Five Great Pontoon Boats for 2018
Pontoon boats have come a long way since the days when they resembled Tom Sawyer’s river raft, floating along the Mississippi. They have also come a long way since their days as “party barges.” These days, pontoons tend to be just as nautical as the smaller wood and fiberglass fishing boats we have all come to love. They can still be seen as a “party barge,” but the modern pontoon craft have grown to be very versatile and useful for many activities.
The core element of today’s pontoon boats is still the same as it was back in the day, featuring stable pontoons below, topped by a deck with loads of seating. These days, however, instead of folding lawn chairs, pontoons tend to feature built in seating that is much more plush and comfortable than previously and many feature entertainment centers with the latest sound and lighting systems, as well as wet bars. They also feature plenty of storage and they handle better than the pontoons of old. Increasingly, modern pontoon boats perform more like boats with a v-shaped hull and the triple-tube pontoon boats are extremely agile for their size. Here is a sampling of a few of the best pontoon boats on the market for 2018.
Bennington Q Series 27
By most estimates, Bennington has created a winner with the new Q Series 27. This boat has a lot of power, courtesy of the twin 250 Yamaha four-strokes. In fact, its low-end power creates speed that is comparable to many of the speediest bass and performance boats. This pontoon boat can go from zero-to-30 mph in just 4.2 seconds. With large-diameter pontoons with sealed-end lifting strakes, the Bennington Q Series 27 guarantees flat turns and keeps it very stable when going fast and on rough water. The extra length also reduces the likelihood of pitching in rough waters. Given its top speed of just over 50 mph and an optimum cruising speed off 15 mph, stability is important, and this pontoon boat delivers.
The Bennington 27 QSR also comes with Evinrude’s new iDock outboard engine joystick docking system. Not only that, but the Bennington Series Q 27 boats come with an unusually sleek look, courtesy of Bennington’s raked-back bow fencing, and an extra-large swim platform on the bow, as well as the inclusion of real glass windshields at the helm and the passengers’ consoles, instead of the more common plastic deflectors. The furniture is also more comfortable than is the case with many other pontoon boats, and everything about the 27 QSR seemed very well-built and strong.
The Bennington 27 QSR also comes with three-wide lounges – two of them facing aft – with enhanced head rests and well-engineered folding armrests with cup holders. The captain’s chair is just as plush, plus it reclines, moves fore/aft and rotates. The Napa Beige interior upholstery that is both elegant and easy to maintain; it wipes down very easily. The vinyl sea grass flooring offers a surface that is textured enough to lessen slipping, but is still easily hosed off or wiped down for easy cleaning, without retaining water. In the floor is a wide storage compartment large enough to carry a lot of gear. There is also a great sound system, featuring a Kicker subwoofer system with an amplifier upgrade.
The Bennington Series Q 27 also comes with a lot of great extra options that make it a great boat to take on the lake for fun, such as the optional electric-powered changing room, and the optional color-changing LED mood lighting system is located in Justin the right spot, around speakers and cup holders, as well as along the sides. There are even some lights underwater. The boat’s helm is raised in a way to give the pilot a better view, while the Yamaha digital dash provides the pilot with all relevant engine and cockpit information. The Bennington Series Q 27 also features Yamaha controls, including joystick docking, that are precise enough to provide for pinpoint control, which is important when docking and maneuvering.
Cypress Cay Cabana 220
While the Cypress Cay Cabana 220 has been around for a while now, the 2018 version has been ungraded significantly, in ways that make it a key part of many list of best pontoon boats. The Cypress Cay Cabana 220 is a great pontoon boat because it tries to fulfill every boater’s greatest fantasy, whether it’s sitting in a quiet cove and waiting for the fish to bite or it’s watching the children laugh and play as they catch a few winks in the sun, or it’s even just changing into warm clothes while you cruise home while watching a beautiful sunset. The fact is, the Cabana 220 can take you there with several carefully laid-out floor plans. One floor plan, for example, includes four very cozy and comfortable lounges and a center walk-through design.
With the optional fish finder with GPS, it’s possible to have a friendly tournament with friends and still enjoy the comfortable onboard living space needed for social boating, whether you want to cruise the lake, anchor and play in an out of the way cove, or you want to entertaining dockside. The lounges on the Cypress Cay Cabana 220 are very comfortable; there are no ersatz headrests or intrusive protrusions on the backrest. All four lounges curve toward the center, with another section crating something of a U-lounge on either end. One new optional feature that has proven to be a fan favorite is a rolling slide-open padded cooler with three cup holders and a table-top, which single-handedly solved one of the most confounding dilemmas common to most pontoon boats, which feature pedestal tables that are flimsy and shake a lot, spilling food and drink everywhere. There is also the option of a popup changing room that can be equipped with a portable toilet.
The Cabana 220 is powered by the Mercury 150 hp FourStroke, which gives it a level of performance and economy that is unusual for a pontoon boat. Equipped with this engine, the boat can go from zero to 30 mph in 9.4 seconds has a top speed of about 36.4 mph. If you’re in a bigger hurry than that, the engine can be equipped with either a Honda BF225 or a Mercury 250 Verado. Another great optional feature is the triple-tube package with an under-skin and lifting strakes, which lets the Cypress Cay Cabana 220 handle the 250 hp engines like a pro, if that’s even necessary.
