Best Pontoon Boats For The Money

You feel that a pontoon boat could be your future, but you don’t want to make a mistake when purchasing one. What are the best pontoon boats for the money?

Key Takeaways

  • Several factors should be considered before purchasing a pontoon boat; size, purpose, location, and cost.
  • Some of the best pontoon brands are Avalon, Premier, Bennington, Harris, and Lowe.
  • The boat of the year is the Sea-Doo Switch compact.
  • If you love to fishing, try the Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16.

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‍You feel that a pontoon boat could be your future, but you don’t want to make a mistake when purchasing one. What are the best pontoon boats for the money?

The best pontoon boats for the money are listed below, with reasons for why we’re loving them.

  • Best Pontoon Mini: SeaDoo Switch
  • Best Pontoon for Fishing: Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 XL Select
  • Best Pontoon for Budget: Princecraft Jazz 190
  • Best Pontoon (Under $50k): Lowe SS 210
  • Best Luxury Pontoon (under $100k): Bennington LX Sport
  • Best Affordable Luxury Pontoon ($100 - $150k): Harris Grand Mariner
  • Best Luxury Pontoon (over $150K): Avalon Excalibur LTD
  • Best Double-decked Pontoon/Party Boat: Premier Escalante 350

Venture out on a lake almost any day now, and you will spy a pontoon boat on the water. These versatile crafts are so popular that they have been the bestselling watercraft for years. The pontoon can do it all, whether fishing with the kids, motoring around the lake, taking in the sights, or enjoying water sports. Yet, as much fun as pontoon boats can be, they can take a bite out of your wallet. This article discusses the best pontoons for the money so that you find the right boat for the right price.

Table of Contents

What is a Pontoon Boat?

A pontoon boat is a flat-decked watercraft kept afloat by two aluminum tubes welded to the decking. These boats are more stable than many v-shaped boats and are powered by single or double outboard motors attached to the rear of the boat. The boats tend to move more slowly over the water, but their flat decks make them perfect family haulers.

Pontoons are usually made for cruising, or fishing platforms, as the flat deck allows for varying seating configurations. Many luxury pontoons or tri-toons (triple tubes) have expensive upholstery, changing rooms, galleys, refrigerators, and even bathrooms. Some pontoons have upper decks, slides, and sun lounges. The truth is that you can add almost any option you wish.

Pontoon boats can be great party boats, and if large enough engines power them, they can be used for water sports. Some pontoon boats are built for salt-water applications, but they are not made for deep-sea ventures.

Pontoon boats are the most popular watercraft being sold today. Last year, sales were 2.2 billion dollars and expected to grow to 4.4 billion before the decade’s end.

Which is Better - a Pontoon or Tri-toon?

This debate has been on the mind of every pontoon owner for the last several decades. The advantage to a Tri-toon is that it tends to be more stable in rough waters, as it has an extra tube to provide balance. However, pontoons (two tubes) are more than capable in most fresh-water applications, and boats equipped with them are less expensive, use less fuel, and require less maintenance. Many owners feel that tri-toons are worth the extra expense.

Are There Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Pontoon?

Any potential pontoon owner should consider a few things before taking a pontoon home from the boat dealer.

The Purpose of the Boat

Every owner has different expectations for how they intend to use their boat. The flat-deck configuration of a pontoon allows the boat to be used for many different uses, from cruising to fishing to water skiing and tubing. How you see your family using the pontoon boat will play a huge role in determining the size, seating, storage space, and horsepower.

The Size of the Boat

The boat’s purpose will often dictate the size of the watercraft you will need. Most pontoon boats range in size from 15 to almost 40 feet. If you plan on entertaining all the cousins, inlaws, and outlaws in your family, then a tiny fishing pontoon will not be what you want. Most manufacturers have multiple ways of configuring the seating on your boat and will build the boat to your exact specifications. You might have to pay a bit more to have this done, but it is worth it to get the specific equipment that you want.

Here is a handy little guideline for pontoon boat sizing.

