Insights on What’s Trending from Industry Leaders

Published in the January 1921 Issue January 2021 Feature Heather M. Serrano

Since it’s currently boat-buying season, you’re probably asking yourself: What’s trending in the pontoon and deck boat world right now? Well, we might be able to help you out a little—make that a lot.

Here at Pontoon & Deck Boat magazine we’re lucky enough to get to interact with presidents, CEOs, and other leaders in the pontoon and deck boat industry on a regular basis. This allows us to get a pretty good idea of patterns in popularity for trends right now and in the future.

Naturally, we used our inside connections shamelessly, reaching out to industry leadership to get you the scoop on what’s currently trending pontoon-wise in 2021. Here’s what they had to say.

Family Focus
Many of the manufacturers have noticed that boat buyers have an increased focus on family fun. Tedd Moore, the vice president of sales at Bentley Pontoons, emphasized the importance of selling the boating experience—rather than just the product—to families.

“The trend for 2021 I believe will be focused more on getting out of the house, going on family adventures and spending as much time on the water as possible,” said Moore. “The ever-increasing versatility of pontoon boats fits this trend perfectly. Our industry is forever striving to provide the best experience when it comes to boating. This starts at the manufacturing level and continues through our dealer network and most certainly does not end when the customer drives off with their pontoon.”

Kristin Monroe of Angler Qwest Pontoons agrees with this assessment. “There is a trend in family boating,” noted Monroe. “New boaters are interested in more activities as a family and small groups.”

“Customers continue to seek ways to spend more time on the water with family and friends,” added Bob Wachs, vice president of sales for Hurricane and Godfrey Marine. “We expect this behavior to continue and fuel the growth curve for boating. The pontoon market attracts both first-time boaters as well as families seeking to spend quality time on the water. These buyers are looking for improved performance and quality construction as well as a versatile boat that can provide numerous choices of on-water activities, and pontoon boats are the perfect choice.”

A Welcome Reprieve
Part of the reason there’s been such a focus on family fun is the COVID-19 pandemic. With an increased awareness of social distancing and limited entertainment options this past year, many have discovered the joys of boating.

“The pontoon segment is still growing for Princecraft and we see a lot of potential,” shared Jean-Philippe Martin Dubois, the consumer experience and marketing director of Princecraft Boats Inc. “The reason is pretty simple. The unprecedented crisis brings families closer and the pontoon is probably one of the best activities to do during sunny days outside. It creates good memories and helps release the stress for everyone.”

“Due to the current landscape, we see a continued trend for people to want to enjoy safe, fun, quality time with their families out on the water,” agreed Bob van Vollenhoven, vice president of sales and marketing at Stingray Boats. “Boats offer a spectacular way to distance yourself from others, all while being outdoors in the fresh air, making lifetime memories. We believe we’ll see not only more new boaters continue to enter the industry, but also previous boat owners who rekindle their passion for the great waterways.”

Joe Dorris, president and owner of Hampton by PlayCraft also noted, “I believe the trend of families purchasing pontoon boats will continue to rise in 2021. The boat business has been absolutely crazy this past year, and if anything is good about the ‘Rona’ it’s that it has brought families back together to spend time with each other. I also believe we as an industry will continue to see more first-time boat buyers coming out the woodwork, which will be great for us all.”

“Foremost,” added Jeff Haradine, vice president of sales at Barletta, “I would suggest that we are in the middle of an active and continuing trend toward a reshaping of the way people work and play during the pandemic. That trend toward people spending more of their time at the lake cottage or ‘outside the city’ will continue to fuel boat sales—especially higher-end boats for the long-time boaters that are re-engaging with the lifestyle. Concurrently but separately, there is a trend of new first-time boaters actively climbing into the market. They are looking for multi-purpose, family-oriented day boats that are easy to own and operate. They do not want things to be overcomplicated and technical. Keep it simple and functional and well-suited to a family for this buyer.”

Ease Of Buying
As Haradine pointed out, another trend that has surfaced this year is ease of buying, meaning that many boaters are attracted to boats with a greater number of standard features and fewer options to simplify the process.

“We are delivering boats loaded with more standard features to our dealer network,” noted Terri Nuechterlein, director of marketing at Silver Wave Pontoons. “This alleviates work for our dealer service departments and delivers a much greater value to the customer because of our buying power. It’s all about making it easy to buy and deliver.”

“Easier-to-order boats seem to be on the rise in the pontoon industry,” concurred Sales Manager Mike Higley of South Bay Pontoons. “Packages on them are becoming much more redefined, so the customer is able to experience a simple and easy buying process. Retails just simply want to get out on the water.”

