All pontoons are the same right? Why are some thousands more than others? Some of the names have been around for years….they must be doing something right? Like a bowrider all pontoon boats will float you down the lake…the difference is in the overall ride performance coupled with structural longevity which is a function of the pontoon chassis construction. The other main difference is furniture, flooring material quality and how it affects normal wear and tear in combination with UV radiation exposure. In other words…how close to new does it look in 5 years or longer. The better it looks with age…the more likely your family will keep it longer which then lengthens the replacement cycle and…..saves you large wad of cash!
So what is the same amongst pontoon boats? Essentially all pontoon companies use the same floor panel (7 layer but not all have each layer treated separately before lamination) and carpets as long as you are not comparing carpet weights and environmental treatments in or on the utilized carpet. There are some low-end pontoon builders who use less expensive 7 panel flooring treated after lamination….the brochure and salesperson will not tell you that and will simply state that it is treated. The gold standard is 7 layer wood panel with the layers treated before lamination. The outboard will be the same if you are comparing a Mercury 60 Command Thrust on Brand A with the same outboard on Brand B. Anything else…maybe the canvas quality ( have to be aware that there are four main types utilized) but that is about it! Furniture quality as in the type of vinyl used, stitch count, thread type and the density of the foam padding utilized varies widely. In this one paragraph I just mentioned 8 different measurements of a quality pontoon build. These are….wood panel, flooring material, canvas quality, stitch count, thread type, foam density and furniture quality.
Okay then how do I know or how can I see or find out the difference? You cannot get this important information for the most part from the pontoon builder website or brochures. I tell people all the time the only thing a brochure is good for is the pictures. Remember that a brochure or builder’s website is marketing tool with the sales spin done by some huge marketing company and is targeted on achieving an emotional response to result in an emotional attachment resulting in “I have to have this” response from the potential buyer. All trained salespersons will attempt to get you emotionally invested in the boat based on the overall look including style and colour or graphics. Colour and graphics is designed and developed to cause an emotional attachment. Those great helicopter shots of pontoons going done the lake are called “Lifestyle Shots”….see the family smiling having a good time. Lets start with the basics…..the chassis….greatly misunderstood and always overlooked. At The Toronto Boat Show….no one and I mean no one will or is going to get down on the floor and look under the pontoon boat at the chassis structure. Why is that? Simple answer is that they assume all are the same! Is there such a thing as a minimum standard for a pontoon building code….yes….that would be NMNA or Canadian Coast Guard. Then the question becomes do you want minimum code on the water with your family particularly if you are utilizing the pontoon in primarily larger bodies of water?
It is late April when this article was completed and recently I was out in our sales yard with one of our Product Managers. At Huntsville Marine we do not have salespersons and yes there is a huge difference which we can talk about in another article. Back to the yard…at this time of the year our yard which is gravel based is not a place where pontoon shoppers with want to look at the bottom of the boat. The real point is that they never look! I feel that the type of construction on our pontoon is superior to others in its class but unless we get you interested in looking at construction we are doing the potential buyer a great disservice.
What about the pontoon builders…they all have their own plants don’t they? In a word….NO! Huntsville Marine represents Cypress Cay pontoon boats and we are the largest retailer of Cypress Cay Pontoons in Ontario. Huntsville Marine also represents exclusively the technologically driven Larson Escape Pontoon series. Okay so there may be some bias there…..but….did you know that Cypress Cay and Harris pontoon are built-in the same plant by the same people with essentially the same materials. Did you know that Cypress Cay Pontoons and Harris Pontoons are owned by The Brunswick Boat Group who also own Princecraft and Lowe Pontoons? Princecraft are made in their own plant in Quebec and are marketed as a high-end pontoon like Harris and Cypress Cay. Lowe on the other hand is their bargain basement brand….less for less! Is anyone claiming that Lowe is a premium product being honest? Ever heard of Legend Boats….these guys know how to market and are very well-trained at boat show selling and always have a professional looking display. One of the weird things about Legend at the Toronto Boat Show is that they are strictly a corporate booth….dealers are not allowed to work the space….so you cannot at a major show buy from your local Legend dealer yet they are expected to take care of you after the sale…hum mm! I was a dealer a short time ago for just over 18 months….does not work well. Legend always rents a large space at Toronto with a large closing room right behind the display….don’t go in there unless you are sure that Legend is right for you and be prepared to buy as you will not escape!
Continuing on the difference conversation and we will stay with Legend Pontoons….did you know that Legend does not build their own boats in their own plant in Sudbury because they do not have a plant at least not yet. Legend contracted out the pontoon building to for a long time to Smoker/StarCraft and now someGodfrey product. Is it different from those brands….some reworking of the look and upholstery only? Does this fact make Legend a better pontoon boat than a StarCraft, Smokercraft, Sweetwater or an Aqua Patio?
I truly think that from a buyer perspective buying a pontoon and coming to grips with the actual difference is harder than with fiberglass bowriders or aluminum fishing boats. Take the next step and read Pontoon Boat Construction Best Buy!
If you want to look at some of the Cypress Cay and Larson Escape Pontoons Huntsville Marine has available as well as other pontoon buying information go to Huntsville Marine and look under the inventory section and brand sections.
I have included a link to Cypress Cay Pontoon construction information as this one page does and excellent description of what most experts in the pontoon business would consider superior or Tier 1 construction techniques.