Bow Riders Vs. Pontoon Boats: What is the Difference Between the Two


If spending time on the water is your idea of fun, then there is nothing better than owning a recreational boat that you can use for hosting parties, fishing, or cruising around.

But with so many different types and styles of new boats on the market, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you.

Two of the most popular recreational boats are bow riders and pontoon boats, each offering its unique set of benefits.

Both boats are great for families, groups, and individuals who enjoy being on the water and spending time outdoors. In addition, both types can be used for different water sports and activities.

Although they have a few similarities in function, several critical differences between the two can affect your decision of which type to buy.

Read on to learn more about each type of boat and the key differences between them:

A Bow Rider and its Common Characteristics:


The first thing distinguishing a bow rider from a Pontoon boat is its angular bow.

A bowrider typically has a V-shaped fiberglass hull and is considered an offshoot of the traditional runabout boat. It has bucket seats in the front bow area( hence the name bow rider) and the back near the stern, making it comfortable for groups of up to 8 people.

The length of a bowrider can vary from 16 to 26 feet, and you can choose between outboard and sterndrive engines.

A sterndrive is also referred to as an /”inboard/outboard/” or I/O engine, and it is a propulsion system that combines an inboard engine with an outdrive. The positioning of the stern drive is slightly ahead of the transom, which gives the boat more power and speed.

An outboard engine is mounted on the back of the boat and relies on propellers to push it forward. The unit is mounted near the transom, which gives the boat more stability. Outboards are more popular with small watercraft.

Regardless of the engine type, a bowrider is an excellent choice for wakeboarding, tubing, and water skiing if water sports are on your schedule. If you are an avid fisherman, you can also find models equipped with live wells and fishing rod holders.

Bowriders also feature railings that surround the entire perimeter of the deck, making it safer for passengers. The deck of a bowrider is also flat and non-slip, which is ideal for entertaining and moving around.

A Pontoon Boats and its Common Characteristics:


Pontoon boats are commonly referred to as /”party barges/” because they are spacious and ideal for social gatherings on the water.

Pontoon boats are distinguished by their flat-bottomed hulls supported by two aluminum tubes, also called /”pontoons,/” on either side. This design gives a wider beam, which makes the boat more stable in the water. Other styles of pontoons, such as tritoon, add a third pontoon in the middle for even more stability.

Pontoon boats are available in various lengths, from 14 to 30 feet, and they can easily accommodate up to 16 people, making them ideal for large groups. Unlike many boats with pointed bows, the front of a pontoon is more squared off and has seating that wraps around the entire perimeter. The sizable deck makes installing almost all kinds of amenities possible, such as a BBQ grill, sink, wet bar, sun pads, and more. Thus, making your time on the water more enjoyable and homelike.

Although they can accommodate water sports activities, pontoons are not as popular for this purpose as bowriders. However, pontoons are excellent for fun summer activities such as fishing, cruising, and swimming. And they also have ample storage space for all your gear, making them ideal for longer trips on the water.

Previously designed pontoon boats would lumber through the water at slow speeds; however, recent advancements have resulted in pontoons with more horsepower that can reach faster speeds. The draft of a pontoon boat is also shallower to prevent damage to the hull when entering shallow waters. Pontoons are also known to capsize less quickly than other types of crafts.

What/’s the Difference Between Bowrider and Pontoon Boats?

Now that we know the typical characteristics of each type of boat, let/’s take a look at the key differences between a bowrider and a pontoon boat:

Hull Shape:

All boats have a hull, but the shape differs between types. The hull is a boat/’s watertight body that helps it float and move through the water. The hull shape affects a boat/’s speed, maneuverability, and stability.

Bowriders have a V-shaped hull, a standard design used in runabouts, bass boats, and other recreational boats. Depending on how deep the V-shape is, it can affect the boat/’s speed and how well it handles rough water.

Pontoon boats have a flat-bottomed hull that makes sailing in small, shallow waters possible without running the risk of damaging the hull. The pontoon/’s aluminum tubes also provide additional buoyancy and excellent stability on the water in calm conditions. However, the flat hull can bump the ride in choppy waters.

Storage Space:

Another essential consideration when buying your choice of boats for sale in Knoxville is storage space. Storage space will be crucial in your decision-making if you plan to use your boat for extended trips or overnight stays. Again, pontoon boats have an advantage in this area because of their large decks. As a result, there/’s plenty of room to add storage compartments, coolers, and other necessary gear.

Bowriders also have storage space under the seats and compartments in the bow and stern. However, because of their smaller size, they can/’t match the storage capacity of a pontoon boat.


Are you a speed demon, or do you prefer a leisurely pace? Depending on your answer, speed may or may not be an important consideration in your decision.

Pontoon boats are not built for speed. Even with recent advancements, the top speed of most models is only about 18 to 25 miles per hour. Bowriders, on the other hand, can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. Perfect for those who like to feel the wind in their hair!

Fuel Economy:

Your boat/’s fuel economy determines how much fuel you/’ll need to purchase and how often you/’ll need to refuel during your outings. You obviously want to pay special attention to fuel economy because a vessel that uses a lot of fuel won/’t take you as far and you risk running out of gas in the middle of your trip.

Pontoon boats are not as fuel-efficient as bowriders. Because they/’re larger and heavier, they require more power to move through the water, which translates into higher fuel consumption. However, some models have become more fuel-efficient with recent pontoon boat design and technology advancements.

Bowriders far outshine pontoon boats in terms of fuel economy. Because they/’re smaller and lighter, they use less fuel to make them last longer on the water.


For most of us, price is generally the deciding factor, so let/’s look at the average cost of each type of boat.

Pontoon boats may cost $18,000 to $60,000 while bowriders $17,000 to $150,000 making the latter quite an expensive investment.

However, the price range within each category can vary drastically based on the size, features, brand, and whether you buy new or used boats for sale. Thus consider the above as a range only to get a general idea.

Pontoon Vs. Bowrider: What/’s the Right Boat for You?

By this point, you probably have made up your mind about which boat is right for you. But, if you/’re still undecided, here/’s what you need to do. First, compile a list of the must-have features you want in a boat. Then go through our pontoon vs. bowrider comparison and see which type of vessel offers the desired characteristics. Once you/’ve made your decision, it/’s time to start shopping!

Check out our Premier Watersports/’ selection of bowriders and pontoon boats for sale to find the perfect model for your needs. We are the best boat dealers in Knoxville and offer an impressive inventory of new and used boats from the top brands in the industry.

We also have a team of experienced professionals who can help you choose the suitable model and equip it with the right accessories to make your boating experience more enjoyable. So contact us today to get started!