First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (2022)

What are the advantages of a pontoon boat vs other boats?

What makes a modern pontoon boat different from an older pontoon?

What makes tritoons special? And why are they more expensive than a traditional pontoon?

What safety equipment does the state of Ohio require me to have onboard?

What do I need to register my pontoon boat in the state of Ohio?

What size engine should I buy for my pontoon boat?

Do I need a trailer for my pontoon boat?

What is the cost of ownership of a pontoon boat?

What’s the difference between a 4-Stroke and a 2-Stroke Outboard motor?

What type of gas should I use?

Can I finance a pontoon boat?

Still not sold on buying a pontoon? Try an alternative.

    What are the advantages of a pontoon boat vs other boats?

    • Pontoon boats are family friendly. Try fitting your entire family, coolers and bags onto a bass boat and see if everyone has a good time.
    • Pontoons are versatile. There are thousands of combinations of furniture layouts, engine sizes and options for you to choose from.
    • They are pet, kid and mess friendly. That mess on the deck is easily cleaned on a pontoon. Almost all pontoon boats now come standard with vinyl floors which makes cleaning a breeze.
    • Pontoons are easy to maintain – we recommend cleaning tubes once a year, but besides that they require no polishing or painting like a fiberglass boat.
    • Modern 4-stroke outboards are whisper quiet on the water. When you’re in neutral you might even question whether it’s even turned on.
    • Pontoons maximize space. Pontoons have a rectangular floorplan vs the triangular floorplan of a V-bottom boat of the same overall length. You can fit more people, more coolers, and more gear on a pontoon.
    • Take it from us, pontoons are the easiest boat to drive. Pontoons offer a more stable platform in the water and don’t rock side-to-side.
    • Pontoons offer ease of access – strollers and wheelchairs roll right on to the boat through wide gates.
    • Last but certainly not least, pontoon boats are extremely safe. Pontoon tubes are made of very thick, durable aluminum that are compartmentalized, meaning that if water should penetrate into one section of the tube, the other sections won’t fill up.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (1)

    What makes a modern pontoon boat different from an older pontoon?

    • Tube size. Pontoons built in the 70’s and 80’s usually had 17” to 19” diameter tubes. In the 90’s, as engines got larger tubes started growing also. Nowadays you won’t find new pontoons with tubes less than 23” diameter. The extra space in the tubes means more buoyancy, meaning you can fit more people on your boat and have a larger engine.
    • Extra tubes. Tritoons are more popular than ever! Check out the section “What Makes Tritoons Special?” below for more information.
    • Marine-grade plywood. Older pontoon boats were built with plywood that was only treated after the plys are compressed. Modern pontoons are built with marine-grade plywood, meaning each individual ply is treated and then compressed with other treated plys to keep water entirely out. Ask if the boat you’re buying has marine-grade plywood and check the warranty – reputable manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on the deck.
    • Furniture. Older pontoons, well, didn’t really have furniture. People just used foldout chairs and lawn furniture. Today’s pontoons have furniture that rivals your living room, with ergonomic designs, premium padding and built-in cup holders.
    • Electronics. In an increasingly digital world it should be no surprise that pontoons are also loading up with great technology. Options like Bluetooth-compatible radios, satellite-guided GPS and Fish Finder systems, fly-by-wire controls and power bimini tops are becoming regular options on pontoon boats.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (2)

    What makes tritoons different from pontoons? And why are they more expensive than a traditional pontoon?

    “Tritoons” have become a popular alternative to fiberglass ski and speed boats. But take a closer look at that tritoon – there’s a lot more going on than simply adding a third tube.

    • If it’s a quality tritoon,you should see that the middle tube is larger than the outside tubes and hangs lower. This replicates the “V” you find on a traditional ski boat and helps with cornering.
    • You should also see “lifting strakes”, which stick out from the tube on the interior of the boat. Lifting strakes improve the boat’s hydro-dynamics and turning radius.
    • Look up under the deck and you’ll see aluminum under-skinrunning the length of the boat. This is added to help water from splashing up and slowing the boat down.
    • Tritoons require larger outboard motors. The smallest outboard motor we recommend for a tritoon is 150 HP. That extra tube adds more weight and more boat to push.
    • Hydraulic steering should come standard on a tritoon. It works the exact same way as it does in your car – it makes turning the wheel so much easier and smoother. We recommend hydraulic steering on any outboard over 90 HP.
    • Other popular options on tritoons include ski tow bars, in-tube storage and more deluxe steering wheels and consoles.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (3)

    What safety equipment does the state of Ohio require me to have on my pontoon boat?

