Have you been thinking about buying a pontoon boat but are a little worried that it may not go as fast as you need it to? Today’s pontoon boats are unlike the one that you cruised around the lake on during your summer vacations at grandpa’s house. While it may be a little more expensive, you can pretty much find a pontoon or tri-toon boat that will fit your speed needs, whether it be for pulling skiers and tubers, cruising around the lake, or getting to your favorite fishing spot before everyone else.
So, how fast can a pontoon boat go? The average pontoon boat can run anywhere between 15 to 24 mph when fully loaded, with some tri-toon models topping out at over 50 mph.
Keep reading to find out just how fast the different size pontoon boats will go when outfitted with different size engines and if they will go fast enough for your boating needs. Keep in mind though that the size of the boat and engine only tell half the story! There are a number of factors that will determine how fast a pontoon will go, including the size of the motor, the size of the pontoon boat, the number of pontoons, and how heavy your load is, etc.
17 Examples of How Fast Pontoon Boats Can Go
|Size and Model||Horsepower||MPH|
|16 ft Sun Tracker Bass Buggy||40||15|
|18 ft Sun Tracker Bass Buggy||75||21|
|20 ft Sweetwater 2086||50||15|
|20 ft Sweetwater 2086||90||24|
|20 ft Quest 820 Lanai (Tri)||115||34|
|20 ft Ultra 202 Fish & Cruise||115||27|
|23 ft Sweetwater 2386||115||25|
|23 ft Manitou Encore SHP 373 (Tri)||250||45|
|21 ft Bennington 21 SLX||135||38|
|24 ft South Bay 224RS LE 25||115||25|
|24 ft Xcursion 255RFX (Tri)||115||27|
|27 ft Xcursion 255RFX (Tri)||250||41|
|25 ft JC Marine 25 NepToon (Tri)||150||33|
|25 ft JC Marine 25 NepToon (Tri)||250||46|
|22 ft Manitou Oasis||150||36|
|21 ft Sylvan Mirage 8520 C&F||150||39|
|22ft Bennington RLI (Tri)||150||38|
How Fast Do You Need to Go
If you stumbled upon this article then speed is obviously a concern that you have, but do you really need to go as fast as you might think. Sure some people just have a need for speed and want to go as fast as possible no matter what.
However, if you’re wondering if you’ll have enough power for pulling a skier, or the kids on a tube, you may be surprised to find out that you don’t need to go as fast as you might think.
In fact, the average skier and wake boarders prefer boat speeds between 18 to 22 mph, while slalom water-skiers need at least 25 to 36 mph. With that being said, 16 to 20 mph is usually enough to pull kids on skies and tubes.
If you just want to impress family and friends, well that’s another story…
If in Doubt, Go With The Bigger Motor
If by some chance you find yourself on the fence whether or not to go with say a Yamaha 50 hp or a 115 hp motor, always go with the bigger engine. Sure the difference in price is around $5,000, but you could be saving money in the long run.
What I mean by that is, let’s say that you go with the smaller motor to save money.
After going out on the water a few times, you quickly realize that you should have gone with the bigger motor. Now you’re in a real pickle!
Boats and their engines are like new cars in that once you drive them off the lot, they immediately lose their value. Now I’m not exactly sure how much that is, but it will be something.
You now have to buy the larger motor which is roughly 5 grand more and plus, you’re going to have to pay the dealership to remove your old motor and install the new one.
This could get pretty expensive!
So when on the fence, always, always go with the larger motor.
And don’t let the salesman talk you into the smaller motor. I know this seems counter intuitive, but dealerships will often outfit their boats with the smallest motors possible in order to bring the sale price down, making them more attractive to potential buyers.
Tips For Making Your Pontoon Go Faster
If you do decide to go with a smaller motor and find out that you need to go just a little bit faster, you might want to try one or all of these tips in order to get that extra boost of power.
Upgrade Your Prop
If you’re finding that you need to get on a plane just a little bit faster for pulling skiers, tubers, or just because you want to, you might want to check into upgrading your prop based on your needs.
Without going into full detail, different props can produce different results. For instance, choosing a prop with a different pitch can help you get on plane faster (perfect for pulling skiers) but will bring down your top speed a bit. Alternatively, you can choose a prop with a pitch suited for achieving top speed once on plane, but getting on plane will take a little longer.
They make 4 blade and 3 blade props, which both have their pros and cons, as well as stainless steel and aluminum props.
If you’re buying a new pontoon boat, you can talk with your dealer about your needs and they should be able to set you up with the right prop for your situation.
If you would like more detailed info on boat props, West Marine has a great article here.
Get Lifting Stakes
If you’re buying your pontoon boat new or are opting for a tri-toon, chances are it already has lifting strakes installed. However, if it doesn’t I highly suggest that you pay the extra money to get them installed.
So what are lifting strakes?
In short, they are strips of metal that are welded directly onto the pontoons, helping to create lift on the water. This helps the pontoon to basically glide through the water instead of lumbering through it.
Lifting strakes not only help with speed, but will also help with fuel efficiency as well as providing a smoother ride.
Lighten Your Load
This should be a no brainer, but if you want to go faster with less motor, you have to lighten the load.
We know that you just got a new boat and want to show it off to everyone and their mothers, but if you want to impress them with its speed, you may want to invite a few at a time. That is of course unless you’re packing a 300 hp.
Also, if you’re planning on doing some skiing or taking the kids tubing, you might want to leave any unnecessary items at the house, especially if you opted for the smaller engine.
Clean Your Pontoons
This really won’t apply to you (at least for now) if you bought your pontoon boat new, but make sure that your pontoons are clean!
If they have barnacles or gunk growing on them, they will not glide through the water as efficiently as they otherwise would. Believe it or not this can have a real impact on how fast your pontoon boat can go.
Are Tri-Toons Boats Faster Than Pontoons
Yes! Tri-toons are faster than your traditional two-tube pontoon boat! This is due to a couple of reasons.
First, by adding an extra pontoon, you give your boat the ability to float on top of the water. Less resistance equals more speed.
Second, a third pontoon allows the boat to be fitted with a larger motor. In fact, there are some tri-toons that can actually accommodate 2 engines.
One thing to keep in mind though is that while a tri-toon will definitely provide you with more power, it’s also going to take a bigger bite out of your wallet.
So now that you have a good idea on how fast a pontoon boat can go, the question is will it go fast enough for your needs?
With that being said, the number one piece of advice that I can give you is that if you are on the fence about whether or not to go bigger when it comes to your engine, always go bigger. In fact, I recommend that you go with the max horsepower that your boat is rated for.
You just never know when you’re going to want that extra power and once you drive off the boat lot, it’s too late!