Pontoon Boats vs Deck Boats. Which One is Right for You?
If you’re shopping for a new boat, you’ve probably already figured out that there are a plethora of choices. Where do you start? Do you know what your perfect day on the water already entails?
Are you looking for a vessel that will have enough space for the whole family including Fido? Is a smooth ride important or are you ready to take on the chop of big water? There are a couple of boats that will cover all those bases and more.
As you begin to narrow down your choices you may be contemplating two different types of boats. You may be wondering, what’s the difference between a pontoon boat and a deck boat?
Pontoon boats and deck boats have evolved over time to be more modern and sleeker than ever. Both offer a lot of similar qualities, but there are a few stand out differences that may make or break your buying decision.
As a long time pontoon boat owner and team member of Barletta Boats, I’ve got insight into what’s trending in the boating industry and what you can expect from newer products. Here are my thoughts on pontoon boats vs deck boats.
Important to Know
Deck boats were popular years back when they were the solution to having a speed boat that could fit a large group of people. This type of boat had the qualities of both a fiberglass bowrider and a pontoon boat.
People gravitated towards deck boats because they hold a lot of people, have high horsepower engines, and you can use them for different watersports. They were considered the best of all worlds.
In today’s market, deck boats have lost some of their shine due to the innovation of pontoon boats. What you wanted from a deck boat in the old days is now overshadowed by the features found in the pontoon boats of today.
Not only are deck boat brands becoming sparse, but the evidence shows that pontoons are trending far more. You will find more pontoon brands exist now than ever before, and the number of deck boat brands continue to decline. Check out the evidence in this trend graph that compares both searched terms on Google.
That being said, let’s take a look at what makes these two boats different. This should give you an idea of where you stand with deck boats and pontoon boats.
Comparable Features Between Pontoons and Deck Boats
Styling is one of the standout differences between pontoon boats and deck boats. When it comes to styling, the choice comes down to your preference.
Do you prefer a fiberglass hull or aluminum toons? Deck boats have a fiberglass V hull body style whereas pontoon boats sit on aluminum toons high up out of the water.
This feature drove a lot of the popularity for deck boats specifically in intercoastal areas. Fiberglass holds up well in saltwater whereas the pontoons of yesterday were not suited for this type of exposure.
Pontoon boats today, however, are built with saltwater users in mind. Many manufacturers offer saltwater safe packages or models that are made specifically with saltwater friendly components.
Although deck boats emulate a speed boat or run-about, pontoons have become sleeker and more eye appealing as they have evolved.
The styling of each boat mostly comes down to your preference. You have to ask yourself which type is more eye appealing.
As I had mentioned, deck boats are able to hold a large group of people at one time. Pontoon boats have always shared that quality and actually offer a little more space due to their construction.
The V hull shape of a deck boat offers plentiful seating, but not much walk-around space. The way a pontoon is constructed, the platform-like structure offers plenty of walk-around space throughout the entire boat.
With the amount of seating between both boats, each offers lots of storage under the seats. In-floor ski lockers can be found on both, but pontoons have introduced a new type of in-floor storage.
Newer tri toons offer storage in the center toon. The location of this ski locker offers a large amount of space and can fit long objects such as sand anchors or auger-style anchors.
In all, you get a great amount of seating and storage with both boats. Pontoons will offer more usable surface area that equates to walk-around space as well as seating for all.
The engine is another component that differentiates these two types of boats. Of course, you have a plethora of horsepower options for both, but let’s talk about what type of engine you will get.
Nearly all pontoon boats on the market today only offer outboard engines. These can range anywhere from approximately 25 horsepower all the way up to 450 horsepower.
With the limitation on the type of engine a pontoon can facilitate, this does hinder some watersports such as wake surfing. There is also a limit on horsepower depending on the length of the pontoon.
Deck boats, on the other hand, offer two engine options. These options are outboard and I/O or, inboard/outboard. Unlike pontoons, smaller deck boats can facilitate larger engines.
Depending on your preference and how you choose to use the boat, you may prefer one over the other.
The construction and design of a boat dictate what kind of ride you will experience. Other factors such as length, engine size, and steering options also play a part. With all of that in mind, pontoon boats and deck boats do differ slightly in the type of ride they offer.
Pontoon boats plane out quickly because they’re already sitting on top of the water. The toons, wave tamers, and nosecones take the brunt of the chop and act much like shocks in a car leaving you with a smooth ride.
Deck boats plane out quickly as well due to their V-Hull style bow and flat stern hull. However, this type of structure does not cut through chop as well, which creates a bumpier ride than pontoon boats. Additionally, deck boats tend to "wander" a bit more at lower speeds, making steering the boat a little more difficult.
Sitting higher off the water in a pontoon boat also helps with spray. You are less likely to get wet in a pontoon than you are low to the water in a deck boat.
Because both boat types offer ample seating, they are similar in the sense that large group outings are more than possible. But what can you expect to do with either boat?
Pontoon boats have evolved into a one size fits all type of vessel. Almost every manufacturer offers a plethora of multifunctional floorplans. There’s a layout for any type of boater.
Do you want a bar onboard? You got it. Do you want an arch to ski from? Pontoons have you covered. Do you want fishing chairs and a livewell? Pontoons, pontoons, pontoons.
Deck boats have some similar qualities such as lounge-type seating and watersport friendly features. You can host a large group or family but you will be lacking walk-around space.
Keep in mind, deck boats are limited to the traditional bow and stern cockpits that all fiberglass boats tend to have. Because fiberglass boats are expensive to make, maintain, and store, you won’t see a high number of diverse floorplans.
Although both boats offer similar functions, pontoon boats do offer more multifunctional floorplans. That said, you will be able to do more with one type of pontoon boat than you would a deck boat.
How To Choose
It’s safe to say that deck boats paved the way for the comfortable, functional, gather-friendly boat experience. As pontoon boats have evolved, they have taken the lead in functionality and likeability.
There are a lot of comparable features that will come down to your preference when choosing between the two. Test driving both types will also give you a good idea of what you like best.
If you’re considering a pontoon, you may want to know the pros and cons of owning this type of boat, in that case, we’ve got you covered. If you’re considering a deck boat, you might want to look for different brands that are still being built today as they are becoming more limited.
A great place to start is by finding a dealer near you and walking through both boat types. You will get a good idea of the features offered, price points, and engine options.