There’s no set answer to the question, “How many people can fit on a pontoon boat?” After all, it’s mainly dictated by pontoon boat capacity and size. Pontoons span slightly less than 15 feet to a little over 30 feet, and wherever your vessel falls on that range determines how many passengers it can handle.
The largest pontoon boats, those reaching up to 29 feet in length or more, can smoothly accommodate 16 people. On the other hand, smaller 12-footers may only be suitable for 2 passengers. Consider that as the best range relative to size changes with safety guidelines in mind.
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Size Matters When It Comes to Pontoon Passenger Capacity
Make no mistake, by no means am I saying that it’s the sole factor. Much like any boat, weight capacity and, in turn, passenger capacity is also dictated by design. Vessels with wider beams and flatter hulls also lend to that.
The good news? Those are innate qualities of a standard pontoon boat. I mean, just look at pontoons and compare them to their V-hull cousins – it’s safe to say that they’re boats designed to carry the most people first and foremost.
That’s why in the end, size takes center stage as long as passenger capacity is the main subject. To prove this and to give you a real-world reference, I’ve created a table of different pontoon boat models and their respective sizes as well as weight and seating capacities.
|Pond King Sport
|2021 Qwest Pontoons EDGE 7514 CRUISE
|1,335 lbs. (900 lbs. for passengers)
|2023 Lowe Ultra 160 Cruise
|Not readily indicated
|2021 SunChaser Vista 18 LR
|2023 Bennington 20 SSX
|2021 Tahoe 2385 Cascade
|2,560 lbs. (1,600 lbs. for passengers)
|2022 Manitou 27 XT SRW
|2023 Avalon 2785 Excalibur Elite Tritoon
|3,160 lbs (2,345 lbs. for passengers)
|Boundary Waters 310 Sky Deck
|Over 30 ft
|Not readily indicated
As you can see, some brands make their pontoon boat max capacity clear by providing specific limits for passenger weight. They actually encourage boat operators to follow the weight capacities instead of passenger number limits because, in the end, it’s easy to overload if you don’t account for and add up everyone’s individual weight.
For example, it’s not like 16 overweight (or just naturally hefty) people riding the Avalon 2785 Excalibur Elite all at once is an impossible scenario. Just by taking along 11 people weighing exactly over 210 pounds, you’ll already be overloaded.
Consider Using a Pontoon Capacity Calculator
If you really want to know how many people can a pontoon boat hold, disregarding the seating capacity and overloading guidelines, then you should look at the total weight capacity instead.
If you want to calculate the maximum number of people the vessel can truly handle (for, I’ll just assume, hypothetical reasons – your and your passengers’ sakes), you’ll need to account for not only pontoon length and weight capacity but height, width, and volume as well.
You can easily get an exact figure by using this pontoon capacity calculator.
Of course, it’s never advisable to exceed the passenger capacity as indicated in the plate on your specific pontoon. I most certainly don’t fill up my vessels to that maximum limit.
There’s a way for you to ensure you’ll always be within the safe load range when managing how many you should welcome aboard without constantly worrying about exceeding boat weight capacity. It’s called the Twenty Percent rule.
The “Twenty Percent” Rule
Knowing and adhering to this rule can help you get out of a rut, especially if you’re not too keen on following the exact printed capacity of the pontoon boat you’re operating.
The simplest way to do this is to deduct 20% from the weight capacity listed on the plate. The number you get is what you’ll consider the safest number you can work with.
How to Calculate
- For example, let’s say a 16 ft pontoon boat tops out at 1,125 lbs. That means the actual limit you need to be mindful of is 900 lbs.
- A 24 foot pontoon boat with a capacity of 2,560 pounds can safely carry 2,048 pounds.
- A 22 foot vessel with 2,234 pounds as its limit can only work with 1787 pounds.
- If you have a 19 foot craft with a weight capacity of 1,673 pounds, you should only consider adding up to 1338 pounds.
- Another formula you may use is the boat length multiplied by its width (in feet), then divide the result by 15 to get the passenger number.
The Importance of Passenger Capacity
An overloaded pontoon boat can quickly become any boat owner’s nightmare. News in recent times proves that people can drown from just falling over a pontoon boat. What more if the entire vessel capsizes?
Simply put, the more you ignore passenger capacity recommendations, you’re only flirting with disaster every time.
Moreover, pushing the boat passenger capacity only leads to disgruntlement rather than fun for everyone. Standing shoulder to shoulder like packed sardines isn’t exactly my idea of a standard pontoon “party”, and I assume you think the same.
What Happens If You Overload a Pontoon Boat?
You can expect the same consequences as when you overload any kind of vessel.
- Once you go over the pontoon boat size capacity, the boat’s speed will likely drastically decrease and burn fuel inefficiently.
- The stability will be compromised from the get-go and only get worse, to the point that a single whiff of strong wind or wave may cause it to tilt enough to capsize. Here’s footage of what such accidents look like:
Overloaded to the MAX Pontoon BBQ Party Boat fail
- If the boat becomes too overloaded from the start, it will likely sink before you even move an inch or two.
- Don’t forget about the legal consequences of overloading, especially if it’s explicitly stated in your state’s administrative codes that you shouldn’t load beyond the vessel’s passenger capacit
Tips to Deal with Too Much Weight
- Aim for even weight distribution in such a way that the stern will always be lower than the bow.
- Position the heaviest objects in the middle of the deck as much as possible to keep them stable. Naturally, you need to make sure they stay in place by using locks and straps.
- Don’t bring more than what you’ll need, especially if you know that you’ll be hosting more people than usual.
- Another trick that has allowed me to temporarily increase any pontoon boat weight limit is to add a third ‘toon in the middle. But think of it as just a marginal increase, enough for you to not go over the actual limit or add a few more items (and folks).
Judging by the latest models and their respective size ranges, the answer to “How many people can fit on a pontoon boat?” can be between 2 to 16 people. Realistically, you should look at the passenger weight limit instead or follow the Twenty Percent rule.
Doing either one gives you and your passengers the best safety buffer for every trip. Remember the tips I’ve shared to manage excess weight, too, so you’ll be able to effectively respond to hitches and emergencies.
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