Buying a pontoon boat for the first time can seem like risky business.
We have tried to gather here the key elements to take into consideration in the decision making process. This will also help to compare apple with apple.
By example, the fact that a company is NMMA* certified does give you much more confidence in your boat purchase. Indeed, NMMA certified boats exceed the Transport Canada and USCG *regulations for safety thus, for durability.
For safety and solidity concerns, count the number of chambers.
- A tube is divided into chambers. Each of these shouldn’t measure more than 5’ (1,5 m) in length and be solidly sealed with separator walls.
- Most of manufacturers divide their tube in two chambers (only one separator wall), each of them being as long as 10’ (3 m). If punctured, half of the tube fills up with water.
- At SOUTHLAND our tubes have four to six sealed air chambers. Taking longer to make because more separator walls must be welded. However, this makes a tube much more solid and safe.
- Besides, do not truss those salesman who confirm you that the pontoon’s tube they are carrying are made with an H36 grade aluminum instead of an H32. These H36 and H32 have nothing to do with the thickness of the aluminum. Both of them are .080 thick. It is rather a question of firing process. The H36 is more brilliant but also easier braking. Under the same pressure, the H32 will tend to dent while the H36 will brake.
- The rear cover of the tube now. When backing up, this part of the tube is a risky damaged area if shocked. Thus it is important to fix a spinning molded cap. This molded cap is more resistant that a simple flat cap. Many manufacturers do not fix this kind of cap.
Make sure the components and the assembly are both solid and durable
- The floor bears the entire load of the furniture. It is constantly submitted to stress and strain from the water pressure and flow. Therefore, expect no less than 3/4” (19mm) pressure-treated plywood. Some builders use 5/8” (15,9mm)
- Expect also that the plywood is type of douglas fir, 7-ply, .40 CCA pressure treated plywood. It comes with a lifetime warranty against fungus and insects.
- Besides, how is the deck attached to the cross members ? Most of builders use bolts to fix their deck.
- What about bolts? With time, water will infiltrate the hole made to insert the bolt and the nut, causing the plywood to delaminate.
- Furthermore, there is always humidity in the plywood. With time, it will dry. If the deck is not sufficiently fastened, it will warp. Only six to eight fasteners per panel are usually used to bolt the floor.
- Southland’s deck is screwed onto Z-shaped cross members every 8 inches (20 cm). Which means in total, 64 fasteners per panel. The competition usually offers a warranty only against fungus damage. Southland adds a lifetime warranty against warping. If a competitor offers you an additional warranty, ask for it in writing.
- The Z-shaped cross members support the deck. Be sure that it is at every 24” (60,8cm) and not 36” (91cm), thus reducing deck rigidity.
For added comfort and durability, ask for the quality of the vinyl and foam used in the furniture.
In the moment, many companies import their furniture from Asia. Touch the vinyl which covers the seats and double check the texture. If it looks like plastic instead of leather, in a short three years, your beautiful sofas will look to have a ten. .
The main concerns about the imported seating are the following:
- The vinyl stitches out: because the wire used is a poor quality and it is simple stitches out instead of double.
- The vinyl changes of color. It tends to get yellow or pink.
- The vinyl cracks, peels off and get older like a crumpled cloth.
- The heads rest sag and the seat’s cushion press flat which makes you feel the wood’s frame. This is due to the weakness of the foam.
- The quality of the foam is measured in terms of density and compression
- At Southland, foam’s furniture is between 1.50 and 1.35 lb/ft³ (24 and 21kg/m³) and the density is 45 to 60lb/50’’² (20 to 27kg/.032m²).
- The quality of the vinyl is measured in terms of oz.
- At Southland, vinyl’s furniture is 32oz (960gr).
- Check out also the material of the seat bases.
- Southland’s seat bases are made of roto-cast plastic offering you clean and mildew-free storage.
All Southland’s furniture is made in Canada
Well made railing ensure durability and comfort
- Ask for anodized tube’s railing, not painted.
- At Southland, the gates are mounted on 1 1/4” (33 mm) anodized tube. Because the tube is anodized, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
- Pay attention to the painted tubes. They usually come with a 1 to 3 years warranty. They tend to crack and peel thus the aluminum rust.
