It’s essential when dealing with any boat to know how much it can comfortably carry. Too much weight can have severe consequences for the boat and its people, plus the equipment on board.
Most pontoon boats can hold at least 2,000 lbs before being overloaded. To determine how much weight your pontoon boat can hold, multiply the boat’s volume by 62, then double the resulting number. Keep in mind, this is an estimate only, but you can consult the boat’s specs for a more exact figure.
In this article, I’ll be covering how to calculate the weight of people and gear, how much weight an average pontoon can carry comfortably, and other relevant information about pontoon boats.
What Is the Weight Limit for a Pontoon Boat?
Calculating the weight limit of a pontoon boat is tricky because you have to consider the weight of the boat itself. Every pontoon varies in weight depending on its length and other factors, but on average, pontoons are between 2,000 to 2,200 lbs (907.18 to 997.90 kgs).
The crucial factor in calculating the weight limit of a pontoon is how buoyant it is as determined by the pontoon tubes underneath – these tubes make the boat able to float and vary in buoyancy.
There are no definitive ‘weight classes’ of pontoons, and capacity depends on various factors, including buoyancy, volume, and displacement. The easiest way to know how much weight a pontoon will hold is to consult the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer and ask them the capacity of your boat’s model. Many pontoons come with plates displaying their capacities.
Suppose this isn’t possible for some reason, or you want to know the weight limit of a custom-built pontoon boat. In that case, you’re going to have to do some measuring and calculations to determine an estimate for the pontoon’s ideal weight capacity.
Examples of Pontoon Weight Limits
The following are examples of pontoon boat models and their respective weight limits. You shouldn’t use these to determine your boat’s limit, and these are for example purposes only.
Pontoon Boats and their weight limits:
- Ranger 223C: 2,300 lbs (1,043.26 kgs)
- Tahoe LTZ Cruise 24FT: 2,260 lbs (1,025.11 kgs)
- Retreat 230 RFL: 2,100 lbs to 2,700 lbs (952.54 kgs to 1,224.69 kgs) —depends on length
- Starcraft SLS3: 2,600 lbs (1,179.34 kgs)
How To Calculate Weight Capacity Estimate
To everyone’s dismay, calculating the estimated weight capacity of your pontoon requires some math. First you’ll need to know the volume of your boat’s submerged section. This calculator is useful to figure out the volume of your boat; simply plug in your boat’s height and length.
Once you have the volume, it’s key to know that freshwater weighs 62 pounds per cubic foot (993.14 kg/m³). You’ll probably never need to know this again, but you need that number right now. We’re assuming freshwater because pontoons are most commonly used on inland bodies of water, typically lakes.
First, multiply the volume you calculated by 62. The resulting number is how much weight a single pontoon tube can support. Considering that pontoons have 2 of these tubes, double that number. This final number is the rough weight capacity of your boat.
An Easy Way to Calculate What Gear and People Weigh
Assume 180 lbs (81.64 kgs) per adult male and about 160 lbs (72.57 kgs) per adult female, and no more than around 50 lbs (22.67 kgs) of gear aboard – this includes refreshments, fishing gear, or other items.
This article by the Greenville News recommends you multiply the boat’s width by its length and divide that number by 15.
For example, an 8-foot (2.43-meter) wide boat with a 20-foot (6.09-meter) length would have an estimated occupancy of 10 people.
This is a rough estimate only, and the above method should be used for a more exact figure. But remember, they’re both only estimates and aren’t a substitute for finding out the exact capacity of your boat.
Packing Gear in a Pontoon Boat Correctly
Pack small items in the compartments of your boat, and be very careful to spread heavy items across the deck; don’t put a full cooler and a heavy stereo on the same side, for example.
This also applies to people. Sometimes, people flock to one side of the boat to see something, but you should caution against this if you’re close to your weight limit.
Consider using bungee straps, rope, zip ties, or a combination to secure heavy items such as the stereo or cooler. These will keep them stationary in case of large, sudden movements. Otherwise, they could slide and could make the boat tip over.
How Many People Fit on a Pontoon Boat With Gear?
An average pontoon boat can carry around 12 people. This figure will vary based on boat size and volume and may be different once you factor in the exact weights of each passenger. This also assumes that you’re packing minimal gear on board. Pontoons can carry more passengers than most boats.
This is because pontoons are constructed differently from boats with a monohull—they use hollow tubes underneath to stay buoyant, which allows for the unique flat hull shape pontoons have versus, say, deck boats.
The 12-person estimate varies a lot depending on your passengers, but the point is that a group of adult men will weigh more than a group of teenage girls. Keep this in mind when entertaining groups on your pontoon. It’s better to leave someone out rather than put the whole group at risk.
What Will Happen if I Overload My Pontoon Boat?
If you overload your pontoon boat, the worst that can happen is it tips over. Alternatively, the boat can slow down or sink lower, which may be hard to spot due to its buoyancy. There’s also a chance you get ticketed by overloading your boat, and insurance may invalidate a related claim.
You might assume that a pontoon sits similarly to other boats and that your weight is fine when you’re actually overloading it. But overloading a pontoon has serious consequences if ignored.
You Can Get a Ticket
Local law enforcement in popular boating areas are frequently on the lookout for careless or reckless boaters, and overloading a pontoon falls into at least one of those categories. Overloading a boat can get you a pricey little ticket along with a stern warning to not do it again.
Your Insurance Could Invalidate a Claim
If you have an accident while overloaded, your boat insurance will most likely refuse to cover your damages and may even cancel your policy. This could also increase future premiums. Such an incident would leave you holding the bag for any damages and injuries sustained.
It Slows You Down
Mildly overloading a pontoon can cause the handling, speed, and acceleration of the boat to suffer. Your turns will be more sluggish, you’ll accelerate more slowly, and won’t top out as fast as you would normally expect.
Can a Pontoon Boat Tip Over?
Pontoon boats can tip over, but that’s far more likely if you have most of the weight on one side of the boat. This could mean you have a large amount of gear or your whole boatful of passengers flocking to one side. This is one of the most serious consequences of overloading a pontoon.
Overloading a pontoon and moving slowly or sitting still is less likely to tip you over. However, turns (especially sharp ones) and zooming at the lake while overloaded is a bad, bad idea. One wrong move and you could throw everyone and everything off the side of the boat, and that’s not a pleasant afternoon for anyone.
You may be a bit anxious about how much weight your pontoon can carry, but don’t worry: with the help of some basic math, you can roughly estimate it. Consult an owner’s manual or manufacturer for exact numbers.
Thanks for reading!
For more, check out Average Pontoon Boat Weight by Size.
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