Best Pontoon Boats – Unbiased Review

Best Pontoon Boats

Pontoons have become very popular in recent years.  There are now dozens of brands to choose from which makes the task of finding the best pontoon boats a difficult task.  To help you with your selection process, BoaterInput surveyed current pontoon boat owners to determine which brands they would most likely consider if shopping for a new boat.

BEST PONTOON BOATS

The following is a summary of the top brands selected.

PONTOON BRANDS Favorite % Selecting in Top 3
Bennington  30%  74%
Sun Tracker 10%  18%
Harris 8%  18%
Premier 8%  18%
Sweetwater 5%  16%

So what makes these the best pontoon boats according to our survey?  Here’s what boaters had to say:

  1. Bennington

Bennington was one of the first manufacturers to figure out that there was a market for luxury pontoon boats.  By adding comfortable, family room-like, furniture and larger engines, Bennington quickly built a reputation as  a quality product and emerged as the market leader.  Plus they now offer a wide variety of layouts and price points to accommodate a variety of tastes and budgets. Impressively, a whopping 3 out of 4 pontoon owners would consider a Bennington if shopping for a new boat.

  • “I feel Bennington is a trusted name and top of the line” (Stephen t., Carrollton, TX)
  • “It’s what I currently own and based on what I’ve seen of other brands Bennington is the best.” (Roy B., Eau Claire, WI)
  • “I had one before the AP (Aqua Patio) and think it is the best and most advanced pontoon available.” (James B., Indianapolis, IN)
  • “It is reputed to be very high quality, also well-designed and well-built.” (Ed K., Grandville, MI)
  • “Superb quality and craftsmanship as well as outstanding warranty issues.” (Paul M., Madison, WI)
  • “Very high quality and outstanding resale value.” (David R., Clinton, IA)
  • “It looks nicer and is better equipped” (Gil P., Atlanta, GA)
  1. Sun Tracker

The appeal of Sun Tracker is pretty straightforward – it is largely about price/value. You get a lot of boat for your money. Plus, some like the backing of a large, reputable, company like Bass Pro Shops. Chances are, they will be around for as long as you own your boat – and then some.

  • “I am very pleased with the one I have, but wish I had a bigger motor for it.” (Herbert H., Fulton,NY)
  • “Great starter boat that fits a budget.” (Mike D., Pleasant Hill, IA)
  • “Reputation of Bass Pro Shops for service and repair.” (Robert A., Meadview, AZ)
  • “Bennington is most expensive and more deluxe than I need.” (Stuart S., Greensboro, GA)
  1. Harris

The Harris brand has a reputation as a quality product that may be a bit more affordable than other premium brands. Like Bennington, they offer a wide variety of layouts and price points to satisfy various needs.

  • “Step in luxury, details and re-sale” (Robert W., Auburn Hills, MI)
  • “Fits all our needs at an affordable price.” (David B., Honaker, VA)
  • “Knowledge of long term quality and reliability.” (Dennis M., Rochester, MI)
  • “Offer quality and layout I was looking for.” (Joel B., Fargo, ND)
  • “Best overall value.” (Garren M., Pounding Mill, VA)
  1. Premier

Premier builds premium pontoon boats and is especially popular in the upper Midwest. Whenever I’ve visited the Minneapolis Boat Show, the Premier brand was often mentioned as a favorite among attendees because of its quality and the fact that it is locally made. However, the company has fallen on hard times recently – filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June of 2017 – largely due to a failed acquisition of another brand. Despite this, the company is continuing to successfully build and ship boats.  (UPDATE: shortly after filing for bankruptcy, Premier was acquired by a private investor and has returned to profitability.  Things are looking up for Premier once again.  See details here.)

  • “Quality of construction…good dealership…” (anonymous)
  • “Locally made and offered at a dealership close to my lake-home.” (Robert K., Eden Prairie, MN)
  • “Our Premier is 10 years old and still looks nice and works great. So it was pricier when we purchased it, but has lasted a long time.” (Barbara F., Gun Lake, MI)
  • “Quality, reputation.” (James H., Coldwater, MI)
  • “I own one already and am happy with it.” (Dan V., Vulcan, MI)
  1. Sweetwater

Though not as well-known as Sun Tracker, the appeal of Sweetwater is much the same – price/value.

  • “Price.” (Kathleen P)
  • “Affordability” (Darrell C.)
  • “Have had positive experience with brand.” (Marge R., Wirtz, VA)

In addition to those listed above, other brands that received multiple mentions include: South Bay and Berkshire (part of Forest River Marine), Avalon, Crest, Sylvan, Manitou and Regency.  These represent brands that should be on your “short list” if shopping for a new pontoon.  To see a comprehensive listing of brands available, be sure to check out our manufacturer directory.

Today’s pontoon boats are very versatile, comfortable and spacious enough to enable the entire family or group of friends share in the fun. Unless you are a hard core angler or watersports enthusiast, it is an excellent choice for many freshwater boaters and is perhaps the best value on the water.  To learn more, check out our “Boat Buyer’s Guide: Pontoon boats” research report.

 

 

Comments 2

    • Thank you for your inquiry. Leisure Kraft was certainly included in the survey as an option along with over three dozen other pontoon brands. However, no one selected it as one of their top 3 most desired brands. This does not necessarily mean it isn’t a quality boat. Leisure Kraft, like many others, is a very small boat builder and therefore does not enjoy much brand familiarity which may very well be why it was not selected. Further, I checked my database to see if I had any Leisure Kraft owners to reach out to for their input. However, out of nearly 1,000 pontoon owners, only one owned a Leisure Kraft (again, reflecting the very small size of this builder). Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to give you any robust feedback on the Leisure Kraft brand. Sorry that I am not able to help you with your request.

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