How to Buy a Used Pontoon or Triple Pontoon For Sale WITHOUT Buying Someone Else’s Headache…

Where to search for used boats for sale on the internet and in your local area

Are you researching a used pontoon for sale from a pontoon dealer or pontoons for sale by owner?

If so, this article is for you!

Used Pontoon and Triple Pontoons For Sale by Dealer and by Owner

You’ll see lots of pontoons and triple pontoons for sale these days.  It’s one of the fast growing boating segments going right now.  Part of the reason is the improvements in triple pontoons for sale, their performance, speed and optional pontoon layouts.

We’ll get to all of those shortly but first, let’s talking about why a pontoon or triple pontoon… and which is right for you.

Pontoons for sale these days will typically be a great option for those looking for lots of roominess, a stable platform for boating and a comfortable day on the water without a need for high speeds (under 30 MPH) in most cases.

We’ll talk more about speeds and horsepower options for pontoons in a moment.

However, if you are looking for all of those characteristics in your pontoon AND you want some speed and/or carry larger numbers of guests, a triple pontoon is the answer.  (AKA, tri-toon, triple tube pontoon)

Let me explain why a triple pontoon for sale fits the bill in these situations:

More Buoyancy for Your Pontoon

Let’s tackle what the 3rd pontoons does for the boat itself.  The extra pontoon has just increased the buoyance of your boat by 1/3 raising it further out of the water.  This allows the boat to skip across the water instead of plowing thru the water.

The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

More Structural Support for Your Pontoon

That extra pontoon also adds additional structural support with another support beam going right down the middle of the pontoon boat.  This extra buoyancy and support allows the pontoon boat manufacturers to mount heavier and heavier engines (some even doing twin engine triple pontoon set ups that can reach over 100 MPH)

Now, with the extra Horsepower (HP) comes more speed.  With a 24’ triple pontoon with a 225HP engine reaching speeds of close to 50MPH.  That’s plenty for doing any water sports or to outrun a storm or make some bowrider feel silly as a pontoon passes them on the water!

Making the choice between a pontoon for sale or a triple pontoon for sale is the first step.  Now, let’s move to your 2nd choice.

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Picking the Right Horsepower (HP) for Your Pontoon

Now that you’ve selected the right platform, you’ll want to choose the right power source for your used pontoon for sale.  Now, there are some basic guidelines I’ll give you for horsepower on pontoons and what make sense and what may be a waste of your money.

Most pontoons you find for sale on Boat Trader or Craigslist Boats for Sale will typically have engines under 115HP.  But, what can you expect from each outboard.

Pontoon Speeds:

  • 50HP = Best for slow cruising and exploring with top speeds of 15 to 18 MPH
  • 90HP = Great for cruising and can pull a small kid on wake board or tube with top speeds of low 20MPH
  • 115HP = Best option for water sports for kids with top speeds of 25 to 30MPH
  • 150HP = This option and a pontoon will keep your investment down but you won’t get the full benefit of the engine without the extra buoyancy of the 3rd pontoon.

PRO PONTOON BUYER TIP:  The more people and weight on the pontoon the large impact on performance.  Adding 4 adults, a cooler, full fuel and gear on a pontoon will cause it to sink lower in the water and slow it down considerably.  Drop 5, maybe even 10 MPH off top speed if you will be loading your pontoon down.

Captain Matt
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:  Some options will increase performance and reduce impact of the weight.  The major one is the pontoon’s diameter.  The most common size on newer pontoons for sale is 25”.  Dropping to a 23” pontoon will drastically reduce buoyancy.  Having 27” pontoons will increase the buoyancy.  Another option to look for if getting the most performance out of whatever HP you select is having ‘lifting strakes’ on the pontoons.  These work like strakes on a fiberglass boat and help the boat get the pontoons a little further out of the water reducing drag and increasing performance.

Captain Matt

Triple Pontoon Speeds:

150HP = This is the most economical option for a boat that will run similar to a bowrider or deck boat.  With top speeds around 40MPH depending on conditions and load on the boat.  That’s plenty for anyone to do any watersports.  I’m over 200 pounds and have slalom skied on a 22’ tri-toon with a 150HP Mercury and 5 people aboard.

225HP =  If you want to be as fast as most bowriders or deck boats on the water, getting into the 200’s is where you want to be.

300HP+ = These engines are incredible and can make your triple pontoon one of the fastest boats on the water.  It is strictly and want but will make your boat move down the water and turn a bunch of heads while doing it.

