Understanding the difference between pontoon boats and deck boats

If you’re new to the boating world, the terminology, jargon, and even boat types can feel confusing. One question we’re frequently asked is “What is the difference between pontoon boats and deck boats?”

It’s a very good question, and there are varying opinions about the exact definitions of each. While the differences used to be more clearly defined, the lines have blurred over time. Despite their similarities, there are key difference to consider when comparing pontoon boats vs. deck boats.

Pontoon boats vs. deck boats

In the past, pontoon boats were considered lesser versions of deck boats, but that notion has changed over the course of the past decade. Pontoon boats now hold their own in every way, and even sometimes exceed the performance of deck boats. On the other hand, where deck boats used to be smaller than pontoon boats, the seating capacity of deck boats has increased to make them even more similar. While these are generalities, there are a few specifics you can look to when comparing deck boats and pontoon boats.

Comparing the body of deck boats and pontoon boats

In general, deck boats have a more aggressive, athletic look with more lines and design elements, making them more visually appealing. Pontoons typically aren’t as flashy, with more traditional designs. In recent years, however, pontoon builders are changing that perception.

What is the difference between the hull on deck boats and pontoon boats?

Perhaps the most significant difference between deck boats and pontoon boats in the modern day is their hulls. Pontoon boats lay flat on the water using a multi-hull design with two pontoons. That flat hull is perfect for the social aspect of pontoons, as they are incredibly steady while in motion and at a stop.

Deck boats use v-hulls that cut through the water rather than lay on it. This makes deck boats a little more efficient when accelerating, despite pontoon boats being more economical overall.

The differences between pontoon boats and deck boats today are fewer than their similarities. While some of the old distinctions, like space, design, and performance, ring true at times, there are so many varieties and innovations of each that a true comparison must be done on an individual basis.