Based on my research of over 200 pontoons and tri-toons at dozens of boat shows and pontoon boat dealerships, I'd say the best pontoon boat is the Barletta Pontoon.
With that said, the best pontoon for the money is a slightly different and more nuanced question.
Did you know there are over 40 pontoon and tri-toon brands on the market today? Some even have sub brands and models, heck some are even the exact same boat with a different logo and name on the side.
How is anyone able to figure out which pontoon or tritoon is best. And, which one provides the best value for your dollar?
Well, in over 40 years of boating, having inspected, operated and ridden on over 75% of the brands on the market today, maybe sharing some of my experience and expertise will help you make a smart decision for your pontoon boating lifestyle.
Now, just in case you think I’m biased, I do not work for or sell any brand of pontoon boat.
I have not been paid by anyone for anything you’ll find in this article. As a matter of fact, if you watch my over 300 video on the Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Youtube channel, you’ll find the information so you can make the selection yourself.
So, with all that rambling out of the way, here are the best pontoons for the money based on the specific size and HP you are considering:
The Best Pontoon and Tri-Toon for the money:
The best pontoons for your money are the Pond King 16′ Elite, SunTracker Party Barge, Harris Cruiser and Lowe Pontoon SS210V.
The best tri-toons for your money are the SunTracker PartyBardge XP3, Harris 22 Cruiser, Bennington S Series, and Barletta C-Series.
See the table below for each category recommendation and why each was selected.
|TriToon w/ 200HP|
18’ PartyBarge DLX
20′ PartyBarge DLX
22’ PartyBarge DLX
22’ PartyBarge XP3
|Lowe SS210V||Lowe SS210V||Bennington S Series|
|Harris 22 Cruiser||Harris 22 Cruiser|
Now, when it comes to getting the most for your money, its not all about the cheapest boat. As we dive into more details, the decision is about what you get for the money and how well the pontoon or tri-toon will support your boating fun.
Why SunTracker PartyBarge and Bass Buggy:
Although SunTracker pontoons are on the cheaper end of the pricing spectrum, they do deliver a good value for boat owners. They are able to sell for a cheaper price for a number of reasons.
They buy Mercury Motors in huge quantities for the all Tracker brands and only offer Mercury motors. This provides an enormous pricing advantage because the motor is a significant portion of the total pontoon cost.
Tracker has built a very streamlined manufacturing process. They do not have a significant number of options in their build process. This efficiency translates into a less expensive build cost. They are able to automate more on the production line and are able to build boats faster cutting down on labor cost.
In addition, they sell via a network of dealers including Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s and Tracker Marine Centers giving them a huge distribution network with a majority owned by Tracker Marine’s parent company, White River Holdings providing them additional scale.
Why Lowe Pontoons SS210V:
Another pontoon that delivers tremendous value is the Lowe base model. Lowe benefits from the economy of scale of being one of the Brunswick Boat Group companies and exclusive Mercury outboard (owned by Brunswick as well).
The base Lowe pontoon has a nice set of standard features that will deliver boating fun without all the extras that tend to drive up cost quickly.
The construction of the foundation is also scaled back slightly with its max HP rating of 150HP. The reduction in quantity of material in the base of the pontoon also leads to a less expensive end product.
Why Harris Cruiser Pontoons:
One of the best manufacturers in the industry is Harris. They have been building pontoons since the 50’ and are owned by Brunswick who also owns Mercury Motors.
Because they exclusively offer the Mercury engines that are supplied by their parent company, there are some efficiencies and cost savings gained. Having to only rig boats for a singe outboard type means less inventory on hand and all boats are designed from the ground up to fit a Mercury engine.
The 2nd reason the Harris Cruiser specifically was selected is because it is their value model. It is build along side pontoons and tritoons that are $20 to $50K more with the same level of quality but just scaled down slightly. And the same as the Lowe pontoon, these are only rated to 150HP on the tri-toon models.
Without all the bells and whistles and more plan options, the price is kept down while the quality is kept relatively high compared to the cheaper competitors.
Why Bennington S & SV Series
Just as the Harris Cruiser pontoon gives you the high level of quality with a reduce price, so does the Bennington S, SC and SV series. You get the prestige and resale value of the most popular pontoon brand on the market today along with a scaled down price without all the higher end appointments in the Q and R Series.
This reduced price is achieved by scaling back the build stoutness and limiting the hardware offered. As with the others in this category, the max HP is 150HP on the tri-toon models where the higher end models are built to handle the torque and abuse of 400+HP ratings.
