Pontoon boats have a reputation as slow-moving party barges, but they are also used for water-skiing, fishing and so much more. Not all pontoons are necessarily slow moving – depending on the individual horsepower and the customizations made by the owner to increase the speed, pontoons can travel fairly speedily (just not as fast as traditional fiberglass boats or speed boats!).
So how fast can a pontoon boat go? On average, a typical two-tube pontoon will reach speeds of around 18 to 25 miles per hour (or 28 to 40 km per hour). Here’s a rundown of the average pontoon speeds in accordance with its horsepower:
- Average 50 HP pontoon boat speed – 16 mph
- Average 90 HP pontoon boat speed – 25 mph
- Average 115 HP pontoon boat speed – 28 to 30 mph
- Average 150 HP pontoon boat speed – 33 to 39 mph
- Average 200 HP pontoon boat speed – 40mph
- Average 300 HP pontoon boat speed – 50mph+
These speeds may not sound fantastic, but they are just enough to be put to great use for water sports and everything else in between. How fast you need your pontoon or tritoon (a three-tube pontoon) to go will depend on how you want to use it best – for relaxing cruises at leisurely speeds or fast-paced water sports with the family. Let’s look at how certain factors can affect the speed of pontoons and the HP that may best suit your needs.
|2019 Sun Tracker Fishin' Barge 20 DLX||90||29|
|2020 Ranger 200F||90||25.3|
|SunChaser Classic 8520 CrS||90||28.3|
|Bennington 21 SLX Premium||115||28.6|
|Harris FloteBote Solstice 240||115||22.2|
|Bennington SX 24 Swingback||150||35|
|2020 Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 RF||150||38|
|2020 Bennington SX 22 Swingback||150||40|
|Bennington 2250 GSR||150||37.2|
|SunChaser 8522 LR||150||30|
|2020 Starcraft CX 25 DL Bar||175||44|
|2019 Barletta L23QCSS||200||45|
|2020 Barletta C24UC||200||37|
|2020 Barletta E24QC||250||44.5|
|Bennington 2550 RCB||250||43.6|
|Manitou 22 X-Plode Cruise||250||48.9|
|SunChaser Classic 8524 CrS||250||46.5|
|SunChaser Eclipse 8523 LR DH||250||50|
|2020 Manitou 25 Legacy SL||300||48|
|2020 Harris Crowne 25||300||48.6|
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Factors That Can Affect Pontoon Boat Speed
Size of the Engine
The size of the engine on your pontoon boat will determine how powerful it is and therefore how fast it will move, and this is measured in Horsepower.
For context, the engine on a small fishing boat is typically built with an 10HP or 20HP engine, whereas a top quality speedboat may have a 500HP engine. A pontoon boat considered to be ‘fast’ will have an engine with an HP that is somewhere in between these two sizes, such as 150HP and upwards.
Number of Tubes
Typically, pontoon boats are decks mounted onto at least two aluminum or metal tubes, but some are built with three tubes and these are known as triple toons or ‘Tritoons’ (more on these later). Having an additional central tube will give the boat an extra lift and result in overall higher speeds.
The cargo on your pontoon boat – that is to say the people, the furniture and any added extras on board – will naturally affect its speed. So if you’re looking for the easiest and most affordable way to increase your pontoon’s speed, then losing some unnecessary load is the way to go. If you’re only taking a few friends out, for instance, then having a large bar or a third cooler may not be essential.
Lastly, a well maintained pontoon can make all the difference to its overall speed. If you take regular care to ensure that your pontoon is clean below the water line then this will result in smoother, and therefore slightly faster, movement.
In maintaining your pontoon, you can also make enhancements to the bottom such as under-skinning – this is the process of adding an aluminum sheet to the underside of your pontoon to reduce the drag caused by wind and water splash.
How Do I Increase the Speed of My Pontoon Boat?
There are a number of immediate and low-cost ways of increasing your pontoon boat’s speed such regular maintenance to ensuring the underside of the boat is cleaned, adding an under-skin to increase smoother movement in the water and easiest of all – inviting fewer people and possessions on to your pontoon boat!
