Pontoon boats offer a safe and versatile way to get around on the water – their stable design and spacious decking make them perfect for entertaining guests and family. As with any water vessel they require regular care to keep them in good shape, but will require greater costlier care if you take them in rough weather and unsuitable water conditions for the boat type.
On average, yearly maintenance costs range between $600-1,200. When used in the recommended environment of inland water – i.e. lakes, rivers, and wetlands – pontoon boats can be easy to maintain. Boat owners can take care of changing the oil, cleaning decking, and winterizing it themselves but may need to outsource help for things like motor servicing.
As long as you keep in mind that pontoon boats are recreational vessels and not speedboats, they can be reliable and require fairly basic care. Saltwater corrosion can be costly to repair and maintain, so if you like sea-faring, ensure you get the appropriate pontoon boat type for your needs as not all are designed for ocean water.
Pontoon motor engines can last between 1,500 and 3,000 hours before they require serious maintenance work. Assuming you use your pontoon boat for around 200 hours each year, a basic 115 HP motor engine should last around 7-8 years before needing to be serviced or replaced.
The costs for engine maintenance will vary depending on which state you’re in, but the average labor costs should be between $65-90 and a damaged engine requiring spare parts can reach up to $130-180 for around 2 hours of service.
Pontoon boats require two types of batteries – a ‘starter’ battery to crank up the engine and a ‘deep cycle’ battery used to power the accessories on your pontoon boat. Some pontoon boats have a dual-purpose battery that covers both of the above functions.
A good quality set of batteries should last between 5-7 years when your pontoon is used in the appropriate weather conditions i.e. no rough, choppy waters.
Batteries will initially cost between $390 for a single battery and $500 for a dual-purpose battery. The battery casing and terminal connectors should be regularly cleaned of dirt and grime to extend their lifespan.
Pontoon boats are flat-bottomed and rely on tubes or ‘pontoons’ to remain buoyant and some have a hollow design whilst others are foam-filled. The typical costs and durability for each type are detailed below:
Aluminum – Aluminum tubed boats are higher priced compared to other pontoons, but they are non-corrosive and won’t rust compared to steel, making them a low-maintenance choice. You should use marine-grade aluminum cleaner to remove grime build-up and protect the metal tubing.
Fiberglass – Fiberglass pontoons are lightweight and quite durable, though repairs can be costly. Maintenance is simple as only a basic car wash soap and water solution is needed to clean the tubing.
Steel – Steel tubing has great visual appeal but is vulnerable to rust when exposed to moisture over time. Without regular care and polish to prevent the build-up of algae and other grime, steel pontoons can develop leaks which can be very expensive to repair.
Foam-filled – as this type of tubing is not hollow, these pontoons can’t leak which makes them a lower maintenance option in terms of repairs. Wider foam-filled pontoon tubes can lead to slower speeds, giving them a poorer fuel economy than the above tube designs.
Depending on your pontoon boat needs – fishing, hosting parties, entertaining family – you may decide on certain decking material. Safe and low-maintenance options that are easy to clean include aluminum, vinyl, and composite board flooring.
To make the decking family or pet-friendly, you may want to cover the decking in soft carpet material or non-slip interlocking vinyl flooring. Depending on your decking preference, this may cost between $3 and $15 per foot.
Investing in a protective cover for your pontoon can help prevent your boat from fading under the sun when not in use or shielding it from extreme weather events, pests, or anything that could damage its exterior like a falling branch.
Basic full-length canvas material covers are normally included with your pontoon boat, but commercial and custom covers can offer greater UV protection and can be tailor-made to your boat’s design.
Look for covers made from highly durable Poly-guard material – these can cost between $300-1,200 depending on your boat size and can last up to 10 years.
You will normally need to change your engine’s oil every 100 hours of your boat’s operation (which could be as little as once a year depending on your boating frequency). Your pontoon boat’s specific manufacturer will provide exact guidelines for oil replacement times.
Replacing the oil yourself is recommended as it shouldn’t cost much more than the price of the oil itself at around $50. You can request an oil change from a mechanic when they carry out a regular motor service check, though this may cost you up to $300.
Winterizing is essentially protecting your boat in its dormant season so it is in top shape for the spring. This entails cleaning the exterior and interior, removing equipment and accessories that can be stored elsewhere, replacing the engine coolant with propylene antifreeze, removing the battery to allow it to cool, and using a protective cover.
The average costs of winterizing your pontoon boat can range between $250-500 each year, depending on whether you opt to moor it on water or store it on land over winter.
Cleaning your pontoon boat from the decking and upholstery to the pontoon tubing itself can cost around $50-250 per year. This is a fairly low-cost part of boat maintenance as boat owners can do this themselves.
To keep the boat looking its best, invest in a decent steam cleaner to keep the upholstery free of dirt and grime. Elsewhere, pontoon tubes can be kept clean and polished every spring or summer with specialized marine-grade cleaning solutions to maintain shine and help your boat retain its value.
Marina Rentals Costs
Sailor and pontoon boat specialist Shelby Sullivan quotes typical pontoon boat rental prices at $120-300 per hour or $150-500 for daily rentals of 6-8 hours. This wide price range is down to the level of luxury on offer at any given marina company location. Tropical US areas like Miami, for example, will have higher rental costs due to high-end features such as sound systems and mini bars.
If you choose to dock your pontoon boat in a marina, expect to pay around $1,500-2,500 per year in storage costs. The costs will vary depending on many factors including the size of your pontoon boat, the location, and the price set by the individual marina.
Pontoon Boat Insurance
Insurance costs for your pontoon boat will vary depending on the boat’s value, your age, boating record and use, location etc.
As an estimate though, for basic pontoons costing between $15,000-$30,000, insurance costs begin at basic cover of around $10 p/month or $30 p/month for comprehensive cover. Larger pontoons in the range of $40,000 or more meanwhile may cost between $16 and $70 p/month.
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