Cover Story: A Comparison of 5 Leading Bimini Covers for Pontoon Boats
When you're thinking about necessary items for a pontoon, shade is often left off the list.
You want every investment to be a good one. You're overwhelmed by all the many different boat cover options and not knowing which option is best for you and your boat. You want a top that's affordable, durable and easy to use, but if you're like me, you're finding it hard to find a cover that has it all.
To make this process a little easier, I've used my tooning experience to compare and contrast five of the leading pontoon bimini tops, so the legwork is already done!
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How to Choose a Bimini Cover for Your Pontoon
When purchasing a new cover, I'd recommend that you start by figuring out what your "must-haves" are. What are you really looking for?
For me personally, those must-haves are durability, effectiveness, usability and cost. I want to know that I'm getting the most bang for my buck and that I can get as much life as possible out of my new bimini top.
I want it to be easy to set up and use, and I want to be mindful of how much I'm spending. If I choose to spend a bit more, I want to feel like it's going to be worth it.
In a case like that, you might need to account for more space. With these "must haves" in mind, I've compared the following five bimini top pontoon boat covers based on answers to the following questions:
- How durable is the cover? (Will it hold up against higher wind speeds, saltwater damage and UV damage?)
- Is the cover easy to adjust/open and close?
- How long and complicated is the set up?
- What's the cost?
- Is there a manufacturer's warranty?
All products reviewed are for an eight-foot-wide pontoon boat and the costs are approximate and in USD. There are online sales for a lot of these products but make sure to look into shipping costs before purchasing.
Of course, I've made sure that the companies are reputable. I highly suggest reading reviews before purchasing. I've been dinged before and reviews are a great way to assess the seller's reputability.
If you go outside this list looking for other options, follow this same procedure.
A Comparison of 5 Leading Bimini Covers for Pontoon Boats
1. Heavy Duty Bimini Top
Recommended: Deckmate Heavy Duty Pontoon Bimini Top
I decided to start with this cover because it's durable and middle of the road in terms of cost, which is between $400 and $500.
Pros: Many consumer product reviews reported easy installation by one or two people in approximately one hour and that this cover is sturdy, durable and has good-quality fabric in vibrant colors. This is a good sign, in my opinion, that the cover would be long lasting and may be worth the extra cash when compared to the lower-cost economy version.
Cons: There seem to be a lot of pins. Although most bimini covers come with pins to adjust the shade and hold the cover in place (this cover being no different), I just wish there was another way.
We've lost or broken a few of our pins from our cover for our pontoon boat and end up having to replace the pins with nails or screws to hold the cover in place.
This is just a personal pet peeve, and I hope with the technology we have now-a-days, we can find a better method of securing rods together. But I digress.
2. Economy Bimini Top
Recommended: Deckmate Economy Pontoon Boat Cover Bimini Top (Available on pontoonstuff.com)
This Deckmate cover is the cheaper version of the heavy duty cover reviewed above. The cover is under $300.
Pros: It goes without saying that a big pro is the affordability of this cover. I think this would be a good option for someone who, maybe, has an older pontoon and is looking to upgrade but needs to replace the cover before they want to replace the whole pontoon.
I definitely think this cover is an excellent value for the price and it has a one-year warranty. The fabric may not be as durable as the heavy-duty version but the hardware is reported as being sturdy-ish by reviewers.
Cons: A con that I saw over and over again is that the assembly instructions are difficult to understand. When I found an online PDF of the instructions and looked them over myself I have to agree. The pictures are slightly helpful, but the text will be rather confusing for the average 'tooner like myself.
Another con is that this bimini tends to shake at higher speeds (above 30 mph). To some people this may not matter at all, but I personally would find this annoying after spending longer times on the boat and would be wishing I could pin it down more securely.
That said, if you're usually cruising slower than that speed, this won't be an issue.
3. Electric Bimini Top
Recommended: Schwintech PWR-ARM II Electric Power Pontoon Top
I decided to review this option because I am forever looking for an alternative to manually pinning the top down. For under $900, this baby is a pretty good deal.
Pros: This bimini scores bonus points on its usability because it's very easy to use once it's set up. The remote control allows you to adjust the top up or down from anywhere. And with absolutely none of the physical struggle that comes with using a manual bimini. I even found a helpful installation video on YouTube.
Cons: Although the video exists, the setup of this top can potentially take a long time because of the electrical wiring needed to be placed throughout the boat.
There's no manual option in case of electrical malfunction, so if this cover gets stuck and the remote breaks, it's stuck (although it can be manually dissembled).
Another downside is of course the higher cost (though considering the product, it's justified). I would say this cover is a great option for someone whose mobility may require less daily physical labor (or even just for someone willing to fork over the dough for the convenience).
4. Buggy Bimini Top
Recommended: Shademate Buggy Style Pontoon Boat Cover Bimini Top
This cover's fabric is 100% polyester with a urethane coating (which is known to reduce some water/UV damage) and costs over $500.
Pros: This is a great option for someone looking for a sleeker cover. Its curved frame looks good with newer pontoon boats and offers a more modern look.
This bimini also comes with a four-year warranty. I like this because it's showing me that the manufacturer takes pride in the durability of their product.
Cons: I noticed in the specs that, although it's made for an eight-foot-wide pontoon, this cover is only seven-and-a-half feet wide. This could potentially mean a tight fit for your boat. I would definitely look into whether or not it would fit nicely around your eight-foot-wide pontoon.
I also tend to wonder if the sleek look is really worth the extra money. I tend to believe in spending money where it counts and I'm not sure I'd be willing to justify the extra cost when this cover seems very comparable to the Deckmate heavy-duty bimini at $100 less.
5. Twin Bimini Top
Recommended: Shademate Sunbrella Twin Pontoon Boat Cover Bimini Top
The final bimini I've chosen to review is a twin version. I wanted to look at whether or not the extra coverage was worth it. This top is made of 100% acrylic fabric, costs over $1000 and has a total coverage of 17'6" by 8'.
Pros: This bimini is easy to install. You can use twin sections together or independently, which I really like!
It's reported to have good-quality fabric and has clear assembly instructions. I love the idea of shading the whole pontoon.
Sometimes when I'm out on the water for hours at a time with the whole family, including grandma, who refuses to go near the sun, I wish our pontoon had the option to create more shade. This is wonderful for 'tooners who do a lot of open-water boating.
Cons: Some reviewers think the metal poles are a little fragile, and I tend to agree. With that many poles (And pins! Again with the pins...), I would prefer if the hardware was a bit more durable.
This is important to me because this cover costs a lot more. I would definitely look at your individual needs when deciding how much shade you're looking for.
Would you truly benefit from this much coverage?
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Final Words on Bimini Covers for Pontoons
All five of these bimini tops are potentially great options for your pontoon boat. I'd look at what you really want out of a bimini top before deciding and, as I mentioned above, look at the retail and manufacturer reviews and ask if there's a warranty.
Create your own "must-have" questions and look for the answers to them!
You can find more information on pontoon boat covers. Don't forget to consider other types of enclosures like windshields, playpens and more. All of this can help you make your decision to buy the perfect bimini.
No matter which bimini you choose, I wish you a pleasant (and well-covered) journey on the water.