Along with the boat anchor and boat motor, the boat ladder is essential for every pontoon boat. Today, we will discuss the best pontoon boat ladder types and features and give some advice on picking the best boat ladder for you and your boat.
But before we discuss which ladder you should buy, let us look at some other essential aspects you should know.
There are three reasons why everyone should have a boat ladder on their boat:
- Safety – Should your family members fall into the water, you need a quick way to get them back on board, especially during cold months.
- Legality – Many states mandate a boat ladder. My state of Massachusetts has a boating law in place.
- Convenience – If you go swimming, you need a way to get back into the boat. The boat ladder is essential for elderly or overweight individuals or individuals with health problems.
There are also different types of ladders you can buy. You can buy under the deck, on the deck, and permanent or removable ladders. I am going to discuss the difference a bit later.
Also all these ladders can be divided into three different types:
- Telescopic Ladder
- Folding Ladder
- Dive Ladder
Best Pontoon Boat Ladder
How do you choose the best pontoon boat ladder? Well, you have to decide what you are looking for. Also, you have to think of who you are and who will be using your boat. If you are a young kid, diving ladders are probably your best choice, but if you are elderly and have a few extra pounds, you need something with high boarding handrails and sturdy.
Now that you have an idea of the different ladder types, let’s look at the ones I think are the best pontoon ladders and why. I will also suggest some alternatives, to give you more options. Later on in the article, I will discuss different materials the ladders are built from, install them, and some helpful hardware and accessories you should consider.
So without further ado, lets look at what I think are the best pontoon boat ladders based on the type.
Best Telescoping Ladder – RecPro Marine 4 Step ladders
- Telescoping pontoon ladder is constructed of heavy duty 316 stainless steel tubing
- Attaches easily for temporary or permanent mounting with included Slots and Studs (Hardware included)
- Compact size allows ladder to be stowed in lockers beneath pontoon furniture
We are starting off the list with the RecPro Marine Pontoon Boat 4 Step ladders. Designed with durable plastic steps, it offers a maximum capacity of a 250-pounds that can support people of various sizes.
It includes soft rubber bumpers to guard the exterior of your boat against dents and scratches. RecPro comes with sturdy, anodized aluminum tubing and mounting cups. The tubing gives this ladder that extra support, which most other ladders do not have.
Space-saving slim design allows the ladders to be stored away quickly, or you can use the built-in clips to install them on your railing so it is out of your way. In my opinion, these are the most collapsible pontoon boat ladder you can buy because when folded, they are entirely flat.
The one negative of these pontoon boat ladders is that it’s not compatible with all platforms.
- Weight: 13.01 pounds
- Dimensions: 32″L x 16″W when stowed
- Dimensions: 51″L x 16″W when deployed
- Material: Stainless Steel w/Plastic Steps
- Weight Capacity: 250lbs
Other Telescopic Ladder to Consider:
HYDDNice 4 Step Pontoon Boat Ladder – this ladder was in the running for the best telescopic ladder, but I ultimately went with RecPro because of the rubberized handles. Nevertheless, HYDDNice 4 have slick design, extra tall handrails and easily expand and retract. You will make a good decision if you chose this ladder.
Marinebaby 4 Steps Pontoon Boat Ladder – Perfect ladder for bow mounting. Quality build offers longevity and a weight capacity of up to 400 lbs. These ladders come assembled, so all you hate to do is mount them to your boat, which is extra easy to do.
Best Folding Ladders
- Heavy duty all welded 316 Stainless Steel construction
- Unique universal self supporting design that requires no tube support/stand offs for easy installation
- Extra tall handrails for easy boarding
These large and slightly angled stairs offer maximum convenience as far as steps go. Thanks to this slight incline, swimmers have a much easier time climbing up onto the deck. Extra tall handrails help as well.
One of the main features of these ladders, besides their easy use, is their storage capability. The rungs are collapsible so that you can store the ladder conveniently out of the way. Once folded, use a sturdy clasp to hold it in place while moving or for storage.
If you are looking for a heavy-duty ladder, this is your best choice. These ladders have all-welded 316 Stainless Steel construction, and the built material was chosen because of its proven resistance to corrosion.
These ladders are so sturdy that they do not even require tube support, and for that reason the most popular cruiser crafts call these ladders the best you can buy.
- Weight: 15 pounds
- Dimensions: 18″L x 16″W when stowed
- Dimensions: 48″L x 17″W when deployed
- Material: 316 Stainless Steel
- Weight Capacity: 250lbs
Other Folding Ladder to Consider:
JIF Marine EQB4 On-Deck Ladder – It comes with heavy-duty brackets for stability and a 400-pound maximum capacity. Be careful when ordering this ladder as it does not come with installation hardware or instructions. People who are not handy might have a hard time mounting these ladders correctly.
