I was wandering around the lake one morning and there it was in all its glory.
The vessel looked different at a glance and then it hit me—this baby has three air tubes instead of two!
I watched it glide over the water as it passed me with great speed, and I thought, is this something I should upgrade to? Are three ‘toons really better than two?
I began doing some research of my own. There’s a lot to consider.
But first, let’s look at the specifics of both tritoons and pontoons, so we know what we’re comparing.
Tritoon vs Pontoon: The Buyer’s Complete Comparison Guide
What’s the Difference?
A pontoon (as you may or may not know) is a vessel that’s supported by two tubes of air that allow it to float on the surface of the water.
They vary in size range, from about 16 to 27 feet long on average (though there are even “mini toons,” which can be much smaller).
An average pontoon requires a motor of 25 horsepower minimum and carries 8 to 20 people. Both the speed and motor depend on the size of the boat, the typical load it will carry and the types of activities you will be doing.
A pontoon boat motor arguably does more work than a monohull boat because a pontoon has more to steer and it requires more power to be moved due to its shape.
It’s definitely true that the more people you will carry on a pontoon, the more power you’ll need. You’d rarely want an engine with as little horsepower as 25 because it would be very slow going.
To give you an example, my pontoon is 18 feet long and we have a 60 horsepower motor. I’d say that’s pretty average for the type of activities we do—just cruising and fishing on a rather calm lake. We often cruise with lots of people and getting across the lake would take a lot more time if our motor was less powerful.
Most people underestimate the amount of power they will need for their pontoon boat. Take our friends, for example: They also have an 18-foot pontoon and decided on the 40 horsepower motor. But after three years, they upgraded to 50 horsepower because they too carry lots of people when they cruise and the 40 was just too slow.
An average pontoon costs around $20,000. They can cost less or a lot more, but that would be an average price point for a pontoon of average length.
A tritoon is a vessel that—you guessed it—is supported by three tubes of air instead of two. On average, they’re 22 feet to 30 feet in length and are able to carry 14 to 25 people.
In other words, tritoons are much bigger and, if you’re considering a tritoon, you may need to ask yourself if you plan on cruising with that many people. Do you really need the larger size? Is it worth it?
Water conditions are also a factor when deciding whether or not you need a tritoon—but more on this later.
The minimum requirements for a motor are 250 horsepower and can go up to 350. This is because, with a bigger boat and more people being carried, you need a stronger motor to power the boat efficiently.
The average cost of a tritoon is $35,000 but they can go much higher for luxury models. That’s a price difference of $15,000 when compared to the average pontoon. That, to me, is a lot of money.
So, is the extra money worth it? Looking at weather/water conditions, watersports, trailering/boat storage and fishing, I’ll compare the tritoon and the pontoon, weighing the pros and cons to help you determine which vessel will best suit your needs.
Tritoon vs Pontoon: Weather and Water Conditions
Like I mentioned above, a pontoon may be just right for me, since I love to fish and cruise around an average-sized lake.
A tritoon may be a good option for the ocean, or anywhere the waters are less calm. This is because the combination of the three air tubes and the faster engine allows you to cut through the choppy water more efficiently, with less bouncing around and a much smoother and more pleasant ride.
If you boat on a calmer lake, like I do, you may not require a tritoon and it may not be worth the money, unless you plan on doing water sports which require the extra power (see below).
That being said, there have been times on our lake where boat traffic is heavy and the water turns pretty choppy. This makes our pontoon bob up and down, and water often washes up on the deck, making it uncomfortable for us on board. I wonder if this would be different in a tritoon or a larger, sturdier pontoon.
Stability aside, a word of caution: The tritoon is known to have more difficulty with handling and steering, so it may be difficult when navigating smaller spaces, making tighter corners or docking. This could require some getting used to and some patience on the part of a new tritoon owner—especially if you’re used to a pontoon.
Tritoon vs Pontoon: Watersports
With the increased speed and the fast motor, a tritoon may be a better option for those who do a lot of water sports such as wakeboarding and waterskiing.
Like I mentioned before, the size of the tritoon and the handling may be a challenge when pulling a skier or wakeboarder in tighter areas. If new to the “tritooning world,” I would definitely advise taking your boat out for a test run without the skier first, to make sure you can handle the steering.
Although tritoons tend to have more powerful motors, watersports aren’t unheard of on a classic, two-tube pontoon either. They’d probably just require a motor of 70 horsepower or greater, to give you the lift you need. You’d need an even higher horsepower motor when carrying a lot of people on board.
And yes!—With the right horsepower requirements, you can go waterskiing behind a pontoon boat (and get a good baseline for other watersports).
Tritoon vs Pontoon: Storage and Trailering
When we think about boating, sometimes we forget about trailering. Maybe it isn’t necessary for everyone, but I definitely love the option of taking my pontoon out of the water if I need to or taking the boat with me if I’m visiting another lake.
A larger trailer may be required for a tritoon, and a special braking system may be required of the trailer because of its size. This is definitely a must and something I wouldn’t recommend skipping for your safety and the safety of everyone on the road.
It’s also worth mentioning that, the bigger the boat, the bigger the boat launch needs to be. Sometimes this isn’t an issue at all but other times it may be more difficult to find a launch big enough to accommodate boats of larger sizes.
A larger boat also needs a larger storage space for the winter months if you live in a region with seasons. If you’re like me and you have many harsh winters ahead to protect your boat from, you’re going to need to think about the costs of storing your tritoon and consider the fact that it will require more space than the average pontoon.
Tritoon vs Pontoon: Fishing
If you’re an avid angler and you love fishing on a calm lake—and this is something you do fairly often—you’re probably going to stick with a pontoon.
As mentioned before, it’s more difficult for tritoons to get into tight spots. A trolling motor made for lakes may not have the power to pull a tritoon because they’re generally designed to move slowly and in shallow waters.
On the other hand, tritoons may be great for fishing in oceans and large lakes that have deep waters. The three ‘toons make them more stable for deep sea fishing, when the boat is at anchor, when other boats are driving by or when the wind is creating some turbulent waves.
That faster motor is also awesome for getting from one fishing spot to the next in bigger waters, which avoids wasting time traveling and allows for more time fishing!
Tritoon vs Pontoon: Final Notes
So there you have it! A pretty detailed comparison of tritoons vs. pontoons.
To recap: In choppier, deeper and bigger waters, a tritoon would be beneficial, especially if doing watersports or deep sea fishing in large bodies of water.
Although tritoons can offer benefits in these areas, there are powerful and bigger pontoons that may do the trick, so always compare prices and weigh the pros and cons before buying.