    • First, you need a Coast Guard approved life jacket for everyone on board, including babies. These can be the more traditional orange “Type 2” jackets that you slip on around your neck or “Type 3” jackets that fit tighter to your body.
    • A “Type 4” throwable device. This is a floating device that can be thrown to a swimmer in distress.
    • You’ll need a marine fire extinguisher. Marine fire extinguishers typically last 6 to 12 years.
    • Grab a sound signaling device, a.k.a a whistle or a horn that can be used to hail other boats in the event of an emergency.
    • You’ll also need a visual distress signal, typically that’s a distress flag. You aren’t required to carry flares unless you’re on Lake Erie.
    • Anchor and line. For most pontoons we recommend a 10 lb “fluke” anchor that works well in both muddy and rocky bottoms. Just make sure that anchor is tied to the boat when you toss it in. You wouldn’t believe how many anchors are at the bottom of the lake because someone forgot to tie it up!

    Remember, every new pontoon boat sold at Charles Mill Marina comes

    FREE

    with all of the safety equipment listed above.

    While not required by law, here are some other things that we’ve found to be helpful on the water:

    • A battery jump pack. Did you leave the lights on overnight and found your battery dead? A jump pack can be a life saver.
    • Boat fenders with easy remove clips. There’s nothing worse than putting a scratch, or worse, a dent into your new pontoon boat. Strategically place fenders between your boat and the dock (and maybe the boat next to you also) so that they protect the rails from rubbing. Make sure to also get clips that can easily attach and detach the fenders from the railing for easy storage. Don’t be a “bumper nerd” and ride all day with your fenders outside the boat!
    • Pack a few extra rope lines. Trust us, they’ll come in handy. Maybe you need to tow another boat off the water, maybe you’ll need it to tie off at a dock, or maybe the kids are just being a handful.
    • A good extendable dock pole will save you a lot of headaches during docking. Rather than leaning out of the boat to try and grab the dock, an extendable dock pole makes it much easier to push off or grab a dock.

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (4)

    What do I need to register my pontoon boat in the state of Ohio?

    • The state of Ohio requires you to register your watercraft registration. Those letters and numbers that start with “OH” on the outside of your boat? That’s your registration number. Think of it like a license plate for a boat.
    • Registrations are good for three years and expire on March 1. Boat registrations can be renewed online, at your local DMV or even right here at Charles Mill Marina.
    • If you buy your boat new at Charles Mill Marina, we'll take care of your registration for you, including putting your registrion numbers onto your boat.
    • Visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website to learn more.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (5)

    What size engine should I buy for my pontoon boat?

    Outboard motors are rated using horsepower (HP) and go from 2.5 HP up to 425 HP. What size engine works best for you? That depends on what you want to do with the boat and on what lake you plan on boating at.
    • The smallest engine we recommend for a pontoon is 9.9 HP. Many lakes in Ohio (like Charles Mill) are limited horsepower lakes that do not allow engines above 9.9 HP on pontoons. A 9.9 HP engine is great for slow cruising, but don’t expect to go faster than a 5 MPH. We highly recommend (and include in our price) a “high-thrust” 9.9 HP engine from Yamaha that has a larger propeller and makes it much easier to maneuver your pontoon boat, even with a small engine.
    • The next size up are engines from 15 to 30 HP, the most popular being 25 HP. You’ll get a little more power than a 9.9 HP, but again, these are really designed to slow cruise. You’ll want to strongly consider the high-thrust models here as well.
    • Moving up to the next category are outboards from 40 HP to 60 HP. Now you’re starting to get more speed and can even pull a tube. If you have young kids that may just want to tube and don’t need high-speed thrills, this is a perfect range.
    • Next are 70 to 115 HP outboards and your speed will really start to be affected by the size of your boat. If you have a pontoon boat that’s 20’ or smaller, you may be able to pull a skier/wakeboarder. If your boat is larger, say 24’ or longer’, you still may find the speed lacking.
    • The next jump is a big one, with 150 HP being the most popular motor above a 115 HP. This is for the boater who wants the power to pull a skier or wakeboarder, or really throw someone around on a tube. If you are looking at a tritoon, start at 150 HP and go up from there.
    • Above 150, you’re getting into the range of some monster motors that are going to throw some serious wake. You should have no problem pulling skiers and wakeboarders, and tubers will be in for a wild ride when you drop the throttle. Most commercially available tritoons max out at 300 HP, although manufacturers are constantly innovating and pushing that max.
    • One thing to be aware of is that boats are built with maximum capacity for horsepower, meaning you can’t throw a 300 HP engine on a pontoon boat from the 70’s. If you’re buying used, check the capacity tag (it’s a yellow plaque located near the steering wheel) to be sure of the max engine size.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (6)

    Do I need a trailer for my pontoon boat?

    • This depends on how you plan on using the boat. Are you planning on only using it at one lake? If so, a trailer may not be necessary as most marinas offer storage, take-out and put-in services.
    • Trailering does offer you the freedom to take your boat to other lakes, and also allows you to store your boat at home if you choose.
    • If you decide to trailer your boat, make sure you're buying the right trailer. The larger the pontoon boat, the more trailer you'll need. That might mean a second axle, brakes, or a bunk for your tritoon.
    • At Charles Mill Marina, we're proud to offer Hoosier Trailers. They're durable, dependable and built right.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (7)

    What is the cost of ownership of a pontoon boat?

