How Much Weight Can a Pontoon Boat Carry?


Pontoon boat with 12 female passengers

Pontoon boats are very stable calm water vessels. Although they can be used for a multitude of different water-based activities, pontoon boats are best known as a party boat simply because they can carry so many people and so much stuff. But how much weight can a pontoon boat carry before we becomes dangerous?

To determine how much weight a specific pontoon boat can carry you must take the volume of 1 pontoon and multiply it by 62 lbs. Then multiply the answer by 2 to see how much weight the 2 pontoons can carry. You must then subtract the the weight of the deck, motor and permanent gear/furniture from that number to see how much weight capacity you have left to add to the boat.

How much weight can a pontoon boat carry?

Understanding the weight capacity of your boat is, arguably, more important to pontoon boat owners than any other recreational boat type. Why? Because pontoon boats tend to carry more passengers than other types of non-commercial watercraft and therefore every pontoon boat owner should know just how much weight his/her boat can carry safely.

The load you can carry in your pontoon boat is an essential thing to know because the large deck space and superior stability of this type of boat makes it all too easy to overload it without realizing the dangers involved.

In order to know the weight capacity of your specific pontoon boat you just need to work out its buoyancy and then perform a few simple calculations.

Calculating weight carrying capacity of a pontoon

To work out how much weight your pontoon boat can carry you just have to apply a simple easy-to-use formula.

To determine how much weight the boat can support you must work out the volume of the submerged part of the boat.

The only part of a pontoon boat that is submerged are the pontoon tubes and only about half their mass is actually underwater.

Pontoon boats are almost always used on freshwater, inland. Freshwater weighs about 62 pounds per cubic foot of water. We will use this information to help determine the weight capacity of your pontoon boat.

To do this you just take the overall volume of your boat’s pontoons and multiply it by 62 lbs. This gives you the weight capacity for one pontoon. As your boat has two pontoons you simply multiply the answer by 2.

If you don’t know the volume of your pontoons use this tool to work it out using the height and length measurements of the pontoon tube.

How much weight can a tritoon boat hold?

A tritoon boat has three pontoon tubes, as opposed to only two on a standard pontoon boat. This gives the boat a bit of extra buoyancy and a greater weight carrying capacity.

Use the formula for calculating the weight capacity for one pontoon, i.e., take the volume of 1 pontoon tube and multiply it by 62 lbs. Then you simply multiply this answer by 3 to get the weight capacity of your tritoon boat.

If you don’t know the volume of your pontoon tubes use the tool I linked to above to work it out.

What load must be counted?

The weight capacity of your pontoon boat is not just about passengers and the gear you bring with you. Many people new to pontoon boats, or boating in general, think that the weight capacity of their boat only refers to the amount of people and supplies they can put on the boat.

The weight measurement you take for the load placed on your pontoon boat must include the deck, motor and permanent gear/furnishings you have onboard as well as the passengers, gear and supplies that you bring with you.

Before you start to calculate how much stuff and people you can load onto your pontoon boat you must take into account the boat’s weight. This weight should include everything that is on top of the pontoons. This includes the deck, the motor, furnishings and any other permanent gear on the boat including the gas tank and the fuel inside it.

You must then subtract that weight from the boat’s maximum weight capacity to determine how much extra weight you can put on the boat.

A word of warning: don’t load the boat to its maximum capacity. It is a very bad idea to take your load to the limit of the boat’s capacity, especially on a pontoon boat. Even though you think you are safe loading the boat to just beneath the maximum weight capacity taking it to the limit could result in the pontoon boat taking a nosedive or even sinking.

For this reason many pontoon boat owners use the 20% rule. They will either subtract 20% from the weight capacity number or add 20% to their load number. In my opinion it is easier to simply add 20% to the load and in that way you can see how close you are to the maximum.

Of course if you add the 20% to the load count you can take the load to as close to the maximum weight capacity as you can get because you have given yourself a 20% safety margin.

How many people can fit on a pontoon boat?

Each pontoon boat is different. Some pontoon boats can hold more people than others. Although many manufacturers will give you a maximum passenger number the best way to work out how many people you can fit on your pontoon boat is to calculate it based on weight.

To find out how many people can fit on a pontoon boat first work out the boat’s weight capacity. After subtracting the weight of the gear and motor on the boat you can see how much weight capacity you have left for passengers. If each passenger is an average person we can assume they weight approximately 165 lbs. So, divide the remaining weight capacity by 165 to find out how many passengers you can fit on the pontoon boat.

Of course deck space will be a factor but calculating your maximum number of passengers based on weight is a much more reliable way to determine how many people you can fit on the boat.

Bear in mind that not all people weight the same. 165 lbs is the common weight used to represent the average person.

As women usually weigh less than 165 lbs and men usually weigh more, this figure is a good average for calculating a person’s weight, assuming of course you have a mixed group on your boat. But, if you have a boat full of young ladies the weight will be considerably less than a boat filled with football players.

You must also make sure the load is distributed evenly.

Pontoon boat with too much weight at one side
Pontoon boat with too much weight at one side

Remember, do not try to reach the maximum weight capacity of the boat. A change in weather, a freak wave, or even the wake of a bigger boat could turn a heavily loaded pontoon boat and tip everything, and everyone, into the water. Use the 20% rule mentioned above.

Okay, let’s recap.

What is the weight limit for a pontoon boat?

The weight limit for a pontoon boat is the maximum amount of weight the boat can hold safely. To work out the weight limit you need to take the volume of 1 pontoon tube and multiply it by 62 lbs. Then you simply multiply this answer by 2 to get the weight capacity of your pontoon boat. This weight capacity includes everything that sits on the pontoons from the deck, to the motor and furnishing – not just passengers and gear.

Working out the maximum weight limit for pontoon boat can be done by following the directions given earlier in this post. If you do not know the volume of your pontoons use the simple calculator tool I linked to previously in this post.

But, please do not try to load your pontoon boat to its maximum capacity. I know I have already stated this but it is so important that it is worth repeating – use the 20% rule!

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