Deck Boat vs Pontoon Boat: What’s The Difference?

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If you are looking to purchase a new boat, there are many factors to take into consideration. Whether you want a boat spacious enough to fit family and friends for watersports or maybe a place to grill, relax, and have a few drinks; one of these boats should fit the script.

Many boat lovers narrow it down to choosing between a deck boat vs a pontoon boat. Though they are very similar, they have many differences that can certainly shape your opinion on which boat you want to invest in.

Main Differences Between a Deck Boat vs Pontoon Boat

The main differences between deck boat vs pontoon boat are:

  • A deck boat is more expensive, whereas a pontoon boat can usually get you out on the water for less.
  • Deck boats can fit no more than 12 people, whereas pontoon boats can fit no more than 16 people, depending on the model of the boat.
  • Deck boats use v-hulls that cut through the water when moving, causing the boat to be able to quickly accelerate, whereas most decks on pontoon boats flatly lay across the pontoons, which is called a multi-hull design
  • Deck boats provide room for activities as well being that they quickly cut through the water, whereas pontoon boats with 150 horsepower engines are great for water skiing or tubing, but it is important to mention that if you are experienced in water sports, you may not catch as much speed as you would want
  • Aluminum pontoon boats are easier to clean than fiberglass pontoon boats, which need to be wiped down after every use, whereas deck boats do not need to be wiped down nearly as often.

What is a Deck Boat?

Deck Boat

A deck boat is basically the combination of the layout of a pontoon boat and the hull design of a runabout. Deck boats have open deck spaces and have the speed you may want for activities like water sports, fishing, or entertaining.

Deck boats are faster than pontoon boats and are a popular boat for water skiers and tubers to use.

What is a Pontoon Boat? 

A pontoon boat is a boat with a large and flat deck. It is usually mounted on two or three aluminum or metal tubes called pontoons. The pontoons allow the boat to be able to float and the large deck is great for accommodating large groups of people.

They can have roomy lounging areas, pads for sunbathing, stand up bars, and ladders for swimming. Some even have second story decks with slides, custom platforms for fishing, high end electronics, and many other unique features.

Comparing the Two

pontoon boats

While deck boats and pontoon boats are very similar, they have their differences.

Size 

The sizes of deck boats and pontoon boats are pretty similar. Deck boats can hold up to a dozen people, but the more spacious layout of a pontoon boat can hold up to 16 people. This can also depend on the model of the boat you have because some are larger than others.

Style 

The main physical differences between the two boats are the shape and the function of the hull. Deck boats have a v-shaped hull and pontoon boats lie flat on top of the water with their deck balancing on two or three hollow aluminum tubes. Pontoon boats tend to be the better choice for entertaining.

Cost 

Generally, a pontoon boat is less costly than a deck boat. The cost of the boats depends greatly on the type of engine the boat has. This can account for about half of the total cost of the boat. The starting price for a new deck boat is typically around $20,000 but can go as high as $80,000.

The average cost of pontoon boats ranges from $15,000 to around $175,000. The only reason the price of a pontoon boat can even get as high as $175,000 is because of its accessories. Without all of the unnecessary accessories, pontoon boats are actually less expensive than deck boats.

Stability/Ride 

Pontoon boats are super stable for their structure. While this might be true, it is important to note that this only applies in mild weather conditions. When water starts to become choppy, a v-shaped hull is usually preferred because of how much easier it is to get around in the water. 

If you want more stability, sometimes you are giving up performance. This is not the case with a deck boat. If you are looking to just hang out and enjoy the water, a deck boat does better with waves than a pontoon boat.

When riding in a pontoon boat, it is evident that there is a lack of power in the boat, making it difficult for the boat to handle choppy waters.

Handling

Deck Boats

A deck boat definitely does not do well with speed. The motors might be powerful, but a deck boat would lose a race with a pontoon boat any day. Deck boats are a hybrid design, meaning that the function is more important than its form. 

A deck boat with a v-shaped hull is able to efficiently handle choppy water. If the deck boat does not have a v-shaped hull, it will not be able to cut through waves as well. It is still best to avoid waves with a deck boat, but it can be done if you have that v-shaped hull.

Most pontoon boats can average a speed of between 18 and 25 miles per hour. Pontoon boats are not generally built for speed, but do move much quicker than a deck boat.

Pontoon boats are designed for rough water and windy conditions. Today’s pontoon boats are built better than ever before, as they are heavy duty. They are almost unsinkable. However, it is still recommended to do your best to avoid being out in the water during stormy conditions for your own safety.

