Do Pontoon Boats Have Inboard or Outboard Motors?

When buying a pontoon boat, it is important to understand everything there is to know about these flatboats, including the technical questions. 

After all, it is quite a large financial investment. Nonetheless, the sales for pontoon boats still have managed to rise at 3% to 4% annually.

So, if you’re thinking of buying a pontoon boat, one question you may have in mind is which type of motor pontoon boats will typically have. 

And if you are in the midst of online research, you may have already encountered the terms inboard and outboard motors for pontoon boats.

Simply put, most pontoon boats will use outboard motors. Although there are a small fraction of pontoon boats with inboard motors, it is evident in the market that those with outboard motors are still by far the most popular. 

But, if you are a huge fan of underdogs, you may still want to learn more about an inboard motor vs an outboard motor and why an outboard is much more popular on most pontoon boats 

Lucky for you, we got it all covered in this article. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

So, Do Pontoon Boats Have Inboard or Outboard Motors?

Pontoon boats can actually have either an inboard or outboard motors but outboard motors are far more popular than inboard motors on this style of boat. 

Like any other boat, the motor in a pontoon boat allows the propeller to go in motion. The maneuver lets the craft move on the water. In outboard motors, it influences stirring power and cruise speed.

Outboard and inboard motors are often used in many different types of boats with the outboard being much more popular on fishing boats, pontoon boats, and even houseboats. 

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One of the obvious reasons for this preference is because outboard motors allow extra interior space in the boat. Unlike inboard motors where the engine is placed within the boat’s hull, outboard motors are mounted outside the hull. 

This allows for extra room inside for passengers or cargo. 

Onboard motors are also easier to maintain. You can just take off the engine in cases of damage or malfunctions and have it fixed in a repair shop. This is something you can’t easily do with a pontoon boat that has an inboard motor since it is pretty tricky to unmount the engine. 

A breakdown with an inboard motor is a lot more hassle and if the motor needs to be replaced entirely you will normally spend more to replace an inboard engine as well. 

Those are the main reasons why most pontoon boats will come standard with an outboard motor. 

Can Pontoon Boats Have Inboard Motors?

Pontoon boats can absolutely have inboard motors but it is far more rare. 

While outboard motors are preferred for practical reasons, inboard motors still appeal especially to those fond of water sports. 

When wakeboarding or water skiing, a pontoon boat with an inboard motor is an excellent choice.

First, these activities require an unblocked transom to give way to tow ropes. Waterskiing with an outboard motor on the stern of the pontoon boat can potentially cause unspeakable disasters so having an inboard motor is safer. 

Second, with the engine enclosed in the boat’s hull, this gives the boat a lower gravity center, which means you can have more control with your wake.

Having an inboard motor also means that you can fish from any side of the boat and as long as you don’t run the line over it won’t get tangled in your propellers. 

What Is the Difference between an Outboard and Inboard Motor? 

The primary difference between outboard and inboard motors is their placement in the pontoon boat. However there are also other aspects that are different when comparing the one with the other. 

So, here are the key differences between an outboard motor and an inboard motor.

1. Engine Position

Like the names suggest, inboard motors are kept inside the hull of the boat and the outboard on the outside. Inboard motors are typically placed at the center of the craft, while outboard motors are installed at the rear end of the stern/transom of the boat.

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2. Maintenance

Pontoon boats with outboard motors will typically have less maintenance cost. It is also easier to store the boat, given that the engine can easily be detached from the boat.

On the other hand, inboard motors will most likely be more costly when it comes to maintenance, as removing the engine is something you can’t easily do. 

In addition, fixing an inboard motor is normally labor-intensive and requires more complex repairs. On average, replacing an inboard engine can cost you about $1,000 more than replacing a similar outboard motor. 

3. Initial Cost

Outboard motors have a lower initial cost when compared to inboard motors. Therefore, it also affects the overall price of the pontoon boat you are eyeing to buy. 

If you want to save more money, a pontoon boat with an outboard motor is the way to go.

4. Capacity

Since the engine for an outboard motor is placed outside the boat’s body, you will have more interior space. This is a huge bonus for most people as it means they can buy a smaller boat than they would if it had an inboard motor. 

5. Fuel Efficiency

If you have money to spare, you can choose to purchase a pontoon boat with an inboard motor for its higher fuel efficiency. 

Inboard motors also last longer than outboard motors, which means you should save some money over their lifetime. 

However the higher maintenance costs will eat up most of the savings that you would get with the engine lasting longer. 

6. Power

Inboard engines are similar to those of an automobile. The engine provides power to a drive shaft that moves the propeller connected to it. On the other hand, outboard motors need to move the entire engine to execute steering which requires more power. 

7. Draft

If the dock near you is shallow, a pontoon boat with an outboard motor is a better choice as you can get a shallow water outboard motor. However, if you have an inboard motor, it can be prone to damage when placed in the same environment.

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8. Engine Longevity

With proper care, both inboard and outboard motors have an average life of above 6,000 hours. However, inboard motors have better chances to last longer than outboard motors.

Part of why inboard motors have better longevity is because most pontoon boat owners who operate on inboard motors are more careful, considering their high investment and the maintenance cost for engine repairs.

Which Is Better for Pontoon Boats: An Inboard or Outboard Motor?

Choosing between the inboard and outboard motor for your pontoon boat all boils down to the following:

• water activities you intend to do with your boat (fishing, cruising, watersports)

• how frequent you’ll take it out in the water

• the boat size you’re aiming for

• your preferred maneuvering style

Once you have decided on the above you can then make the choice between an inboard and outboard motor a lot easier. 

I personally feel like an outboard motor is the best choice for most people who get a pontoon boat. 


Owning a pontoon boat is a dream come true for a lot of water enthusiasts. 

Why wouldn’t it be considering this flatboat can be used in a large variety of different water activities. For example, you can bring your entire family on a fishing or water skiing trip with its large seating capacity.

However, a pontoon boat does not come cheap. Prices of pontoon boats range from $15,000 to $70,000. 

Therefore, your best decision rides on how well you understand pontoon boats. 

You can start by looking into which motor type matches your boat’s purpose, size, and water environment.

On the other hand, if your primary concern is cost and practicality, the outboard motor is your best choice. It fits the standards of the pontoon boat and has a lower price compared to inboard motors.

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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