- Many manufacturers do not insulate their panel. Thus you hear the noise made by the panel against the tube.
- At Southland, a special sealing tape on the perimeter of all rail panels ensures a quiet, rattle-free ride.
- Furthermore, all of our front curved railing is reinforced with foam’s rays which, when the bench is fixed, work as a shock absorber.
Another durability and comfort issue: what is the top made, how much of the boat does the camper top cover and how high is it ?
- Ask for top made of UV proof canvas and what is the warranty against the excessive fading.
- Check if the full camper top of your pontoon boat covers the entire deck, including the foredeck. This prevents the carpet from being soaked by the rain and stops water splashes from coming under the front gate.
- Our competitors’ tops stop at the front railing and leave the foredeck exposed. Of course, you can always add a splash guard. But do you really want mess around with one constantly putting it on and taking it off? And what about this routine when it starts raining during a cruise? What’s more, if the top is on and fastens at the front railing, you have just lost even more storage and seating space.
- Check how high is your full camper top. The clearance is an important issue when tall people circulate. How uncomfortable it is to have to lower the head when walking under the top. At Southland, the clearance of our top is 7’ (2,1m).
For added comfort and durability, ask for carpet weight (in oz/gr).
- The quality of a carpet is measured in terms of weight of extruded fibre. If you are told about weight of carpet, as you can’t see it with your eyes, ask for it in written. Furthermore, check if it is a standard and not an option.
- Southland uses superior quality marine grade carpet of 28 oz/840gr (on luxury models) and 20/600gr oz on others, whereas the competition often offers inferior carpeting (16 oz/480gr. and less).
- We have chosen a neutral coloured carpet on purpose. The carpets frequently offered by the competition are chosen to match with the top. Being darker, these colours tend to fade in sunlight. Also, wear caused by steady traffic in the center is more apparent.
- What about carpet in a changing room where is usually located the toilet ?
That is a final touch to which Southland cares. In standard in our deluxe models, we fix vinyl in the changing room. It keeps less the smells and is easier to clean up.
The Storage Space
Generous storage ensures comfort and convenience.
- To leave on pontoon boat is like to go for a picnic. The food and goods are numerous. They ask many space room to keep the deck clean and convenient for the circulation.
- The space room is more likely found in the benches under the seating. These benches are cast rotomolded. Some companies had notably drop down their benches. The comfort and the space room had been touched.
- Southland’s pontoon boats offer up to 295, 8pi³ (11 m³) of storage space, depending on the model. Each of our benches is 11, 5’’ (292mm) high..
The Motor Mount
We build the sturdiest motor mount on the market.
- Even the most powerful engines can be installed to the mount. Thanks to its all-aluminium body, bolted to 3 or 4 Z-shaped cross channels.
- Through testing has convinced Southland that extending the motor mount beyond the tubes is better. Clients have confirmed that this ensures perfect stability. It also allows the motor to perform.
For longer durability, check the thickness of the bumpers.
- The thickness of its bumpers tells a lot about the quality of the rest of a pontoon boat. If they are thin, it means that the manufacturer wanted to save money because the aluminium is sold by weight. If the manufacturer was ready to compromise on the quality on this part, that means that he was probably willing to compromise on each component and at each step of the manufacturing.
- The bumpers thickness at Southland is 1/8” (3,2mm).
Question of durability, check the captain’s seat fastening sturdiness.
- The captain’s seat on a pontoon boat is fixed on a post. This post is fastened inside a plate on the floor. Check the sturdiness of this fastening by seating yourself on the seat and slightly move from left to right.
- At Southland, we know by experience that a piece of 3/4” plywood must be added under the floor to fasten the plate of the post . Very few manufacturers do it..
The Sound System
What kind of performance and durability do you expect from the make, type and power (watts) of the sound system ?
- The power of a sound system speaks volumes about its quality.
- The brand of a sound system tells also about its quality
- Clarion, the most recognized on the market for marine radio, is strictly fixed on all Southand’s deluxe models. It is an AM/FM/CD/MP3 with IPOD connection.
You are looking to buy a pontoon boat?
Take the time to scrutinize under the floor: look, touch, MEASURE, ask for written specs of parts, components and warranty. Do not buy a name. Demand no less than quality.
*NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association)
*USCG (United States Coast Guard)