brand’s entire lineup much like DNA. What sets the different classes apart are the extras you will find as you shop the higher price points.
Comparing this notion to a car, the high-end trim levels will include things like a sunroof, heated seats, and leather interior. The same goes for pontoon boats, you can find a plethora of upgrades as you level up.
Some examples of this are high-grade furniture, wireless phone charger, digital controls, GPS units, high-power audio systems, and the list goes on. These items are upgrades to the initial features offered and in turn, are more expensive.
If you are shopping for a boat that’s fully loaded with high-end features, you are looking for the top tier of trim levels. Be prepared, this level does come with a high-end price tag.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, most all pontoon boat manufacturers offer budget-friendly, feature-rich trim levels that will meet anyone’s needs and stick within certain budgets.
With the evolution of today’s performance pontoons, the bar is higher than ever for feature-rich boats. The best way to get more for your money is to find a manufacturer that includes more standard features and fewer options.
If you find that you’re shopping a brand and they offer a ton of options, you’re getting less value with each class. Options will add up in a hurry, so don’t be surprised if the base model you thought you were getting is pricier than when you started.
Depending on the brand of pontoon boat, some manufacturers will offer more or different options for the higher trim levels. That’s because these top-tier boats tend to be built differently and can facilitate features like bigger engines, arches, and more storage.
You will find that most manufacturers who offer multiple different trim levels will build the pontoon boats differently between classes. Again, this is very similar to the auto industry, so it should not come as a surprise.
The construction of a pontoon will be similar between all classes, but just as with the features, you will get higher-grade construction benefits with the top-tier trim levels.
You might find a heavier built chassis and power assist steering on a top-tier pontoon boat. Construction upgrades like these will enhance the boat’s performance and allow for higher horsepower engines.
Lower trim levels will be adequately built for just about any type of water. However, you will want to look into some of the elevated options if you’re boating on big water.
If you boat on a large body of water with lots of chop, I do suggest opting in for a tritoon versus a bitoon. Most manufacturers are now offering this upgrade in every trim level available.
Today, pontoon manufacturers are innovating at each level. Even the lower-tier classes blow yesterday’s high-end pontoon out of the water. Considered the SUV of the water, you can find a solid-built pontoon boat at every price.
How to Choose….
As I mentioned before, start with a budget. This will help you narrow in on which trim levels to shop. Once you’ve got that figured out, research multiple different types of pontoon boats.
Be open-minded and don’t disregard a brand because it’s high-end. Every brand builds different trim levels, or series, at all price points. Most manufacturers offer a wide variety of classes ranging from $15K-$300K.
If you’re unsure which class you’re looking for, shopping a boat show is a great way to figure it out because you get to see all different classes side by side at the same time.
Remember, just like with automobiles, you will get more with every price point. Plan ahead, make a list of your must-haves, and build from there. I’m sure there’s a trim level that you will find is budget-friendly and meets all of your boating needs.