Water Sports - 12 min read

What Size Motor For a Pontoon Boat? (What You Need to Know!)

Town and Tourist

Town and Tourist, Updated November 4, 2022

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Choosing the right motor for a pontoon boat is stressful because of how many factors play a role in your decision. Everything from the length and weight of your pontoon to what you use your vessel for can affect the motor size. Many new and seasoned boaters alike ask themselves: what size motor for a pontoon boat?

The proper size motor for a pontoon boat is at least 40-60 horsepower. However, you need a 100-150 horsepower motor for a 24-foot pontoon or larger in most cases because of the massive weight. You can get by with a 70-90-horsepower motor if you strictly use your pontoon boat for fishing and cruising in lakes and rivers.

Expect to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 to upgrade to a new and more powerful pontoon boat motor. The process takes up to 24 hours split up over 3 days in most cases. Follow along as we explore what size motor you need for a pontoon boat.

What Size Motor Should Be on a Pontoon Boat?

The optimal size of a motor for a pontoon boat depends on the boat’s size, location, and what you use it for. For example, you will need a bigger and stronger motor if you use your pontoon for watersports. However, you also may be limited to a small and considerably weaker motor if you are in an area that restricts your speed.

The average pontoon boat measures 20 feet or longer and requires at least a 40-horsepower motor. Let’s take a look at the important factors that determine what size motor you need for a pontoon boat.

Size

The general rule of thumb is that you need a motor that supports 5 horsepower per 2,200 pounds. Pontoons weigh an average of 2,000 pounds, so a 5-horsepower motor is typically all that you need. However, a 25-foot pontoon boat often exceeds 3,000 pounds, so it could handle a more powerful motor.

While 5-10 horsepower is enough for many pontoons, seasoned boaters require much more power. Any pontoon over 20 feet long can benefit from a 115-horsepower motor. That may sound like overkill, but it comes in handy if you have to haul lots of cargo or passengers. It also opens the door to more possibilities whether it be watersports, cruising, fishing, or even racing.

Budget

It can cost as much as $10,000 to upgrade to a high-power pontoon boat motor. This mostly applies to pontoon motors that max out at 40-60 horsepower or higher. A 150-horsepower pontoon boat motor often costs $12,000 or more depending on the brand and installation costs.

This is still more cost-effective than replacing your pontoon in many cases. However, it is worth replacing your pontoon instead of upgrading the motor if it is 15 years old or older. Some pontoon boats can last up to 25 years, but that is only with regular maintenance and motor replacements.

Some pontoon boat motors need to be replaced after 2,500 running hours. They can exceed 3,000 hours if you routinely change the oil and take good care of them. It is common to replace the stock motor on a pontoon boat, and it’s worth hiring a professional to make sure it gets done right.

Location

Location is everything when it comes to how you equip your pontoon boat. Do you live in an area with rough waters? If so, you can do well with a powerful boat motor that exceeds 100 horsepower. On the other hand, you may only need a 60-horsepower motor if you live around small, calm bodies of water.

It is worthwhile to err on the more powerful end of the spectrum if you have access to multiple bodies of water. That way, you can adjust your speed accordingly based on where you go boating on any given day. It’s nice to have the flexibility to increase or decrease your speed based on water conditions and where you sail.

Purpose

You need more or less power from your motor depending on what you are using your pontoon boat for. People use pontoons for everything from fishing and cruising to racing. Of course, you don’t need an overly powerful motor if you are fishing on small bodies of water, but you could benefit from one if you are cruising or racing.

Racing pontoons typically need at least 115 horsepower or else you will fall far behind the competition. However, you may only need a 70-90-horsepower motor if you are strictly using your pontoon for fishing. This will let you hit 20 miles per hour or faster if the wind conditions are in your favor.

Body of Water

The body of water that you will primarily sail through affects what size motor you need for a pontoon boat. For example, you would need a more powerful motor for a body of water that is rough and choppy than one that is calm. You are also restricted as far as speed goes in some types of water, so a powerful motor may be unnecessary.

