Are There Beginner Pontoon Boats? (You Might Be Surprised)

One of the easier-to-drive pontoon boats tied to the backyard dock

Through reading getbusygetboating, you’ve become utterly intrigued by pontoon boats. You have some boating experience, but not with a vessel to the size and scope of a pontoon. If you’d like to buy and use your first pontoon boat soon, you’d like to stick with a beginner version if possible. Is that an option? I was actually pretty surprised myself.

Are there beginner pontoon boats? Yes indeed, you can shop many beginner pontoon boats that are smaller, more inexpensive, and less feature-heavy. Examples of beginner pontoons include the Harris Cruiser and the Godfrey Pontoon SR 160 C.

Ahead, I’ll discuss what makes a pontoon boat a beginner’s boat. I’ll also offer three more great beginner pontoon models and discuss the two listed above in more detail. Finally, I’ll share some tips on how to buy a great beginner’s pontoon! You’re not going to want to miss it.

What Is a Beginner Pontoon Boat?

Beginner boats, also known as starter boats, are intended for those boaters new to this hobby. No matter the kind of boat, there’s a starter version of it.

So how exactly do you differentiate between a beginner pontoon boat and one that’s intended for intermediate or even seasoned sailors? Here are some points to look out for.

Lower Price

Starter boats, including pontoons, are made to be your point of entry into the wonderful world of boating. Thus, compared to higher-end models for intermediates, you’re much likely to see a beginner or starter pontoon boat offered at a lower price.

You won’t have to spend years budgeting for your pontoon then, maybe only months or weeks. This way, you needn’t delay your intent to buy a pontoon boat. After all, in many parts of the country, boating season is a finite time! 

Smaller Size

Now, you may have heard the old adage that you get what you pay for. Seeing a new pontoon boat at a surprisingly low price can make you a little weary. Are you not going to get a quality product for your money?

That’s fortunately not the case at all. One of the reasons pontoon boat manufacturers can afford to sell their beginner pontoons at lower prices is because these boats aren’t behemoths. The average starting size of a starter pontoon may be 16 feet long, which is kind of small for a pontoon. Others are over 20 feet. 

Moderate Speed

Okay, so it’s not exactly like pontoon boats are known for their speed anyway. The average pontoon speed is 18 to 25 miles per hour, which means your boat would be very much outpaced by any speedboats on the water.

As I talked about in my post about pontoon boats being good for fishing though, this is to your benefit. You won’t ever scare the fish away in a pontoon!

Getting back to speed, a beginner pontoon boat will stick very firmly in that speed range and maybe even be a little slower. After all, you’re new to boating, which could put you at a higher risk of accidents. If your boat can’t go that fast, you’ll feel safer on the water, and that’s always nice. 

Fewer Features

Do you know what a livewell is? Where the bow and aft are? It’s okay if you don’t, as it takes time to learn all these things! That said, boat manufacturers know the kind of crowd that is attracted to starter boats, pontoons included. 

It would be really overwhelming if your new boat came with two dozen features, most of which you don’t understand. You might buy your boat, try it a few times, feel frustrated, and then leave the thing in storage until the end of time. To prevent this, many starter pontoon boats take it easy on the features.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean you’re foregoing features entirely. Far from it. You just have everything you need and not too many extra bells and whistles. This way, you can learn the basics. 

5 Beginner Pontoon Boat Models to Get You Started

You’re admittedly a newbie when it comes to pontoon boats, so you don’t know a lot about which manufacturers are good and which aren’t. By sticking with any of the following 5 beginner pontoon boat models I’m about to introduce you to, you’ll be in the clear. These starter pontoons also check off all the boxes I covered above, making any of them an ideal choice for your first pontoon boat! 

Sun Tracker Party Barge 18 DLX

The Sun Tracker brand produces some of the largest pontoon boats on the water. I’m not exaggerating when I say that, either; Sun Tracker’s Party Barge 24 DLX is more than 26 feet long and can carry 12 people.

As impressive as that is, the Party Barge 24 DLX is definitely not a starter boat. Sun Tracker’s Party Barge 18 DLX is though. This moderately-sized boat is 20 feet long, with a deck length of 17 feet, 8 inches, and a deck width of 8 feet, 2 inches. Its max horsepower (HP) is 75 HP, so a speed demon it is not.

