Catamaran vs. pontoon boat: Which one is right for you?

Learn about the major differences between catamaran vs. pontoon boat

Are you looking to invest in a new boat? Wondering what is a pontoon boat and catamaran? Confused with Catamaran vs. pontoon boat?

Many people narrow down their options to choosing between a pontoon boat and a catamaran pontoon.

The two boats look similar, but they both have several features that can set them apart and ultimately help you make your decision.

Which type of boat is the right one for you?

Read on to find out everything about Catamaran vs. pontoon boat

Catamaran and pontoon: Which one to choose

The difference between catamarans and pontoon boats: Catamaran vs. pontoon

Many people think pontoon boats and catamarans are the same.

They look similar as they both have twin hulls joined together to create a platform for the cabin.

However, they are also quite different from each other in terms of size, accessibility to the deck, speed, amount of power, expense, and resale value.

Here are a few characteristics that differentiate a pontoon boat from a catamaran!

1. Size

Pontoon boats are smaller in size as compared to the catamarans. The size of a pontoon boat ranges from 15 feet to 50 feet. Catamarans are usually larger.

The largest catamaran in the world is 145 feet in length.

2. Basic design

On a pontoon boat, the deck rests directly over the top of the pontoons. The pontoons are not accessible and are meant to act as a platform on which the deck or cabin rests.

On a catamaran, the hulls are accessible from the deck.

The hulls have cabin space or storage built into them. Several catamarans have small staircases built into the hulls so that passengers can move from the upper to lower deck.

3. Intended use

The size and the design of catamarans make them better at handling rough conditions.

They have hulls that can cut through waves. Therefore, catamarans are used as commercial vessels on the open sea or ocean and also used for racing purposes.

A pontoon boat sits low on the water and not designed for maneuverability in rough weather. They ride on tops of the waves rather than cutting through them, which can get you a very rough ride on the sea.

They are designed to be used in shallow backwaters of rivers or lakes and commonly used for fishing and relaxation.

4. Speed

A pontoon boat has one engine or motor, which gives it the power to move across the open waters.

With only one engine, a pontoon boat can reach the maximum speed of 30 miles per hour.

A catamaran has dual engines that are housed in its twin hulls. The two engines provide double the horsepower.

On a catamaran, you can reach up to the speed of 50 miles per hour.

5. Sailing capabilities

Many catamarans use sails for their main propulsion system. The sails catch the wind and move the catamaran on the open waters.

Some people prefer using sailing catamarans over the monohull sailboats as these catamarans don’t feel like a traditional sailboat.

You will never find a sail on a pontoon boat as these boats rely only on their engine for power.

6. Price

Pontoon boats are reasonably priced. Recreational users can buy a pontoon boat for just $10,000. Generally, the cost of a pontoon boat ranges between $10,000 and $70,000.

Catamarans are more expensive than pontoon boats. Depending on the size, specifications, and brand, a catamaran’s average cost can range from $50,000 to $ 2 million.

7. Upkeep

The upkeep of a catamaran is more than that of a pontoon boat. The catamaran has two engines, while a pontoon has just one to look after.

A catamaran is used in coastal seawaters, whereas pontoon boats are mostly used in freshwater lakes. The exposure to seawater means you have to spend much more on your boat’s upkeep.

Another reason that catamarans require more maintenance is that they are made from fiberglass, while pontoon boats are usually made from aluminum.  Aluminum boats can become dented, but it takes a lot to put a hole in them.

A catamaran can be a sailboat, while a pontoon boat cannot. Sailboats need more maintenance as you need to examine and clean the sail every time you use them.

8.Resale value

Pontoon boats go down in their resale price pretty quickly. You lose a lot of value in the first three years; after that, the depreciation tends to level off.

Since catamarans are more expensive and have higher upkeep, they also have a higher resale value. It is not difficult to find a used pontoon, but you may find it hard to find a reasonably priced used catamaran.

Now that you know the key differences between the two types of boats, let us discuss the pros and cons of each type of boat.

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Pros of catamaran

1. Roominess

A catamaran allows storage inside its pontoons, which gives more space for storage and passengers. A catamaran has a wide deck and a lot of space to sit and relax in the cabin.

This can be a great help if you have a large number of people on the boat.

2. Stability

Catamarans have exceptional stability. They do not heel underway and do not roll at anchor. This means you have a lesser chance of being seasick on a catamaran than on a monohull.

3. Speed and manoeuvrability

Catamarans are a lot faster than pontoon boats and monohull boats. They can reach up to a speed of 50 miles per hour.

 With two engines spread apart, you can pivot a catamaran on its central axis. Catamarans also have shallow drafts, so they can get into places where monohull yachts cannot.

