How Fast Can a Pontoon Boat Sail?

Pontoon boats aren't exactly known for being speed demons and are generally used for sunbathing and fishing. However, the boats in this article is anything but slow!

When you think about a pontoon boat, one of the first things you typically DON’T think of is the speed. Pontoon boats aren’t exactly known for being speed demons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prioritize one on speed. However, the typical pontoon boat is known for being great for sunbathing, fishing, enjoying a day on the lake, and maybe even pulling a tube.

That said, couple all that with a pontoon boat that can be used for skiing and tubing, and you have an all-in-one boating machine that would be a blast to travel with around Vashon Island. The funny thing is your pontoon boat top speed can actually be insane as you’ll see with some of the fastest that are out there today.

The average speed of one isn’t going to be anything to write home about, but it’s also not as if one really needs to go super-fast. As you can see, there are many areas to cover here. To get the ball rolling, though, let’s answer the question directly.

How fast can a pontoon boat sail? A pontoon boat top speed of up to 70 miles per hour (and even faster than that) isn’t out of the question. Yet, most commercially available pontoon boats will have an average top speed of anywhere from 18 to 25 miles per hour. You’ll find out that, honestly, that range of speed will be all you’ll realistically need. Things can get much, much faster, though.

The fastest pontoon boats on the market

pontoon boat sailing fast through a big lake
Image credits: Wikimedia

We’d like to point out that the two pontoon boats we’re going to bring attention to here in a moment aren’t the two fastest in the world of their kind. Customizations can be made to obtain even higher speeds, but these two boats will give you an idea of just how fast pontoons can actually cruise:

  • PlayCraft Scorpion Xtreme 2800: This thing is just absurd when it comes to its speed. The Scorpion Xtreme 2800 sports twin 400-hp 383 Scorpion powerplants. Believe it or not, this pontoon can achieve speeds up to 70 miles per hour. If that wasn’t impressive enough, it can also jump on plane in less than three seconds and can go from zero to 30 miles per hour in just under six seconds. The pontoon boat top speed of this sucker is just insane.
  • South Bay 925 Super Sport: While this incredible rig doesn’t have a top speed quite as high as the Scorpion Xtreme 2800, it actually has as good if not better acceleration. Tested to hit 30 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds, it can also achieve a top speed of just under 60 miles per hour.

One thing when it comes to wanting a pontoon boat with absurd speeds is to prioritize twin engines. A twin-engine pontoon floor plan with high horsepower capabilities can make for a very speedy boat.

How fast does your pontoon boat NEED to be?

guided sailing trip on a pontoon boat
Image credits: Eric Godfrey

When it comes to boating, there are always going to be rules and laws that you’ll have to abide by. We don’t want to get into that here as this type of stuff will always vary based on where you are. We just wanted to make mention of it as you should always be wary of the top speed that you can travel on the body of water, you’re on.

In reality, how fast does your pontoon boat need to go? What is the pontoon boat top speed that most people will need, in other words? Truthfully, the average top speed of 18 to 25 miles per hour is going to be perfect for most pontoon lovers.

Yet, if you like to boat on larger bodies of water and need to travel far distances on your pontoon boat, there’s where the benefit of having one that can travel 30, 40, or even 50 miles per hour comes into the fold.

Now, going back to the reason as to why around 20 miles per hour will be good for most is that most of the watersports (such as waterskiing, tubing, wakeboarding, and kneeboarding) you’d perform with the help of such a boat will be optimal at around 22 miles per hour. That’s pretty much directly in the middle of the average pontoon boat top speed range.

Speaking of watersports, it’s always going to be a good idea to participate with a life vest on. This is even more important if you struggle to swim. Due to such, you might want to check out our list of the five best life vests for non-swimmers.

Various factors that can affect pontoon boat top speed

pontoon boat on beach
Image credits: Robert Linder

As you might expect, there’s an abundance of factors that can affect how fast your pontoon boat goes. We’re not going to cover every last one, but we wanted to detail some of the most important. Yes, some of these are more important than others, but they’ll all play a role if you’re attempting to get the most out of your pontoon boat’s performance.

The total horsepower of the engine/engines

Two specifications that get associated with horsepower are speed and acceleration time. Generally speaking, the more horsepower a boat (or car) has, the higher its top speed will be and the quicker it will be able to accelerate. In other words, you probably shouldn’t opt for a trolling motor for your pontoon boat if you want speed.

When it comes to pontoons, horsepower options can vary widely.

The performance-based boats being made today have made it possible for pontoons to have upward of 600 horsepower. Yet, horsepower alone isn’t the only factor as the way the boat is built (from the components to the structure to the dry weight) also plays a role in speed. However, for speed demon crazies out there, you’re going to want some horsepower.

Dry weight and total load

Dry weight is a term that most of you are probably familiar with. When talking about a boat, the dry weight is going to be the weight of the boat without any accessories or fluids added. The best way to think about it is it’s the weight of the boat as it comes from the factory.

Based on how the boat is rigged and built, this can vary drastically from pontoon to pontoon. It’s not just the dry weight that’s important, however, as any additional weight that you add will also play a role and slow down your boat. Yes, this does include the weight of passengers on the boat.

A really good aid to go by is to think that for every 1.000 pounds you add, expect to lose around 15 percent of the average speed of your pontoon. So, if you’re boarding five to six adults, that’s probably going to be near or over 1.000 pounds. That’s not even including other accessories and even fluids that you add to or on the boat.

The Bimini top

This one just makes sense because if you’re traveling on your pontoon with the Bimini top up, it’s going to create more resistance and slow you down in the process. However, unless it’s a very windy day, traveling with the top down isn’t going to speed up your boat too much.

A one or two miles per hour difference is probably to be expected on most days with the Bimini top down. Again, though, with more ferocious winds, you may get a four or five miles per hour difference with the speed. In general, don’t expect to reach the pontoon boat top speed with the Bimini top up.

How dirty your pontoon boat is

We’re not necessarily talking about the interior of your pontoon boat here, but rather marine growth and general buildup on the bottom. Algae, barnacles, and general marine buildup can slow your boat down up to seven miles per hour. As crazy as that sounds, it can make that much of a difference.

This is mostly a concern for those of you who leave your pontoon in the water for most of the season. If you choose to trailer the boat, this isn’t going to be as much of an issue.

Final thoughts

There are pontoon boats out there that can reach dazzling speeds of 70 miles per hour and even more. For the average boat, though, a speed of around 18 to 25 miles per hour is going to be the norm. How much speed you need ultimately comes down to what you feel you need the pontoon boat for.

It’s not generally considered a speed boat and if all you want is speed, perhaps you should just look into a different boat type. Pontoons can rip through the water with the proper configuration, but it’s not their bread and butter.

One more thing, unless you never want to take it out on new waters, you’re more than likely going to need to haul your pontoon boat around with a trailer. A terrific vehicle to pull that off with is the 2022 Dodge Durango. The Durango has some crazy good towing prowess.

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Tyler Jones

Tyler is much like a swiss knife. Even though he has a degree in Computer Science, he knows almost everything there is to know about camping. He has been writing for HeadlessNomad since 2021 and has contributed with over 100 articles. If you have an outdoor-related question, then Tyler much likely knows the answer.