The max passenger weight capacity for the Party Barge 18 DLX is 1,220 generous pounds, which is about the weight equivalent of 9 people. The max weight capacity for this pontoon boat when you factor in weight, gear, the motor, and those passengers is 1,750 pounds.

Some of the included features are storage compartments beneath the seats, a spacious side port gate, and a Bimini top with a QUICKLIFT system. This deploys and retracts the Bimini top for one-person operation, which is perfect for beginners like you. 

You’ll also appreciate features like a tinted windshield, drink holder, non-skid footrests, a small items tray, Bluetooth stereo, and the aluminum propeller. 

The Sun Tracker Party Barge 18 DLX starts at $18,395. 

Godfrey Pontoon SR 160 C

The SR Cruise series of pontoon boats from Godfrey Pontoon include models that can reach max speeds of 150 HP and carry 12 people at most. In particular, I think the SR 160 C is a good starter model.

It’s not too large, with a length of 17 feet, 5 inches. You can bring plenty of your friends and family onboard with you, up to 8 passengers. Also, you won’t be speeding out of control on the water, as the SR 160 C has a max speed of 60 to 70 HP.

This Godfrey Pontoon model features  a 16-foot deck, a dry weight of 1,500 pounds, and an overall weight of 1,608 pounds. 

Getting into the features, the bow-mounted lounge seating belies the size and moderate price of this pontoon boat. You’ll also find storage throughout, including in the corner-stern, beneath the seats, and under the helm. The console, which is composite molded, is stylish, sporty, and a great feature to have.  

Tahoe Pontoon Boats GT Cruise

With a history of more than 45 years of boating excellence, Tahoe Pontoon Boats could be the brand you go with for your first pontoon. Their GT Cruise features three floorplans between 21 and 25 feet long. I’d recommend going with the smaller pontoon boat, which is 21 feet, 5 inches in length with a deck length of 21 feet, 3 inches and a width of 8.5 feet.

The dry weight for this smaller Tahoe model is 1,850 pounds and the maximum weight capacity is 2,035 pounds. You can fit 10 people or 1,300 pounds in passenger weight. The engine speed for the GT Cruise 21-footer is 115 HP, which is still quite moderate.

Inside your GT Cruise pontoon boat are stainless steel cup holders, pewter or bronze seat frame cladding, lounge arms with under-seat storage, Matrix 50 Soft Touch Seat Vinyl, adjustable chairs, and a fixed-back cadet-style driver’s chair. 

The included Bimini top has an anodized aluminum frame. SST quick-release mounts will make setting up your Bimini top a breeze. You can even detach the windshield of the GT Cruise if needed. 

Tahoe Pontoon Boats’ GT Cruise starts at $16,078 to $28,828 depending on the floorplan. 

Harris Cruiser

The Harris brand also won’t steer you wrong, especially when you’re commandeering their Cruiser. This pontoon boat is a great size for beginners, as its overall length is 22 feet, 1 inch. A Cruiser model with 25-inch pontoon tubes weighs 2,144 pounds and can carry just under 9 people at once.

The Cruiser includes standard features like a 10-foot Bimini top in red, tan, blue, or black. You can also entertain with on-boat seating and even get fishing features added if you plan on fishing on your pontoon boat. 

The Harris Cruiser starts between $19,146 & $21,00

Barletta C-Class 

If you’re still searching around for the perfect beginner pontoon boat for you, I’d also recommend the Barletta C-Class. This series of pontoon boats is newer, giving you the chance to be one of the first to try a C-Class for yourself.

The C22-CC floorplan has a deck length of 23 feet, 2 inches. The two-tubed model weighs 2,572 pounds dry and can carry upwards of 10 people. Its max speed is a reasonable 150 HP, making this modern, appealing pontoon easy to drive once you get the hang of it.

Some of the standard features included with the CC22-CC model are a powered Bimini top with a dome light, woven marine flooring, LED dock lights, cupholders, USB charging ports, and a Hertz marine stereo system that boasts four speakers.

The fishing center has yet more cup holders, stow-away tackle trays, rod storage, and rod holders. You also get an E-Z Access integrated wastebasket with storage as part of your purchase. 

The Barletta C-Class starts around $29,999. 

Buying Your First Pontoon Boat? Here’s What You Need to Know

One of the above pontoon boats is calling out to you. You can easily close your eyes and envision yourself riding on the water in that pontoon boat with all your friends and family.

Before you make your dream a reality, make sure you’re a savvy, conscientious shopper with these tips. 

