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  1. Choosing the Right Pontoon Boat Engine Size
March 15, 2024

Choosing the Right Pontoon Boat Engine Size

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When deciding on what equipment is essential for your first pontoon boat, there is much to consider: potential deck layouts, interior and exterior color schemes, and what kind of activities you intend to use your boat for. While thinking about your new boat, you should also spend some time thinking about the right engine size for that pontoon boat. Engine size can vary and each option available have different impacts on your boating experience, affecting everything from performance to fuel efficiency. Each pontoon boat model has an ideal engine size range specified by the manufacturer.


Understanding Pontoon Boat Engines


Engines come in many sizes from a number of reputable manufacturers. The most common type of engine that one sees on a pontoon boat will be an internal combustion, gasoline outboard, which offers great versatility in size and power as well as superior size-to-weight ratios that match well with lightweight pontoon hulls, although there are a handful of solid electric and even diesel options available on the market.


Typically, when we refer to engine “size”, most people think about top speed, however there are a lot of different ways to look at “size” that mean so much more than that. There are three main ways to think about your engine that will impact performance: engine displacement, torque and horsepower output. Displacement means the actual size of the engine, while torque is a product of the horsepower output of the engine and how fast (RPMs) the prop turns. To make it easier for the average boater to understand, every boat model will be given an ideal range of horsepower – which means the output of the engine – to match the performance of the hull and maximum rated weight capacity of the vessel. In general, the higher the horsepower rating, the faster it will go and the more maneuverable it will be. However, that higher performance comes with balancing other factors such as greater fuel consumption, weight and sometimes complexity resulting in more maintenance over the life of the engine.


Pontoon Engine Size Selection Factors 


While every manufacturer specifies a range of engines that will be ideal for each model, there is no “right” answer to what size engine should go on a pontoon boat; it entirely depends on owner preference. There are, however, certain factors that can help narrow it down.


  • Boat size and weight. The overall size of the pontoon boat has a direct relationship with the engine size. Combined, they correlate directly with the amount of speed that the engine can generate. Think about the total capacity the boat can take, as well as its dry weight, and contrast that with the amount of engine power you’ll need to get to a speed that you want to achieve.
  • Intended use. Not all pontoon boat excursions are created equal. A sunset cruise with the family doesn’t require the same 0-60 kind of performance as getting someone up on skis behind the boat. For those intending to do serious watersports, a higher horsepower outboard engine might be a good choice.  
  • Fuel efficiency. Because power translates to the speed at which energy is converted, a larger engine that packs more punch will generally mean higher fuel consumption. Therefore, if environmental consciousness or cost considerations make a pontoon boat owner lean toward higher efficiency, a smaller engine could be the ticket. 


Common Pontoon Boat Engine Sizes 


Small Pontoon Engines 


Smaller engines will benefit shorter pontoon boats, like the Godfrey Mighty G, providing maneuverability for a smaller and lighter vessel. Engines of this size are perfect for boaters that are looking to spend their time in calm waters and are trying to maximize fuel efficiency.



Mid-Size Pontoon Engines  


For maximum flexibility, pontoon boat owners who are looking to engage in a variety of activities will appreciate the versatility of a mid-sized engine. This size range balances power and fuel efficiency, while packing enough punch to enjoy watersports without entirely prioritizing speed over other considerations. This size engine is perfect for family-friendly pontoons like the Godfrey Xperience.


High Performance Pontoon Engines  


In today’s market, high-performance pontoon boats are becoming more commonplace and they are equipped with single or twin engines of 150 to 400HP each. These are great for high-speed watersports, in addition to fast cruising and other fun activities. Plus, these engines will provide more power for large pontoon boats with higher passenger capacity and all their gear, ensuring that there’s no lag in performance with extra weight on board. In general, the higher the horsepower rating, the faster it will go and the more maneuverable it will be. However, that higher performance comes with balancing other factors such as greater fuel consumption, weight and sometimes complexity resulting in more maintenance over the life of the engine.


Technology and Innovation in Pontoon Boat Engines


While the tried and true 4-stroke gasoline outboard is reliable, relatively easy to maintain and (at the right horsepower rating) can provide the performance perfect for most pontoon boaters, when it comes to the latest technology in engines there a lot of new options on the market. A number of engine manufacturers have made great strides in producing solid electric outboards with good range, fast recharging batteries and intuitive battery management displays that can make a leisurely cruise on a calm lake a quiet and exhaust-free experience. Electric propulsion eliminates any harmful emissions and noise, burns no fuel and takes no trips to the gas station and opens up some waterways for exploration that are heavily restricted due to a fragile ecosystem.


Choose the Right Pontoon Engine Size for You


Engine size is one of the most important choices a new pontoon boat owner can make. After carefully considering all the relevant factors of the boat’s size, intended use, expected capacity and more, a careful boater can make an informed decision on what size is right for them and their vessel. Godfrey has established a wide network of knowledgeable and experienced pontoon dealers that are very familiar with popular activities in your area and the waters you will most likely explore. If you are a first-time boat buyer, the best place to start is a trip to your local dealer to see what is available and what might fit your needs.


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