Pontoon Boat Speed – How Fast Is Your Pontoon Boat


Today I would like to address the pontoon boat speed question that I frequently hear from my guy friends. Guys love speed, even if we are talking about pontoon boat speed, they still want to know how far the needle on the boat speedometer goes.

When I was trying to pick the right pontoon boat, I had a couple of specifications that I had to consider. They are the following:

  • Size of the pontoon boat
  • The features
  • Pontoon Speed
  • Boat price
  • Warranty
  • Build materials

For today, I really wanted to cover an area that is often overlooked: the speed!

Pontoon boats are not known for their speed but rather are a family hang out boats. Therefore, anyone that is purchasing a pontoon boat understands that it is slower than most watercraft.

However, some people like the speed so it is important to them that their boat can keep up with the rest of the boats around them.

If you would like to read about motors that are even slower, make sure you read the Electric Trolling Motor review. Well, in all honesty, trolling motors are meant to be quiet and not fast. But in any event, check it out if you get a chance.

How Fast is a Pontoon Boat in Miles Per Hour

What will surprise you about pontoon boats is that they are more than fast enough to be used for most water sports. In fact, they are so fast that you can use them for waterskiing.

Our pontoon can make it up to speeds of 25mph.

A typical pontoon boat will be able to reach speeds between 18-30mph. However, the speed of your pontoon boat depends on a few factors.

The load of the pontoon is certainly a factor.  For example, having too many people will lower the speed of your pontoon boat. I have read on numerous forums that the speed of your pontoon boat is lowered by 15% per 1,000 pounds.

Another factor is the size of the engine, size of the pontoon, horsepower, and the number of tubes that is beneath the deck.

Power Speed Chart

Let’s look at a pontoon boat speed chart of well-known pontoon brands and their sizes, horsepower, and speed.

Brand NameSize of the PontoonHorsepowerSpeed
Bass Buddy18’60hp Engine18mph
Party Barge18’75hp Engine24mph
Starcraft20’90hp Engine23mph
Tritoon21’90hp Engine27mph
Suntracker22’70-hp21mph
Crest III26’90hp28mph
Tritoon26’175hp35mph

When buying a pontoon boat, the most important part of the process is asking questions. Below are a couple of questions that will help you better gauge the process. These questions are meant to be asked to a dealer or private seller.

  • How fast is the pontoon boat?
  • What is the size and weight of the pontoon boat?
  • Boat engine types?
  • The horsepower of the engine?
  • What is the maximum load capacity?
  • How will this affect the engine?
  • Can I ever upgrade the engine?
  • Has the engine ever had any failures or needed to be replaced?
  • Is the fuel diesel or gas?
  • How big is the fuel tank?

If you want to see some really hast pontoon boats check out this youtube video.

Other Aspects That Affect Pontoon Boat Speed

Now that we have covered the horsepower, speed, and size of pontoon boats, let’s look at other aspects that will affect the boat. As we said, the load will determine the speed of your boat.

Bimini Top And Changing Room

Now, the load does not only refer to people. It refers to objects on the pontoon such as grill, coolers, and extras. One of the major causes that slow down a boat is a BIMINI Top.

If your Bimini top is not aerodynamic then it can drag the boat by up to 2mph depending on how windy the day is. Also, the material of the Bimini top can cause a slight drag. This may not seem like much of a speed difference, but if you are a speed enthusiast you might notice it.

You can also add pontoon changing room to this list as it is not very aerodynamic.  It will drag your boat down about the same as a bimini top.

You may also have a pontoon grill or umbrella on your boat. Those are additional items to take into account.

Pontoon Stock Propellers

Another major cause of slowing down a pontoon boat is the stock propellers.

The stock propellers are not designed to reach the top speed of a boat. Therefore, many pontoon owners will switch the stock propellers for ones that can reach a higher RPM range and obtain more speed. Although stock propellers are designed to work great with your engine, achieving the top speed is nearly impossible.

But there is a solution for that and it’s called Quicksilver Thunderbolt Propeller.

Quicksilver Thunderbolt Propeller High Polished Stainless Finish, 15.5 dia x 17 pitch, Left Hand
  • Best selling high-horsepower propeller in the world
  • Large diameter design works well across a wide range of applications
  • Fits most 135+ hop outboards and stern drive engines through use of the appropriate Flo Torq II hub system

Dirt and Algae Deposits

One of the factors that slow down your pontoon that surprised me the most was algae and dirt deposits. If you are used to leaving your pontoon in the water for long periods at a time, microorganisms will begin to grow on your pontoon boat. In fact, it can lower the speed of your pontoon up to 6mph. Therefore, it is important to hose down your boat after every use.

Corrosion

Another major influence is if you take your boat out in saltwater often. Corrosion will eventually begin to deteriorate the bottom of your pontoon boat, including the engine and electrical wiring.

pontoon boat speed in mph and kilometers

How To Increase Pontoon Boat Speed And Performance

Every person that gets a pontoon, I feel, eventually wants to make it a little faster. Like a car, we are always thinking about how we can upgrade our pontoon.

If you can’t quite afford the horsepower that you want and need to improve the boat you have, these 10 tips will help you.

1. Drop Dead Weight

The quickest and easiest way to increase your pontoon boat speed is to leave all unnecessary weight on land. This could mean leaving beer and food coolers on land when you intend to test your max speed.

You could also drop off extra passengers when pulling a tube or skier behind you. It can also mean considering any extras you have on deck.

If you have fittings designed to improve comfort they may be adding pounds you can do without.

