Deck Boat vs. Pontoon Boat: Which is better?

Apr 21, 2022

Deck boats and pontoon boats have the same basic goal: to carry many people in comfort. While a pontoon boat always carries more people than a deck boat, a deck boat has superior handling and performance characteristics. Let’s explore the pros and cons of pontoon boats vs. deck boats.

For some people, the utilitarian nature of the pontoon boat lacks the sporty aesthetics that some boaters desire. Of course, there are some great-looking pontoon boat designs on the market today. However, some boaters don’t want to compromise the feel, look, and performance of a boat with a traditional hull.

A pontoon boat is an efficient way to carry a lot of people in comfort. There’s also plenty of room to walk around

A pontoon boat is an efficient way to carry a lot of people in comfort. There’s also plenty of room to walk around

Performance of Deck Boat vs. Pontoon Boat

For performance, the nature of a pontoon boat’s design enables it to get on a plane quickly and with relatively low horsepower. So in this sense, a pontoon boat is fuel-efficient, because there’s simply less hull to push through the water.

By comparison, deck boats have the reputation for being gas-guzzlers. Because both deck boats and pontoons are loaded with furniture, amenities, and passengers, there is a heavy load to carry. Regardless of hull design, a heavier load always affects fuel economy.

One major downside of a pontoon boat is its relatively poor handling. A pontoon boat doesn’t carve like a boat with a traditional hull. A pontoon boat will always require a large turning radius. So simply put it’s going to be less sporty than other boats.

A deck boat can take on a sporty look while providing plenty of luxurious seating and amenities

A deck boat can take on a sporty look while providing plenty of luxurious seating and amenities

A deck boat by comparison, can have good handling. Although bulky by it’s luxuriant nature, it may be powered by a sizable I/O or outboard motor. The hull shape may also have similar performance to a bow-rider’s hull with the exception of its flared out deck at the bow that creates the large usable deck space.

The pontoon world will never be the same since the introduction of the tritoon in recent years. The third center pontoon has evened the playing field a bit in terms of performance.

For instance, a traditional two-pontoon craft leans to the outside on a turn and slides more than it carves. This is uncomfortable and makes for a huge turning radius. It also limits the horsepower rating of the boat.

A tritoon design has either a comparatively larger center pontoon, or the center pontoon of a same size is mounted lower.

Tritoons have a third center pontoon that increases capacity and improves performance

Tritoons have a third center pontoon that increases capacity and improves performance

The lower positioning of the center pontoon enables a tritoon to lean to the inside on a turn and so it carves and tracks better than a two pontoon model. A tritoon can carry more passengers, can handle rougher seas, and is rated for a higher horsepower motor than its two-pontoon cousin.

Pontoon boats can come with upsized pontoons that can increase performance in rough water and further increase handling. Larger tube sizes can be 25 or 27 inches which enables more passengers, and higher horsepower.

Upsized pontoons increases comfort because increased capacity opens the door to more luxuriant options, and even multiple outboard motors. Tritoons can even race across the lake at speeds greater than 40 mph. This also opens the door for watersport towing behind the tritoon.

This spacious bed is perfect for soaking up some rays while relaxing. A pontoon boat provides space for custom features

This spacious bed is perfect for soaking up some rays while relaxing. A pontoon boat provides space for custom features

Comfort of Pontoons and Deck Boats vs. Bow-riders

When it comes to comfort, both pontoon boats and deck boats are outfitted with comfortable couch-like seating with ample storage space below.

One big difference is when it comes to open floor space for standing, walking, and mingling. A pontoon boat will always win the open floor space contest and will also be more stable when anchored due to its width and the stability of the pontoon design.

The deck boat will likely win against the pontoon in the aesthetics contest. The deck boat is often viewed as the perfect compromise between a sporty open-bow speed boat and the practical pontoon boat.

Deck boats have a spacious area in the bow for seating and storage

Deck boats have a spacious area in the bow for seating and storage

This may beg the question of how a deck boat compares with a bow-rider or open bow speedboat? One major difference is that a deck boat tends to flare out at the bow to provide more deck space and seating in the bow of a boat.

A bow-rider is generally more pointed at the bow and gains sportier lines, but loses some seating capacity.

The actual hull shape of a bow-rider and a deck boat may be quite similar below the deck line giving some deck boats great handling characteristics. Furthermore, deck boats have the option of an inboard/ outboard motor with a sterndrive providing a similar luxuriant feel to a bow-rider.

So in this discussion, we see blurred lines between characteristics of a pontoon boat and a deck boat, and blurred distinctions of a deck boat and a bow-rider. Therefore, the deck boat is often considered the perfect compromise between the utilitarian pontoon, and the sporty bow-rider, aka runabout.

For passenger capacity, a pontoon boat always wins, a deck boat comes in second, and a bow-rider comes in third place.

A big question is how many people do you want to comfortably carry? More than one family, a pontoon boat is the obvious choice. Two small families, a deck boat may be just right. For one family, a bow-rider is a perfect fit.

For carrying multiple families, a pontoon boat is a great choice

For carrying multiple families, a pontoon boat is a great choice

When it comes to onboard amenities like a sink, or a head (marine toilet), larger pontoon boats and deck boats can accommodate these amenities. Of course, these are great comforts when you are eating, drinking, and entertaining a large group of people.

Conclusion

Over time, pontoon boats and deck boats have become increasingly luxuriant. Both are designed with sporty lines, and the overall performance increases with continual advances in design.

When it comes to the question of which is best, the number of passengers you desire to comfortably carry largely answers it.

If you are unwilling to accept the performance and handling of a pontoon boat, a deck boat may strike a balance between capacity, luxury, and performance handling.

If you are looking to purchase a used deck boat or pontoon boat, Lakeside Marine was again voted the Best Used Boat Dealership on Lake Lanier, Georgia.

Lakeside Marine has a huge number of used boats in stock, ready to test drive and take home. We also have in-house financing and our professional sales staff makes your purchase relaxed and easy.

Call Lakeside Marine Today at (678) 322-7877 or Email customerservice@lakesidemarine.com See our current inventory of used boats at lakesidemarine.com.

See our related blog article on 7 Advantages to Purchasing a Used Boat.

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