XGEAR 4 Step Pontoon Boat Ladder – Very sturdy ladder made from stainless steel marine grade material. Tall handrails help with easy boarding even for elderly or overweight people. The plastic non-skid step treads make using the ladder very safe and comfortable.
Best Under Platform Boat Ladder
- Welded aluminum construction
- Convenient undermount design
- Four steps for comfortable boarding
Made from aluminum, Extreme Max attaches to your pontoon boat under its front deck. It stows easily with a rubber strap when not in use.
When you are ready to use it, you deploy it by unhooking the heavy-duty rubber strap and sliding the rungs out into the water. These grooved rungs have excellent traction, making them especially easy to grab onto for both kids and adults.
Because they are angled and located in front of the boat, make sure you retract the ladder before approaching the shore. If you don’t fold them, you can do a lot of damage to your pontoon in case you hit the beach or the dock.
- Weight: 15 pounds
- Dimensions: 46″L x 14″W when deployed
- Material: Welded aluminum construction
- Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Other Undermount Ladder to Consider:
Amarine Made 3 Step Stainless Steel – Made from a mix of stainless steel and resilient black vinyl that will last you a long time. Because it only has three steps and no top handle, it might be a bit harder to get out of the water, so keep that in mind if you are thinking of buying this item.
Amarine Made 4 Step Stainless Steel – Perfect under-mount ladder for quick and easy installation. When folded, it fits nicely under your deck and leaves your swim grid completely unobstructed. The ladder is equipped with a velcro strap to keep it in place for security reasons.
Best Dive Ladders
- Angled Design For Stair-Like Ease Of Boarding. Mounts easily on transoms and transom platforms with quick-release mounting hardware. Includes 99193 storage brackets
- Center Vertical Allows Easy Use With Diving Gear
- Oval Steps With Non-Skid Surface
Dive steps are easily recognizable by their unique designs. They typically feature one single central rod with rungs on either side protruding outward instead of the middle’s rungs, framed by the left and right braces.
If you are someone who tends to do a lot of diving in a lake or have shallow ocean waters nearby where you go swimming, snorkeling, or diving, this choice is ideal for you. The steps are precisely placed to offer maximum convenience and support in climbing while wearing finned feet.
- Weight: 8.55 pounds
- Dimensions: 38″L x 13″W when deployed
- Material: White epoxy powder-coated aluminum
- Weight Capacity: 400lbs
Other Dive Ladder to Consider:
Pactrade Marine Boat Dive Ladder – Hight quality stainless steel material with PVC non-slip treads are the perfect ladder for boats with limited mounting space. The distance between steps is perfect, so pulling yourself up will be a breeze. Considering the price, this is a good investment.
RecPro Marine Boat Dive Ladder – RecPro makes quality products, and these ladders are no exception. These 4 step ladders come with all the installation hardware and will last a long time and support 400 lbs of weight.
Now that we have looked at some ladder examples, let’s look at the material they are built from. And ladder material should be one aspect you need to look at when buying a pontoon boat ladder.
Aluminum is the most common and popular ladder type. This is because it is the less expensive option of the two available materials.
Furthermore, it is a lighter load to carry on board and lift both to and from your platform’s mounting location.
Nevertheless, due to the weight, they can and do still flex and bow under significant pressure.
Stainless Steel – Saltwater Ladder
What you will notice immediately with the stainless steel ladder variant is that they are typically more expensive.
Unlike the lightweight aluminum ladder, they are much sturdier and can handle a heavier swimmer’s weight.
Another benefit is that they also have higher corrosion resistance.
Types of Pontoon Boat Ladders
There are two main categories on boat ladders. They are as follows.
- On-deck boat ladder
- Under-deck boat ladder
You could also say that the removable boat ladder deserved its category, but I will include those into the article’s on-deck category.
You will see why later.
Each of these ladders has its pros and cons, so let’s discuss that next.
On-Deck Pontoon Ladders
As the name says, on-deck boat ladders are mounted on top of the deck or the platform.
There are three main benefits of the on-deck boat ladders:
- Easy to mount
- Easy to use
- Last longer
Mounting of the on-deck boat ladders is a breeze as you can reach the mounting location easily. And the sage goes for using the ladder; bend down and deploy it without a need to reach under the deck.
On-deck ladders also last longer because they are not exposed to the water as much, especially if you are using it in saltwater. Saltwater can corrode the steel easily. Even if it’s marine-grade steel, it won’t last as long.
There is also one significant negative of using the on-deck boat ladder.
It takes up space on your boat.
Some people will probably not find that troubling, but wait until you hit your toe on it; you will quickly change your mind.