Why Barletta C Class:
As the most expensive pontoon or tritoon on the list, Barletta was selected because of the overall build quality. In my opinion, they have the best made foundation of any pontoon on the market today. With that construction stoutness comes a higher price tag as well.
And, with their C Class offering, they’ve kept the best part of the quality construction and scaled down the extras to provide a sturdy platform at a much lower cost than their higher end L Class and Corsa Class.
What Every Price Conscious Pontoon or Tritoon Shopper Needs to Know
Now, in addition to selecting the right brand and model, there are other ways to get the most for your money when shopping pontoons and tri-toons. I’ll share a few tips below.
How to get the most for your money:
Getting the most for your money is not all about the brand you select, it’s about other decision you will make during the buying process. Below are the major areas you can squeeze value out of your budget.
And, if you want to make sure you get the absolute best price, you can discover some insider techniques in the First-Time Boat Buyer's Academy.
Select a Less Expensive Yet Reliable Outboard Motor IF You Can Get It Serviced:
If you can find a Suzuki motor on the brand you are considering, you will likely save an additional few hundred to few thousands dollars. In the past 5 years or so Suzuki has been growing in market share. And the reliability of their 200HP and under motors has been very strong.
As a matter of fact, you’ll find many Suzuki outboards outside of the pleasure boat market on charter fishing boats, tour boats, police and fire boats and other boats that work harder than any almost any outboard on a pleasure pontoon boat.
The key is to ensure you have a reliable and near by certified Suzuki outboard service provider that is able to perform the required maintenance on schedule. If you do, you are likely to save a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on the motor alone and have a great experience.
Don’t Add the Unnecessary Options:
Outside of the motor which makes up a significant portion of the total cost of a pontoon, the other upgrade options can drive of the price.
Here are just a few options and estimated cost to add on a new pontoon or tritoon:
|Option||Low Estimate||High Estimate|
|Accent Colors & Blackout Rails||$500||$2,000|
|Seating & Helm Upgrades||$500||$3,500|
|Privacy Curtains & Changing Stations||$300||$850|
Look at the Used Market to Get More for Your Money:
If you are really looking to get the most out of your dollar on your next pontoon or tritoon, consider a used boat.
One word of caution, don’t just buy the first used pontoon you find that looks like a good deal. Be sure to inspect the used boat fully and use the free resources we provide.
Here are two must watch these videos if you are thinking of going the used pontoon or used tritoon route:
In addition to the videos, you’ll want to grab a free copy of the Boat Buyer’s Toolkit. It’s packed with checklists, questions to ask and a sea trial checklist to ensure you don’t make a major mistake.
Something every pontoon buyer looking to ger the most for their money needs to consider is who is going to help support me in my pontoon boating lifestyle.
For the easiest and best time on your pontoon, the dealer or service provider you work with will have a major impact on how positive or negative your experience will be.
Tips for New Pontoon or Tritoon buyers:
If buying a new pontoon or tritoon, from a boat dealer make sure you are going to have a good relationship after the sale. One thing to consider is how close they are for when you need service.
When buying from a dealer, be sure you are not buying a pontoon that has extra equipment you don’t need.
Often dealers will try to sell you the extended warranty and other upgrades that are often times unnecessary.
Tips for Used Pontoon or Tritoon Buyers:
If buying a used boat, considering who will handle your service needs is an important decision.
If doing yourself, where will you get the parts necessary?
If you are not comfortable doing all of the mechanical work, is there a service provider you can trust that has expertise working on the brand pontoon and more importantly the brand of motor?
It may seem like a small detail but in my experience considering these factors before making a buying decision will ensure a more enjoyable and longer time as a pontoon boater.
So, you’ve found out all the ways to save to get the most for your money on your pontoon or tri-toon, now here are some thoughts on add-ons or upgrades you may want to consider.
|Options to Consider||Low Estimate||High Estimate|
|Lifting Strakes & Underskin||$500||$3,500|
|Ski Tow Bar||$450||$1,000|
|Dual Battery Switch||$350||$500|
Here is a list of all the pontoon and tritoon manufacturers registered with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA):
Avalon Luxury Pontoons
Forest River Marine
Manitou Pontoon Boats
Misty Harbor Boats
Play Craft Boats
South Bay Pontoons
In this video Captain Matt of Boat Buyer's Secret Weapon reviews all the pontoon boats at the boat show and shares his 'Best and Worst' pontoons for sale. It's a long video but one every pontoon or tri-toon shopper will want to watch.