Trip Ideas - 12 min read

How Much Does a Pontoon Boat Cost? (Includes Factors To Consider!)

Dennis Howard

Dennis Howard, Updated October 10, 2022

Pontoon boats are a great addition to your summer outdoor recreational activities. These platform-style boats lend themselves to various popular activities with many families. From water skiing and fishing to evening dinner cruises with cocktails and a sunset, pontoon boats make great memories.

New pontoon boats typically cost between $18.000 and $60,000. However, used pontoon boats range from $3,000 to $25,000 depending on the condition, location, and age of the boat. The larger the pontoon boat, the more accessories and features you add, and the larger the engine, the more the cost goes up.

Pontoon boats come in a variety of styles, designs and with a dazzling array of accessories and features. Pontoon boat costs are determined in large part by the condition, size, features, and accessories that you want on your new boat. Every manufacturer has different levels of boat models with corresponding price levels.

What is the Average Cost of a New Ponton Boat?

A survey of boat dealerships across the United States reveals a wide range of pricing on comparable pontoon boats. This leads us to believe that the location where you purchase the boat can have a big impact on the price you may pay. Sometimes, it may save you money to travel a few hundred miles to purchase a new pontoon boat.

National Averages

On average, the typical pontoon boat you see on any lake in the United States cost about $35,000 new from the dealer. We found that the average price for the same boat can vary as much as $5,000 up or down depending on where you are shopping and which dealership you choose.

Where to Shop for the Best Price

Many people believe that shopping at large dealerships is a better choice because they handle more inventory and can offer deeper discounts. We found that smaller boat sellers who deal with one manufacturer often offer more competitive pricing than the larger dealers. Less overhead seems to be the driving factor in this difference.

Does the Brand of a Boat Affect Cost?

There is a significant difference in the price of pontoon boats based on the brand name of the boat. Pontoon boat design is fairly generic. There isn’t a lot of difference between the designs. However, we found that comparably equipped pontoon boats from different manufacturers could have a $15,000 price difference. The difference in these cases can be attributed to using cheaper materials or less expensive manufacturing technologies.

What Factors Influence the Cost of a Pontoon Boat?

Manufacturers are always looking for ways to cut costs and improve product prices. This is true for boat manufacturers as well. Several important factors go into the overall price of a pontoon boat. You should be aware of how different options can affect the price of a new pontoon boat when shopping.

The Condition of the Boat

Just like purchasing a car, the decision to buy a new or used pontoon boat is critical. A new pontoon boat averages about $35,000 dollars on the showroom floor. A two-year-old pontoon boat that has only seen the water a few times and has been well cared for by the owner can cost you as little as $10,000. In many instances, a newer used pontoon boat may be a much better purchase than a brand-new one.

Opting to purchase a used boat requires more attention to detail and doing a bit more due diligence than purchasing a new pontoon boat. If possible, get the service records for the boat and motor to ensure that the equipment has been properly maintained. Talk to the previous owner if possible. Ask if the dealer provides a warranty on the used boats they sell. Your goal is to protect yourself.

Related Read: How Much Does a Pontoon Boat Weigh? 

Length of the Pontoon Boat

Bigger almost always equated to more cost, especially when you are considering boats. The average pontoon boat sold in the United States is 20 feet long. Shorter boats in the range of 17 feet are becoming more popular as families move to smaller vehicles for towing. On average, you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,500 per foot for a new pontoon boat, depending on your chosen accessories.

You should also consider your tow vehicle when you are deciding how large a pontoon boat you want to purchase. Most pontoon boats average between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds on the trailer. This is not much of a towing load, but a pontoon boat presents a lot of wind resistance. Make sure your vehicle can handle the loads before you purchase your boat.

The Floor Plan and Layout of the Pontoon Boat

Many people think of pontoon boats and big flat floating platforms. More and more, manufacturers are offering different options for larger pontoon boats that can create virtual living spaces on the water. Smaller pontoon boats typically have a console where the captain steers the boat. Larger and more expensive models may have couches, benches, and chairs. Some may even have restrooms.

You can order a pontoon boat built to your exact specifications. Designing the layout of your pontoon boat can be an exciting option, but it must be remembered that every additional feature added to the platform of a pontoon boat adds to the overall cost. In some cases, you can add $15,000 to $25,000 to the basic cost of your pontoon boat by just adding options to the floor plan.

Propulsion Systems

You must have a way to drive your pontoon boat across the water. Most pontoon boats depend on one or more outboard motors attached to the pontoon hulls. It is estimated that an outboard motor can be as much as half the cost of a pontoon boat. As an example, a 150-horsepower outboard motor averages about $12,000 dollars. Large pontoon boats may have two motors, one attached to each pontoon. Not only does this double the upfront cost of the propulsion system, but it also doubles the maintenance and can double operating costs.

Depending on what you want to do often dictates how large your outboard motor must be. For recreational boating, smaller outboard motors may be fine. If you want to water ski or go long distances on large lakes, a bigger and more powerful outboard is required.

Trim Level

Just like automobiles, boat manufacturers have trim levels that can impact the price of their pontoon boats. Different trim levels often include a set of standard options. As you go up the trim level classes, the number of additional features and options tends to increase in both price and luxury.

Trim levels on pontoon boats can include things like the paint scheme and colors, the quality and luxury of the seating and other furniture, a folding Bimini cover or a hard top, and even entertainment packages like sound systems. Typically, there is a $3,000 to $5,000 dollar price difference between each trim package. Again, you can add $12,000 to $15,000 dollars to the price of your pontoon boat with upgrades to the trim level.