Know What Goes into Your Budget

The starting price listed on a pontoon boat manufacturer’s website is called a starting price for a reason, namely because it’s not all the money you’re going to have to pay. There’ll be taxes, plus, you might opt to finance your pontoon boat too. If so, that’s even more money you must have saved up. 

Most pontoon boat financing terms are at least 15 years, so this is a pretty long-term loan we’re talking about here. How much your loan will be varies based on the type of pontoon boat you buy, its size, and how much money you’re paying for it each month. BoatUS has a handy boat financing calculator you can use to estimate what your loan will look like.

If you’re paying a loan over 15 years at a rate of 6.99 percent, the loan amount is between $25,000 and $58,300. If you’re paying a 15-year loan at a rate of 5.62 percent, then the loan amount is $58,301 to $74,999. A 20-year loan paid at a rate of 4.74 percent costs $75,000 to $499,999.

So let’s say your loan is $30,000 and you make a down payment on your pontoon boat that’s worth 15 percent of its overall cost. If your APR rate is fixed at 6.99 percent, then you’d pay $244.48 each month over 180 months or 15 years. 

Beware Adding Extra Features

Many pontoon boat brands have a section on their site inviting you to build your own boat. At first, this can seem really cool, especially if you know next to nothing about pontoons. Wow, you can change the type of engine your boat comes with? You can add extra seating and get heated seats? This is awesome!

What you don’t always see as you’re tacking on feature after feature is that none of these extras come for free. Sure, in some cases you might pay upwards of $10 or $20 for a feature, and if you want something for that low a price, then go for it. Most add-ons though bring your bill to a higher total by hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars.

Your first pontoon boat will very likely not be your last. Since this is a beginner’s boat, there’s no sense in spending an arm and a leg on extra features if you’ll only have the boat for a couple of years.

Consider waiting until your next pontoon boat to explore available extras. You’ll be glad you did!

Go Used if You Must, But Shop Carefully

What if even the price of a new beginner pontoon boat is a little too high for you right now? You have two options. You can either wait and budget longer or you can look around for used pontoon boats.

Going used isn’t as bad as it may sound, by the way. A pontoon boat is considered “used” if it’s a year out of favor. For example, now that we’re in 2020, any and all 2019 pontoon boats are outdated, so they can’t be sold new anymore. 

The problem with only buying pontoons that are a year old is that most sellers will not part with their boat for anything less than very close to what they paid for the boat originally. Given that you’re practically getting a brand-new boat here, that’s fair.

Since you’re trying to buy a great beginner’s pontoon boat on a budget, I’d suggest looking at models that are five years old. Going too much older than that may call into question the boat’s quality.

Shopping for a used pontoon boat is a lot like buying a used car. You want to make sure the seller has a good reputation. They should provide lots of pictures of the pontoon boat from all sides and angles, but you still want to meet up and see it for yourself. 

Also, I wouldn’t suggest you use a site like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to buy your pontoon boat. Instead, try a reputable site such as Boat Trader or

Shop Around and Compare Prices

It doesn’t matter if you’re buying a new pontoon boat right off the dealer’s lot or a used one from Boat Trader: you need to do your research and compare prices. Some retailers might offer slightly lower prices than others, and any money you can shave off the overall cost of a pontoon boat is something you definitely want to do. 

Don’t get yourself stalled out in this stage forever though. You could buy a boat tomorrow and the next day there’s a slightly better deal, but that happens sometimes. Try to find the best pontoon deal available to you at that moment and then take advantage of it. 

Get a Warranty

Warranties aren’t always free, but I’d suggest you seriously consider investing in one as a new pontoon boat owner.

Do you necessarily need the 10-year warranty or even the lifetime warranty? Probably not, unless you’re positive you’ll have the same pontoon boat for the next decade.

Some kind of warranty to cover you for the first few years is probably your best bet. If you end up having some bad luck getting your boat into or out of the water the first few times you’re navigating the boat ramp an insurance policy will make all the difference.

Looking into a three-year or five-year warranty ought to be more than enough. As I mentioned, you’ll appreciate the extra protection if something goes wrong with your boat or someone else’s bad luck happens to crash into you! 


Beginner or starter pontoon boats don’t go heavy on the horsepower, overload you with features, or bog you down with a heavy boat. These pontoon boats are designed for you to get a feel for how a vessel of this size operates. 

Now that you have all the information you need to buy your first pontoon boat, you’re ready to get into the wonderful world of pontooning!  

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