Boating is one outdoor activity for which Americans have never lost their appetite. After all, U.S. households own a little over 25 million boats.
Of course, that encompasses all types of boats from the humblest of canoes right on up to the most elegant sailboats. For the boat owner interested in entertaining a group of guests on the water for an afternoon or evening, though, odds are good that it’s either a pontoon boat or a deck boat.
A little fuzzy on where the two types of boat part ways? Keep reading for a breakdown of the pontoon vs deck boat differences.
What Are Deck Boats?
A deck boat was one answer the boating industry came up with when trying to solve the problem of how to take more than a small handful of friends out on the water.
A deck boat has a relatively large, flat top that can accommodate lots of guests. Yet, the boat itself retains the traditional v-shaped hull that you find on most boats.
Deck Boat Pros and Cons
Deck boats provide several benefits and pitfalls. For example, the v-shaped hull can make manufacturing the boat a little easier because it shares the same fundamentals as other boat hulls.
While the deck boat can accommodate a number of people, it’s mostly built with seated people in mind. The amount of standing room typically remains a limited commodity.
The v-shaped hull also makes the deck boat moderately unstable. For example, strong winds or waves will rock the boat. That can make standing on the boat challenging unless the boat is in calm waters.
Deck boats do enjoy good acceleration, though, which can make the trip more enjoyable for all of the passengers. Many deck boats can also use different types of motors.
A deck boat might use a basic outboard motor to get from here to there. On the other hand, it might also use an inboard motor depending on the design.
What Is a Pontoon?
A pontoon is, at its core, a basic device used for flotation. In design, it’s usually a sealed tube, typically made of metal, and completely airtight.
Many pontoons used for watercraft are made of aluminum because of its lighter weight. It’s also good for water because aluminum doesn’t typically corrode. Aluminum pontoons are comparatively easier and cheaper to repair, which adds to their popularity.
Occasionally, a pontoon is not hollow but is filled with foam. You may also see pontoons make out of fiberglass or even steel, rather than aluminum, but those are exceptions.
What Is a Pontoon Boat?
A pontoon boat takes advantage of the buoyancy that pontoons offer. A broad, flat deck stretches out over two pontoons. The deck and passengers sit above the water, rather than alongside the water.
Pontoon Boat Pros and Cons
Much like its deck boat cousins, the pontoon boat provides you with benefits and with disadvantages.
One big benefit of the deck boat is additional standing room. That can prove helpful if you plan on spending several hours out on the water with a large group. Most pontoon boats also provide more storage space than a similarly-sized deck boat.
Another benefit of the pontoon boat design is that it generally offers smoother handling in the water. The pontoons help keep the boat stabilized in the water, even when moving through chop. Passengers also get to take a pass on some of the sprays you normally face in a deck boat.
Manufacturers tend to build more floorplans around their pontoon boats to cater to different needs and wants. Some may focus on entertaining with comfortable chairs and an onboard bar, while others may focus on features that support fishing.
Most deck boats suffer a little from only supporting outboard motors. That can limit their speed and acceleration when compared to deck boats.
For most boat owners, the initial purchase price is one of the biggest costs of ownership. As both types of boats allow for some level of customization, you can potentially get a pontoon boat that costs substantially more than a deck boat.
On the whole, though, assuming you get no special customization such as a big engine upgrade, pontoon boats will cost you less than similarly-sized and outfitted deck boats.
In terms of basic operations, both deck boats and pontoon boats fall onto the easier end of the boating spectrum. Both use motors for propulsion, so you eliminate the need to understand and use sails. You just need to make sure you keep the fuel topped off and keep an eye on the batteries.
They both offer fairly stable rides, even at speed. So, mastering basic navigation shouldn’t prove too difficult for anyone that wants to get the most out of either type of vessel.
Every boat in existence needs maintenance. It’s one of the things you sign on for when you become a boat owner. It’s a lot like the maintenance you sign on for when you buy a home.
In terms of the pure effort involved, deck boat hulls typically need more attention than pontoons. In fact, deck boats need more TLC in general.
Of course, owning any boat comes with a lot of other costs you must keep in mind, such as insurance and winter storage costs.
For a fairly in-depth look at what kinds of things you’ll spend money on with your boat, you can read here.
Pontoon vs Deck Boat and You
The pontoon vs deck boat question isn’t a completely trivial one. While both types of boats can serve similar functions, this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.
Deck boats use a different hull design, which makes them a little less stable in the water. On the flip side, pontoon boats sacrifice acceleration to preserve stability.
That can make deck boats seem a little more fashionable while relegating pontoon boats to pure utility vehicles. In truth, both types of boats can enjoy sleek designs or operate purely for function.
Looking for more boat tips? Check out our other articles.