Pontoon Boat vs. Catamaran: What’s the difference?

Pontoon Boat Vs. Catamaran: What's The Difference?

When you’re in the market to buy a new boat, two common styles you might be considering are pontoon boats and catamarans.

Although these vessels might look similar on the water, there’s actually a few points of difference that set them apart.

So, what is the actual difference between a pontoon boat and a catamaran?

The easiest way to distinguish the two is by looking at the connection between the two hulls. If the independent hulls are joined by a wing structure, this is usually a catamaran. If the space in between the floating pontoons is filled with a deck, this is usually a pontoon boat.

In addition to these telltale design features, there are some other factors that can help differentiate the two.

If you’re in the process of deciding on a boat to purchase and find yourself weighing up between a catamaran and a pontoon boat, these differences could help make your final decision.

We’re going to compare the two vessels to find out their pros and cons and how they contrast, to help you figure out which is best.

The Difference Between Pontoon Boats and Catamarans

Pontoon Boat And Catamaran

Pontoon boats and catamarans are often confused for one another when they’re on the water, but only to the untrained eye.

This confusion is often due to their similar shape and design, but the key difference is what connects them between their two floating pontoons.

To differentiate between the two, there are a few categories you can compare them in to see what the real differences are.

Size

Pontoon boats are better suited to recreational users because they’re smaller in size.

A pontoon boat can range from small vessels around 15 feet long all the way up to 50 feet.

Catamarans are usually larger and one of the largest in the world measures at 145 feet.

Design

A pontoon boat is comprised of a deck and two or three inaccessible pontoons acting as flotation devices for the vessel.

In a catamaran, the pontoons form part of the boat and will also feature storage spaces and inboard motors inside of each tube.

Catamarans also feature a mast or net joining in between the two pontoons whereas a pontoon boat is a simple deck.

Purpose

Back Side Of Catamaran

Catamarans are often used as racing boats or larger commercial vessels and are equipped to travel on the ocean because their larger size and design makes them better at handling rough conditions.

A pontoon is mainly used on freshwater but can also be designed for saltwater, and their most common use if for fishing or relaxation.

Speed

A standard pontoon boat will be able to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, depending on the motor and design.

Catamarans are more built for speed and can reach up to 50 miles per hour, but the speed of the wind can affect this.

Price

Pontoon boats are reasonably priced for recreational users and can start for as little as $10,000 for a basic model.

Catamarans are expensive to purchase and the minimum you can expect to pay is around $50,000.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Each Style of Boat?

To do a fair analysis of the two types of boats, it’s best to look at what each of them has to offer, and areas where they might fall short.

For the average everyday boat owner, these are the pros and cons you’ll want to consider before making your final decision.

Catamaran Pros

Chilling On Catamaran
  • Space: As a catamaran allows for storage inside of its pontoons, you’ll get more space for storage and more room for passengers.
  • Stability: Having a twin hull makes the boat more stable than a singular one.
  • Speed: These boats are able to reach higher speeds and are better suited at traveling long distances.

Catamaran Cons

  • Price: With base models starting at $50,000, owning a catamaran is not possible for many casual boating enthusiasts.
  • Maintenance: Catamarans require a lot of ongoing maintenance and higher costs for refueling.
  • Docking space: These boats take up a sizeable amount of docking space and will cost more in fees.

Pontoon Boat Pros

Enjoying On Pontoon Boat
  • Ease of use: Known as the easiest type of boat to learn, these are perfect for all skill levels to drive and easy to maintain.
  • Affordable: A pontoon can be purchased for $10,000 brand new and even less for a second-hand model.
  • Stability: Designed with twin hulls, and sometimes three, a pontoon boat is incredibly stable on the water.

Pontoon Boat Cons

  • Lack of speed: Made more for cruising, unless you have a performance pontoon boat you won’t hit high speeds.
  • Hard on rough waters: A pontoon isn’t built for choppy conditions and won’t handle waves as well as a catamaran.

The Different Types of Pontoons

Different Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats are a popular choice for people who want to get out and enjoy the water, but ensuring you have the right one is a matter of knowing what the different types are.

In addition to choosing what brand of a pontoon boat to buy, you’ll also have to consider these different models and what they offer.

Value

These are usually smaller and simpler in their design, made for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money.

They come as a base model and usually don’t reach farther than 18 feet, ideal for small groups and casual users.

Leisure

These are fully equipped with accessories that make your boating experience fun.

They might have cookers, coolers, sinks, fold-out tables, and attachment for any toys or water activities you want to try.

Performance

Driving Pontoon Boat Fast

A high powered pontoon boat that’s capable of reaching the fastest speeds and with the most powerful engine possible.

These are more expensive to purchase but ideal for people who like water sports and just going fast.

Luxury

A luxury pontoon boat is made for cruising and they are full of premium amenities and the finest furnishings like premium seat cushions and high-tech sound systems.

Angler

The perfect pontoon boat for fishing, these vessels are designed with angling in mind.

They feature extras like rod holders, live wells, and captain’s chairs to make every fishing excursion perfect.

Why Pontoon Boats Are Best

Jumping In Water From Pontoon Boat

When it comes to versatility, affordability, stability, and ease of use, pontoon boats are the clear winner in this competition.

A catamaran is a very specialized vessel better suited to commercial ocean cruises or people with a lot of money to spend.

A pontoon boat can be used for just about anything and is known as one of the easiest to learn to drive.

There are some limitations with pontoon boats, like their inability to handle rough conditions, but its positive points outweigh these.

As a top choice for a versatile boat that’s great for fishing, cruising, and water sports, pontoon boats are equipped to do it all.

Related Questions

Friend On Pontoon Boat

Pontoon boats come in many shapes and sizes, and you can generally find the perfect one to suit your needs.

These are some other questions you might want to consider about pontoon boat ownership and what it’s all about.

Do Pontoon Boats Have Bathrooms?

Standard pontoon boats don’t come with a bathroom, but you may be able to place a porta potty on the deck if there’s room.

Larger pontoon boats may have the facilities to add a portable toilet depending on the layout.

How Do Pontoon Boats and Catamarans Keep Their Value?

Buying a brand new pontoon boat or catamaran is a major investment, and after the initial purchase, their value will drop quite a bit.

This is why it’s recommended to purchase a quality boat that will hold its value over many years.

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