Cons of catamaran

1. Expensive

Owning a catamaran can be expensive. The base models are priced at $50,000, which makes catamarans of reach of many boating enthusiasts.

 2. Maintenance

A catamaran requires a lot more maintenance than a pontoon. This can add to the expenses of owning a catamaran.

3. Docking space

A catamaran takes significantly more docking space than a monohull. This can limit the areas where you can dock.

Pros of pontoon boats

1. Easy to use and maintain

Pontoon boats are easy to drive for people of all skill levels. Pontoon boats are made up of quality aluminum, so they do not get damaged easily.

Even if you do get a hole in the hull, it is much cheaper to fix it as compared to other boats.

2. Safe

Pontoon boats are very stable and safe.

Their maximum speed is 30 miles per hour, and the turning radius is not very tight. This prevents you from taking risky turns and flipping the boat over.

3. Affordable

You can buy a brand new pontoon boat for $10,000 and a second-hand one for even lesser.

Cons of pontoon boats

1. Not for rough water

Pontoon boats are not designed to be used in extreme wind and rough water conditions. A pontoon boat is not designed to roll over the waves. In harsh weather, your pontoon boat can quickly take in water, which may cause it to capsize.

2. Speed

Pontoon boats are not capable of going at high speeds, and you cannot race in them.

3. Turn radius

Pontoon boats have a wide turn radius. It can get pretty tricky if you are trying to get into a tight spot.

Whether you should buy a pontoon boat or a catamaran also depends on what you want to use it for.

Both types of boats offer various recreational opportunities. You can choose a boat with specific features depending on your usage.

Types of pontoon boats

1. Standard pontoon boats

These boats are great for spending a day out in the water or on an island.

Some come with built-in grills for barbecues and music systems. Smaller pontoon boats can also be used for water skiing and kneeboarding. It is extremely easy to get in and out of these boats.

2. Pontoon houseboats

Pontoon houseboats are perfect if you want to spend a weekend on a river or a large lake.

You can also have a large party on these boats. Pontoon houseboats are also available for rent on some of the larger lakes and rivers in the country. Some pontoon boats also come with water slides and diving boards.

3. Fishing pontoon boats

Some pontoon boats have decks that can slide in, which helps to reduce the width.

This feature makes it easier to load the boat onto a pickup truck. When you need the boat for fishing, you need to wheel it out of the truck and into the water.

Pontoon boats for fishing also have features like rod holders, live wells, and captain’s chairs.

Types of catamaran

1. Hobie sailing catamaran

These are small catamarans that are built for recreational sailing.

You can use them for cruising and for high-performance sailing as well. These boats are often small enough to be put into a trailer, which is excellent for people who do not have a place to dock their boat.

2. Ocean cruising catamarans

These catamarans are large enough to be taken across the ocean.

The shallow draft of the catamarans gives them the ability to get close to land without worrying about a hull breach.

The stability of these catamarans makes the experience of sitting at an ocean dock more pleasant.

FAQs about pontoon boats and catamaran

1. What size of pontoon boat should I buy?

The size of the pontoon boat you should buy depends on how many people will generally be accompanying you on your trips.

  • For 2-6 people, choose a pontoon between 18 and 20 feet.
  • For 6-10 people, choose a pontoon between 22 and 24 feet.
  • For more than ten people, you will want to consider a pontoon 24 feet or larger.

2. What should I look for when buying a pontoon boat?

In addition to the size and type of pontoon boat, here are the features that you look out for –

  • Seating configuration – You can choose a seating arrangement that maximizes seating, adds additional lounge areas, or even upgrades the captain’s chair.
  • The number of pontoons – Most boats have two pontoons, but some even have three. Three pontoons give the boat more stability.
  • Motor – You can choose a motor with proper power for the activity you will be doing. You may need a more powerful motor if you are going to be participating in water sports.
  • Bimini top – A bimini top is a canvas top that provides shade when you are out in the water. You can add a bimini top to make your trip more comfortable.

3. Do I need a license to sail a catamaran?

Only eight states in the US do not require you to have a license to sail a boat within their waterways. They include –

  • California
  • Arizona
  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Wyoming
  • Maine
  • South Dakota
  • Arkansas

For all the remaining states, the individual laws and licensing requirements differ from state to state. Some of these states require you to obtain an official sailing license.  Others require you to complete a mandatory safety course to be allowed to sail a boat.

Final thoughts on catamaran vs. pontoon boat

Pontoon boats and catamarans both have their unique advantages. Which one of the two boats you should buy will depend on the purpose for which you want to use it.

Pontoon boats are cheaper, easy to maintain, and safe. Catamarans are costly, but ocean-faring is best done with catamarans.

We hope our post has given you a better understanding of the difference between a pontoon boat and a catamaran and made your choice easier.