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Pontoon Vs. Cabin Cruiser (6 Aspects)

If you’re looking for a new boat, you’ve probably narrowed your options down already. You may be looking for something that can fit your whole family, or maybe even something you can take far out to sea.

You can easily take your cabin cruiser or pontoon out to sea to go fishing, sightseeing, or just relax for the day. They’re both great vessels to use, but that isn’t your question. You want to know which one is going to suit your needs and provide you with the best opportunity to get the job done. 

Pontoon boats can only operate well on lakes and rivers with a slow current. The longer ones we can use at sea but they’re not seaworthy boats. However, both pontoons and cabin cruisers are great options for first-time boat owners. They are easy to operate, quick enough, and can hold many people. 

Pontoon and Cabin Cruiser Overview

pontoon and cabin cruiser boat

Both boats have some key differences, such as storage, amenities, range, and styling. They are both great options, but today we’ll be comparing the two

Both are boats that are extremely versatile and accommodate many passengers. If you’re trying to decide which one is right for you, it’s important to know the differences between the two. While they have many similarities, they also have many differences that make each better for different operations.

A cabin cruiser is a speed boat that provides various amenities for passengers. They can travel long distances, navigate rough waters, and maneuver very well in small tight spaces. Cabin cruisers are very similar to yachts but much cheaper to buy and operate. 

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Pontoons are boats that use floating devices called “pontoons” to stay afloat. They are used to floating around in more shallow waters but can be used for longer-range missions. They are usually cheaper than cabin cruisers, but they don’t offer quite the same experience. 

Size

pontoon at the lake

Pontoons are smaller typically than cabin cruisers, but this doesn’t mean they’re not useful. You can find pontoons ranging from 14 to 30 feet long. This is adequate for carrying many passengers comfortably for hours at a time. Larger sizes offer more in terms of space and rigidity in the water.

Cabin cruisers are larger than pontoons but smaller than yachts. They are 20 to 45 feet long, can also hold many passengers, and are capable of going much further distances. Due to their large size, they can handle more rough conditions and larger waves than pontoons. This makes them more seaworthy.

Both boats are very maneuverable, but you will start to see a difference once you go further out to sea. A cabin cruiser can handle bigger waves and worse weather due to its size. With both the pontoon and cabin cruiser, you can expect more amenities with a larger size.

Design

cabin cruiser near the island

A cabin cruiser resembles a more normal decked boat or a small yacht. It has a V-shaped hull made from fiberglass. This hull is designed to be able to smoothly traverse through deep waters. There are usually two decks, a kitchen, a gallery, and metal railings. The most distinctive part about a cabin cruiser is the cabin itself.

On the other hand, pontoons have a completely different design. They have two float devices on the bottom of the boat that keep them buoyant. The deck of a pontoon is similar in shape to a lifeboat, but trust me, it is no lifeboat. Amenities include refrigerators, grills, sinks, and cup holders. 

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The key difference here is what their designs are meant for. A cabin cruiser is meant for long cruises at sea, so they’re equipped with a bedroom and bathroom on the deck. A pontoon was designed for touring lakes and shallower waters because they don’t fare well in strong waves.

Range

pontoon boat

Pontoons are not intended to travel far offshore. It’s recommended that if you take them out to sea, you have the shore visible at all times. You also don’t want to avoid waves 3-4 inches in size. We know that it’s impossible to wave, so try to stay away from waves in general.

On the other hand, cabin cruisers can travel hundreds of miles out to sea for days. How fast it takes you to get to your destination depends on the size and power of your cruiser, but you’re sure to get there. This range gives the cabin cruiser more flexibility.

Once again, the cabin cruiser appears to perform better than the pontoon. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A pontoon can do much better on the lake and shallower waters. It is still good to know which one performs better in each category to tailor it to your needs.

Speed

cabin cruiser blue ocean

Cabin cruisers can cruise at up to 23 mph. This might sound slow because the average car can go well over 100 mph, but it’s not. Boats have to move through water which is denser than air, which creates more friction. 23 mph is still a great average speed for the water, and you’ll be at your destination in no time.

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A Pontoon is capable of cruising at around 10 mph. While this isn’t ideal for traveling through deeper waters or strong waves, it wasn’t designed with that in mind. Its main purpose is to cruise through shallow waters, allowing you to enjoy a day on the lake with activities such as fishing or playing sports. 

The faster your boat can cruise, it means the faster you can get to your destination. Cabin cruisers are faster than pontoons, but pontoons can operate better in shallow waters; faster doesn’t always mean better.

Purpose

pontoon boats

What is the purpose of a cabin cruiser? Well, cabin cruisers are speedboats designed to travel long distances and provide accommodation for passengers within the cabin. They are also seaworthy vessels and, due to the shape of their hull, speed, and size, can also stay at sea for days at a time.

Pontoons are boats intended to be used on lakes, rivers, and less rough waters. They can be used for leisure activities such as fishing, wakeboarding, or tubing. Manufacturers don’t recommend bringing a pontoon too far from the shoreline as they don’t hold up against waves.

Cost 

high end cabin cruiser

Cabin cruisers can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $1 million depending on the model you choose. They come in different sizes and variants, and with different options. The cost of maintenance is estimated to be 10 percent of the purchase price. It can quickly get more expensive based on the area you live in and how much you use it. 

If you’re looking for a pontoon, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $175,000. More expensive options offer more accessories and more power. The average cost of maintenance is between $1,000 and $1,500. This can also vary depending on how often you do maintenance and the size. 

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Overall, pontoons are cheaper to maintain and have a cheaper upfront cost. This is important to factor into your decision because maintenance is ongoing. For the safety of yourself and your family, it is vital to keep up with maintenance. The maintenance getaway rally was never talked about when discussing the cost of buying a new boat.

Reasons to Buy a Cabin Cruiser

cabin cruiser florida

For starters, cabin cruisers are a great way to get away with your family and friends. You can take a trip for days with all the amenities required to have a comfortable stay. They’re versatile and also easy to operate. Traveling along coastal waters is a breeze for the cabin cruiser and it does this while keeping you safe.

Reasons to Buy a Pontoon

transporting pontoon

Because of their size and versatility, pontoons are great boats to take your friends and family for a day trip out to the lake. There’s no need to leave the friends of your children behind, there is more than enough room for them as well.

You can bring your wakeboard, waterski, or fishing gear along with you. The pontoon is well equipped and there are so many things to do, so you will never get bored. If you get hungry, no worries, just fire up the gas grill onboard. The point is, that a pontoon can do so much at such a low cost.

Bottom Line

This answer may seem like a cop-out, but there isn’t a definitive answer to this question. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. They also have different uses and can accomplish different things.

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If you live by a lake and you plan on taking your family out every once in a while, a pontoon is perfect for you. If you decide right at sea, a cabin cruiser might be the fit for you. The point is, that you have to figure out how and where you plan to use your boat, to decide between the two easier for yourself.