No. Passengers Size of the Pontoon
4 - 6 passenger 15 - 18 feet
6 - 10 passengers 19 - 22 feet
10 - 14 passengers 23 - 28 feet
More than 15 29 feet or larger

Location Of The Water

If you live near a freshwater reservoir or river, you won’t need as large a pontoon as those living along coastal waters and are venturing into saltwater applications. Remember that the more prominent the boat, the less agile it will be in the water and the more gas you will have to use to operate it.

Some locations have size limits on the kinds and types of boats allowed on the water, so be sure to check with your local Fish and Wildlife Commission so you aren’t surprised when you try to put your family pontoon boat on the water.

The Budget

Any pontoon owner who has lived with their boat for a while knows there is more to ownership than the boat’s purchase. You should also plan on fuel expenses, maintenance and upkeep, storage costs, registration fees, and insurance. Be sure that you calculate these expenses into your budget. What good is a new pontoon boat if you don’t have enough money to get it into the water?

If you don’t have a dock on your property, you will need to have a means of transporting your pontoon to and from the water. What this means is a truck and a trailer or a marina rental. Most manufacturers will sell you a trailer to haul your boat, but it is an added expense.

What are the Best Pontoon Boats for the Money?

The first thing you will notice when you start shopping for a new boat is that there are many claims of the best pontoon boat brands. Every manufacturer will tell you that theirs is the best and try to convince you to put your hard-earned money down on their product. Before heading to the dealer, you need to be armed with information. Here are our votes for the best pontoon boats that offer lots of amenities for the money and are good value.

Best Mini-Pontoon: Sea-Doo Switch

Sea-Doo Switch
Sea-Doo Switch

Even though experts predicted that 2021 would be a challenging year for the makers of jet skis, the truth is that demand for these fun toys is crazy good despite the pandemic. So, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to marry a personal watercraft and a pontoon. Boy, are we glad they did! Not only is the Sea-Doo Switch opening up recreational pontoons to a new generation of boaters, it just happened to pick up “boat of the year” honors from Boating Magazine.

The novelty of the Switch compact pontoon is that it is quick, agile, and fun to ride. The Switch is technically a tri-toon because it has three tubes keeping it afloat. Propelled by the same technology in a jet ski, the engines force water through an impeller and then ejects it out forcefully to propel the boat across the water.

Forget a steering wheel for turns. The Sea-Doo has a throttle on the handlebars, just like you would expect on a high-quality motorcycle. (Only this compact boat has cruise control, so you don’t have to cramp your hand from holding onto the throttle).

The Switch seats six comfortably (even though the website says it will carry up to 10), has a 130 - 170 HP engine, and is 13 feet long (They have two other models with more deck space).

Even though it is small, it has a surprisingly smooth ride. The Switch also has a braking system (the only pontoon to have one), which increases the ability of boaters to dock.

One of the best innovations on the Sea-Doo is how owners can modify the placement of seats, tables, and other accessories. The deck is made of moveable tiles that allow for different arrangements. Need a tray table near the helm station? Just pull a lever, reposition it and lock it in. What about seating along the left rail but not the right? Again, position the benches where you want them and secure them without any tools.

The Switch folks decided to sweeten the pot with potential pontoon owners and throw in the trailer. Considering that you get so much for a little over 20 thousand dollars, this little mini-pontoon will be seen on American waterways for a long time.


  • Jet Propulsion
  • Bimini Top
  • Removable modular tiles
  • 130 - 170 HP
  • Trailer


  • Fast, agile, and fun
  • Easy to steer when docking
  • Quick ability to change seating arrangements
  • Trailer is included
  • Affordable pontoon


  • Might be too small for more than six adults
  • Can be intimidating for older adults


Best Pontoon for Fishing: Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16

Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16
Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16

The Bass Buggy makes a great fishing platform that is a quality pontoon. The Sun Tracker Bass Buggy is one of the best fishing pontoons you can buy. Equipped with a 50 hp EPLT (Electric Start and Power Trim) four-stroke Mercury motor, this fun little pontoon beauty can reach your favorite fishing holes or maneuver close to the reeds and shallows where big fish love to hide.

The Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 is 16 x 8 feet, which provides ample deck space, and the dual front fishing seats make casting easy. The boat has molded-in drink holders and a 9-gallon aerated live well hidden under the front seat. A bimini top offers shade and is easily retractable for days when you need more sun.

