Ten years ago most pontoon boats had the unfortunate reputation of being nothing more than poky party barges. Today things are quite different. Not only have pontoon boats completely changed, but the segment has been one of the fastest growing in the U.S. boating market. As a result we saw a number of innovative new models hit the water, especially three to seven years ago. Today, many of these used pontoon boats are for sale in like-new condition for a much lower price than a brand new boat commands. Some top picks include:
2016 Bennington 2375
One feature you’ll find on a lot of luxury boats and yachts are loungers and sun pads — large, cushy, upholstered platforms where owners and guests can soak up the sun, or just hang out and relax. It’s a feature you didn’t find very often on pontoon boats in the old days. Today there are more of them, but the Bennington 2375 takes the theme to a whole new level.
The entire stern of the “Swingback” version is dominated a massive, five-foot-wide upholstered sunpad set on a durable fiberglass base. The clever part of the lounge is a hinged seatback that swings forward to create a headrest for the sunpad, or aft to expand an L-shaped lounge in the cockpit (hence the term “SwingBack”). If you can’t unwind and relax on this thing, you’re not living right. And on the 2375 RCW and GWC, you’ll find two super-comfortable full-length loungers with a walkway down the middle.
Underfoot is Bennington’s 25-inch ESP Performance Package, which includes two 25-inch diameter outer pontoons with performance foils, a patented 32-inch elliptical center pontoon with lifting strakes, and an under-deck wave shield. This package allows you to fit the 2375 with up to 300 horsepower, good for speeds well into the upper 50-mph range.
See Bennington 2375 pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Premier Dodici 310, Boundary Waters, and Escalanti
At 31 feet long, the Premier 310 is one of the most spacious pontoon boats your money can buy. But what makes this boat even more unique is what Premier has mounted to its stern: Lots of ponies. Horsepower, that is, up to 900 of them. The Boundary Waters and Escalanti models have 10 feet of beam, and the Dodici has a full 12 feet. In case you’re wondering, “Dodici” is Italian for “twelve,” referring to this new pontoon’s enormous beam.
The Boundary Waters and Escalanti can be found with Premier’s upper deck and a water slide, while the Dodici has the company’s Cruise or Pub layouts. The Pub layout features a full standup bar with swiveling bar stools and a bar-height table with additional swivel-stool seating, while the club layout focuses more on lounging and relaxing. These models can host a mind-boggling 26 people aboard.
To contend with gobs of horsepower you’ll often see these models outfitted with Premier’s 42-inch PTX performance pontoon package. The package means that you can not only strap more horsepower to the stern, but it also provides handling and cornering qualities that mirror what you’d find on many traditional fiberglass boats. While that sounds like a marketing gimmick, I’ve run enough of Premier’s pontoons to confirm the system works as advertised.
See Premier pontoon boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Manitou 25 X-Plode XT
If you had to nail down something that more than a few folks don’t like about pontoon boats, it’s that they can have a “blocky” look to them. Another is that the fencing and panel systems that surround the decks of these boats can be creaky or vibrate underway. Manufacturers have tried to solve this problem by producing ever-evolving fencing and panel combinations, but the efforts haven’t always paid off. Manitou Pontoons provides a solution with its 25 X-Plode XT models.
Instead of having welded aluminum fencing with insert panels, these pontoon boats are all fiberglass from the deck up. And that includes the interior furniture, too, which is fully integrated into the fiberglass deck enclosure. This allows Manitou to create a pontoon with a sleeker profile, having a look that’s more akin to traditional fiberglass boats. It also means a longer-lasting and more durable pontoon.
Under the new fiberglass modules sit Manitou’s normal decking and pontoon systems, both of which have a reputation for sturdiness and quality. The X-Plode model has a bend toward performance and watersports activities, with splashy graphics and a tow tower.
See Manitou X-Plode XT boats for sale on Boat Trader.
If you’d like to shop for newer models, be sure to check out Best Pontoon Boats of 2022.