These days it’s common to see a pontoon boat which comes outfitted like a luxury motor yacht, runs as fast as a speed boat, and unfortunately, costs as much as a vacation home. Boats like the Premier Grand Entertainer, for example, is an absolutely luscious boat anyone would be proud to own. The only problem is, it can cost you well over $130,000. Ouch.
What if you just want a relatively simple, inexpensive pontoon that is still large enough to haul the entire family in comfort? Do you really need to spend big bucks? Fortunately, the answer is no—thanks to models like the Princecraft Vectra 23.
Watch the Princecraft Vectra 23 Video Boat Review
Here’s your bottom-line number, right up front: $16,518 (at the time of publication). True, at that price the Vectra comes with just 25 horsepower, and doesn’t include any options. But even if you jazz it up big-time by upgrading to 115-hp, getting the Sport package, the Classic package, a mooring cover, a chaise lounge, hydraulic steering, and extras like a table and stern ladder, the price stays well under $30,000. And—surprise—rigged up like this the Vectra will perform like a more expensive, more powerful pontoon.
How could an inexpensive pontoon boat with two logs and 115 horses run like a costlier boat with three logs and more power? Remember that Sport package, we mentioned a moment ago? This is an unusual tweak Princecraft makes which deserves a little further explanation. It consists of a half-log, which runs from the bow to about half-way back under the boat. Adding a third log to a pontoon is, obviously, one of the reasons cost goes through the roof on large, expensive “tri-toons”. By adding the partial log, Princecraft gets the same type of performance gains at half the cost. It has strakes plus an under-deck spray shield, which adds lift and reduces friction. Net result? With a mere 115 horses we hit 33.5-mph during our sea trial. Compare that to a higher-end pontoon boat like the Harris Flotebote Sunliner 220, which has a base cost in the same range as the Vectra’s fully-pimped cost. This boat has a third log and posts similar performance numbers as the Vectra, but with 150 horses on the motor pod. Of course, the higher price tag reflects lots of other goodies, gadgets, and construction features one might want to consider. But again, many of us don’t need or want them, nor do we want to pay for them. With the Vectra, you don’t have to—and you can still enjoy that better performance.
As far as handling goes, even with the half-center log I thought that it felt more like a traditional pontoon boat than like a tri-toon. The boat remains mostly flat in turns, banking in ever so slightly. Stability is excellent, as you expect from a pontoon. It was glassy-calm during our test so assessing how it handles waves would be a bit of a stretch, but running through boat wakes didn't produce any spray or unexpected thumps.
|Fuel capacity||32 gal.|
We all love a low price, but no one wants a “cheap” boat and right about now, you may be wondering if Princecraft skimps on construction to reign in cost. So let’s take a look at exactly what goes into this boat: 0.08” thick 5052 H-36 aluminum is used to form the 25” diameter logs. If you've done your homework, this could send up a red flag; high-end models are often constructed from 0.1” thick aluminum. But that H-36 designation is a key factor to take into account. Many builders use H-32 or H-34 aluminum. This is the temper designation, which describes various processing the aluminum has gone through. And it changes the metal’s characteristics significantly. H-36 has higher fatigue, sheer, and tensile strength, and a slightly higher strength-to-weight ratio. So don’t let the numbers fool you; these pontoons are plenty strong. Same goes for other important construction items, like the cross-channels, which are 2.5” extruded Z-aluminum. Rails are 1.25” aluminum, and keels and skirting are both extruded aluminum. The deck is pressure-treated ply, which is the industry standard in this segment, and is covered with marine-grade carpet. The only construction detail I saw that didn't thrill me was the console, which is roto-molded plastic with acrylic. In my experience roto-molded helms flex more than is desirable, and acrylic breaks too easily for my taste. Fiberglass would be a lot better—and yes, it would cost more.
Will you enjoy the same level of comfort as you would on a more luxurious pontoon boat? Mostly. The standard arrangement has two forward lounges, an aft port L-lounge, and a captain’s chair. Items like tables, a pop-up privacy enclosure, and a forward filler have to be added. I thought the furniture on the Vectra was great, with heavy-duty roto-molded poly bases, thick cushy foam padding, and slick marine vinyls. There’s just less that goes along with it. I missed the hinged fold-away arm-rests common on many high-end toons, and the furniture doesn't fold, shift, or change to create one of those huge sunpads. But there is plenty of seating for 10 people, and the boat’s rated to carry up to a dozen passengers.
There’s also a number of standard features on the Vectra 23 which you wouldn't necessarily expect to find on a price-point boat. A stereo with Bluetooth/USB capabilities and four speakers, for example. Interior LED lighting. Lighted switches at the helm. And removable cup holder/arm rests which fit into the lounges. Even on some high-dollar boats, these would be considered cost-adding optional equipment.
|Test conditions: calm seas, winds 5 knots, 1 POB|
|Power||Single 115-hp Mercury four-stroke outboard, swinging a 13" x 14" four-bladed aluminum Spitfire prop.|
For years, we watched as boat manufacturers loaded up model after model with one thing after another—and as boat prices went through the roof. In fact, many Americans got priced right out of boating. So it’s nice to see a new model hit the water which won’t necessarily sink your budget. If you’re looking for a new pontoon boat which keeps cost in check but still offers plenty of room for the entire family, decent performance, solid construction, and an extra perk or two, the Vectra 23 is one you’ll want to check out. And, who knows? Maybe one day, you’ll park it in front of your new vacation home.
Take a look at some Princecraft Vectra listings.
For more information, visit Princecraft.