There is plenty of storage space for tackle boxes and other gear, along with plenty of comfortable seating positions. The L-shaped lounger aft is positioned just close enough to where passengers can ride and not have to shout over the roar of the outboards just to be heard. Access to the boat is easy, with a small aqua pad and retractable ladder with grab rails to help swimmers.

Powered by a 50 HP outboard motor, this boat won’t set any speed records, but it will have enough juice to get you and a few of your closest friends where you need to go. For under $20,000, the Sun Tracker is worth every penny.


  • Solid construction
  • 7’ Bimini Top
  • Bluetooth Stereo
  • Removable Fishing chairs and rod holders.
  • Three entry gates opening inward.
  • 50 HP four-stroke Mercury engine


  • 10-year bow-to-stern warranty - lifetime on structure
  • Affordable pontoon boat
  • Great boat for small families
  • Excellent fishing boat
  • USA-made pontoon


  • 50 HP engine won’t cut it on large bodies of water.
  • Not made for saltwater applications


For more information, see the manufacturer’s website.

Best Pontoon Boat for Value Budget: Princecraft Jazz 190

Princecraft is a Canadian company that has been making pontoon boats for years. Their products are excellent, but their real forte is that they make inexpensive boats that don’t feel cheap. With amenities you might find in other pontoons that are much more costly, your guests will think you paid more than you did.

A standard 9.9 outboard powers the 190, but you can upgrade it if you like. The vinyl is lovely, and the lounge seat provides plenty of under-seat storage. The bimini top is easy to retract, offers plenty of shade from the sun, and an easy access gate leads to a swim deck on the front of the boat. (Two fishing chairs can be placed on the front deck in front of the playpen if you prefer to make the 190 a fishing pontoon). There is a retractable pontoon ladder on the rear for swimmers to use.

The Jazz 190 seats six passengers and is a decent water cruiser. Pontoon owners who travel with a full load might want to upgrade to a higher 60 HP engine. The helm area is well-equipped with easy-to-use controls and a well-lit instrument panel. A removable table can be placed between the side lounge areas, and the cup holders are positioned nicely.

While this affordable pontoon might not have the elegant stitching or fabric of your European SUV, it is a workable boat that gets the job done for less than 25k.


  • Seats Six passengers
  • Large front swim platform or fishing deck
  • V-shaped engine pod
  • Vinyl floor covering
  • Rear and bow access
  • Chromed deck cleats


  • NMMA certified
  • Affordable boat that looks more expensive
  • Easy to maneuver


  • Upgrade to the larger engine


Best Pontoon (under $75k): Lowe SS 210

Lowe SS 210
Lowe SS 210

Most American families do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in a new pontoon. Lowe Boats recognizes that there is a massive market of middle-class buyers who want to enjoy the water and have a right to own a family watercraft that won’t require them to spend their children’s college education fund. Lowe Boats produces fishing and pontoon boats, and the SS 210 is one of their best.

The SS is typical of other pontoons in that it sits on 25” aluminum pontoons that run the length of the 20’ deck. The boat is powered by a Mercury outboard sufficient to get around the waterway, and the solid, high-profile fence keeps the kids contained, while an aft sundeck is perfect for laying out in the sun.

The interior is stable and comfortable for a value-priced pontoon. There are three lounge areas, all with storage underneath, and lots of cubbies, nooks, and crannies where other stuff can be housed. The Captain’s chair is very comfortable as auto gauge instrumentation relays vital information. The boat has the feel of something more expensive, which is precisely the point when you are on a budget.

Lowe Boats got its start building aluminum canoes and boats in 1971. Since then, they have expanded their reach into bass boats and pontoons. Lowe Boats still makes its boats in the original manufacturing plant in Lebanon, Mo. They warranty their products with a five-year transferable coverage meaning that if you sell the boat, the next owner is covered for the duration.

What we like the most about this boat is the price. At less than $30,000, an owner can buy a great family boat built with precise materials, careful construction, and a dedicated staff.


  • 20-foot deck
  • Seats 11 passengers
  • 9-foot bimini top
  • Kicker stereo system
  • Dinette table
  • Three lounge areas
  • Aft swim platform
  • Cushioned helm chair


  • Very affordably priced
  • Good handling on the water
  • Motor is large enough for tubing
  • Hydraulic steering


  • Needs fishing chairs
  • Warranty not as long as other pontoon brands


For more information, see the manufacturer’s website.