Crestliner 240 Rally DX
The Crestliner 240 Rally DX, with a base MSRP, has a lot of features often found in much more expensive pontoon boats, which should be expected from Crestliner, a boat maker that specializes in expert craftsmanship and supreme durability and performance, as well as countless comforts. The company tends to be uncompromising in their quality and the 240 rally DX is no exceptions. Those who have tested this boat have found no indications of cost-cutting measures that are common to pontoon boats in this price range.
The 2018 version of the Crestliner 240 Rally DX, which comes with a with a 115 HP outboard, also features advanced construction, which provides the 24-footer with a resilient foundation, capable of delivering a very comfortable experience on the water. That, and the choice of five unique floor plans mean this can be a great boat for anyone, whether they want to cruise and relax, socialize with friends, waterski, or fish. In fact, it can handle a combination of all of the above, if that’s what you like.
For such a large pontoon boat, the Crestliner 240 Rally DX comes with a lot of luxury, standard, including pillow-like comfy furniture, a woodgrain table with cup holders, a cushy helm chair that reclines when needed, and an MB Quart GMR-3 Stereo with AM/FM and Bluetooth capability. When someone just boards the Rally DX and looks around, they will be impressed. The premium styling turns heads, sure, but the extras that come with it are also impressive, as well, including a telescoping stainless steel ladder and stainless steel flip up cleats, which offer secure tie-down points when necessary. And again, it all comes with the durability and performance that comes with most Crestliner boats.
Lowe Retreat 250 RFL
The new 2018 version of Lowe’s Retreat series is clearly aimed as providing a quality pontoon boat at a middle of the road price. At just a bit over $30,000, the
Lowe Retreat 250 RFL still comes with a number of features that make this a phenomenal value, like the top-of-the-line touches like a fiberglass console, full-length keels, 24” cross-members, and hardware that is all stainless-steel, not plastic. This pontoon boat comes equipped with a 115 HP engine for plenty of power and it features large and comfortable twin aft-facing lounges. They even placed a giant U-shaped settee on the bow.
Put simply, the 2018 Lowe Retreat 250 RFL is a deluxe pontoon that comes complete with everything any pontoon-lover can imagine. Besides the plush rear-facing lounge seating with armrests at the stern providing uninterrupted views, there is plenty of spacious seating throughout the deck, including custom reclining and swiveling helm and passenger seat. There is also a beautiful and stylish plexiglass table with cup holders, as well as a 9’ Bimini top to provide at least some shade from the sun and a Bluetooth®-compatible Marine Audio stereo with 50-watt speakers to keep everyone dancing, if that’s what they’re into. And there is plenty of storage all over, including under the seats and under the floor.
Also, because it’s a Lowe, you can count on durable construction that will endure season after season of heavy use. lasting quality for season after season of use. And since
triple-tube performance pontoon boats often reach above the $50,000, you can’t beat the value. The Retreat 250 RFL can top 37 mph, so you can get where you’re going in a hurry and with a construction and power steering that provides a smooth and nimble ride, you will get there easily. Because of the combination of power and stability, it is a great boat for watersports like skiing, but the Lowe Retreat 250 RFL also is a great boat for fishing or just cruising your favorite lake.
Princecraft Vogue 29 XT
According to many experts, the Princecraft Vogue 29 XT is quite possibly the pontoon boat that meets the flooded market most aggressively, providing features that most pontoon fans say they want, including lots of extra features and enough seating to entertain a relatively large crowd. The triple-tube model, which comes with a Mercury Racing 400 hp outboard, is able to reach 30 mph in 7.1 seconds, which is impressive. There is no way this boat will slow down and creep along, even when it has been loaded with its capacity of 16 people.
The Vogue 29 XT does not skimp on luxury, either. In fact, the Sport Edition package includes very sharp-looking all-white vinyl plush furniture, as well as plenty of LED lighting, and a color-coordinated snack table. The aft couches have rear-facing recliners, which means spotters of skiers and wakeboarders can ride in comfort. In addition, the furniture features roto-cast seat bases with plenty of storage underneath to load any gear you have. A conversation pit can be formed by connecting forward couches to a removable gate seat. Also, the portside seating keeps hidden a pop-up changing room that can be equipped with an optional portable marine toilet.
Because of its solid construction and the materials used, the Princecraft Vogue 29 XT is very easy to clean and maintain, and the teak-look vinyl flooring provides the boat with a touch of class that goes along with the overall style of the boat. Not bad for a beast of a pontoon boat, really. The Princecraft Vogue 29 XT is 29’ 10” overall and carries an 8’ 6” beam. However, what most people notice most is Princecraft’s striking lines and the attention to detail that carry through to her interior design. Clearly Princecraft left nothing out of the Princecraft Vogue 29 XT, even though it slapped an affordable price on it.