Twin Engine Triple Pontoons = These boats can run 60 to 90 MPH and even faster.  If you want to look like  a pontoon rock-star and are willing to invest over $100K for the speed, this option is perfect for you.

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:    These twin engine tri-toons are newer to the market and will likely be hard to find at used pontoons for sale.  You may want to research new pontoon boat dealers near you to find an option that works for your pontoon boating lifestyle.

So, now that you’ve selected the platform and approximate horsepower for your used pontoon, now comes the fun and harder part.  Choosing the layout.

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Picking the Right Pontoon Layout

As you look at the used pontoons on the market, they break down into 4 main categories.  This is the most important choice you’ll make when shopping for used pontoons.

The best question to ask yourself is what will we be doing a majority of the time.  I have a 80% rule when it comes to shopping for used boats.

Find the pontoon boat for sale that will meet the needs of how you’ll be using it 80% of the time and then ask, can you make it work for the other 20% of the times.

So, if you’ll be fishing 80% of the time and taking cruises with guests 20% of the time, find the layout that will do fishing very well.  And will work for the cruising portion of you boating lifestyle.

If you will be sitting at anchor and getting sun 80% of the time and entertaining the other 20%, the a pontoon with nice sun loungers is way to go even if you have to make do on the entertaining portion.

So, let me define the various layouts on the used pontoons for sale that you’ll see on the market today.

Used Fishing Pontoons

A fishing pontoon will have 2 or 4 fishing chairs in the bow and/or rear of the pontoon boat.  It will likely have live wells, tackle stations and even a spot to mount a trolling motor and half door in the bow  so it can lay down out of the way.

You’ll find lots of used fishing pontoons on craigslist boats for sale section, BoatTrader and even in the Facebook marketplace.

Used Traditional Pontoon Layouts

The traditional pontoons you’ll find for sale which are a majority because its been the most popular for decades.  This layout consists of 2 couches in the front of the boat an L-shaped couch in the rear and the helm station on the starboard (right) side about mid-ship (middle of the pontoon boat).

In the past decade or so, you’re seeing many more entertaining and lounger options yet this traditional option is the most common in used pontoons for sale today.

Used Pontoons with Sun Loungers

As you shop for used pontoons, you may come across the center walk-thru or sun lounger options.  These boats have super comfortable single and double lounge area to layout for some sun and relax as you sit at anchor or cruise down the waterway. 

Used Bar Pontoons

An even more recent layout are designed for entertaining on the boat with a bar type setup.  You may not find many used bar pontoon boats for sale on the market yet but they are becoming more and more popular.

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Inspecting the Used Pontoons for Sale

So, now you’ve picked out the style, layout and horsepower for the used pontoon you are shopping and have found one that looks to be a great fit.  It Is time to inspect it completely to ensure  you don’t buy someone else’s headache.

My rule of thumb on a used pontoon for sale is that I want to know every single flaw in the pontoon so I can determine if I still want it and at what price I’m willing to pay to buy it.

PRO PONTOON TIP:  All used pontoons for sale will have some flaws.  If you don’t want a single flaw, you’ll need to buy a new pontoon that fits your need.  If you want a perfect boat, research new pontoon boat dealers near you to find the best option.  You can also watch this video, New Boats vs Used Boats.

Captain Matt

Pontoons and Under the Pontoon

The first place to start your inspection on a used pontoon is the actual pontoons.  They can get water in them and even have small holes in them that need to be welded tight.

The best way to inspect for this is to pound on the tunes at the lowest point and on the top of that same area to listen for a difference in sound that may indicate water has gotten in the tubes.

INSIDER PONTOON TIP:  Water getting into the toons is most common on pontoons that have drain plugs under the waterline.

Captain Matt

You’ll also want to inspect the bottom of the boat (or what you can see at least) to ensure there are no missing bolts, loose pieces of aluminum or other damage to the structure of the pontoon for sale.

Pontoon Seating and Upholstery

Looking at the upholstery is pretty simple.  You are searching for not only rips and tears but also mold and mildew.  They typically start in the cracks and seams of the upholstery and if its really bad can be near impossible to get rid of forever.

If you do find mold or mildew, try to clean a small area to see what you’ll be dealing with in the long term.