Best Luxury Pontoon Boat (Under $100K): Bennington LX Sport

In 1997, when a group of pontoon industry leaders decided to branch out on their own, they desired to create a luxury pontoon company unlike any other. Since its inception, Bennington Boats has consistently produced quality luxury pontoons and tri-toons while working to keep prices affordable for the average consumer.

The LX Sport is our pick for the best affordable luxury pontoon, even though it is not the most expensive tri-toon Bennington makes. The LX is the top of the mid-priced lineup, and the boat has a sleek, athletic look usually reserved for much more expensive pontoons. The 150 HP high-performance engine quickly propels the 25-foot boat even loaded to a capacity of 10-11 people. There are high-quality features everywhere, including stainless steel pop-up cleats, bow, and stern 24” access gates on both front and rear diving platforms.

The interior is just as lovely, with a small galley in the port rear, three chaise lounge areas, and a removable dinette table with four chairs. The helm area is elevated enough to provide greater visibility for the driver. This slight adjustment improves maneuverability (you won’t have to ask people to sit down anymore).

Sporty accent lights, underwater lighting, and a 10 ‘ powered bimini top all add to the feeling of affluence. High-quality features like stainless steel pop-up cleats, a powered bimini top, and tons of storage space are everywhere you look.

A well-equipped LX Sport will set you back less than $100,000 (the models start in the mid-60s).


  • Sleek look for a pontoon
  • Upgraded upholstery with winged accents
  • Seats 13
  • 150 HP motor
  • Multiple seating configurations
  • Stainless steel ski tow bar
  • Stainless steel boarding ladder


  • Affordable for luxury pontoon
  • Bennington considered a quality boat maker.
  • Solid Construction
  • USA-made pontoon
  • Great fishing pontoon or party boat


  • None that we can think of


For more information, please see the manufacturer’s website

Best Pontoon Luxury Boat ($100 - 140K): Harris Grand Mariner 250

Harris Grand Mariner 250
Harris Grand Mariner 250

Like any other industry, there are multiple awards given out every year in the boating community. Experts recognize innovation, quality workmanship, and effective manufacturing processes before giving accolades to a certain boat or product. That said, Boating Industry has named the Harris Grand Mariner 250 one of boating’s top products for 2022.

A few years ago, Harris Boats turned the pontoon world on its head using fiberglass topsides rather than the traditional, boxier-shaped aluminum ones. The result is a pontoon that is sleeker, more sporty, and, most of all, less wind resistant. The lower drag contributes to fuel savings which are always welcome news, but it mostly gives the Pontoon community some swag in the marina. On looks alone, this boat shouts that it belongs in the luxury pontoon boat category, no doubt about it.

Harris Boats' commitment to quality construction isn’t just easy on the eyes. It also backs up its looks with some posh amenities. They have designed the craft meticulously with attention to every detail, using supple vinyl and rich materials in their lounging areas and lighted accents that are sure to satiate even the most refined divas. Yet Harris was also resourceful enough not to waste an inch by providing ample storage space underneath the L-shaped lounge areas where you can store just about anything.

At 27‘ - 11” in length and 8’ - 6” in width, there is a spacious deck with foldable tables that stow-and-go, cup holders within easy reach, and all sorts of cubbies for gear or rod storage.

A powerful 200 HP engine (the 450 HP is an option) is strong enough to do almost anything, including pulling the kids on a tube as you introduce them to the thrill of water sports.

You can get a great cruising boat for around $125,000, making the Harris Grand Mariner a popular choice for pontoon owners and the best boat for the money.


  • Lots of Standard features  
  • Rich upholstery and stitching
  • 200 HP motor
  • Fiberglass topside
  • 27-feet length
  • 8’-6” wide expansive deck
  • Accommodates 10 - 13 passengers


  • Many standard amenities
  • Fiberglass topside means sleeker look, less wind drag
  • USA-made
  • Lighter craft than other pontoons


  • None


For more information, see the manufacturer’s website.

