Pontoon Boats Vs. Catamaran – Pros and Cons For New Buyers – A Boating Guide Buyer’s Guide For 2023.
Would you like to know the differences between pontoon boats and catamarans? These two vessels seem similar in the hull design to stay on the water. However, there are several differences, and each ship is better suited for different purposes.
Generally, one can distinguish between the two boats by looking between the two hulls. For example, if there is a deck between the floating pontoon, you are looking at a pontoon boat. At the same time, if the two hulls are interconnected, it is a catamaran.
This article covers in detail the differences between the two boats and the pro and cons of each.
What is a Pontoon boat?
In order to understand the concept of a pontoon boat, it is enough to think about two long tubes called pontoons, which can float with a large deck on them. The large deck and the two long tubes can sit above the water, providing a stable and safe boat.
The tubes, or floats, are also called pontoons. They are airtight hollows built and designed to provide buoyancy in water. The large deck is suited for different activities, such as:
- Spending time with the family on the water (rivers or lakes)
- Other water sports
Pontoons are popular boats for fun and entertaining activities. On pontoon boats, it is possible to have lounge areas, sun pads, and many other accommodations, depending on the model.
In addition, you can expect a pontoon boat to sit higher in the water when compared to an average ship.
Because of the increased height, pontoons can ride smoothly and efficiently cut over the waves. The people on board are less likely to get sprayed with water. As a bonus, the boat height, when docked, makes access easier.
Pontoons have an outboard engine that is easy to maintain and fuel efficient. These boats are simple to manage and navigate, easy to maintain, and versatile. Due to their high stability level, they are pretty safe boats.
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What are the pros of a pontoon boat?
Pontoon boats have several positive aspects to take into consideration. Here are the essential benefits to consider:
- High safety
Pontoons are amongst the safest boats around. The large deck and navigation stability make it safe to have children and pets on board. Generally, pontoon boats have high railings that add an extra layer of security.
On a pontoon boat, it is easy to walk around without losing balance, and a good choice for those suffering from seasickness.
- Very conformable
They have a large deck that can comfortably hold 10-11 people, and it is possible to add furniture, comfortable sits, daybeds, and other comfort items.
Due to the comfort provided, those boats are perfect for families, and even children can have enough space to play with their toys. In addition, pontoons have a decent amount of storage space, which is very useful for longer rides with friends and families.
- Easy to care for
The hull is easy to maintain and clean, and its design makes it less likely to get damaged than the one in other boats. In addition, the engine is outboard. Therefore, it is easy to reach in case of maintenance.
- Easy to drive
Pontoons are relatively easy to navigate and are beginner-friendly. Their stability and extensive deck help keep the boat balanced and easy to direct.
- Great for fishing
While pontoon boats are versatile and can be used for different purposes, they are also suitable for fishing activities. Because they are stable and have a significant deck, pontoon boats do not scare the fish away and are perfect when you need to hold your ground while reeling in a fish.
Pontoons are not suited for shallow waters, but one can fish in other environments.
What are the cons of a pontoon boat?
Pontoon boats also have some disadvantages. But, in general, it is an excellent choice for people who wish to spend time out on the water with family and friends and engage in different activities.
But are not well suited for going out very far or when the weather conditions are rough.
Here are the main disadvantages of pontoon boats:
In general, pontoon boats are not that fast. They can reach and surpass 100 mph (ca. 161 km/h), but only when necessary; otherwise, the average speed is around 30 mph (ca. 48 km/h) when cruising.
These boats are not suited for people who want a faster ship to do races or other activities.
- Not suitable to use in rough waters
While steady and safe in average weather conditions, pontoon boats can be dangerous during a storm or agitated waters. For example, when large waves hit the front of the ship, it can dive instead of riding over it, which might lead to capsizing.
- Poor turning radius
The turning radius is not good, and so is the maneuvering speed. While it gains safety and stability, the pontoon boat loses in fast turning and maneuvers.
- In some models, the engine can be too noisy.
Pontoon boats have an outboard engine, which can be loud if the engine is not one of the newest models. An older engine can be annoying for the people onboard. However, the noise is moderate if equipped with a modern and maintained engine.
- No cabins or under-deck space
Since pontoon boats have a deck on top of pontoon tubes, nothing is underneath it in the water. Therefore, there is no space for a bathroom or a bed. However, it is always possible to customize the boat with changing areas, portable toilets, and other services, spending additional money.
What is a catamaran?
A catamaran is similar to a pontoon boat because of the two parallel hulls connected with a bridge deck. However, this type of boat has a set of unique advantages when compared to other ships.
For example, a catamaran has a shallow draft, which allows you to pull this boat to shore in emergencies without particular problems.
This type of boat is stable thanks to the wide beam. In addition, catamarans have a smaller displacement. At the same time, the two hulls aim to provide the least possible resistance to water, so they require less energy to get going than traditional boats.
Catamarans started as canoes with outrigger wood or logs tied together. The words come from the Tamil “Kattumaram” (logs bound together). In the past, without modern technology, people used to tie together tree trunks to make a boat for fishing or other purposes.
