It is vital to know pontoon boat weight for performance and safety. Knowing the total capacity that your pontoon can handle can average out how much your pontoon can tow and how much fuel it will drink in the process.
It is vital to know your pontoon’s boat weight is for performance and safety. Knowing the total capacity that your pontoon can handle can average out how much your pontoon can tow and how much fuel it will drink in the process.
There are a couple ways to calculate your pontoon’s weight for you and your boating buddies to enjoy.
Pontoon weight capacities:
Dry weight – this is the amount of the total weight with an empty fuel tank.
Boat capacity – this is the weight of all persons and gear on a pontoon boat before it will start to settle into the water. This measurement is usually given by a manufacturer.
Loaded or outfitter weight – this number includes all your friends and family as well as their gear up to the maximum amount that the deck can handle. If you want to calculate what size boat is needed for your group you need to know this number as well as the boats total weight.
The total dry weight does not include any people or personal property on board, so if you plan to go with two people and some gear but no fuel, then you would use the empty boat weight formula:
Length x width x average depth = dry weight (in pounds)
Example: 24 ft x 8 ft x 1.5 ft = ? lbs.
If your pontoon has a propane tank and you want to know how much it weighs then you would add that into the equation as well: 24 ft x 8 ft x 1.5 ft + 20 lbs = ? lbs.
This number represents the boat’s dry weight, so if your pontoon boat also has an engine or any other equipment on board, those weights will need to be added as well.
So now let’s try adding in some people and gear as well as fuel:
24 feet by eight feet is 192 square feet of deck area which equals 200 square feet of enclosed space available for passengers and their gear.
One square foot is equal to about 1/3 of a square meter, so 200 square feet is approximately 60 cubic meters not including the enclosed cabin.
The interior cabin should be included in this number as well because it reduces the total weight of the boat due to its buoyancy and displacement properties which can give you up to 20% more carrying capacity.
Pontoon’s total weight
To calculate your pontoon’s total weight you must take into account that if your pontoon boat has an enclosed cabin, it might increase the load by 10%-20%, depending on its size.
The larger the area, the greater effect on displacement and buoyancy. So let’s add in our 30 gallon fuel tank:
24 ft x 8 ft x 1.5 ft + 20 lbs = dry weight (in pounds)
24 ft x 8 ft x 1.5 ft + 30 lbs = ? lbs
The average depth of most flat bottomed pontoons is one and a half feet, but the larger the pontoon boat, the deeper it will be.
The typical hull has a width of eight feet which equals 64 square feet of surface area; thus, adding in fuel weight and total displacement will increase your formula:
24 ft x 8 ft x 1.5 ft + 30 lbs = dry weight (in pounds)
32ft x 8ft x 1.5ft + 30lbs=?lbs
It takes about two gallons of gas to cover one nautical mile, so the equation needs to include the distance you are planning to travel.
32ft x 8ft x 1.5 ft + 30 lbs = ? pounds
97 ft x 8 ft x 1.5 ft + 30 lbs = 200 pounds of displacement for one nautical mile at its average cruising speed of four mph or 48 pounds per hour.
(Displacement is calculated by multiplying length, width and depth.)
Pontoon boats capacity numbers
When your pontoon boat has fuel on board it weighs slightly more than without any fuel due to the extra buoyancy created by over twenty gallons inside your tank which works to lighten the load down below where it counts most—on your pontoon’s deck surface area which reduces flotation.
Pontoon boats are typically given a capacity number by the manufacturer which represents how much weight it can carry before beginning to settle into the water.
Typically, your pontoon boat’s capacity will include all gear on board as well as all people that you plan to have on board with only one exception:
if you have an outfitter package installed on your model then it is already included in this number so you do not need to count it again.
If your pontoon is equipped with an enclosed cabin, keep in mind that it does not contribute any buoyancy but rather, due to its comparatively larger displacement volume, increases the total load.
For this reason, most manufacturers divide their capacity into two separate numbers:
Pontoon boat capacity without a cabin
Most manufacturers give an alternate, lower number which represents the weight capacity of your pontoon when it is not equipped with a cabin.
This lower number includes all gear on board as well as people while excluding the weight carried by your vessel’s enclosed cabin.
This number will most often be printed right on the side of your pontoon boat’s hull just under or above its waterline depending on how you read it.
Pontoon boat capacity with maximum load and occupants (safe load)
The second rating that you will see is usually given in pounds or kilograms and represents the maximum number of people and gear which, if placed aboard your boat, would balance out to what—based on the average distribution of weight aboard a pontoon boat—would be its maximum load while remaining afloat.
The primary purpose of this rating is to allow for a safety margin which is necessary in order to compensate for unforeseen changes that might require shifting people or gear around just before launching, such as if your engine broke down and you had to fix it out of the water.