Many lakes and rivers put a limit on how many nautical miles per hour you can cruise at. In that case, you wouldn’t need anything more than a small boat motor that runs at 2-25 horsepower. The last thing that you need is a motor that exceeds 30 horsepower if you can’t push it to its fullest potential.

Best Motor For Pontoon Boat

You can get by with any motor that can at least reach 5-10 horsepower. However, the best motor for a pontoon boat if you want to reach high speeds is 150 horsepower. This will broaden your horizons and allow you to race and partake in watersports.

With that said, most budget pontoon boats meant for cruising and fishing have a 25-30 horsepower motor. Pontoon boats with outboards typically start at 40 horsepower which gives you quite a bit more power. You open the door to much more speed once you reach 60-horsepower motors.

Cost To Install a Pontoon Boat Motor

It can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to install a pontoon boat motor. However, it can cost as little as $3,000 to install a pontoon motor depending on the motor and size of your pontoon boat. Factors such as working time, labor, and the age of the pontoon all play an important role in the total cost.

Any upgrade can be expensive for pontoon boats, and adding a fishing well can even cost up to $800. It ultimately depends on how long the job takes and how difficult it is. For example, it may be much harder to replace the motor in an old and rusted pontoon that has spent most of its life in the water.

It can take up to 3 days to replace the motor on a pontoon boat. That explains why the cost often exceeds $5,000 between the parts and labor.

How Fast Can a Pontoon Boat Go?

The average pontoon boat can only go between 20 and 25 nautical miles per hour. This is a perfect speed range for cruising, fishing, and some watersports. Tritoons can usually go much faster than pontoons which can exceed 40 miles per hour.

However, standard pontoon boats can go as fast as 40 miles per hour as well with high-powered motors. You will most likely only be able to reach speeds up to 30 nautical miles per hour maximum with a pontoon if you have a full load of cargo and you’ve reached the capacity. With that said, most boaters don’t need that much power unless they are racing.

What Size Motor For a 20’ Pontoon Boat?

You need at least a 60-horsepower motor for a 20-foot pontoon boat. This will let you go between 25 and 30 miles per hour which is enough for several types of activities. Fishing, cruising, and some watersports are possible with a motor of this size.

This is optimal for tubing, but it may not be strong enough for water skiing. However, your pontoon boat may not be able to go as fast even with a 60-horsepower motor if you are hauling lots of cargo. Pontoons can also lose some of their speed and power over time, especially if the motor is over 10 years old.

What Size Motor For a 24’ Pontoon Boat?

Ideally, you need at least a 150-horsepower motor for a 24-foot pontoon boat. That would be strong enough to move a 24-foot pontoon boat that weighs up to 2,800 pounds. It’s also the right size and power to haul plenty of cargo and passengers which is essential when boating.

Budget-friendly pontoon boats that measure 24 feet typically start at $30,000. However, high-end models with 150-horsepower motors or stronger often exceed $50,000.

How Fast Will a Pontoon Boat Go With a 150 HP Motor?

A pontoon boat with a 150 horsepower motor typically goes 35 miles per hour. However, they can reach speeds up to nearly 40 miles per hour depending on the weight of the boat and how much cargo you have. The fastest that a 150-horsepower pontoon boat can go is 43 miles per hour, but that isn’t the standard.

A 150-horsepower pontoon boat motor costs between $10,000 and $13,000. Such powerful motors are specifically popular for watersports such as tubing and waterskiing. However, a 150-horsepower pontoon boat motor is considered overkill for cruising and fishing because you don’t need to go that fast.

Is 40 HP Enough For a Pontoon?

Generally, 40 horsepower is only enough for a pontoon boat if you are fishing or cruising. You won’t be able to partake in watersports and racing if you have a 40-horsepower motor, however. A 40-horsepower pontoon boat can reach speeds between 10 and 15 nautical miles per hour.

