Choosing Between Two Pontoons

Published in the May 2009 Issue December 2009

There are plenty of first-time `toon buyers out there, and the process can be a bit intimidating. We've all been there at one point or another, looking for a boat in every place we can think of, worried we'll pay too much, worried that we might buy a lemon. And we go to people we trust, people we know, and look for guidance.

Forum member Aberwacky decided to approach fellow `tooners at the PDB website with her quandary. Here's the guidance she received in her quest for the best possible deal.

Aberwacky asked: First, let me thank ya'll for the helpful information. Really helps a newbie figure things out. Now to my question. I'm trying to decide between two used Benningtons, both 22RFS. 
The 2004 has a 90hp Yamaha TLRC two-stroke, standard options with additional 55 pound thrust Minn Kota foot-operated trolling motor up front and is offered for $12K (through an individual).

The 2005 has a 115hp Yamaha four-stroke, standard options with a double bimini, and is priced at $18K from a dealer.

The condition of both boats is about the same, hours (150) about the same. Neither has a trailer. Is the 2005 REALLY worth $7K more? Budget is a consideration, and I could buy two new bimini tops for the price difference, but not a new motor. Yes, it would be nice to have the 115 four-stroke, but I'm not sure it's that much nicer than the 90hp two-stroke.

We're going to be tooting around the lake (Greers Ferry in Arkansas) with adults and young kids, and sometimes pulling a tube. Ya'll are much more knowledgeable than I am. Which would you choose?

Honda responded quickly: I'm not sure what state you live in, but the sales tax is usually picked up when you transfer the title to your name as the new owner, so you are going to pay the tax even if you buy from an individual-sorry. If you buy from a dealer and have a trade-in, the value of the trade is deducted from the price of the new boat and you pay tax on the difference. On the two boats it sounds like $7K is a lot of money to you, so go with the less expensive option. They should perform about the same. Consider the fun factor of the two boats, plus the fun you will have with the extra money. Enjoy yourself, spring is on the way!

Aberwacky added further clarification:

I'm in Arkansas. The sales tax situation is a bit odd here: if you buy a used boat through a dealer you pay sales tax through the dealer. If you buy from an individual, there is no sales tax on the transaction. I didn't believe it when I first heard it so I checked it myself:

"Sales tax is collected by the dealer for new and used boats. Arkansas does not charge sales tax on casual sales (individual to individual) for boats." 
Quite the incentive to buy from an individual, huh?

Beamer chimed in:

The 90hp is going to push your 22-foot boat around at about 22-24 miles per hour. The 115hp will get you a few more MPH, but if tubing is all the pulling you're going to do, I would think the 90hp is good enough if finances are an issue; it's what I have and I love it. 
The 115hp would give the kids a bit more of a thrill, but how often are you going to be using it? I assume you've seen both and the condition of both are comparable. 
150 hours is not much, so both motors should be pretty good condition.

Aberwacky replied to Beamer: I see in your tag you have the four-stroke. Is there a big performance difference between that and the two-stroke? 
One thought I have is that the smaller motor would be fine while the kids are small (ours are under four, and there are four other kids under six in the immediate family); if it's not enough fun for them as they get bigger, we can upgrade then.

Since this will be our first pontoon boat, I figure we'll find features we wish we had and didn't have after using this one for a few years, and we will be more knowledgeable when buying the next one. That's part of why I think the `04 would be fine. Bennington seems to be a nice boat.

Beamer answered: Some say the 90hp two-stroke is actually a tad faster because the motor is lighter. Performance-wise the four-stroke is much quieter, and doesn't create smoke, like the two-stroke.
Also with the two-stroke you have to mix oil with the gas, where a four-stroke just uses straight gas, as the oil is separate. Also the four-stroke is a little more maintenance-free than a two-stroke.

Some will probably have more to say when comparing the two. I should add that before this boat I had a two-stroke for 20 years and can't complain about its performance at all.

Nowadays it's just a matter of preference, as now some two-strokes are as quiet and efficient as the four-stroke.

cwag911 welcomed Aberwacky and added some thoughts on his experience: Welcome Aberwacky, you'll love the Benny as we love ours. We bought our '07 in '06, and it has 115 hours on it, so 150 hours is nothing. As far as four-stroke versus a two-stroke, it's all what you prefer and weight issues. Four-strokes are heavier and two-strokes are noisier, with the exception of the new ones, but for a $7K difference I would go with the 90hp. Like you said, use it and see what you like and don't like and be sure to have fun.

Dockholiday gave an opinion on the matter at hand: I think I would opt for the 90hp two-stroke. There probably won't be a noticeable difference in speed. Most dealers here will charge the sales tax. I had a 90 two-stroke on a 25'-foot San Pan and it pushed it okay for a two-log boat. Could throw a lowball offer on the other just to see what happens. After awhile you really don't even think about what year the boat it is. Good Luck and Happy Tooning!!!

TexomaToon offered insight into the pricing: $7000 is about right for a 2004 versus 2005 plus a four-stroke 115hp engine. Either one should do the job just fine and make a great `toon for your family. I would, however, tell the dealer he has one more chance to give you his lowest bottom dollar price or you are going to buy the other one. If they won't budge then go buy the 2004.

BillofSC disagreed with some of the other members: Go with the bigger four-stroke, you will never regret the extra power. I've never heard anyone complain about too much power, but I have heard lots of complaints, myself included, about not having enough power. It is a great family investment either way you go.

Charlottoonian offered advice about `tooning with kids: Hi Aber, and welcome to the forum. I too have two little ones (three and six), and we have a Bennington. I really like the four-stroke 115hp Yamaha on ours, and even still I wish it were bigger. I would ask the dealer the exact question you have asked here; I would bet they might find out there is something more they can do with their price.

Either way you will love your pontoon...there is something about being outside all day with no TV's or telephones, and then just absolutely wearing them out and seeing them sleep all the way home!

To read this thread in its entirety, please visit the forum page at and search for the "Choosing between two pontoons" thread.

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