In practice, most pontoon boats operate within an eighty percent range of their total capacity number with twenty percent representing a reasonable safety margin.
In other words, keeping your total load under 80% of your boat’s safe limit will help prolong its life and avoid unnecessary stress caused by overloading.
Pontoon trailer weight
Once you know how much weight you can load onto your pontoon boat, you need to consider how much weight it will take to pull behind a trailer.
The amount of weight that it takes to pull a given pontoon boat behind a particular size and type of trailer is directly related to the number and size of its air chambers as well as the number and arrangement of their pontoons.
Air chamber length:
Lakelplast has approximately 60 lbs per 5 ft (the average length of an air chamber)
Number and arrangement:
To calculate the total capacity required look at your propeller gear; if you have two propellers then double the overall capacity; If you have three, triple it; if you’re pulling four or more, quadruple it.
Every pontoon boat has a capacity number which represents how much weight it can carry before beginning to settle into the water.
Full Weight – The total weight of the pontoon with a full fuel tank, people, items, and furniture.
Tow Weight – The boat and trailer weight combined.
What’s Your Boat Made Of?
This is a simple but important place to begin when calculating how much your boat weighs. The more the boat weighs, the less fuel it will burn and the harder it will be to tow such a big load.
Aluminum pontoons weigh around 1,650 pounds per 100-footer, which is about half of what steel boats weigh at 3,300 pounds per 100 feet.
Fiberglass weighs in around 2,850 pounds per 100-footer. Once again these weights account for total length and not just overall width and depth of the pontoons alone.
Pontoon boat: heavier weights
Steel and aluminum tubes that run along the bottom of a pontoon boat can add anywhere from 700 to 1,200 pounds per 100 feet.
On the other hand, heavier pontoons may weigh more than any of your boating buddies combined! Sometimes you have to look at the big picture when considering what’s best for everyone on board.
What You Have On Board
You may be surprised what weighs as much as it does. Each compartment where you put something is another 300 pounds added to your total pontoon boat weight .
The carpeted floor adds about 45 pounds per 12 square feet, while raw fiberglass or wood flooring only weighs around 15 pounds per 12 square feet.
Pontoon boat: lighter weights
Tables add nearly 60 pounds per 12-inch by 12-inch area that they cover. Heavier materials such as Teak will add only 20 to 30 pounds per 12 square inches.
Seats add 40 to 50 pounds per foot of width and depth, because of the steel frames inside the seats. Steel rod construction adds about 5 pounds per foot while fiberglass rods only weigh in at 1.3 or 2.6 pounds each depending on how wide and deep they are (a standard fit).
Pontoon Boat Hulls and Decks:
The deck can be made from various materials like aluminum, fiberglass, wood or steel weighing anywhere from 65 to 250 pounds per square foot.
A full-length aluminum deck on a pontoon boat only weighs 55 pounds per 10 feet, while fiberglass decks weigh around 90 pounds each for the same size range.
Steel or wood decks are not as common but they will weigh about double that of an aluminum deck at 320 to 410 pounds respectively.
Pontoon boat: vinyl-coats & hulls
The stability of your entire pontoon boat will rely on the integrity of its hull(s) and how much weight it can support without sinking or breaking up.
Vinyl-coated steel hulls will carry some 1,000 pounds per 100 feet before the metal is compromised, while items like fiberglass or plastic only hold 500 pounds per 100 feet.
An aluminum hull carries a load of 770 pounds per 100 feet, which is about 2.5 times as much as steel and four times as much as fiberglass.
Pontoon boat: keeping it safe
The total weight capacity that your pontoon can safely handle depends on how it is made, what’s on board, what the weather conditions are and who you have on board to enjoy your time together.
Your best bet is to put 50 percent more than its weight limit because this will still give everyone a chance to jump ship if need be!
You now know what all those numbers mean when it comes to pontoon boats!
You can make sure you don’t sink or break up your vessel by going over these weights and capacities before you head out on the water.
Size needed for pontoon boat towing
The minimum size needed in order to tow a pontoon boat is a 16 inch gooseneck trailer hitch.
If the pontoon is over 1500 lbs, a 2″ ball is needed and if it weighs more than 2500 lbs, a 1 7/8″ ball is needed.
These weights are for utility trailers and not hauling with a fifth wheel or using a weight distribution system (articulating type bars).
For hauling on a 5th wheel trailer, you would be looking at 10k to 12k depending on the size of your vehicle.
The RV industry rates boats by dry weight which includes all fluids that it will carry such as propane, water and sewage tanks.
For an empty boat under 5000 lbs you can tow with any full-size truck as long as it is the truck model that has front tow hooks.
For trailers over 5000 lbs it is best to do your research first as many are rated by dry weight, so if you have propane tanks or other fluids on board they may be included in this number.