The average weight of a pontoon boat is a common question among prospective owners. This is because an important consideration of owning a boat is how you will get it from storage into the water. Therefore, the weight of your boat will determine what rating your trailer needs to be and what the minimum towing capacity your vehicle requires.
So, what is the average weight of a pontoon boat? Pontoon boats have an average dry weight of around 2,200 pounds across all classes. The average wet weight of a pontoon boat is around 4,000 pounds. The dry weight is the weight of an empty boat, essentially just the chassis and engine. The wet mass includes fuel, equipment, furniture, and people.
Most leisure pontoon boats in the United States are between 18 and 25 feet in length, with the average being 22 feet. However, you can buy boats as small as 12 feet up to a 60-foot boat. Due to the disparity in length, each size of boat will have vastly different weights. What you put on your boat will also affect its wet weight. Everything from the engine to what fishing gear you chose will determine the weight and performance of your boat.
Average Pontoon Boat Weight by Size
You can purchase a pontoon boat in all sizes, from a small 12-footer to a massive 60-foot boat. As the largest vessel is five times the length of the smallest, there is going to be a vast difference in the weight of the boat. Therefore, let’s break these boats into three simple classes of small, medium, and large. The values given here are just the dry weights of the crafts.
The dry weight is the weight before anything is loaded onto the boat and before the fuel tank is filled. Usually, this is the most crucial consideration for people, so they know how much they need to tow. Bear in mind this weight does not include the trailer, which can be anything from 1,000 to 1,500 lbs.
So, if you have a 2,000-pound boat, and your trailer is 1,000 lbs, meaning you need to tow 3,000 lbs in total. If your vehicle doesn’t have enough power to pull this weight, then you are not going to be able to get your boat to the river!
The values below are just a guide, but an excellent method to roughly estimate the weight of your boat is to assume that every square foot of your boat weighs 100 pounds.
- Small Pontoons
These boats are typically 12-19 feet long and are lightest boats available. Some models will have a dry weight below 1,000lbs, with the upper limit reaching 2,000 lbs. On average, except a small ponton to weigh around 1,400 lbs, dry.
- Medium Pontoons
Most people buy pontoons in this size range, which covers boats between 20′ to 35′. You can get a 21-foot pontoon that weighs less than 1,900 lbs. You can also get a luxurious 25-foot boat that weighs in a staggering 3,526 lbs, and that’s without the motor! From just these two examples, you can see that vast differences are dependant on the manufacturer and the material used to construct the boat. On average, expect a vessel of this size to be somewhere between 2,200 – 2,500 lbs.
- Large Pontoons
Very few people buy large pontoons as leisure vehicles. These boats can be anything from 30-60 feet and are mostly reserved for activities like giving a guided water tour. They are challenging to come across and are sold by only a few companies. Expect these behemoths to weigh, on average, 7,500 lbs and can exceed 10,000 pounds easily.
Additions Add Weight
Customizing a pontoon boat is an exciting part of buying and owning your water vehicle. There are many additions or alterations you can make from the engine to the equipment, and even the furniture than can add substantial weight to the boat. That is, of course, before you add people! Depending on what you add, it can increase the dry weight and wet weight of your vehicle considerably.
Here are some things that will add to the wet weight of your boat:
The average gas tank holds around 30 gallons of fuel (smaller boats can have as low as six gallons, and larger boats can have 42-gallon tanks). Working with the 30-gallon average and assuming that each gallon weight six pounds, a full tank of gas can add around 180 pounds to your boat’s weight. That is the same as a person!
Which motor you chose to get for your boat will depend a lot on your finances, intended boat use, and the size of your pontoon and its fuel tank. It can weigh anything from 50-200 lbs depending on the chosen model. Most frequently, a motor weighing just under 100 pounds is used. If you are using your boat for fishing, you will also want to add a trolling motor. This auxiliary motor will allow you to slowly cruise the waterways, which is essential for some hands-free fishing. A trolling engine will add a further 50 pounds or so to your weight.
- Fishing equipment
Some users will not take more than their tackle box and a few rods with them onto the water. In these instances, their weight is negligible. However, you can install a multitude of accessories to your boat to make the fishing life a little more restful. You might opt for a fishing chair (30 lbs), a mounted grill (25 lbs), or a rod rack (5 lbs). By no means is this an extensive list. There are numerous items you can purchase to make a fishing trip on your pontoon boat a wonderfully relaxing experience. Whether you are adding cup holders, navigation equipment, or a waterproof bag, everything you put on the pontoon adds weight and needs to be counted.
- Anchor additions
An anchor winch makes pulling the anchor in far more manageable. It could be an essential piece of equipment for some users. Depending on the model you chose, expect to add an additional 20 lbs to your weight. The downside to a winch and the anchor itself is that it will take up room on your deck. Therefore, you may opt for installing an anchor mount and ledge. With every addition comes more weight – expect to add a further 20-30 lbs to put this on your boat too.
