Pontoon boats are the quintessential party boats on the water. It doesn’t get much better than a pontoon unless you’re planning on taking a Carnival Cruise or something along those lines.
A deck boat is a potential competition against pontoons, with a combination of traditional boat features and a more spacious deck design. In fact, deck boat designs were an industry reaction to pontoon boats back in the 1970s.
The primary difference is the v-shaped hull design versus the dual or triple tube design, rather than a pure deck boat vs pontoon boat comparison. Both boats are family-friendly designs and popular with that corner of the market.
Deck Boat vs Pontoon Boat
Deck boats include wide, spacious deck designs built on top of a more traditional, v-shape hull design. While deck boats can’t match the spaciousness of pontoon deck designs, manufacturers get pretty creative.
Deck boats normally feature wrap-around bench seating designs outlining the inner lip of the bow. There are typically two seats in the center of the craft—one behind the wheel and a passenger seat adjacent to it. An open deck design is featured behind the seats with another wrap-around bench seat in the aft section.
Pontoon boats are entirely about deck design, with a large platform sitting on top of two tubes (toons) or three in the case of tritoons. Pontoon boats typically feature a more open deck design with more space than deck boats, wrap-around bench seating, and a ton of standing or storage space.
Pontoon boats provide manufacturers with more creative options in terms of seating and luxury designs.
Differences between the two
The primary difference between pontoon boats and deck boats is the design of the hulls and how they handle on the water. Pontoon boats don’t handle nearly as well as the v-shaped hull design on deck boats. However, pontoon boats aren’t made to handle better on the water.
Pontoons have a lot more storage space as well, with a higher weight capacity than deck boats. Deck boats maneuver better on the water and are capable of going much faster than pontoons.
Speed & horsepower
Pontoon boats have an average speed of between 25 and 30 miles per hour. They have a very shallow draft and lack stability in choppy water. They don’t cut through the water nearly as well as v-shaped hull designs. They are best for calm days on a lake or slow maneuvering on a river.
Deck boats are much faster and more streamlined than pontoons. The average deck boat is capable of reaching 50 to 70 miles per hour. The v-shaped hull slices through the water and provides better stability in rough water. Pontoon boats also lack the horsepower of their deck boat cousins.
Weight & capacity
Pontoon boats carry between 10 and 20 people, depending on the deck size and whether it’s a triple-tube or double-tube design. Deck boats can carry between 8 and 12 people, and capacity is related to nothing more than the size of the deck boat.
Pontoon boats have a higher weight capacity as well, thanks to their buoyancy and shallow draft.
The available space on a deck boat is often surprising to some. The seating is generally arranged in such a way that it’s both out of the way and convenient for a lot of people to sit comfortably at once. However, a deck boat’s space can’t compete with a pontoon or tritoon boat.
Both are great for parties, but the available space and design features limit the deck boat when it comes to additional storage options, such as kayaks, extra inner tubes, and wakeboards.
Unless you are on a calm, slick lake, the deck boat holds the advantage here. Pontoons have a very shallow draft, which means that every little wave affects them. Pontoons are never good in a storm or on windy days when the surface of the water has a lot of chops.
Pontoons plane very well on open, calm water but the v-shaped hull design of a deck boat is much more stable in rougher and calmer waters, slicing through it like a hot knife through butter.
Pontoon boats are just fine for skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding, assuming the model in question has enough horsepower to really get up and going. But the deck boat is much more speedy and versatile for those types of recreational activities, thanks to its speed and maneuverability.
Pontoon boats have a lot more storage space for recreational equipment, such as kayaks, canoes, tubes, wakeboards, etc.
Advantages and disadvantages
Pontoon boats hold the advantage in terms of a pure, party-going experience. The weight and capacity are higher, and there is more space to move around, store recreational equipment, grill out, and just lounge in general.
Unfortunately, they aren’t quite fast enough for a lights-out good time while tubing or wakeboarding, and they lack stability and comfort on choppy water.
Deck boats have less capacity and space, but there is still plenty to love. Just because eight people are a better fit than twelve doesn’t mean it’s a party pooper. They are speedier on the water, which makes tubing, wakeboarding, and skiing much more fun.
The lack of deck space may turn some away, at least those looking for larger family and friend get-togethers.
Choosing between a pontoon boat and a deck boat is not an enviable position. Both crafts have a lot to offer the aspiring water partier. Location probably plays a bigger role in making this choice than anything else.
If you live close to a calm lake where pontoons are prevalent, that’s probably the best choice you can make. If you’re looking for something a little more versatile and resilient on choppy waters (albeit with a little less legroom), deck boats are phenomenal choices in their own right.
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