Best Luxury Pontoon (Over $150K): Avalon Excalibur LTD

Avalon has been making quality pontoon boats since 1973, and they are a vertically integrated company, which makes all the difference. (Their philosophy is that the people make every component of the boat, which gives them a very high degree of control in the quality of their boats).

Excalibur is at the top of the Avalon line. The Waveglider 27” triple tubes lift the boat’s weight higher above the water, improving the ride comfort. Beautifully painted aluminum walls with fiberglass accents adorn the 27-foot deck. The boat has enough space for 14 - 16 people, and twin 450HP outboard motors deliver plenty of speed, whether you are pulling a skier or just getting across the bay as fast as you can. The inboard lifting strakes are crucial to reaching top speeds, and considering that a pro racer reached a top speed of 76.5 miles an hour in last year’s competition, there is only one word for this pontoon boat - the word is fast.

Avalon uses premium materials in its quality construction. Ultrafine fabrics make up the upholstery, with detailed stitching. The side lounges and the stern lounger have ample storage under the seats like other pontoon boats, but these seem more stable and solid than many other tool holders. The helm chair and co-captain station both recline, and the instrument display is state of the art with large, beautifully lit screens.

The bimini top is fully powered by an electric motor, which raises and lowers or rises as needed, with handy controls at the helm station. The boat offers a portside galley, refrigerator, and food prep area.  As the situation calls for it, a removable table can be situated in multiple configurations. There are lighted cup holders all over the place. RGB underwater lighting matches the rail LEDs and mood lighting around the helm.

The Avalon Excalibur starts at just under $145,000, and once you have equipped it, you will be paying significantly more than 150k.


  • Painted side walls inside and out
  • Upgraded SoftTouch upholstery
  • 425 HP twin outboard motor
  • Multiple seating
  • Stainless steel push-up cleats
  • Stainless steel boarding ladder


  • Electric everything.
  • Larger tri-toon tubes.
  • Reclining helm chair
  • USA-made pontoon
  • A refrigerator and galley for preparing food.


  • Expensive, but nice.
  • Options are costly.


For more information, see the manufacturer’s website.

Best Double-Decker Pontoon Boat: Premier Escalante 350

Premier Escalante 350
Premier Escalante 350

If you plan to be the center of attraction on the water for all the neighborhood kids, then you want the Escalante 350 by Premier Pontoons. Since 1992, Premier has set out to build a high-quality pontoon boat, and from where we are standing, they have done just that. This boat screams fun which is just the kind of thing you want if you live on the coast or on a lake where status and affluence define your position.

The Escalante 350 has a 36’ x 10’ deck, a 16’ upper deck with both lounge areas, and a slide down to the water (need I say more? I don’t think so).

If you want an excellent pontoon cruiser that happens to be the best luxury pontoon boat ever, and you can live with the fact that it will likely be used every day by all the friends of your kid’s friends, then opt for this offering from Premier Pontoons.

If all the Escalante had was a top sundeck and a slide, we wouldn’t be so excited. But there is so much more to this boat. The main deck has a galley, refrigerator, and a changing room with a porta-potty. The lighted cup holders are a radical touch, the lounge areas are lush and convenient, and the docking lights are RGB, meaning they change to any color you want. About the only thing this boat is missing is a bbq grill. (Of course, you could always add one and have the perfect place for a cookout almost every summer evening).

The Escalante is powered by twin Mercury outboard motors that produce 425 HP but are  surprisingly smooth as it glides across the water. Lifting strakes are also an option and help in navigating rough waters. Should you decide this sounds like the right pontoon party, Premier will be happy to sell you a new pontoon boat for under $350,000.


  • Changing room
  • Upgraded upholstery
  • Seats 13
  • 150 HP motor enough for water sports
  • Multiple seating arrangements
  • Stainless steel pop-up cleats
  • Stainless steel boarding ladder
  • Lighted cup holders


  • Water slide from upper deck
  • Mood lighting is a knockout - improves the nighttime look of the boat.
  • Amenities too many to mention
  • USA-made pontoon
  • A refrigerator and galley for preparing food.


  • May be top-heavy in rough waters.
  • Needs a built-in grill.
  • Can be too much of a good thing.


For more information, see the manufacturer’s website.

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