Other Features and Options

Your salesperson may also try to sell you on a number of other features and options that can impact the price of your new pontoon boat. One major factor is the trailer. Most boat manufacturers include a very basic trailer with their pontoon boats. However, most boat dealers will attempt to sell you an upgraded trailer that can add between $3,000 and $7,000 to the total package price of your new boat.

Don’t forget all of the other required equipment you will need to make your pontoon boat safe and legal to operate in most states. The boat must be inspected and registered, outfitted with life jackets and flotation devices, and have fire extinguishers and warning devices such as air horns. Outfitting a new pontoon boat can add several extra thousands of dollars to the cost.

Related Read: 15 Best Pontoon Boat Brands Available

Other Costs to Consider When Buying a New Pontoon Boat

Many first-time pontoon boat purchasers are shocked when the final deal sheet is presented after they make their selection. They often find that in addition to the advertised price or the quoted price for their new boat is several thousand dollars more on the deal sheet than what the salesperson quoted. There are several fees that aren’t included in the advertised price of most pontoon boats.

Dealer Preparation Fees

Just like purchasing a vehicle, boat dealers charge dealer preparation fees for each boat they deliver to a customer. Dealers explain these fees in different ways, but in most instances, they are trying to recover the cost of uncrating or un-packaging the boat when it is received from the manufacturer, cleaning and detailing the boat for the showroom or lot, and the cost to install any additional options they add to the boat.

Generally, dealer preparation charges cover labor costs the dealer incurs to ready the boat to be shown and sold. Dealer preparation charges average between $500 and $1,500, depending on the size of the boat and the dealer’s location. In some cases, your dealer may negotiate a bit on the dealer preparation charges, but don’t expect to get much relief.

Related Read: 8 Best Places to Buy Used Boats

Freight Charges

Most pontoon boat dealers purchase their inventory from the manufacturers based on taking delivery at the manufacturing site. This means the dealer is responsible for the cost of having the boats delivered to the dealership. Some dealers have their own transport, while others contract with the manufacturer or an independent trucking company to deliver the boats.

Transportation costs have become quite volatile, and it is typical for boat dealers to recover the transportation costs for a new boat by charging a freight charge at the time of the boat sale. In most cases, dealers are unwilling to negotiate these charges.

You might save some freight charges if you are willing to pick up your custom-ordered boat yourself at the manufacturer. You will assume the liability for transporting the boat home and must perform the tasks usually done by the dealer to prepare the boat for its first use.

Taxes

Taxes are a fact of life. Most states charge a sales tax on the purchase of a new boat. It is the responsibility of the dealer to collect these taxes and pay them to the taxing authority when the title to your boat is transferred to your name. There is no getting around the tax issue.

In addition to sales tax, some jurisdictions charge personal property tax on the purchase of goods that are considered luxury items. This designation often includes boats. Where you decide to register your boat can make a big difference in how much tax you pay on the sale and on a recurring basis.

Don’t forget that your boat trailer must also be titled and registered, which often incurs another set of taxes and registration fees. Again, the dealer is responsible for collecting these fees and taxes so that they can transfer the boat trailer title to your name and get the appropriate registration and tags.

Related Read: Do You Need a License To Drive a Boat?

Accessories

The advertised price on your boat may not include any accessories added to the boat by the dealer after it is delivered. One example of this is the items required to make the boat legal to operate in most states, such as a warning device or air horn, fire extinguishers, and flotation devices.

Upgrades to outboard motors, control and steering gear, and trailers are also items that may find their way onto the extra charges that you see on the bottom of the deal sheet and are not included in the advertised price of the boat.

How Much Money Do I Need to Save to Buy a Pontoon Boat?

Most lenders have a minimum down payment percentage on new boats. The amount of cash you will need to make the down payment is dependent on the total cost of the boat. On average, lenders will ask for a 15 percent down payment on a new pontoon boat purchase.

Your Credit History

If your credit score is reasonably good, the less down payment you may be required to make to purchase a new pontoon boat. A good credit score will also lower the interest rate on the financed portion of the borrowed money.

Arrange your Own Financing to Save on the Down Payment

In some cases, if you arrange your own financing, your preferred lender will make you a better deal on the financing than the dealer-quoted financial package. Having pre-arranged financing with your personal lender allows you to negotiate with the dealer almost like you were paying cash for the boat. This can be a powerful position under some circumstances.

Are Pontoon Boats Cheaper than Standard Boats?

In general, a pontoon boat, compared to a standard boat of the same length, is cheaper to purchase. There are several reasons for this disparity. On the whole, pontoon boats are quicker and cheaper to build than fiberglass hull sport boats. Pontoon boats tend to have smaller outboard motors than a comparably sized sport boat which makes them cost less.

However, on larger and more luxurious pontoon boats that are festooned with extensive options, complicated layouts, and high-end options, the prices can approach those of both traditional sport boats as well as deck boats of comparable size. For the price, a typical pontoon boat offers the best price per square footage of deck space of any type of boat on the market.

Shopping for Your Pontoon Boat

Anyone with a budget between $5,00 and $60,000 dollars can find a pontoon boat to meet their needs. If large deck space, stability, and a slower pace of boating meet your style, pontoon boats can be great choices. The typical construction of most pontoon boats means a relatively long life with few problems for the pontoons and hulls, making deck boats great long-term recreational investments.

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