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How Fast Can Pontoon Boats Go?
While a few manufactured pontoon boats can reach 65 – 70 mph, this speed is the exception rather than the rule. Most pontoons are not built for speeds above 30 mph, with cruising speeds between 18 – 25 mph. Due to its configuration as a flat-decked boat, the pontoon boat provides more stability and security on the water, so it isn’t designed for speeding around a lake like a v-shaped boat.
Recent innovations in design and performance has spurred some manufacturers to design pontoon boats specifically for speed. The fastest pontoon boat on record sped across the Missouri Lake of the Ozarks in 2013 when it traveled 114 mph. While no one in their right mind would want to travel that fast (let alone give grandma a heart attack by going that fast), more and more manufacturers are developing engines that will push pontoons up toward 70 mph.
What Factors Influence the Speed of a Pontoon?
The speed of a pontoon boat depends on a couple of factors. The size of the engine, the size of the boat, the number of tubes, and the boat’s design can all play a factor.
The Size of Engine
Pontoon boats with smaller motors will go slower than those with larger engines. A pontoon with a 40 HP motor (like the Bass Buggy XL) will reach speeds of around 15 mph. A pontoon boat with 150 HP can reach speeds of 25 – 28 mph (Bennington 24 ‘), while a large pontoon with a 300 HP motor can move up to 50 mph. The average pontoon boat travels around 25 – 30 mph.
Some luxury pontoon boats have engines with enough horsepower to reach 70 mph, but they are expensive and not very practical for freshwater applications. If you are considering the purchase of a pontoon for saltwater usage, consider a larger boat with a larger engine.
The real question is how fast you should go safely. You don’t want to be reckless or endanger yourself or any of your passengers. Just as you might never push your automobile to its max speed, the same principle applies to your pontoon. Driving your boat at its maximum pushes the motor to its limits and accelerates the wear and tear on the engine. While there is no speed limit on the lake (other than near docks, marinas, and entryways), you should know the manufacturer’s max speed for your boat and keep it well under that limit.
Number of Tubes
The number of pontoon tubes below the deck will affect the boat’s speed. A tri-toon boat will always travel more quickly over the water because three tubes push the water faster than the standard two tubes. In addition, the three tubes distribute the boat’s weight more evenly, providing more stability as the boat moves over the water.
The heavier a boat is, the slower it will move through the water, all things equal. A larger boat will also tend to weigh more, move less quickly, and be less agile in the water.
Every pontoon boat has a max weight capacity and a passenger limit that every owner should know. The weight limit applies to all weights, both passengers and equipment. Knowing the manufacturer’s recommendations in these areas is essential to minimize potential problems.
Overcrowding past the passenger limit or loading a boat past the weight limit is a recipe for disaster. The engine will need help to ferry people over the water, not to mention decreasing the boat’s stability, creating safety issues. The last thing you want is to put anyone in danger or have your boat sink in the water because it is overloaded.
A good rule of thumb is to subtract a person or two from the max occupancy rate (for example, if the boat seats 12, then never ride with more than 10). Most manufacturers do not calculate limits based on the average weight of adults, so even if the occupancy says the boat seats a certain number of people, the weight limit may not translate to your situation.
Keeping your boat well-maintained and clean can help how it glides through the water. Algae and debris can get stuck to pontoon tubes and create more resistance to the water flow.
Most pontoon owners give their boats a quick wash and rinse after each use.
The better your engine runs, the more power it will have to move your boat through the water.
Make sure you regularly change fluids and inspect your motor for issues. Your manufacturer can help you determine a proper maintenance schedule.
Gasoline weighs a lot. If you are planning on a short time on the water, don’t fill the tank too full. The added weight will slow the boat down.
Are there Modifications that Can Make a Pontoon Go Faster?
Assuming that you have the right-sized engine for your boat, there are some other things that an owner can do to increase the power and speed of his pontoon.
Upgrade or Add An Engine
Obviously, doubling the motors will make your pontoon faster, but many boats are not designed to handle two engines. Any owner considering purchasing a new pontoon should look for a design with dual motors should they need the speed of the boat to be a prime factor. Realize that adding a motor will significantly raise the price of the pontoon.
Rather than adding a motor, one of the options that many pontoon boat owners have is to upgrade or replace the single unit on the back of their boat. Consult with your manufacturer to see if they have any recommendations.
Add Lifting Strakes
Lifting Strakes are thin strips of sheet metal attached beneath the deck between the pontoons and are designed to lift the boat off the water’s surface. Lifting strakes will cost about $5000 to install and should be done by a certified technician. Some manufacturers have options for the installation of these performance options, so be sure to check with your boat maker to see what they would recommend.
Whoever adds the strakes, it is vital for the technician to be careful welding them to the boat without burning holes in the thin aluminum tubes. A leaking tube will negate the effect of the lifting strake by taking on water.