Pontoon boat in a river. Photo: C. Ryan McVinney/Boat Trader.
It’s no secret that lake lovers in the Great Lakes region swoon over their pontoon boats. But with shallow drafts and wide stable decks, pontoons are also perfect for navigating rivers, swamps, marshes and reservoirs. This means boaters in states like Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas and Arizona are fond of these vessels too. In fact data at Boat Trader shows pontoons have been growing in popularity inland for years, with an even larger leap this spring, as record numbers of new people have turned to boating due to COVID-19. For the first time in many coastal regions (and even locales less-known for boating), pontoons are now appealing to the masses – even beating out ski/wake and fishing boats in many cases.
Heading into the summer of 2020, pontoon boats for sale now rank second on Boat Trader’s list of top-viewed boat classes. In over 40 states, visitors to pontoon boat listings are up more than 100% over 2019, with a 245% increase in inquiries submitted from potential boat buyers. Incredibly, in Mississippi, pontoon listings have seen engagement tick up 1,709% over the previous year – and in Nevada engagement has jumped 1,402% over 2019. In New Hampshire, it has jumped 1,329%.
All along the East Coast, where boaters tend to be drawn to larger sport fishing boats, motor yachts and fishing boats, boat buyers are now browsing pontoon boat listings on level never before seen. Other states seeing triple-digit growth this year over the previous year include New York (536%), Maryland (238%), Virginia (549%), North Carolina (273%) and South Carolina (+299%).
This dramatic rise in viewing activity for pontoons means they now sit among boating’s heavyweight champions – cruisers and center consoles – for conversion rates. So, what has pontoons on the shortlists of boat buyers?
For starters, there’s a pontoon boat for every budget. Right now across the country, the highest demand is for boats priced under $25,000, followed by boats under $50,000, and there are plenty of new and used pontoons that don’t break the bank too. Plus, as families are spending more time together, having ample room aboard for an afternoon of cruising is key and when it comes to vessels under 26 feet, pontoons tend to have the most seats.
Rising interest also points to how much today’s generation of pontoons offer in terms of watersports and speed. Now, just as there are affordable and luxury pontoons meant for family fun and entertaining, there are performance designs for watersports, as well as models tailored for fishing enthusiasts.
Other considerations like inexperience and busy waterways are also drivers. Simply put, pontoons are less intimidating for new boaters learning how to navigate and dock in front of the inevitable crowd. Thanks to their shape and materials used, pontoons are easy to tie-up with fewer concerns of damage. Furthermore, they are considered a safer boat design due to the two or three toons that keep them stable.
The bottom line is, whether the demand is influenced by price, performance or space, pontoons are soaring this summer and are no longer only thought of for their slow-moving, party barge past.