The winning qualities that first drew boaters to pontoon boats back in the 1950s are largely the same today. However, to keep up with the changing pace of lake life, manufacturers have responded to demand by introducing increasingly faster, ever-sportier designs that are highly capable for watersports and high-end entertainment.
The Pontoon Craze Continues
By now, it’s safe to say that boaters are hooked. Today’s generation of pontoon boats have so much to offer in terms of multipurpose boating, seating and speed, that they are a great option for both large families and people who want to party-large, alike. No matter the boating crowd, a pontoon purchase is a guaranteed good time on the water.
If you haven’t been on a pontoon boat lately, you owe it to yourself to pay a pontoon dealer a visit. Below is a look at some hot new models continuing the pontoon boat craze.
In what may be the most unusual pontoon boat introduced for the 2024 model year, Manitou offers the newly improved Explore. Available in both single an twin engine versions from 22 to 26 feet, these futuristic boats are powered by BRP’s Rotax S 150 engines. Unlike other outboards these are oriented horizontally and enclosed in a watertight cowl, lowering their profile so much that you can enjoy full-beam swim platforms like those found on stern-drive boats. BRP also claims a 20-percent improvement in fuel efficiency, less noise, and less maintenance with a span of five years/500 hours before the first dealer scheduled maintenance. The steering system is different, too, with iDock joystick control and dynamic power steering.
See our full review of the 2023 Manitou Explore 24.
See Manitou Explore pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Harris Solstice 250
Harris 250 Solstice Pontoon Boat. Photo via The Harbor On Table Rock Lake in Branson, MO.
The Harris Solstice 250 has all that there is to love about a modern pontoon boat and more, like her digital switching, sleek lounges with upholstered armrests, and a reversible sunpad. To help reveal more of this boat’s on-point features, we surveyed experienced boaters and this sums up what they had to say about the all-new Solstice:
- Water activities are fully supported with horsepower ratings up to 400hp.
- There are multiple layouts to choose from and the arrangements are extremely versatile.
- Thick foam cushions make each spot “the best seat in the house.”
- Accommodates up to 14 people, making it an ideal, luxury party barge.
With lighting packages that add a party touch, and extensive galley and surround sound entertainment options, this pontoon is highly customizable and designed with pleasure in mind. On any Harris pontoon, impressive performance is bound to come standard, but this state-of-the-art model takes those on-the-water capabilities a step further and beyond.
See Harris 250 Solstice pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Godfrey XP 2500
New for the 2024 model year, Godfrey has introduced the sporty and speedy XP lineup including the XP 2500. This is a 25’10” long model which can handle a whopping 450 horses, with split seating fore and aft, passenger’s and helm chairs amidships, and a pair of nifty aft-facing jump seats capping off the swim platform. The futuristic digital helm features 12″ and 7″ touchscreen displays and optional joystick piloting. Two cool additional touches that set it apart from the crowd include “Cool Touch” vinyl that prevents the seats from becoming too hot on those bright summer days, and a powered tower that provides shade, a mounting point for bullet speakers, and an elevated tow point for watersports.
See Godfrey XP 2500 pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Bennington is known for building some of the most luxurious, high-performance pontoons on the market and the QX30 continues that tradition with a fresh twist on classic styles and amazing attention to detail. This fiberglass pontoon boat measures in at 30 feet in length with plenty of optional equipment for the perfect choice in personal expression, including 20,000 different color options.
With her sleek profile, many amenities and powerful performance options she has a universal appeal. Plus there are a wide variety of optional upgrades so you can build the exact pontoon you’re looking for. Just take a look at some of the amazing Bennington Pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader right now to see for yourself!
Crest Current 20
Pontoon boaters looking for the most relaxing, peaceful ride possible will want to check out the Crest Current 20. This boat is powered by a 48-volt EPropulsion Navy 3.0 Evo electric outboard, which produces approximately six horsepower. Fuel gets stored in an E175 LiFePO4 lithium battery, which has an 8960 watt-hour capacity and is projected to last through 3000 cycles. That provides about an hour and a half of full-throttle run-time, or three hours at half-speed, with a range in the neighborhood of 20 miles. You won’t be pulling water skiers or blasting across the lake at eye-watering speeds, but you will be enjoying peaceful pontooning while doing the environment a solid.
The Crest Current 20 also features SoftTouch upholstery, three couches plus a helm chair, a Bimini top, and a slick helm with an integrated phone charger, available touchscreen electronics, and lighted rocker switches.
See Crest Current 20 pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Other Top Pontoon Boat Models
With so many built-in creature comforts, it’s no wonder why the two boats above appeal to so many boaters and are bound to line today’s reservoirs, lakes and rivers. Of course there are many other great modern pontoon boat options out there on the market, it just depends what you’re looking for in a boat. Some of the other top pontoon boat builders currently include Premier, Sun Tracker, Princecraft, and Avalon, just to name a few. You can check out the latest and greatest introduced this past season in Best Pontoon Boats of 2023.
Just as there are both affordable and luxury pontoons meant for family fun, entertaining and watersports, there are also affordable and luxury pontoons designed for fishing – with rod holders, fishing chairs, bait buckets and aerated livewells. Needless to say, beyond the finishes and amenities, there are many more things to look into before landing on the right pontoon for your boating plans.
Here are two more considerations to make when shopping for the right pontoon boat.
A Raised Helm For Safe Driving
With a crowd on board there are dozens of distractions and a raised helm can help keep your driving focused. Because more often than not, music is playing, snacks and drinks are being served up, kids are swimming and tubing, beach towels are being fetched… and at all times, visibility and sightlines are of utmost importance. The increased visibility of a raised helm can also make docking easier, or at least contribute to less shouting to have everyone take a seat. Plus, having an elevated perch is a better way to watch everyone (yourself included) have a great time.
Consider A Tritoon Boat!
Pontoons are perfect for lakes and rivers because they are shallow-draft boats. The signature tubular floats that make a pontoon a pontoon, also make them very steady in relatively calm conditions. So, why only have two tubes when you can have three? Yes, consider a tritoon boat.
Two tubes are all you probably need if motoring around is your goal. Having a third tube is a good option if you plan to up the horsepower, which is required for tubing and towing for watersports. The extra tube on a tritoon boat cuts through the water even more and makes the ride smoother. It also increases the boat’s weight capacity and maximum passenger rating. Something to think about if there’s a need for speed, or the desire to accommodate a crowd.
Need Help Buying A Pontoon Boat?
If you find yourself seriously shopping through all the pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader, you may want to read our boat buying guide to know all the ins and outs of purchasing a boat and how to buy a boat by doing your due diligence prior to making any big decisions.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2020 and was last updated in September of 2023.