    • There are a couple of costs that you should keep in mind when buying a pontoon boat.
      • Fuel. Smaller 4-stroke outboards sip fuel and a little goes a long way. As engine sizes grow, so does fuel consumption. For example, a 150 HP Yamaha outboard running wide open for an hour will consume about 15 gallons of gas. Pro tip – run your motor at about ¾ throttle for peak fuel efficiency.
      • Docking. If you choose to dock your boat, your marina will charge a seasonal docking rate which vary by lake. Maybe we’re biased, but we happen to think that Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill lakes are the best Ohio has to offer.
      • Winterization. If you plan on keeping the boat in Ohio, you have to winterize the outboard motor. This means changing the lower unit oil (which may have water in it that can freeze) and adding fuel stabilizer.
      • Oil changes (for 4-stroke outboards). We recommend changing your oil seasonally at the same time as winterization.
      • Shrinkwrap and Storage. Most people choose to store their boat with shrinkwrap rather than just the mooring cover? Why? Shrinkwrap is much more durable, especially under the heavy wet snows of Ohio that are known to rip right through a fabric mooring cover.
      • Tube cleaning. Is tube cleaning required? No. But with that said, there are some reasons you should seriously consider it. Even on the cleanest lakes, you’ll find your tubes accumulate a thick layer of “grime” that can slow your boat down (if you care about that), and it can leave a permanent waterline on your pontoons, even if you skip the seasonal tube cleaning just once.

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (8)

    What’s the difference between a 4-Stroke and a 2-Stroke Outboard motor?

    • Without going into the details of how these physically work (ask us if you’re interested, we’d love to tell you), here are the main things you need to know about 2-Stroke and 4-Stroke outboard motors:
      • Those noisy, smelly, oily outboards? Those are 2-strokes. 2-strokes are no longer in production for a lot reasons, but overall they’re outdated technology.
      • A modern 4-stroke engine is an engineering marvel. You can barely hear them when you’re idling, they’re incredibly dependable and have digital diagnostics that allow our technicians to pinpoint issues.
      • 4-stroke engines require oil changes every so often, we recommend once every season.
      • 4-strokes are also much more environmentally friendly as they do not burn oil like a 2-stroke.
      • Be careful, however, with older 4-strokes manufactured in the 90’s. The technology was still in development and the engines from that era are notoriously unreliable.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (9)

    What type of gas should I use in my outboard motor?

    • Always use marine grade fuel, and not fuel from a gas station. Why? That fuel from the gas station will have ethanol in it. Ethanol is great for the car that you drive every day, but for a boat that might not be run often (especially in the winter), it’s a recipe for a clogged carburetor.
    • When ethanol rests in a tank for an extended period without agitation, the ethanol goes through what is called “phase-separation” and will end up with a layer of water on top of your gasoline. It can also loosen sediments within your fuel tank that get sucked into the carburetor.
    • It requires a technician to pull your boat from the water, remove and “boil” the carburetor to remove sediments. It’s our tech’s least favorite thing to do.
    • The good news is that you should be able to find marine grade fuel at your local marina. Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill Marina exclusively offer ethanol-free fuel. Yes it’s more expensive than the gas station. But trust us, a little extra cost is worth saving a major headache.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (10)

    Can I finance a pontoon boat?

    • Yes, financing pontoon boats has become very popular. We offer competitive financing with terms of up to 15 years. Fill out a credit application today online and we can pre-approve you.
    • Pontoons boats hold their value better than any of other type of boat and even better than most new cars. If you keep a boat in great condition you’ll be rewarded when you go to trade-in or sell.

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

    First Time Pontoon Boat Buyers Guide | Charles Mill Marina (11)

    Still not sold on buying a pontoon? Maybe try one of these two options:

    • Try joining our Mid-Ohio Boat Club. We offer pontoons for seasonal rental at both Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill Marinas. There’s no cost of ownership, it’s as simple as reserving the boat and taking it out.
    • Consider splitting the cost of a new boat amongst friends and family. This has become a common option for people in recent years and offers a great way to lower your cost of ownership while also owning a boat. Joint financing is available as well.

    One last thing - buying and owning a pontoon boat is supposed to be fun! No matter where you choose to buy a pontoon boat (we hope you consider us), make sure that they take time to answer your questions and show you how to safely operate your new boat. We take great care in making sure our customers are 100% water ready. The only thing you should worry about on the water is how full your coolers are, which fishing hole you're going to hit or how much sunlight you have left in the day. Happy boat shopping!

    Check out our inventory of new and used pontoon boats here!

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