The modern pontoon boat – a uniquely American concept – was invented in 1951 by Minnesota farmer Ambrose Weeres, who set a wooden platform atop two horizontal columns of steel barrels welded together end to end and powered the odd-looking ...
Fishing, water sports and family fun are all benefits of opting for an affordable pontoon
There are many reasons to consider buying a pontoon boat. Pontoons are stable, have huge seating capacity and are easy to board for everyone from toddlers to great-grandparents. But one of the biggest advantages of pontoon boats is the price tag.
While pontoons vary in size, equipment and amenities, and you certainly could spend in the triple-digits on some models, there are many value-priced pontoons on the market that are nicely equipped for a variety of on-the-water activities.
“The cost of entry can be very affordable, allowing a family to get into a boat, motor and trailer for under $30,000,” said Shawn Easton, owner of Norris Marine in Norman, Oklahoma, which stocks multiple brands of pontoons.
Partly because they’re constructed from aluminum tubes and frames, pontoons typically are less costly to build than fiberglass boats. In addition, they’re powered by outboard engines, which often cost less and are more economical to maintain than the sterndrives found in many fiberglass runabouts and deck boats. And while a pontoon boat is not designed to outrun a fiberglass V-hull boat, thanks to advances in hull design and outboard technology, today’s pontoons deliver better performance than ever before.
Here are a few examples of amenity-rich models from some of America’s leading pontoon boat builders that fall in the $20,000 to $25,000 retail price range when equipped with a Mercury® FourStroke outboard (trailer is optional). For more information on boat pricing and outboard engine selection, please check with your local pontoon boat dealer.
Lowe SS210 V
At 21 feet, 4 inches long, the SS210 V falls in a “sweet spot” in the Lowe pontoon boat range, combining ample seating and elbowroom with the ability to fit in many slips. The “V” in the model name stands for “Value,” and that’s what this boat delivers. Capacity is 10 people, but you can bring that up to an even dozen by opting for the TL package, which adds a third pontoon, or “log,” and increases maximum horsepower from 115 to 150 for enhanced performance.
This boat is a great entertainer. The long list of standard equipment includes a 9-foot Bimini top and Bluetooth-enabled Jensen JMS3 stereo. Comfortable seating starts in the bow with a sun lounge and sofa. Moving aft, you find a helm seat with armrests, an L-shaped lounge and a rear-facing sun pad that makes a perfect perch for watching swimmers in the water behind the boat. All the seats hide roomy storage space in the base. A removable table with wood-grain finish and drink holders is new for 2021 and brings the total number of drink holders on this boat to 11.
What you can’t see on a pontoon can be just as important as the visible features. For example, the Lowe SS210 V has a built-in 24-gallon fuel tank so there’s no need for an external fuel tank taking up deck space that could be better used by all the passengers having fun in the sun.
LOA: 21 feet, 4 inches ● Beam: 8 feet, 6 inches ● Weight (hull): 1,680 pounds ● Max hp: 115 ● Fuel capacity: 24 gallons ● Passenger capacity: 10
Qwest LE 820 Lanai
In developing its LE Series pontoon boats, Qwest Pontoons took its owners’ most requested features and combined them into an all-inclusive, yet affordable package. The LE 820 Lanai, at 21 feet, 8 inches long, offers all these must-have features in a popular boat size. Exploring, relaxing, picnicking and water sports – this pontoon boat can handle it all with style.
Tapestry luxury woven vinyl flooring adds coastal looks to the LE 820 and feels good under bare feet. The standard Infinity PRV90 Bluetooth stereo is ready to crank the tunes. Shade is provided by the 8-by-9-foot Bimini top, while a robust aluminum boarding ladder assures safe re-entry to the boat after water sports.
The LE 820’s spacious floor plan includes facing settees in the bow, with a Blackwood oval table on a pedestal mount between them. Aft is a large, L-shaped settee that can seat four or five people. It’s also big enough for one person to stretch out and relax against the comfortable backrest. The deluxe helm chair has arms and an adjustable slider, while an extra-large rear-facing sun pad hides a wealth of storage. The seat bases are built with Qwest’s proprietary Dura-Lite composite material, which is strong, yet light, and Ultra-Flow ventilation helps keep items stored inside dry.
If you need more towing power, opt for the Gen II Triple Tube high-performance package, which increases max horsepower capacity from 90 to 150. It adds a third full-length pontoon, 45-gallon fuel tank, ski tow bar and U-flex hydraulic steering.
LOA: 21 feet, 8 inches ● Beam: 8 feet ● Weight (approx.): 1,725 pounds ● Max HP: 90 ● Fuel Capacity: 17 gallons ● Passenger Capacity: 10
Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 20 DLX
While the Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 20 DLX has all the desirable qualities of a pontoon boat at an affordable price, it’s also purposefully designed to appeal to anglers thanks to a long list of standard fishing features. Sun Tracker’s parent company, White River Marine Group, was founded by Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops fame, so the company knows fishing. This popular pontoon combines fishability with a 10-person capacity and an overall length of 21 feet, 11 inches.
The Fishin’ Barge features fore and aft fishing decks, three foldable casting chairs and mounted rod holders. Two aerated livewells hold a combined 18 gallons. And thanks to Sun Tracker’s STOW MORE seat system, which adds fold-up seat-back and under-seat storage, there’s more than enough space to stow your rods and tackle. The optional fishing package lets you add a fish finder and trolling motor.
This versatile pontoon also doubles as an all-around family fun platform. The Bluetooth-enabled stereo keeps the music coming, while 4:2-ratio no-feedback steering makes the boat easy to drive. The seating arrangement includes a forward settee with backrest, swiveling helm chair with armrests and a large, L-shaped sofa served by a portable pedestal table. Consoles and seat backs are made of durable rotomolded plastic, and the floor covering is padded woven vinyl.
The Fishin’ Barge also comes with a 9-foot Bimini top with the QUICKLIFT system, which lets one person single-handedly deploy the top.
LOA: 21 feet, 11 inches ● Beam: 8 feet, 6 inches ● Weight (avg.): 1,939 pounds ● Max HP: 90 ● Fuel Capacity: 32.1 gallons ● Passenger Capacity: 10
More Fun for the Money
If you look at acquiring a boat in terms of price per passenger, a pontoon offers a truly unbeatable deal thanks to the spacious decks and seating arrangements, which let you bring more family and friends along for a day of fun on the water. These models are just three of the many Mercury-powered pontoons on the market today that will let you enjoy the boating lifestyle for less money than you ever dreamed possible. The memories you make will be priceless.