Under-Deck Pontoon Ladders
The under-deck boat ladder is entirely the opposite of the on-deck ladder in terms of pros and cons.
Under-deck boat ladder is:
- Harder to mount
- Harder to use
- Does not last as long
- Does not take up space
The reason why it’s harder to install and use it because it is under the deck. To install the ladder, you have to get in the water. Depending on the waves, it might be challenging to pull off the installation quickly and without running into any issues.
Mounting might not be as big of an issue with pontoon boats because they sit on top of the water, but it’s not as convenient as on-deck mounting either.
The same goes for using the under-deck pontoon boat ladder. You have to reach under the boat to get to it. It could be an uncomfortable thing to do for some people.
Because they are under the deck, they will not last as long. Being exposes to water all the time increases the rate of corrosion significantly.
On the other hand, an under-deck ladder will not take any space on your boat, and your toes will be safe.
Permanent or Removable Ladders
I did not include removable ladders in one of the main categories because I wanted to quickly touch on the mounting options.
You can either install the ladder permanently or use removable ladders. There are benefits to both, but also some negatives.
I don’t feel like I should discuss this subject in dept as it is pretty obvious, but I will quickly mention the main differences which are as follows:
Permanent ladder – sturdy, longer-lasting ladder, easy to deploy, and always available for when you need them.
Removable ladders – not as sturdy or long-lasting. They are easy to deploy but may not be available for you if you forgot to deploy them before entering the water. Removable ladders also take up your storage as you don’t want to leave them on the railing.
I would recommend that you use both. Have a permanent ladder installed at your preferred location and use a removable ladder as your spare ladder. It does not hurt to have both.
Where to Install Pontoon Boat Ladder
As a pontoon boat owner, you should eventually decide where to mount the ladder. The most common places to install the ladder are the bow and stern of the boat.
On the Bow of the Boat
When you go with the bow route, you have an additional two choices. You can either install:
- A removable hook ladder
- A center under-mount in between the pontoons
At the Stern Entry (Rear Entry)
You can also place an under-mount ladder at the stern on either side of the engine. The rear of the boat is the best place for your ladder if you find yourself loving to ski or go tubing. It makes it much easier for any exhausted passengers to climb on board.
On the Gunwale
Gunwale pontoon boat ladder, also known as side mount ladder, are the more common ladder type. You will recognize these sorts most easily by their hook-like shape.
Using this advantage of shape, they latch to the pontoon boat’s side over the gunwale, where the pontoon boat usually has at least one side gate entrance.
Some owners find side mounts helpful when coming out of the water. Others fit a detachable system for the side mount ladders because they conveniently raise off the gunwale when anchored.
Ladders Hardware and Accessories
Here are a few accessories that could be helpful in terms of easy mounting capabilities or overall safety.
If you have kids or even a pet, you already know that this is a great additional accessory. This particular guard covers the ladder’s hinges, giving any parents or pet owners some peace of mind.
These guards usually have a rounded top that prevents any passenger from being cut by the sharp edges of metal. More importantly, the hinge guard prevents the fingers of small children—but let us be real; we adults would love this feature just as much—from being caught and pinched.
These were not invented around the time when I was a kid. If they were, I probably would not have all these memories of so many countless awful pinches today.
These guards are also typically made out of a marine-grade composite. That means that they will have no problem withstanding freshwater, saltwater, and anything in between.
There may be a spot where you decide to place the boarding ladder. However, that may not have a way for your passengers to lift or guide themselves out of the water.
In this case, I would highly recommend a boarding handrail—especially so if some extra upper-body strength sounds real good right about now.
Mounting cups make for really nice additions for quick mounting and removal of your gunwale ladder. The basic idea is that your removable pontoon ladder hook ends drop back into the cups.
Some pontoon owners have a hard time mounting their ladders to the boat when out on the water. They are just not sure what the right spot is. I say, forget about such worries!
You can place these keyhole mounting sockets in various places on your pontoon. This way, you can guarantee the option of placing ladders at the safest spot on the pontoon.
Stainless Quick Release Hardware
This accessory is for quickly mounting and unmounting your steps. However, even more, important than that is that you can install your ladder in multiple locations. Say you want one at the gunwale and another at the bow’s platform. Similar to the keyhole mounts, you can get this additional piece of hardware for the sake of flexibility.
If you think of purchasing a pontoon boat shortly, remember that the price range for a pontoon ladder can run you anywhere between $100 and $500. It is essential to factor this into your pontoon’s overall cost.
However, the price does not determine the best pontoon boat ladder you can buy. Do the research, see what fits your needs, and go with the ladder you think will work best.
But regardless of that price, the pontoon boat ladder is something you cannot “toon without! It is undoubtedly a question of convenience and safety.