Average Pontoon Boat Speeds (With 15 Examples)

Average Pontoon Boat Speeds (With 15 Examples)

When choosing and buying a pontoon boat, one of the major considerations is your top speed. We all like to go fast, don't we?  

Since the average pontoon boats are generally not built for speed, skiing and tubing behind one can be difficult. It can be done, though. You just need to take care to select an engine, weight and pontoon style that will be conducive to the speeds required for skiing and tubing. 

How Fast Do Pontoon Boats Go?

I scoured the internet for boaters who have reported their average pontoon boat speeds on boating forums. All speeds are recorded with a GPS and, except where listed, with a light to medium load.

  • G3 Suncatcher 22' V22RF with a 115 hp engine and medium load: about 25 mph (39 kilometers)
    • 22 mph (38 kilometers) with a 90 hp engine and medium load
    • With 11 people in the boat (max capacity) and a 115 hp engine, it gets about 22 mph (35 kilometers)
    • Under perfect, ideal conditions and only one person in the boat, it can hit 31 mph (48 kmph)
  • 21' with lifting strakes and a 90 hp engine and perfect conditions: 36 mph (58 kilometers)
  • 18' Bass Buggy with 60 hp engine: up to 18 mph (29 kilometers)
  • Suntracker 22' with a 70 hp engine and light load: 21 mph (34 kilometers)
  • Gigantic 30' Pontoon with a 115 hp engine: around 15 mph (24 kilometers)
  • 24' Pontoon boat with 115 hp and a medium load: around 25 mph (38 kilometers)
  • 18' Party Barge with a 75 hp engine: 24 mph (38 kilometers)
  • 20' Bass Buggy with a 60 hp motor: around 13-17 mph (18 to 27 kilometers)
  • 20' Starcraft with a 75 hp engine and no load: can get 23 mph (36 kilometers)
  • 26' Crest III with a 90 hp engine and medium load: around 28 mph (45 kilometers)
  • 24' 2006 Sweetwater with a 90 hp engine: approximately 18mph or 20.5 mph with a 115-hp engine
  • 26' Tritoon with a 175 hp engine and a medium/heavy load: up to 35 mph (56 kilometers)
  • 21' Tritoon with a 90 hp engine and only two people on board: can get up to 27 mph (43 kilometers)

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How Fast Do You Really Need to Go?

Your initial response is probably "the faster, the better." In reality, though, you likely don't need to go as fast in a pontoon boat as you think. While speeds certainly vary according to the tastes and abilities of your riders, consider the following as good average speeds for various water sport activities.
  • Waterskiing with two skis - I've found that 15 to 26 mph is pretty normal (28 to 42 kilometers).
  • Tubing with very young kids - My kids really don't want to go faster than 5 to 10 mph (16 kph). They are 4 and 6 years old. Most of the time, they feel like idling is a wild ride but will sometimes get brave enough to hit 11 mph. 
  • Tubing with kids 8 - 10 years old - It depends dramatically on the kid, but most wouldn't want to go faster than 15 or 20 mph (24 to 32 kilometers) unless they're real thrill seekers.
  • Tubing with older teens and adults - Above 25 mph (40 kilometers) is dangerous unless you're just going in a straight line. At 20 mph (34 kilometers), you can get really nice air and have the ride of your life, but even this speed can be dangerous with more than one rider. A speed of 21 mph is a pretty adventurous ride and will easily knock off riders if you make tight turns. 
  • Wakeboarding - A speed of 13 mph to 18 mph (30 kilometers) is a pretty average ride. Wakeboarding requires less speed than many other water sports. Going too fast increases the danger dramatically. The large board strapped to both legs makes this water sport more dangerous at high speeds than some other sports.
  • Slalom Skiing - A speed of 14 mph (22.5 kilometers) is a little slow, and 36 mph is HAULING (as well as being extremely dangerous!). A good average speed is somewhere around 22 mph (35 kilometers).
  • Kneeboarding - Somewhere around 13 to 20 mph (22 to 32 kilometers) is a good range for kneeboarding.
  • Barefoot - Take your weight in pounds and divide by 10. Then add 20. So, if you're 200 pounds, you go to 20 mph and add 20, which means 40 mph.

If you're new to boating, these speeds are probably a little eye-opening. You probably thought you needed as much speed as possible. As you can see from this breakdown, the optimal speed for most watersports is only 22 mph (36 kilometers).  

Just about ANY pontoon boat with a 90 hp motor can do this as long as it isn't loaded down with people. With a 115 hp motor, you should be hitting the optimal speed even if your boat is pretty well loaded down with people.

For most pontoon boat captains, the real goal is to hit the golden 22 mph (36 kph) mark. At that point, your fishing/cruising rig becomes a nice watersports rig.

How Weight (Load) Affects Speed

The way weight affects speed depends dramatically on the specific boat and the setup. Just as a guestimation aid, for every thousand pounds you add to your boat, you'll lose about 15% of your average pontoon boat speed.

So, a 22' boat with no load may get up to 29 mph, but it will likely slow down to 24.5 mph with 1,000 pounds of people in the boat (5 or 6 adults).

How the Bimini Top Affects Speed

  • One pontoon boat captain reported that folding down the bimini top took his average pontoon boat speed from 32 mph all the way up to 36 mph (51 kilometers to 58 kilometers).
  • In my experience, it's usually much less of a difference than that unless it's an incredibly windy day. I usually only see a 1 mph difference in how fast pontoon boats go with the top up vs down.

How the Prop Affects Speed

  • When you first get your boat, it will likely come with a "safe" prop that is meant to make the motor operate under nice and easy conditions. Almost everyone will switch out that prop and go with something a little smaller (usually) to get the speed up and push up the RPMs to around 5000 or 6000 (depending on the recommended range for your particular motor).

How Dirty Pontoons Affect Speed

  • It's not surprising to see a pontoon boat slow down 2 to 6 mph if you have algae, barnacles, salt deposits or other crud on your metal pontoons. For those pontoon boat captains who leave their boat in the water most of the season, this is an important consideration.
  • To get that pontoon ready to race, it's time to get out the Boat Soap that everyone is talking about. A sleek hull and pontoons glide through the water much faster when there's no crusty stuff catching a ride. Use it by itself or with the Soap Foam Gun that hooks up to a regular hose without the nozzle
 Boat Soap removes algae, barnacles and more from your pontoon boat. Combine with a soft scrub brush and an extension rod to reach every space from the bow to the stern and the hull to the flybridge. Use a hose and nozzle to quickly and easily rinse away.