2. Distribute Necessary Weight Well

Distributing weight well is important in the performance of any boat. Nonetheless, it is especially key for pontoons. You see, the lift is key to speed where they are concerned and when you distribute weight well you can get more lift.

Putting heavier items further towards the back can actually help you to move faster. It will also prevent slowing via drag. This is also a quick and easy solution that can be applied for immediate results.

I’ve written an extensive article addressing pontoon boat weight. Make sure you check that out is you wish to learn more about the subject.

3. Fit Lifting Strakes

On the subject of lift, fitting pontoon lifting strakes can help you move faster. Most new pontoon boats come with these already fitted. If you have an older boat you wish to improve having them fitted will go a long way.

Of course, this is no small job and can cost thousands of dollars. As such it may be more cost-effective to consider trading in your old boat to buy a newer one.

Look at other options before you consider commissioning work like this.

4. Trim Your Engine

Trimming the engine of a pontoon is a common undertaking. It is simple to do and offers real results. By tilting your engine to a higher angle, trimming will improve your performance. It does so by using a hydraulic motor to lift the nose out of the water a little more.

Not all boats need trimming, however. If you want to know whether trimming the engine is for you, open up the throttle the next time you’re on the water.

Do you see a lot of water splashing up between the tubes, or feel like the logs are dragging in the water? If so, an engine trim could be what you need.

5. Change Your Thrust

Most people will need the help of a marine mechanic to do this. Changing the available thrust by tuning your engine will increase your horsepower. If this doesn’t give you the oomph that you need, then a second option is buying a more powerful engine.

Be aware, however, that there are legal limits on how powerful your engine can be. Check your capacity plate to make sure you stay on the right side of the law and safety regulations.

6. Convert to a Tritoon

The addition of a third log to the middle of your pontoon will convert it into a tritoon. This will improve the performance and speed of your boat.

However, this is a very expensive undertaking. Converting the average pontoon will cost $4,000 – $5,000.

With this in mind, it may be easier and more cost-effective to trade in your existing boat and buy a tritoon.

7. Underskin Your Pontoon

If you have a little extra money to spend, having an underskin applied will reduce drag. When you approach maximum speeds in a pontoon, water splashes up under your boat. This then hits the metals studs which support the deck. This causes drag and slows you down.

Adding an ‘underskin’ of smooth sheets of metal reduces drag and allows a marginal increase of 2 – 3mph (on average). At around $500, however, this is an expensive option.

Furthermore, adding sheet metal to your hull will make you heavier. This can mitigate the speed gained by taking weight limitation measures.

8. Keep Your Tubes Clean

As the major points of water contact, the tubes are key in ensuring a swift and smooth ride. Keeping them free from debris, grime, and scum will reduce drag.

This will reduce obstruction and increase the laminar flow of water around you. As a result, you will find that your boat moves faster and drag is reduced.

You can also polish your pontoons for a super smooth finish that eliminates as much drag as possible.

9. Don’t Fill the Tank

When thinking about weight, many people don’t consider the fuel tank. A full tank of fuel can weigh up to 200lbs (if it’s a standard 25-gallon tank).

This is as much weight, on average, as taking on another adult male passenger. If there’s no danger of running out of fuel, or you can refill easily, you should half fill your tank. This will reduce weight and help you move swiftly.

10. Travel With the Wind

This may seem simple and obvious, but traveling with the wind is a sure way to increase speed. No matter how powerful your boat is, traveling into the wind will slow it down.

This is especially the case if you’re dragging someone on skis or a tube. After all, it’s not just water which can cause drag.

This simple trick is often overlooked but is the quickest and cheapest way to speed up your pontoon.

These are not the only things that you can do to speed up your pontoon, but they are some of the most effective. You should also consider your deck and any structures which might add weight or catch the wind. These can cause serious drag.

In short, unless you’re tuning performance or adding horsepower, lift and drag are key. Optimize these factors and you’ll notice a real increase in your maximum speeds.

Things You Can Do With Higher Speed Boats

Having A Good Time

You can have a great time on a pontoon boat, other than sitting on it and relaxing. Actually, a pontoon’s speed is more than enough to perform some of the watersports we all enjoy and love.

Many people believe in the idea that the faster the better and that is not true. You would be surprised at the many watersports you and your family can enjoy. Let’s look at certain watersports and the speed you need to do them on your pontoon.

Tubing with Children

When tubing with young kids, you don’t need to go too fast. 5-10 mph is a safe zone for young kids. Older kids will enjoy 10-13mph.

For a teenager, 20-25 mph is a safe zone. However, it is best to always go in a straight line because 25 mph can knock anyone off quickly if you do sharp turns.

Wakeboarding

Wakeboarding requires less speed than most water sports because going too fast can increase the danger of getting hurt. 13-18 mph is a safe zone for wakeboarding.

Waterskiing

For anyone that loves waterskiing, they will know that a fast pace is fun. However, for smaller kids, 15mph is best and for older people, up to 26 mph or so.

Kneeboarding

Somewhere around 13-19 mph is safe enough without reducing the fun.

As a consensus, it seems that the average speed for most watersports is between 20 mph and 22 mph. Most pontoon boats with a 90hp engine can achieve that speed easily.

Boat Speed Conclusion

Never try to go too fast on a pontoon because you might be unsure as to how the pontoon will handle it. With that in mind, I hope this helped you get a bit more insight and clarity as to the pontoon boat speed for when you go out and get your own.

If you don’t care about the pontoon boat speed but can’t decide which boat to buy make sure you check out why I think pontoon is better than your regular type of boat in my pontoon boat pros and cons article.

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