That may not be enough for sailing on the ocean, but it’s perfect for lakes and rivers. You can easily navigate calm waters with a 40-horsepower boat motor. Anglers generally don’t need a more powerful motor unless they are sailing out far from shore.

You don’t typically want to take a pontoon boat out further than 1-2 miles from shore anyway. That is unless you have a much more powerful motor that can travel far distances quickly.

Is 150 HP Enough For a Tritoon?

Standard tritoons have at least a 150-horsepower motor. However, you can find many tritoons on the market that exceed 250 horsepower. Tritoons typically reach speeds up to 45 miles per hour or more because of their size and 3 toons.

The average tritoon weighs much more than pontoons because of the presence of an additional tube known as a toon. This adds to the buoyancy and weight distribution that is superior to a pontoon. Tritoons generally weigh at least 120 pounds per foot when dry, so they need extra motor power.

They are much faster than pontoons which makes them more popular for watersports such as water skiing and tubing. However, they are overkill if you don’t plan on boating through rough waters or reaching high speeds. In that case, a pontoon with a 60-150-horsepower motor is better suited for you.

Can a 40 HP Pontoon Pull a Tube?

You can pull a tube with a 40-horsepower motor, but you won’t be able to reach high speeds. Watersports are possible with slightly weaker motors, but they are much better with 90-horsepower motors and stronger. You may only be able to reach speeds up to 15 miles per hour which isn’t quite enough power for high-speed tubing.

However, this is the perfect speed if you are new to watersports and want to be cautious. Not to mention, watersports such as tubing can be dangerous so there is nothing wrong with topping out at slower speeds. Otherwise, you may want to look for a pontoon boat with a 60-90-horsepower motor for the best tubing performance.

Can You Ski Behind a Pontoon?

You can ski behind a pontoon as long as it has at least a 70-horsepower motor. Otherwise, you won’t be able to reach high enough speeds and will quickly lose momentum. Waterskiing is optimal for any pontoon boat with a 70-90-horsepower motor.

However, many watersports enthusiasts suggest skiing with a 150-horsepower motor. You need to consider the regulations of your location, however, as many lakes restrict your speed. Never exceed 34 miles per hour while waterskiing, especially if you have to make sharp turns. Otherwise, you risk serious injury.

It is impossible to water ski at speeds under 10 miles per hour. You won’t be able to stand or ride waves at such slow speeds, even if it is tempting if you are inexperienced.

How Fast is Too Fast?

Exceeding the recommended motor power for a pontoon boat can be dangerous. For example, it’s dangerous to put a 150-horsepower motor in a pontoon boat that is recommended to have a 40-horsepower engine. You can reasonably do this if you are careful about speed and handling, but it isn’t recommended.

There is a greater risk of capsizing your boat if you put too powerful of a motor in it. You also risk breaching the hull if you approach the shore or shallow waters while going too fast. This can cause your pontoon boat to sink in some cases, and it’s not worth taking that risk.

You also risk penalties if you exceed the maximum speed at a particular lake, river, or marina. Of course, you can also simply drive the boat slower than the motor’s capacity, but that will render your overpowered motor useless in most cases. Stick with your stock motor unless you can freely navigate waters without stringent speed regulations, and if you are experienced.

So, What Size Motor For a Pontoon Boat?

You need at least a 40-60-horsepower motor for a pontoon boat if you want to use it for anything more than fishing. However, you can get by with 5 horsepower per 2,200 pounds of the boat in most cases. A 20-foot-long pontoon boat typically requires a 60-horsepower boat motor.

You need a 100-150-horsepower motor for a 24-foot pontoon boat. However, you may not want to exceed 25 horsepower if you exclusively take your pontoon out onto lakes and rivers with strict speed regulations. It can cost up to $10,000 to upgrade to a more powerful pontoon boat motor and the process can take 3 days or more.

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