You’ll also want to check all the pontoon seat bases and the seats themselves.  They can crack or even rot if made of wood.  Loose hinges and latches may also be caused by rot or a broken seat so investigate further to determine if a major or minor repair can be made.

Gauges, Stereo and Electronics

Test all gauges, stereo and electronics on the pontoon to see what is and is not working.  Some pontoon options may require the boat be in the water to work properly.  Be sure to test all of these during your sea trial.

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:  Grab a copy of the Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Buyer’s Toolkit to get the How to Test Drive a Pontoon the Right Way Checklist by clicking here.

Flooring and Storage Areas

We talked about mold, mildew and rot in the seating section, you’ll want to inspect for the same on the flooring and inside all storage lockers, compartments and under the seats themselves.

PRO PONTOONTIP:  Mold and mildew thrive in a dark, damp and warm areas.  All they need is  a little dirt to get started, so check in those places that fit the bill to find any mold that may be lurking now and get it cleaned ASAP if you decided to buy the pontoon.

Wiring and Corrosion

Especially in a salt-water pontoon, the wiring and corrosion can be a major headache.  It’s important to check all wiring connections, the battery, fuel water separator and other exposed areas that may begin to corrode.

Having an electrical issue on a used pontoon boat can not only expensive, it can take a long time to diagnosis and will ruin a day on the water.

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Test Driving the Used Pontoons for Sale

There is a great video on this and checklist in the Boat Buyer’s Toolkit which you can get for free.

When test driving a used pontoon, you’ll want to go thru a checklist of maneuvers and procedures to ensure the boat is solid mechanically.

Ranking of Pontoon Manufacturers (alphabetical order)

Use this list only as a guide to determine the type of pontoons you are researching. 

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:   Most manufacturers have developed a value line in addition to their premium level pontoons for sale.  Some even have different levels of construction quality to reduce the price of the boats.  Some are noted below however be sure to research because it can change depending on the model year of the pontoon you are researching.

Captain Matt

High-End Pontoon Boat and Triple Pontoon Boat Brands

  • AquaPatio Pontoons
  • Avalon Luxury Pontoon
  • Barletta Pontoons
  • Bennington Pontoons
  • Crest Pontoons
  • Harris Pontoon
  • Manitou Pontoons
  • Play Craft Boats
  • Premier Pontoons
  • Sanpan
  • Trifecta Pontoons

Mid-Level Pontoon and Triple Pontoon Brands

Value Pontoon Boat and Triple Pontoon Boat Brands

  • Bentley Pontoons
  • Pond King
  • Qwest Pontoons
  • SunChaser Pontoons
  • SunTracker Pontoons
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
*The list above is our opinion of these brands based on years of exposure, inspection and market research.  Each brand is right for someone and this is not intended to keep people away from any pontoon boats for sale.

High End Pontoons for Sale

When searching for high-end luxury pontoons for sale, stick with the major brands like Bennington, Harris, Premier, Manitou, Barletta and others.  As with most pontoon purchases, when buying a new pontoon for sale, make sure you buy from a top-notch dealer as well.  They will have as much or more impact on your boating enjoyment as the pontoon itself.

Mid-Range Pontoons for Sale:

If your budget or personal style doesn’t want the cheapest or the most expensive pontoons for sale, the mid-range is a great place to focus.  These pontoons tend to be equipped with what need but avoid all the extras that are unnecessary for many pontoon boaters.

Again, the pontoon boat dealer you buy from will be a major player in this segment.  Make sure they have a good relationship with the pontoon manufacturer to smooth out the pontoon warranty process if something arises.

Value Pontoons for Sale

Looking to get the most pontoon for your money?  The value segments or entry level pontoons will do just that.  Understand that the only way to get the price down on a pontoon is to decrease the quality of the construction material and/or leaving off options more expensive pontoons are equipped with.

For many pontoon shoppers, this segment will allow you to buy the pontoon for sale now instead of continuing with pontoon rentals or missing the boat altogether.

And, as I aways say, life truly is better on a pontoon boat!

Salt-Water Pontoons for Sale

More often, we are seeing pontoon builders equip their pontoons for salt-water environments.  If you will be running your boat in salt water or brackish water, insist on getting these salt-water options.

The harsh environment will wreak havoc on certain material used on traditional fresh-water pontoons.  However, a few select changes in the pontoons construction will make all the difference in the performance and your happiness of your used pontoon years down the line.

