It’s no secret that pontoon boats are expensive, and this has led many enthusiasts to look for cheap alternatives. As nice as it is to save money, it can be quite daunting to build a custom pontoon boat without much experience. Because of that, many people struggle with how to build a pontoon boat and where to start.
Buy a custom kit to build a pontoon boat to save days or even weeks off the build time. Kits include everything you need, and some of them even come with the motor. You can also build a pontoon boat from scratch if you build a frame and deck, secure them to pontoons or empty barrels, and build a housing mount for the motor.
Kits are much easier than DIY construction, but it ultimately depends on your budget and how much time you have. Follow along as we explore how to build a pontoon boat so you can get out on the water without spending a fortune.
How to Build a Pontoon Boat
It’s much easier to build a pontoon boat than you may know, especially if you use a kit. Kits eliminate most of the work, but DIY enthusiasts typically opt for custom designs that require more work. Let’s explore how to build a pontoon boat whether you buy a kit or design a unique floorplan.
1. Choose a Design
So, do you want to build a pontoon boat with a custom design, or simply pick out a kit and go from there? Using a kit is the easiest option, especially if you’ve never designed and built a pontoon boat before. Most of the major pontoon boat manufacturers sell kits, such as Sun Tracker, Manitou, and Harris.
The main appeal of kits is that they provide the satisfaction of building a pontoon boat without having to stress over measurements. It can still be a tricky process, but it’s much easier than building a pontoon boat from scratch. If you want to build a pontoon boat from scratch, you must first make sure you have the space to do it.
A shed, garage, workshop, or open outdoor space should be enough to build a pontoon boat. It’s also important to weigh the cost of the building materials against the cost of a kit. Building pontoon boats from scratch takes longer than using a kit, but it can also be more rewarding.
2. Gather Materials
You won’t need to gather many materials if you order a kit to build a pontoon boat. Kits typically include all the essentials to build a pontoon boat, such as:
- Aluminum pontoons
- 4 corners
- Transom motor support
- Towing bars
Each kit varies, but you typically get everything you need besides the tools you must use to assemble the pontoon boat. If you decide against a kit, you must purchase each of the above materials individually. Not all pontoon boat kits include motors, however, so it’s best to compare the prices of several kits and find one with a motor if you don’t want to buy one separately.
Some people simply use empty barrels as the pontoons for their boats to save money. This is an effective method that can shave hundreds of dollars off the cost of building a pontoon boat. However, you must check the barrels for leaks, or your pontoon boat won’t stay above water for too long.
Besides that, you must gather lumber or aluminum sheets for the deck and metal bars for towing. You can typically find these materials at home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.
3. Select a Motor
Unless you purchased a kit that includes a motor, you must buy an engine for your custom pontoon boat. Typically, you only need a 115-horsepower motor for a pontoon boat, but you can go higher if you want more power. Speed demons and water sports enthusiasts gravitate toward 150-200-horsepower motors.
You have two options for motor types: sterndrive and outboard motors. Outboard motors are the most practical because they suit most pontoon boats and provide the most bang for your buck when it comes to fuel. Sterndrives are practical as well, but they aren’t necessary for most pontoon boats unless they are particularly heavy.
The cost of a pontoon boat motor varies based on the type, size, brand, and power. You can find motors for as little as $900 or as high as $6,000 to $30,000.
4. Build the Deck
Once you’ve gathered all the materials, you must build the deck. This part is easy whether you have a kit or build it from scratch. Kits come with a pre-measured frame and deck that you simply slide into place and fasten with hardware.
DIY builders must build a frame out of wood and assemble a deck to put on top of it. Measure carefully so your frame and deck aren’t too big. Ideally, you should aim for a pontoon boat deck between 70 and 90 square feet. You can ultimately build the frame as big as you want if the pontoons will support the weight.
Build the frame and deck on top of the pontoons to make sure they fit well. This will also save you trouble later when the deck gets heavy and hard to hoist onto the pontoons.
5. Apply the Finishing Touches
Many DIY builders build pontoon boats that are mostly meant for fishing. In that case, there may be no finishing touches to apply as there is no room for interior flares. However, you should at least be able to add chairs for comfort.
Make sure you can fasten the chairs to the deck, so they don’t slide into the water. If you have a kit, it most likely came with some sort of interior featuring upholstered furniture and fiberglass flooring. Simply follow the instructions and use the provided hardware to fasten everything in place.
6. Test Drive It
You won’t know how your custom pontoon boat performs until you take it for a test drive. Load it onto a trailer and bring it to the local lake or river you will typically ride at. Start slowly and see how responsive the motor is.
You will quickly notice the thrust and momentum, and this will tell you if you chose the right motor for your pontoon. Pay attention to the fuel consumption to see how efficient the motor is as well. Check the deck and weight distribution on the pontoons to make sure everything is even as well.
If something seems off, simply return to shore, and load your pontoon boat back into the trailer. It’s better to catch problems early and adjust them before you make it too far off in the water. If anything needs to be adjusted, it will likely be the motor mount or pontoons themselves.
Is It Cheaper to Build a Pontoon Boat?
It is cheaper to build a pontoon boat than to buy a new one in most cases, but it varies. For example, you could build a custom pontoon boat without any amenities for under $3,000 if you choose a simple motor, plywood, and empty barrels. New pontoon boats cost upwards of $15,000, but they also feature premium materials and amenities.
Pontoon boat kits are the perfect middle ground as they start at $2,900 and run up to $10,000 or more. Kits are often worth the extra money because of the premium materials they use and the convenience they offer. It’s only worthwhile to build a custom pontoon boat from scratch if you’re ready to do lots of work and research. Otherwise, you should go with a kit.
So, How Do You Build a Pontoon Boat?
The easiest way to build a pontoon boat is to buy a custom kit from reputable brands like Harris and Sun Tracker. Otherwise, you can simply buy pontoon tubes or empty barrels, build a frame, and assemble a deck to lay over the pontoons. After that, you must buy and install a motor with at least 115 horsepower and test out your custom pontoon boat in the water.
My name is Ruben. I love fishing like most guys I know. Fishing is so much more than just an outdoor activity- its an escape, its therapy and so much more. I put together a team of other professional anglers in order to create the most inclusive fishing resource.