By Kara Hildreth

Today’s modern pontoon boats possess high-end luxury and entertainment value and have earned the nickname “lake limos.”

The entertaining, luxurious boats can be a venue where lasting memories are made for generations of family and friends who come sail the cool waters together.

“The thing about pontoon boats right now is that they are so customizable that you can find the perfect fit for your family and the perfect fit for your life,” said Zach Stenger, marketing coordinator with Premier Marine, Inc., in Wyoming, MN.

Newer pontoons offer comfort for the early morning fisherman and are perfect to entertain in the afternoon and at the end of the day. The boats pair luxury with hospitality so you can pamper family and friends on the cool waters before sunset.

Luxurious pontoons are designed with all the comforts of a man cave or family room. All have lounge chairs, couches and plenty of seating for family with a bar to blend icy drinks with umbrellas for the adults and kids.

One standard pontoon boat aptly named “The Grand Entertainer” is equipped with an ice bucket, refrigerator and sink, and even lighted cup holders that look impressive and offer instant cooling to chill beverages in a few minutes. “There is a nice big cabana top to keep you out of the sun and plenty of bar stool space so everybody is comfortable,” Stenger said.

For the boat’s lounger chairs, there is a new, high tech, upgraded fabric called Heritage Fabric. This fabric is superior to standard vinyl and feels ultra-soft on the skin as your body sinks into the comfort. “It has a cooling technology that if you are in the sun all day, it will not burn your hands or skin when you touch it and the fabric is soft to the skin and is PVC free and does not mold or mildew, and it is also highly durable and easy to clean,” said Stenger.

“The first thing I tell people at the boat show is they have to touch it and their faces light up, and they have to get all their friends on the boat to feel it – it is the same fabric the luxury yachting industry is using right now as far as soft touch fabrics,” Stenger said. Besides comfort, today’s pontoons offer greater horsepower.

“The future of the pontoon is very bright and we see it getting more modernized and catching up with ski boats and even luxury yachts – they are the kind of the do-it-all boat, and instead of a family owning one for fishing and one for cruising, they can own one boat that entertains the whole family and keeps them on the water all day,” said Stenger.

Three top considerations when in the market to buy a pontoon are the quality of the pontoon in regards to its build and materials, the interior layout and design, and the service from your boat dealer.

“That third thing to consider is the service you are getting from your boat dealer and when you are buying a boat you want to make sure you are working hand and hand with the dealer dedicated to you and you need to have a trusting relationship,” Stenger said.
Another well-respected and trusted pontoon company is Harris Pontoon Boats sold at Erickson Marine in Hastings with more than 60 years helping customers in the boat business. “They build a wide variety of pontoons from a 20 foot on up and on the upper end side of it – we do a lot of the luxury boats with single and triple tops pontoons and the two best-selling floor plans have lounger chairs with flip back rests,” said Scott Klingsporn from the sales department at Erickson Marine. “So you can lounge on the back of the boat or face forward into the cockpit,” Klingsporn said.

Another popular pontoon floorplan is a center entry with dual helm seats or two chairs, one for the driver and companion that can sit across from one another,” Klingsporn said.

Pontoon boats can be customized so owners can select fabrics, digital dashes, towers for wake boarding, powered canopies and amped up sound systems to enjoy all kinds of cruising tunes on the water waves. “You can get the boat rocking and rolling out there,” Klingsporn said. Sound packages are available with LED lights surrounding speakers with Bluetooth capability for smartphones, iPods and USB ports. “People seem to be more into seating arrangements and using portable tables that come standard in the boat that can be placed in the front or back of the boat,” Klingsporn said.

Higher end pontoon boats accommodate 10 to 14 people and some are designed with portable grills located off the boat’s stern. “We find our buyers are more interested in seating capacity rather than a sink and a galley unit, and they want to use it for entertaining rides and be able to offer comfort with a lot of seating,” Klingsporn added.

Warner Dock out of New Richmond, Wis, is a third generation family boating company that sells pontoons designed for entertaining, cruising and fishing recreation. “My market is on the eastern edge of the Minneapolis metro market that is transient with pontoons and many are stored at home on a trailer that is now more prevalent in my marketplace since lake home costs rise, and a lot of our pontoon boats go to local lakes and they may or may not have a trailer and we also have storage for our customers,” said Nate Warner.

One luxury pontoon sold at Warner Dock is called the Premier Pontoon and another is called Misty Harbor. Prior to the Great Recession, it was common for people to own many boats, Warner said. “Now we are seeing a turn where people want to downsize by not going to a smaller boat, but going to one or two boats instead of three or four boats at the dock,” Warner said.

Combination pontoons allow for easy relaxing cruising and fishing and you can tube or ski with pontoons that have greater horsepower, Warner said. “After the recession, the pontoon boats never faltered throughout the economy as it is a growing industry with a lot of manufacturers to choose from with more options for boat enthusiasts who should consider brand, the fit and finish and how it is built,” said Warner.

Quality stereo speakers and comfy lounger chairs create for more memorable boat rides that will be reminisced about in years to come. “It is all part of being out there and enjoying time the water and listening to favorite types of music while you are cruising around,” Warner said. “We were ahead of this trend when we started to bring them back in the early 2000s and this was from your grandpa’s pontoon, and today they can go 40 to 50 miles per hour and some pontoons are equipped with larger horsepower, but the most shocking thing done is that they have installed three motors on one pontoon boat,” said Stenger.

“It feels like you are driving a luxury sports car through the water and it is just perfect,” Stenger added. As a personal owner of a pontoon boat, Warner enjoys it for fishing and relaxing while cruising. Most pontoon customers use their boats for the daytime, although Warner said he has a few customers who buy enclosures to spend the night on the boat with inflatable beds available.

New models will be released by the end of August and into September.

Check out the new pontoon boats so you can create memories with all whom you love inside your new lake limo.