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Pontoon vs. Tritoon Boats

Pontoon vs. Tritoon Boats
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Pontoon boats come in a wide variety of sizes and styles, so how do you know which one is right for you?

This guide will walk you through some of the key factors you should consider when you’re looking for a new pontoon boat, such as their design and construction, performance on the water, versatility, and environmental impact.

Historical Roots: The Evolution of Pontoon and Tritoon Boats

Pontoon boats have been around for thousands of years, but the modern version you see on the water today wasn’t developed until 1952 when a man named Ambrose Weeres wanted a watercraft that could support his family. Weeres’ early prototype of the pontoon was simple, a wooden platform tied to the top of two steel barrels, but it completely changed the boating world. This prototype became the basis of modern-day pontoons, a family-favorite boat that offers more space and stability than a traditional watercraft.

These early twin-pontoon boats were designed to slowly cruise on flat water, which came with some limitations. So, in the 1980’s, builders began to experiment and added a third, center tube, resulting in what we now know as the tritoon. The third tube improves carrying capacity, stability, comfort, and handling. It also allows you to outfit the boat with more horsepower than a two-tube pontoon so it can be used for watersports towing, making it a popular option for boaters.

Design and Construction: Pontoons vs. Tritoons

Among the different options you have when purchasing a pontoon boat, one of the first choices you should make is whether you need a two-tube or a tritoon (three-tube) pontoon. The tubes used in pontoons are called pontoon logs, or “toons,” and are a critical component of the boat’s construction. The toons are long, cylindrical-shaped tubes that attach to the bottom of the boat to provide its buoyancy and stability, so their number, shape, size, and material can significantly impact the boat’s overall performance.

Generally speaking, a tritoon pontoon boat will offer better handling on the water because of the additional pontoon log. The third toon gets added in the middle, between the other two toons, and enhances the boat’s capacity and stability. However, adding a tube also adds weight and increases the boat’s purchase cost, so it may not always be the optimal choice. To decide whether you need a two-tube or tritoon pontoon, you need to think about the kind of boating experience you want to have.

  • Where do you plan on boating?
  • Who are you bringing with you?
  • What will you be doing (e.g. cruising, watersports, etc.)?
  • What are the waters like?

If you plan on bringing fewer people out on flat waters just to cruise, then a two-tube pontoon should meet your needs. However, if you plan to bring the pontoon out on rougher or choppier waters, or want to use it for watersports, then you’ll need the stability, handling, and power that a tritoon offers.

Once you’ve decided how many pontoon logs you need, you can delve into the different materials and options you have for the boat’s construction. These typically include aluminum, steel, composites, and wood. We recommend doing some research on the options you have and speaking with experts to determine which materials will provide the best performance, as they each have their pros and cons and will impact the boat’s capacity, buoyancy, and overall structural integrity.

Performance on the Water: Speed, Handling, and Maneuverability

We suggest you consider where and how you will use your pontoon because, although the tritoon compensates for a two-tube pontoon’s limitations, it isn’t always the best option to meet your needs. A two-tube pontoon can perform as well as you need it to as long as you use it in appropriate conditions. That said, there’s no denying that tritoons are popular for a reason. Better handling, increased speeds, and improved maneuverability are desirable qualities if you’re not sure where you’ll tend to go boating, plan to be in not-so-flat waters, need more carrying capacity, or want to pull riders for tubing, wakeboarding, or other watersports.

Having only two tubes means that the pontoon is going to be smaller, which lessens the carrying capacity. It also influences the speed and handling. You won’t be able to move as quickly in a twin-tube pontoon because of lower horsepower ratings, but this is actually a good thing because they lean to the outside in turns, which can be uncomfortable for passengers.

In a tritoon, the addition of a center tube allows for faster speeds, and improves comfort and handling, and the larger size and capacity means you can add more powerful outboards. The heavier weight from the added tube and enhanced buoyancy improve handling and maneuvering for sharper turns, and provide a steadier ride in stronger winds. However, these improvements aren’t necessary in flat, shallow waters, so the added financial cost might not be a worthwhile investment.

Versatility and Use Cases: What Fits Your Boating Lifestyle?

If you’re investing in a boat, then you likely already have an idea of your preferences. These will guide your decision-making process, so it’s important to consider which pontoon is going to be the better fit for your boating lifestyle. Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of common leisure activities and whether the pontoon can handle them:

Can the Boat be Used for: Two-Tube Pontoon Tritoon
Fishing? Yes Yes
Watersports? Not Ideal Yes
Leisure Cruising? Yes Not Ideal
Party Hosting? Yes Yes

Next, you can think about layout options, seating arrangements, and available amenities. A tritoon is going to have more deck space, which means more seating space for hosting passengers, and the increased capacity will also mean more storage (which may be ideal for fishermen). Other than that, you’ll find you have similar options for both pontoons and both can be customized to meet your specific wants and needs. For example, both can be equipped with a TurboSwing ski tow bar.

Ultimately, a tritoon is the more versatile option, so if cost isn’t a prohibitive factor and you’re unsure how you’ll be using the boat, then you may want to explore this option further.

Fuel Efficiency and Environmental Impact

On average, a pontoon boat will consume about 5 gallons of gas per hour at cruising speed. This consumption can go up or down depending on a range of factors, including the materials used in the boat’s construction and whether it has two or three toons. A tritoon is bigger, heavier, and requires more power to push it through the water. This means a three-tube pontoon will offer lower fuel efficiency than a two-tube pontoon.

Although both will impact the environment, tritoons have a greater impact since they use more motors, take up more space, are more difficult to store and tow, and use more fuel. So, if you are eco-conscious, then this might be a significant factor for you to consider before you invest.

Pontoon vs. Tritoon Maintenance and Cost Considerations

The last thing to think about before you choose between a two-tube pontoon and a tritoon is how much the boat will cost beyond the initial purchase price. A tritoon is already going to cost more, since you’re paying for an extra toon and more horsepower. Plus, with the added tube, a tritoon is going to need more maintenance than a two-tube pontoon and may present more challenges. Using the boat for watersports, for example, may require more frequent maintenance checks to keep your boat performing at its best, which increases upkeep costs. Consider what you are comfortable investing in your boat long-term before you commit to a purchase so you can make a budget-conscious decision.

Which pontoon is right for you?

Deciding which pontoon is right for you is a question of preference. Here’s a quick review of the pros and cons of both for you to think about:

Two-tube Pontoons

  • Slower movement on the water
  • Ideal for cruising
  • Easier to transport
  • Lower initial and long-term cost
  • Not suitable for rough or choppy water
  • Not suitable for watersports


  • Faster movement on the water
  • Improved stability and handling
  • Suitable for rough or choppy water
  • Suitable for watersports
  • Higher initial and long-term cost
  • More difficult to store and transport
  • Less eco-friendly

If you’re still not sure, don’t hesitate to reach out to an expert! They’re more than happy to help you figure out which pontoon will best meet your boating needs.

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