Shopping for a pontoon boat isn’t an easy-peasy task. After determining the size, style, and budget, you’ll be left with a harder variable: the engine horsepower. So, what size motor do you need for a 24ft pontoon boat?
For 24-foot pontoon boats, I don’t recommend going below 150HP. The “all-around” performance can be achieved by a 175HP motor. If you want the best of the best, go for a 200HP motor.
Although the size of the motor matters, there are other factors that determine your pontoon speed. Curious? Let’s find out what they are!
Technical Factors That Affect the Pontoon Speed
As I said in the intro, the motor size is the first of many factors that may directly affect your pontoon’s speed.
It doesn’t take an expert to understand that the longer the boat, the heavier it’ll be. Obviously, as the boat gets heavier, you’ll need to get a larger outboard motor to compensate for the added drag.
20-Footers and Shorter
For 16-foot boats, getting a 25HP motor should do the trick. In calm water, you can expect to ride at about 5 mph.
Any boat longer than 20 feet shouldn’t have less than a 115HP motor. This doesn’t necessarily mean that smaller engines will suck. But it’s a good idea to consider this as a baseline horsepower to guarantee an acceptable resale value.
24-Footers and Longer
24-feet boats carrying an average of 4 people can operate smoothly with a 150HP motor. You won’t break any speed records, but you’ll go at comfortable speeds for tubing while having a crew on board.
Ramp it up to 175HP if you’re likely to cruise around with a full crew of 8 to 10 people.
If budget isn’t an issue, the bigger will always be better. A 200HP motor will give you the best performance with your boat fully loaded with crew.
Old pontoons used to come with 19, 21, and 23-inch tubes. Nowadays, it’s pretty rare to see tubes smaller than 23”.
And of course, the wider you go, the more lift you’ll have. That way, your motor won’t have to work as hard. For 24-foot boats, 25” tubes would work just fine. If your budget allows, consider 27-inch tubes.
This is where things get a bit controversial. Some boaters believe that tri-toons — boats that have a third tube — float easier on the water, which allows for less drag and higher speeds.
On the other hand, old-school boaters explain that the added weight of the third tube will do more harm than good.
The truth is, this depends on the tube placement. Usually, the additional tube sits below the two tubes on the sides. This way, it can displace enough water to create a larger lift without weighing you down.
What’s more, tri-toons are way more stable than conventional pontoons. You can equip them with 200+HP without worrying about that annoying lean that happens while turning.
Getting tubes with built-in lifting strakes can allow you to enjoy the full potential of your outboard motor.
If you’re unfamiliar, these strakes come as small metal projections welded onto the tubes. When you drive, these strakes will displace the water, allowing the boat to get up on a plane rather than plow or lumber through the water.
With the front third lifted off the surface, your boat will be able to ride faster and smoother. And owing to the decreased drag, you’ll also end up saving some fuel.
Technically speaking, the lifting strakes can be welded to your existing tubes. However, you’ll need to find an expert who can masterfully adjust the angles and height. Otherwise, the strakes won’t generate the required lift, or worse, give you annoyingly bumpy rides.
That said, I always recommend getting new tubes with pre-installed strakes. Getting a whole new boat is even better since the overall design will be optimized to get up on a plane.
When in Doubt, Ask a Local Dealer
If the previous details seemed too complicated, no worries! It’s always a good idea to consult your nearest dealer.
It’s important to be specific about your needs. Tell the dealer about how many people will often ride on board. Then, explain the nature of your intended activities: Are you thinking about pulling wakeboarders, skiers, or tubers? Or will you just cruise around with friends and family?
The dealer should be able to suggest a suitable motor that will live up to your needs. Even if they ended up upselling an unnecessarily-powerful model, it’ll maintain its resale value for years.
Don’t Forget to Bring Up the Locale
If you’re planning to ride the boat inside the local waters, you’ll be in the clear. The dealer will typically know what works and what doesn’t, without needing to discuss it with you.
However, if you don’t want to limit yourself, you’ll need to roughly explain your planned locale since this can directly impact the horsepower choice. For instance, rivers and coasts will require more robust motors when compared to lakes and impoundments.
Bonus: Tips to Get the Best Out of Your Motor
In the following section, I’ll introduce a couple of minor tips that can have a more or less significant impact on the pontoon’s speed.
Engine Mounting Height
Just like any other boat, pontoons have a sweet spot in which you should mount the outboard motor.
The goal is to get the anti-ventilation plate below the water surface to prevent propeller ventilation. You don’t want to push it down too far, though. Otherwise, the lower unit, aka gearbox, would create an excessive drag.
While adjusting the height, try to mimic the load distribution that your boat will likely bear.
For instance, let’s assume you’ll go fishing with 4-5 friends. If they sit toward the bow, this may raise the stern enough to cause propeller ventilation. In that case, you’ll want to position the motor a bit lower than average. It’d take a lot of experimenting on your part, but the results will be worth it.
Don’t Fill the Tank
Unless you’re planning to pull all-nighters with your friends, don’t be tempted to fill up your tank.
On average, gas weighs 8 pounds per gallon. So if you filled a 25-gallon tank only to its middle, you’ll spare about 100 pounds. It may seem like a small difference, but it can actually do wonders for the boat lift and speed.
Based on the previous information, most 24-foot pontoon boats would do just fine with a 150HP motor. The best performance, however, can be achieved with a 175HP or, better yet, a 200HP outboard motor.
But as I explained, answering the question, “what size motor for a 24-foot pontoon boat?” isn’t only about horsepower. Things like the tube length, number, and lifting strakes can have a non-negligible effect.
Remember, if this seems like too much to handle, reaching out to a local dealer is also a great option.