However, if you’d really like to make a significant difference to the speed of your pontoon, then you may need to bite the bullet and invest in a second engine or one with much greater horsepower. Here are a number of other methods for increasing the speed of your pontoon:
Adding a second engine – Double your power and speed with two engines! Installing twin outboard engines will greatly increase your pontoon’s horsepower and overall performance (sharper turns and easier maneuvers etc).
Depending on how you intend to use your pontoon will determine whether single or twin engines are best for your needs, so do your research before giving in to the need for speed.
Buying an engine with higher HP – Pontoon boat engines range between 50HP and as much as 300HP and sometimes higher, so though costly, a very effective way to increase your speed is to go with an engine that will deliver more oomph! Take caution when upgrading your pontoon engine though, as there can be legal limits to the power of your engine, so be sure to keep to the legal safety standards for pontoon boats as set by your state.
Converting to a ‘Tritoon’ – A third option could be to add a third tube to your pontoon and convert your boat to a Triple hull pontoon or a Tritoon boat. This is a popular choice among pontoon boat owners who are serious about upgrading their boat beyond a place to cruise and socialize and move into a vessel suited to water sports and other high-speed pursuits.
The cost to convert the average pontoon to a tritoon can range between $4,000 and $5,000, so in some cases, it may be wiser to trade in your current pontoon and buy a tritoon design outright!
Trimming your engine – If you notice a lot of water splashing up between the tubes of your pontoon boat when you first open up the throttle, then your engine could benefit from trimming – this is simply the act of tilting your engine to a higher angle to improve performance. This is done using a hydraulic motor and lifts the nose of the engine out of the water slightly to help increase speed.
Are Tritoons Faster Than Pontoons?
Yes, as we’ve established, a Tritoon is a step up from a traditional two-tube pontoon boat as the addition of a third tube helps the boat lift and plane, so you have the stability of a traditional pontoon with added speed and quicker acceleration.
A central aluminum tube sits lower in the water which – together with the outer tubes – simulates a V-shaped hull. So like a V-hull boat, a Tritoon will lift above the water and plane like a fiberglass boat to reach higher speeds than a traditional pontoon.
How Much Horsepower Does Your Pontoon Boat Need?
How much horsepower your pontoon needs depends on how you intend to use it, your budget and other considerations you’ll need to ask yourself before buying. The following gives a brief overview of what each unique HP can offer and the estimated costs etc, but always be sure to do your research to decide on the most appropriate horsepower strength for your criteria.
A 50HP pontoon will perform at speeds of 15 to 18 mph and this would make a great boat for the purposes of entertaining guests or allowing young kids to go tubing.
The average fishing pontoon with a 50HP engine may cost around $15-20,000 and the costs to maintain a pontoon of this engine size (including repairs, gas, storage, insurance etc) can be up to $600 on average.
90 HP pontoons are much more ideal for pulling kids tubing or knee-boarding as they can achieve speeds of around 22 mph. Depending on their size, these pontoons can cost anywhere between $27,000 and $32,000 and the cost to maintain one can be up to £900 per year.
If you have older kids and teen thrill-seekers, 115HP pontoons are a better candidate for those high-adrenaline water sports and can hit 22 to 25 mph. These pontoons can cost around $28,000 to $29,000 depending on the size of the deck and age. Yearly maintenance costs can range between $1,000 and $1,500.
This increase in HP will naturally make water sports more thrilling, but also start to increase the ease of maneverability. 150HP pontoons will reach speeds of 30 mph and more, and will cost in the range of $28,000 to $32,000 depending on the age. Maintenance of a 150HP pontoon can cost up to $2,000.
Docking and general maneuvers will greatly improve with a 200HP engine, particularly when navigating through a headwind, so it can make things safer if you’re traveling with more people. Top speeds will be around 32 and 35 mph and these pontoons can cost around $26,000 to $33,000 – maintenance costs can be up to $2,500 to $2,800 a year.
Water sports are not only insanely fun with this kind of power behind them (around 39 to 40 mph) but also safer to achieve when more people are on board with you due to greater maneuverability.
300HP pontoons can cost between $30,000 for older models or as much as $70,000 for Luxury pontoons. Maintenance costs will be significantly higher too since you could be considering under-skinning and other upgrades to ensure your pontoon maintains its top speed – all of which could cost you up to $3,200 and possibly more.