If you’ve been searching for the best pontoon boats, you may have a bit of sticker shock. Pontoons have become incredibly advanced in recent years, and many have uber-luxurious interiors, massive powerplants, and fancy arches or tops. This stuff is great, but it’s also expensive. What if you need to find an affordable pontoon boat? The most affordable new cars in America go for around the $20,000 mark, so we’ll use that price-point as our measure. And you might be surprised at just how many cool, new, fun pontoon boats are actually this inexpensive.

Princecraft BrioE 15 Electric Pontoon Boat

Princecraft BrioE 15

Above: A 2022 Princecraft BrioE 15 electric pontoon boat. Photo by Princecraft.

With an MSRP of just $11,182, the Princecraft BrioE 15 is among the most affordable pontoon boats on the water. And it’s also among the greenest. Powered by a Torqeedo Cruise 2.0R electric motor (which produces in the five-hp range), you’ll be silently tooling around the lake at the speed of a fast walk without leaving any carbon footprints. You say you’d rather jog? No worries, there’s tons of room left in the budget to upgrade to the Cruise 4.0R (about eight hp), or maybe add in the 24-V solar panels.

True, the boat is small and rated for just four passengers (though the bare-boat 17-foot version still falls within our price range at $13,028, and takes up to five people aboard). But it’s surprisingly full-featured with an L-lounge and dinette table, a helm chair, and two facing seats up forward. It also comes with a 160-watt Jensen stereo and four speakers, a Bimini top, cup holders, and interior lighting.

See Princecraft BrioE 15 boats for sale.

Sea Doo Switch Compact Pontoon Boat

Sea Doo Switch Compact

Above: A 2022 Sea Doo Switch Compact. Photo by Sea Doo via Leaders RPM in Kalamazoo, MI.

Although it’s been introduced for the 2022 model year pre-orders are now available, and the all-new Sea Doo Switch Compact starts at a mere $17,999 for the 13-foot base boat with a trailer included. But this is one of the few pontoons around that doesn’t include an outboard. Rather, it comes with a Rotax 1630 ACE engine that produces 100 horsepower and blasts water through a jet drive. The steering system is just as unique, and instead of coming equipped with a wheel the Switch enjoys PWC-like handlebars. It also enjoys some of Sea Doo’s perks like iBR Intelligent Brake and Reverse and cruise control.

Rather than ride on aluminum pontoons, the Switch has a triple-log configuration. Except that these aren’t normal logs. The boat is built from Sea Doo’s Polytec material, which is polypropylene reinforced with fiberglass. From the deck up the boat is customizable and reconfigurable thanks to a deck tile system that utilizes Sea Doo’s LinQ attachment points. If you want to move the chairs here or the cup holders there, just pull the lever, move the item, place it over the mounting point where you want it, and shove the lever back into place. And all LinQ accessories fit, so you can add coolers, tool boxes, fuel tanks, fishing rod holders, and more. Note that 16-footers are available, but they break through our price ceiling (and the 19-foot version goes over it significantly).

See Sea Doo Switch Compact boats for sale.

Starcraft LX 16 R - Luxury Value Pontoon

2022 Starcraft LX 16 R Pontoon Boat

Above: A 2022 Starcraft LX 16 R Pontoon Boat. Photo by Top Notch Marine in Melbourne, FL.

The MSRP exceeds our pricing goals by a paltry $299, but boat prices vary by region and dealership so it’s a fair bet you can find a LX 16 R without breaking the bank. And what you’ll be getting is one of the cushiest pontoons in this class, with three big sofas plus a helm chair with arm rests for the captain. Additional comfort perks include Sea Weave flooring, a sporty Torcello Lite steering wheel, a five-step boarding ladder, cup holders, fore and aft swim platforms, and even a Bimini top.

The LX 16 R is designed for cruising and partying, and as such is rated for a crowd of up to six passengers. At 17’0” LOA and with an 8’0” beam there’s plenty of elbow room aboard, and this model can handle 40 horses on the transom. Note that for the anglers among you, there’s also a fishing version (the 16 F) available with a livewell and two fishing seats forward, instead of the flanking sofas.

See Starcraft LX 16 R boats for sale.

SunChaser Vista 16 LR

SunChaser Vista 16 LR Pontoon Boat

Above: A SunChaser Vista 16 LR Pontoon Boat. Photo by Sunchaser via Wilson Marine in Howell, MI.

We can’t give a solid number for MSRP (SunChaser doesn’t publish them, a common issue due to the variability of pricing these days thanks to Covid), however, the 16 LR with a 40-hp outboard commonly comes in at or under our price-point and you can push the number lower by going with a smaller powerplant. It comes standard with Sea Weave flooring and a Bimini top, and can carry up to six happy boaters.

The base model layout is simple but comfy: sofas face each other in the bow and a third port-side sofa sits to port in the stern, across from a helm chair with arm rests. It all rides atop a pair of 23” tubes constructed from .08” gauge aluminum, and the boat comes with a “Lifetime +6” warranty which covers the hull and structure for lifetime and gets you six years of coverage on components, carpet, upholstery, and electronics. Plus, it’s transferrable to a second owner.

See SunChaser Vista 16 LR boats for sale.

Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 Fishing Pontoon

2022 Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 Fishing Pontoon Boat

Above: A 2022 Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16. Photo by Sun Tracker via Bowers Marine Sales Inc. in Temple, PA.

With a 50-hp Mercury outboard on the back a Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 has a list price of just $17,495. Add in a trailer for $2,195 and you’re still under the $20K mark. The stock package includes goodies like twin bow fishing chairs, an aft L-lounge, and a helm seat, rod holders in the console, a nine-gallon aerated livewell, no-feedback steering, courtesy lighting, front and rear boarding/swim platforms, a four-step folding boarding ladder, and fold-down cleats. Construction includes plasma- and laser-cut aluminum and robotic welding, and the 24” diameter logs are multi-chambered with internal bracing.

New improvements were made for the 2021 model year, and the improved Bass Buggy 16 now has one-piece full-length M-bracket deck supports. Sun Tracker is so confident in the Bass Buggy 16’s construction that they back it up with their surprisingly strong “10+Life” warranty, which out-shines the coverage most of the industry offers. It includes a 10-year bow-to-stern warranty on factory-installed materials and workmanship, on top of a limited lifetime structural and deck warranty.

See Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 boats for sale.

Which Pontoon Boat Is Right For You?

Which of these five most affordable pontoon boats would be the best pick for you and your family? That’s a question only you can answer. But if you can afford the least expensive new cars on the market, you can afford these boats — and buying one will deliver a lot more fun than any land vehicle can provide.

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.