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Olivia Hudak

By: Olivia Hudak on March 3rd, 2023

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Pontoon Boats VS Wakeboard Boats (Which is the Best Option)

Welcome to the world of boating where there are a million different kinds of boats to choose from. With so many options, it can be hard to decide which is right for you and your family. On the bright side, there is a boat for every kind of on-water activity. So, how do you determine which is the right boat for you?


I strongly suggest doing your research online before making an off-the-hip decision. In this article, I will help you determine the difference between wake boats, also referred to as towboats, and pontoon boats. I hope to help you determine which of these two boats will fit your lifestyle best. From there, you can start narrowing down your choices and figure out which local dealer to visit.


There are obviously a number of differences between a wake boat and a pontoon boat. Just by looking at the two side-by-side, you will see that there are noticeable differences. However, there may be aspects that you can’t see that do make one of these choices best for your family. 


I want to help you make the best decision when it comes to purchasing a boat. For that reason, let’s dig into the details of wake boats and pontoons to figure out which is the better choice for you.



The biggest difference between a wake boat and a pontoon boat is the performance when it comes to watersports. Wake boats are typically the better option for watersports. However, modern pontoons have stepped up and can also be useful for most watersports.

The big question is, how serious are you about watersports? If you plan to wakeboard leisurely once or twice a summer or take the kids tubing, a pontoon boat is more than equipped for these activities. 


With the progression of outboard engines, you can easily have enough horsepower on a pontoon for most types of watersports. From wakeboarding to skiing, there’s an engine big enough in the pontoon world.   


If you plan to wakeboard most days and possibly learn new tricks, a wake boat is almost a necessity. Because of how they’re built, pontoons can’t produce large wakes needed to jump on a wakeboard. Now granted, these are the two extremes, you’ll need to decide which scenario sounds like you and your family.


Something else to consider is that wake boats are needed to surf. You cannot surf behind a pontoon because of the outboard motor. Wake boats have inboard motors meaning the prop is far enough under the boat to be out of the way. In order to be safe while surfing, you’ll need a wake boat. 


Other inboard boats do exist that can be surfed behind. However, wake boats have all the systems and functions to make surfing easy and fun. If surfing is important to you and your family, a wake boat is 100% the way to go. 


If you only care to participate in watersports from time to time, a pontoon might be a perfect option. You can ski, wakeboard, tube, and foil all behind a pontoon. From personal experience, I can tell you it’s still a lot of fun without the big wake. 


Before purchasing a new boat, you’ll want to consider what is most important to you. If watersports are the reason you’re purchasing a boat, a wake boat may be the better option. If you prefer to stay dry while out on the water, a pontoon might be the perfect boat for you.


Cost of the Boat

Another very important part of purchasing a new boat that you’ll want to consider is the cost. There is often a difference between the price of a wake boat and the price of a pontoon. Oftentimes wake boats are priced much higher than pontoons. There are a number of different reasons for this.


Wake boats have fiberglass hulls with very intricate surf systems on board. These along with other features are used to increase the water sports experience.


Because pontoons are not built specifically for watersports, you won’t find the same technology on board. Also, pontoons are often aluminum rather than fiberglass which contributes to a totally different performance. 


Although there are some pontoons out there that cost more than wake boats, it’s all relevant to how many bells and whistles you’re looking for within each segment and it’s not very typical. Modern pontoons come equipped with many luxury features and options but most of them are not dedicated to water sports.


You pay for what you get. This means that if you buy a cheap wake boat, you could be without those intricate surf systems that make these boats so unique. The same thing goes for pontoons. You could purchase a low-end pontoon, but it might be very basic and lack luxury features.


Considering price is an important step to becoming a boat owner. It is helpful to talk to local dealers who can help you understand your budget and what kind of boats will be available to you.

Group Size

If I had to take a guess, you’re not planning on being the only one to spend time on your boat. Likely you will have family and friends joining you for long days on the lake. It might be worth considering what size group you plan to have on your boat. 


Pontoons, on average, can hold more people comfortably than wake boats. Today, there are massive wake boats that can hold large groups as well, but it might not be as comfortable as it would be in a pontoon. 


If you like to entertain guests, a pontoon is the way to go. There is more room on the deck to socialize. Sometimes wake boats can get crowded if they are filled to capacity. It’s more difficult to move around in these boats compared to pontoons. 


Now, if you plan to keep your group smaller, a wake boat could be the perfect boat for you. These boats can be a lot of fun but if you’re having to step over one another to move around, it can be uncomfortable. 



This part is noticeable even if you’ve never spent any time around boats. The appearance of a pontoon versus a wake boat is quite different. Pontoons have a “boxy” look to them since they are built on top of 2-3 aluminum toons. 


Pontoons are built this way to utilize the most amount of space possible. This is where the comfort for larger groups comes from. There is a lot of room for comfortable seating and less climbing up and down different levels.


Wake boats are built with a V-hull shape that sits deeper in the water to drag which creates a big wake. Since the shape of the boat is so important to its performance with watersports, it’s not built to be quite as spacious as a pontoon. 


Wake boats are crafted to present the person surfing or wakeboarding. Most people sit facing backward in these boats. On a pontoon, you can typically face comfortably in whichever direction you choose.


If you’re hung up on the difference in appearance, take a look at newer pontoon models that include an arch. These are designed to emulate the arches on wake boats and most of them have a weight limit that will allow you to tow someone behind the boat. 



Both are a Great Option

Just from looking at these boats, you can see that they are much different. Once you understand what the functional differences are between the two, you should be able to narrow your choices down quite a bit. 


Once you’ve done your research and feel like you have an idea of what you want, I suggest talking to local boat dealers about different brands. It is also helpful to schedule demos to see what the boat is like on the water. 


Hopefully, with research and help from experts, you’ll find yourself in your dream boat. You’ll be spending countless hours on the water in no time. Get ready for the summer in the best way possible which is by finding your next boat.


About Olivia Hudak

Avid boater and Barletta Boats team member, Olivia is no stranger to the water. She was on the MSU wake team through college and continues to ride the wake in her spare time.