Bottom Painted Pontoons for Sale

When boating in a salt-water environment where barnacle growth is a major factor, consider getting your pontoons bottom painted.  This pontoon bottom painting will need to be done between every year and every three years depending on where you keep your boat (when kept in the water).

Skipping this investment will likely cause major headaches and additional pontoon repair expense.  Because the need for bottom paint on your pontoon varies from region to region, ask a few local pontoon boat owners and pontoon boat dealers for their opinion on the matter.

The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Pontoons for Sale By Owner

In 2018, there were 54,295 new pontoons sold in the US and about another 100,000 used pontoons sold by used pontoon boat dealers and for sale by owner.  Most were list for sale by owners on Boat Trader, Facebook, Craigslist boats for sale and even with a sign on the side of the road.

When buying a pontoon for sale by owner, be sure to use the Boat Buyer’s Toolkit to ensure you don’t buy someone elses headache.  Most buyer’s are honest however they may also not be knowledgeable enough to know there is a minor or major issue with their pontoon.

Always insist on a test drive before buying your pontoon or tri-toon and follow the How to Test Drive a Pontoon the Right Way to avoid making a huge mistake.

Pontoons for Sale Craigslist

Craigslist boats for sale is an incredible resource for finding nice pontoons for sale however, it is also a breeding ground for potential fraud.  A few tips to avoid being a victim.

1.  Always completely inspect the pontoon or tri-toon for sale in person using the Pontoon Boat Buyer’s Checklist.

2.  Insist on a test drive a use the Test Drive Checklist to avoid buying someone else’s headache.

3.  Match the Hull Id # on the pontoon to the HIN on the title of the boat.  The Engine serial number and trailer serial number as well if pontoon boat trailers are titled in your state.

Following these three steps will go a long way to avoid someone looking to pull a fast one on you and being a victim of fraud.

Used Pontoons for Sale Under $10000

The most popular segment of pontoon boats for sale are those under $10K.  These are the most plentiful so you should have a nice selection of boats to choose from.  Use the information in the How to Buy a Used Pontoon WITHOUT Getting Ripped Off so you make a wise investment in your pontoon boating lifestyle.

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Used Pontoons for Sale Under $50000

Remember, there were only around 50K pontoon boats sold per year in recent years so the new the pontoon or tri-toon you are considering the fewer that may be available that are in the $30K – $50K range.  They are available, just keep searching to find them.

As we wrap up here, be sure to check out our other videos and information for those researching used pontoon boats for sale.

Best Places to Find Nice Used Pontoon Boats for Sale

If you are looking for cheaper used pontoon boats, you can go to Craigslist boats for sale.  They typically have a nice selection of boats listed from project boats to cheaper boats and boats for sale from used boat dealers, private sellers and sometimes used boat brokers.

Go to Google or your favorite search engine and Search “Used boats for sale near me”.  Or, if you are searching for a specific brand of boat, searching “Used Sea Ray Boats for Sale” could yield a few hidden gems that others in your local area won’t find.

For some, they prefer to buy from a private seller instead of a used boat dealer.  In that case, searching “Used boats for sale by owner” will sort out the boats you are looking for.

Regardless of how you find the pre-owned boats that are most likely to be a fit, what you do from this point on is most important.

Of course you have Boat Trader, Boats.com and Yacht World for a variety of boat types.  OnlyInboards.com, CenterConsolesOnly.com and other niche listing sites.

Other options to consider are going to a used boat dealer near you.  They may have some boats available (or know of some nice clean used boats coming soon) that would be a perfect fit for you. 

If you’ll be attending a boat show, I encourage you to read this article first. How to Win at this Year’s Boat Show.

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:  I always suggest shopping a new pontoon boat dealer as well to get local insights to your boating area, see what similar new boats cost and start building your knowledge base as you begin your boat buying journey.

Captain Matt

Just keep your eyes open and follow the steps below to avoid the 7 biggest mistakes used boat buyer’s make that can cost them a fortune, huge headaches and even worse.

About the Author:

Captain Matt is an industry veteran that has been involved in hundreds of boat sales on both sides of the table, buying and selling.  His relationships with boat dealers, boat brokers, manufacturers and boating industry power players gives him the insider information that every boat buyer would find helpful when buying a new boat or used boat.

That’s why he’s created the website and offering the free Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Buyer’s Toolkit to help ensure you make a great decision when buying your first or next boat.  Grab your free toolkit by clicking right here.

BBSW Toolkit Offer Used Boats for Sale
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

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