Deck Boat vs. Pontoon Boat

As a leisure boater, do you choose a deck boat or a pontoon boat? There are quite a few factors to consider, so without further ado, let us dive in! First, a little bit of history, the first pontoon boat was introduced at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1958 by Sanpan, while the deck boat emerged in 1974, with a product by Hurricane.

The Hull

  • Deck boats have V-shaped hulls integrated with the deck.
  • Pontoon boats have a deck placed on two or three tubular “pontoons.”

Deck boats typically have a V-shaped hull, while a pontoon boat will have two or three tubes, or “pontoons,” that support it. The pontoons can be anything suitable, such as old, discarded barrels, purpose-made aluminum tubes, and even inflatable pontoons for ease of storage and transport. This characteristic also makes deck boats traditionally narrower for a particular length than a pontoon boat, which presents a more squarish footprint. The deck of a deck boat may also not be uniformly flat along the length, while a pontoon boat’s deck is uniformly flat along its length. Furthermore, the deck is integrated with the hull on a deck boat, while a pontoon boat’s deck and pontoons are typically removable.

Stability, Speed, & Agility

  • Pontoon boats are typically slower than deck boats in outright speed.
  • You can get speedy pontoon boats that can go over 40 mph with the right engine.
  • Deck boats can reach 70 mph plus with powerful engines.
  • Pontoon boats are more stable when stopped than deck boats.
  • Deck boats are easily rocked sideways by waves, while pontoon boats are relatively undisturbed.
  • Deck boats can maintain speed even through choppy waters, which pontoon boats cannot.
  • Deck boats can make tighter turns than pontoon boats which need more space to turn.

Stability and speed. Oh boy, what a gulf of difference between the two types. A pontoon boat is more stable when hit by waves, particularly those coming in at an angle, while a deck boat will rock ’n’ roll a bit. This is what makes pontoon boats great floating platforms for hosting cocktails, parties, and entertainment events, as well as for fishing, birdwatching, photography, and sightseeing.

Add some healthy speed into the mix, and deck boats are the champions with their V-shaped hulls that allow them to cut through the water at high speeds. They create a wake that the boat “surfs” on, and the ride gets smoother as speeds rise. On the flip side, a pontoon boat is designed to move at a more sedate pace. There are examples of pontoon boats with powerful engines that can achieve speeds exceeding 40 mph, but they need calmer waters to achieve this feat. However, a deck boat can achieve higher speeds even under choppy waters. Some speedy pontoon boats are used for towing water skiers and tube riders, as their platforms allow for easy ingress and egress.

Agility is another Achilles’ Heel for a pontoon boat, as their design makes it harder for them to execute tight turns. Technological advances have improved this functionality, but most deck boats will run rings around a pontoon boat. 

Versatility

  • Pontoon boats are more adaptable than deck boats as they offer a larger, broader, and uniformly flat deck.

Pontoon boats offer greater versatility, as they are easier to adapt for multiple purposes. The larger and uniformly flat deck creates a space that can be utilized more effectively. It is not uncommon for a floating boutique hotel to be built on a pontoon boat, offering exclusive and luxury accommodations on the water. A deck boat, on the other hand, may not be easily adapted in this fashion, and their accommodation facilities are often less spacious.

Price

  • Traditionally, pontoon boats were significantly cheaper than deck boats. However the price difference has narrowed considerably.
  • The outright price also depends on the engine choice and options that you choose.

Pontoon boats used to be significantly cheaper than a comparable deck boat. But advances in pontoon boat technology and optimizations in the cost of deck boats have somewhat blurred the line. Making an apples-to-apples comparison, a pontoon boat will still come out as the cheaper option. However, bear in mind that with smaller vessels, the engine is a significant cost, and your choice of engine could swing the balance either way.

Maintenance And Hull Repairs

  • Pontoon boats are easier to clean than the hulls of deck boats.
  • A pontoon can be removed for repair in the event of damage, while a deck boat’s hull is integral and cannot be detached from the rest of the boat for repair.

Pontoons are easier to clean and maintain than the hull of a deck boat. If a pontoon suffers damage, it can be removed and repaired, with a replacement installed in the interim. A deck boat’s hull requires more intensive cleaning after use to ensure that the gel coat is maintained. If damaged, it may require costly repairs that result in the boat being out of action for some time.

Summary

Both a pontoon boat and a deck boat are excellent leisure watercrafts for a variety of purposes. We have outlined their positives and negatives under various criteria in this article that we hope will be of use to you when making your decision. If you are straddling the fence between these two types, it might be prudent to rent one of each type. Evaluate their characteristics to determine the best fit.