Modern catamarans use highly resistant materials such as fiberglass or even carbon fiber. They are also designed with many comfort items and can come in various sizes for multiple purposes. In addition, catamaran boats provide a lot of space for passengers.
Between the two hulls, it is possible to create a living area and kitchen. In contrast, the hulls can be used as cabins or for living and storage purposes.
What are the advantages of a catamaran?
Catamarans are excellent boats for various purposes. First, they are large enough to accommodate several people simultaneously and make the cruise comfortable.
Here are the main advantages of a catamaran:
- Increased space
Due to the way they are constructed, with the two hulls, the catamaran can provide a lot more usable space than traditional boats. Besides the space area between the two hulls, you can utilize them for various purposes, such as cabins, living areas, or storage.
Like pontoons, catamarans are stable boats. They do not balk a lot from the waves underneath, which is favorable for those suffering from sea sickness. In addition, catamarans have two motors that allow safe and comfortable maneuvering in narrow spaces.
It is possible to turn the boat utilizing little space, preventing any risk of the wind pushing the bow to the left or right.
- Higher speed
The catamaran can sail faster than traditional boats due to the two hulls, which are lighter and due to the increased side length. The type of motor can make a difference in how fast this boat can go.
- Safe sailing closer to the beach.
The minor draft of the catamaran allows this boat to sail in shallow waters and sandy bays more than a monohull of the same length. It is an advantage over monohulls, but pontoons and catamarans take advantage of this due to the multiple hulls/pontoons.
What are the disadvantages of catamarans?
Catamarans are great boats, but there are also a few disadvantages to know before deciding to get one.
Here are the main disadvantages:
- More expensive to keep in docks
Catamaran boats are considerably wider than other boats; therefore, you can almost double the costs for docking space. In addition, it might be more challenging to find a slip large enough to dock it.
- Catamaran are expensive
Catamarans are relatively expensive when compared to other boats. The prices can go from $50.000 for a smaller catamaran, but for bigger models, you can expect to spend between $200.000 and $1.000.000.
- Slapping noises in some cases
In heavy seas, it is possible to hear a slapping or pounding sound due to the expansive bridge deck between the hulls that come in contact with the water.
The sound can become annoying at times. However, by reducing the speed, it is also possible to reduce the level of noise.
- Less feedback from the wheel
On a catamaran, there is less feedback from the wheel than on other types of boats. For this reason, when there is bad weather, it is essential to stay vigilant, especially for beginners.
What’s the Difference Between a Pontoon Boat and a Catamaran?
When casually looking at them, it is easy to confuse pontoon and catamaran boats. However, the two ships’ differences make them better suited for specific purposes.
Here are the main differences between the two types of boat:
One of the main differences between pontoon boats and catamarans is their size. Catamaran boats are usually bigger (except for the personal watercraft types of cats like the Mini Catamarans.
- Accessible Hulls
Pontoon boats have a deck on the two pontoons, and their only purpose is to keep the ship afloat. At the same time, in a catamaran, the two hulls are accessible and can be used as storage or living space.
- Different Uses
You can use the catamaran for many things, such as racing, relaxation, fishing, and recreational activities. At the same time, pontoons are better suited to navigating freshwater, fishing, and some recreational activities.
Catamaran boats can reach a higher speed than pontoons because of their design, specifically the two hulls, which are lightweight and designed to create little resistance to the water.
Pontoon boats are way cheaper than catamarans. While it is possible to find pontoons costing $10.000, the lowest price for a catamaran is $50,000.
- Maintenance Costs
It is common to have maintenance costs for any boat. However, catamaran boats require higher maintenance and are more costly than pontoon boats.
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Frequently asked questions
Which one should I buy, the pontoon or the catamaran boat?
Choosing between a pontoon or catamaran depends on the budget you have at your disposal and the use you want to make for your new boat. Pontoons are suitable if you cannot spend a lot of money and like to spend time in shallow water or go fishing. Catamarans are better if you have a high budget and want to navigate in open water.
Can I use catamarans for fishing?
The catamaran can navigate shallow waters compared to its mono-hulled counterparts of the same length. Therefore, it is suitable especially for those interested in angling. In addition, some catamaran boats have a design that aims to satisfy the most serious of anglers.
Can I use pontoons for deep open seas?
It would be best never to use Pontoon boats to go too far on open seas. With a pontoon, you must limit how far you can go to stay safe. It is because a pontoon can flip upside down quickly in case of agitated waters or lousy weather.
It would be best if you always considered that a pontoon boat is lightweight and easy for the wind to lift, unlike a ship with hulls weighted into and cutting into the water. The pontoon rides above the water on lightweight pontoons, and the catamaran has hulls that cut deeper into the water, allowing for more excellent stability than the pontoon.
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- Wikipedia, “Catamaran,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catamaran, last accessed October 22, 2022
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- GoDownSize, “Catamaran VS Pontoon boats? 12 important facts,“ https://www.godownsize.com/catamaran-vs-pontoon-boats/, last accessed October 22, 2022