Don’t let your passengers underestimate how much they weigh. If your boat can only take 2,000 pounds of additional weight, then you better make sure you are not transporting ten people that weigh 220 pounds each! Always best to overestimate what the scale says in this instance.
Of course, there are hundreds of other items you can add to your boat after it is purchased. The furniture you add aftermarket, kayaks, water skis, water coolers, and consumables, will all add substantial weight between the time you are towing and when you get on the water.
Why Does Pontoon Weight Matter?
When purchasing a boat, you likely need to take it on your travels. Most people prefer to keep their boats in their driveways or at a local boat storage facility instead of leaving it in the water, which can shorten a boat’s life – especially during the winter months. Freezing temperatures can lead to the hull cracking, which will sink the pontoon in the worst-case scenario. Instead of facing a total loss, or minimally an expensive repair bill, you need to find a way to store your boat during the offseason.
What this means for you is that you need either need to tow your boat to a safe location, or use a boat lift to get it out of the water. Either way, you are going to need to know the weight of the boat to be able to transport it safely and effectively.
Of course, the higher the weight of the boat, the harder and more expensive it is to move.
While the dry weight is your primary concern due to portability, the wet weight also needs to be calculated. Going above what your boat and engine are rated for can seriously affect the performance. You may find that your boat feels sluggish with several people on board, demonstrating that your engine is struggling to generate enough power. This is not only frustrating but also an uneconomical use of fuel. Beyond that, it can be dangerous if you don’t have the required thrust to go against the water. That is because pontoon boats are light and are susceptible to waves and windy conditions, so you need enough power to overcome the tides.
Therefore, there is a balance to your boat weight. You need enough to have some stability, but too much and you could get stranded. What can also split your decisions is remembering that the lighter your boat, the more fun you will have with activities like waterskiing and wave riding! So, you may have different boat weights depending on the event of the day.
It is also possible to add so much weight to your boat that it will struggle to stay afloat. However, it is unlikely you will hit such weights, as you would stop loading once you saw the decrease in buoyancy. Additionally, exceeding the stated weight limit of your boat could land you in trouble with the Coast Guard or other law enforcement officials.
Recommended Tow Capacity
Generally, I recommend that you have a towing capacity of 5,500 pounds. That will cover you for almost any pontoon boat that you may choose to purchase. Of course, it all depends on the size so feel free to fudge that up or down based on your needs.
Pontoon boats are popular, relatively inexpensive recreational water vehicles that rely on buoyancy to float.
Pontoon boats’ weight varies widely by size and specification. On average, though, a 22-foot pontoon will weigh around 2,200 pounds before it is loaded up with gear, fuel, and people. There are considerable variations in this calculation, though. It is wise to know what your boat and trailer combined weight is, though, so you can safely tow it home.
Which Vehicles Can Tow A Pontoon?
Most pontoon boats weigh in the range of 2,000-3,000 lbs. However, you also need to add the mass of the trailer to your towing weight, which accounts for 1,000-1,500 additional lbs.
For safety, let us use a towing rating of 4,000 lbs as the minium your vehicle can tow before considering using it to move your boat around. Luckily, pontoon boats are some of the lightest around, so anything from a mid-size SUV upwards should be able to handle it. Small SUVs tend to have a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs, making them an unwise choice.
Is There A Specific Way to Distribute the Weight On A Pontoon Boat?
It makes sense that you will want to distribute the weight as evenly as you can on a pontoon boat. When out of the water, you can tell if something permanent on your boat has caused an uneven distribution of weight by one side of your trailer tires wearing down faster. If you see this, consider how you might distribute the weight better.
As with any other vehicle, packing everything on one side will cause it to tilt. Luckily though, because of the tubes and flat deck, weight distribution isn’t as vital as it is on a v-shaped boat. When considering front to back weight distribution, more weight at the back is preferred to front load and will help you go faster due to less resistance from the tubes when they lift out of the water. Your biggest concern will be with passengers moving around the boat and trying to keep them evenly distributed.
Can A Pontoon Boat Tip Over?
While it may be physically possible for a pontoon boat to tip over, it is highly unlikely. Their design of a flat deck with buoyant tubes means that the boat will stabilize itself quickly on the calm waters. Even if one of the tubes becomes cracked, it will stay afloat.
Of course, it helps if you distribute the weight properly when you pack your boat for the day! If you have a lot of people on the boat and they all sit or stand at one side, then yes, it could tip. If you are sensible, though, it shouldn’t happen.
Bear in mind, pontoons are not designed for use in rough conditions or in open waters like the ocean. They are intended as recreation water vehicles to be used only on serene lakes and lazy rivers. If you use your boat sensibly, there should be minimal risk of it capsizing.
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