Ease of Operation 

Being that deck boats are built on a v-hull, they are pretty easy to maneuver. You will be able to make sharp turns and quick steering decisions, all while feeling rather comfortable. Deck boats can use inboard or outboard engines, giving you more options to meet your needs.

A pontoon boat is a very easy boat to drive. Pontoon boats act as a sail in heavy winds because of the way they are built and their shape. The boat will be hard to maneuver if there are strong winds and choppy waters, but it can be done. When operating a pontoon boat, it is important to understand how to utilize the trim function. 

Maintenance 

If you are looking for a low maintenance boat, both deck boats and pontoon boats are great options. Pontoon boats don’t usually change much over time, so there really isn’t much of a reason for maintenance unless you have an engine problem.

Usually, maintenance on a pontoon boat can be done every 100 hours, which can include an oil change, battery inspection, and prop shaft lubrication.

Like pontoon boats, deck boats should be serviced around every 100 hours of use. The more often you use your boat, the better it will run. If you leave your boat sitting idle in a garage or in a marina for a long amount of time, the parts can go bad more quickly.

Pros and Cons of a Deck Boat

Pros of a Deck Boat

It is good to know the pros and cons of a deck boat before purchasing one. Here are a few of them.

Pros

Deck boats have really good handling, which is mostly because of the v-shaped hull. They offer a smooth ride no matter what the speed is, they are easy to steer compared to other boats the same size, and are perfect for slowly cruising through the water with your friends or family.

Deck boats are pretty spacious, and also have forward facing seats so everyone can enjoy the same view. Deck boats come in a variety of different colors and have many different selections of furniture styles too. 

Cons

Despite the large amount of advantages a deck boat has to offer, there are a few disadvantages. Deck boats typically cost more than pontoon boats, but that does depend on the specific model of the boat. 

Deck boats also use more gas than pontoon boats, making them not as fuel efficient. It is important to know your expected time on the water so you don’t run too low on fuel.

Pros and Cons of a Pontoon Boat

Pros of a Pontoon Boat

Like deck boats, pontoon boats have a few advantages and disadvantages. Here are some major pros and cons that may help you in your decision to purchase a pontoon boat.

Pros

Pontoon boats are very spacious. Not only will you have comfortable seats for everyone on board, but you will be able to walk around too. Since the whole deck is flat, the additional space makes the vessel handicap friendly. 

Pontoon boats are higher up than some other boats and ride smoothly, so you will stay dry and not get splashed by the waves. In addition, the entire boat is easy to care for. As long as you keep up with routine maintenance, you shouldn’t come across many issues with your boat.

Cons

It is difficult to sleep on a pontoon boat, as it can be pretty uncomfortable because it doesn’t offer full amenities. It is also a bad idea to try watersports using this type of boat. Pontoon boats typically have outboard engines, which means that the engine is on the outside of the boat in the back.

It is way too dangerous to attempt to surf or perform any other type of water sport because of how close you can get to the engine. 

Pontoon boats are not very fast, so be prepared to have a slow, relaxing ride. They do not do well in rough water or high winds. They also do not handle as well as deck boats and it is difficult to make tight turns on a pontoon boat.

FAQs

If you are still trying to figure out which type of boat is best for you, we will answer some commonly asked questions to help with your decision.

Question: Are Deck Boats Good in Rough Water?

Answer: Deck boats are good in rough water if they have a v-shaped hull. If they do not have a v-shaped hull, they will not do well in choppy water. It is best to avoid bad weather and rough waters either way for your safety.

Question: What Are the Advantages of a Deck Boat?

Answer: Deck boats have easy handling, ride smoothly, are easy to steer, and are great for enjoying your time with family or friends.

Question: Do Deck Boats Hold Their Value?

Answer: Deck boats do hold their value. They are expected to last between 10 and 20 years depending on if you keep up with routine maintenance and take good care of the boat.

Question: Are Pontoon Boats Low Maintenance?

Answer: Pontoon boats are rather low maintenance. They are very durable and repairs of pontoon boats are usually simple and inexpensive.

Question: Why Are Pontoon Boats so Expensive?

Answer: Pontoon boats usually cost between $15,000 and $175,000. That is a very large gap in price, but this is completely dependent on if your pontoon boat has a lot of accessories. Without all of the extra accessories, pontoon boats are actually less expensive than deck boats.

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, pontoon boats and deck boats are very similar. If you want to be able to take your boat out, enjoy watersports, and cruise with your family and friends, even in choppy water, then a deck boat is best for you. 

If you are looking to hang out, cruise around, and enjoy comfortable seating then a pontoon is the best choice for you.

No matter which boat you decide on, both deck boats and pontoon boats have plenty to offer and are great for enjoying beautiful weather on the water with your family and friends.

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