“Buyers want boats with a lot of standard features and limited options to make buying easier,” added Monroe from Qwest Pontoons. According to Monroe, a few other things buyers look for are bright colors, smaller sizes and usable layouts that are trailerable. Having more standard features and fewer options makes the buying process much easier for first-time buyers, and entry-level boats fit nicely into this segment.

“We see entry-level boats becoming popular,” observed Marketing Director Greg Knight of Avalon Pontoons. “More people are buying pontoon boats for the first time as many other activities have become unavailable. A pontoon allows folks to enjoy socializing on the water with family and hanging out with other boaters while keeping a safe distance.”

Affordable Fun
Going hand-in-hand with ease of buying is affordability, which is also a current trend right now.

“The hottest trend in fiberglass deck boats is offering a product at an affordable price and allowing the consumer to customize their own optional features,” explained Marketing Coordinator Steve Huber of Starcraft Marine. “Our SVX series has had great success doing just that, by making all the features you need standard, and everything you want optional.”

“We are seeing trends in good value models,” agreed Knight who is also the marketing director of Tahoe Pontoons, “models that can give the customer pride of ownership at whatever trim level they desire.”

National Sales Manager Scott Giger of Misty Harbor Boats added, “With so many changing their recreation preferences in 2020 due to COVID, we’ve seen unprecedented sales in the boating industry and a wave of new people discovering boating for the first time. For the last 30 years our company has been known as the ‘best value’ pontoon boat on the market, and with our stunning new Viaggio line, our models are a better deal than ever for first-time buyers. We expect to see that wave of first-time pontoon boat buyers continue through 2021.”

Versatile & Well-Rounded
A couple other major factors that are trending in our segment of the boating industry right now are versatility and well-roundedness in layouts and features.

Steve Huber, the marketing coordinator for Starcraft, Sylvan, and SunChaser pontoons, explained: “The top trend that we are seeing in the pontoon industry is being able to customize your layout by having swingback furniture. It makes it so you can sit forward-facing for a nice cruise down the lake, or flip back to a rear-facing layout that’s perfect for lounging out at the sandbar.”

Alongside versatility comes being well-rounded. President of Coach Marine Group, Chris Riddle, delved into this idea.

“Our customers are looking for high-quality construction, luxurious and well-appointed interiors, smart technology and high performance,” described Riddle. “Today’s consumers don’t just assume all pontoons are equal. They are researching the brands carefully before making a decision and are willing to purchase outside their area to get the pontoon they want.”

Customizable Comfort
When it comes to getting what you want, nothing beats being able to customize your boat. Marketing Manager Kelby Phelps of G3 Boats explained that having options when designing a boat is paramount for many customers.

“We continue to see the addition of options around every aspect of a pontoon boat,” said Phelps. “From electronics and lighting to performance logs and automated Biminis, the options for a customer continue to increase. Being able to provide the perfect pontoon with everything a customer is looking for will continue to drive and evolve the pontoon market.”

Jerimiah Borkowski, director of marketing at Bennington, agrees with this assessment: “More and more of our customers are tailoring their boat to their exact needs and tastes, taking advantage of Bennington’s vast customization options to make it uniquely their own.”

“We continue to see the market for pontoons keep growing substantially,” added Dorris, who is also the president of PlayCraft Boats. “High-end, custom boats continue to lead the way, and PlayCraft will keep pushing the limits and provide customers the boats of their dreams.”

Richer Colors
Naturally, being able to customize your boat to fit your tastes ranges from premium features right down to color preferences, and Trifecta Pontoons has been very mindful of the color trends for 2021.

“We’ve been seeing the industry head towards deeper and richer colors in the base vinyl,” observed Nick Kujawa, the business development manager of Trifecta Pontoons. “This gives the boat a more luxurious look. With younger people and new families getting into the pontoon market, we are noticing they tend to look for more sporty and trendy colors. These new furniture colors that are available with Trifecta are also equipped with cool touch technology. This technology keeps your pontoon furniture 25 percent cooler than the standard base vinyl.”

Peak Performance
Another aspect that never seems to go out of style is performance, and some of the manufacturers pointed out those larger engines and smoother rides are high on many buyers’ priority lists.

“Increased horsepower on motors is becoming the new norm as the pontoon industry is shifting towards more of a performance-based market,” noted General Manager Ryan Casey of Berkshire Pontoons. 

Tim Allen, Montego Bay Pontoons’ vice president of sales, agreed with this: “We see the trend continuing the same as the last couple years with consumers looking for upper-end and higher horsepower pontoons.”

Adam Heckaman, president of Splendor Boats, also pointed out that the way the boat handles and accommodates everyone is equally as important. “I feel people want a spacious, smooth-riding boat,” said Heckaman. “That is exactly what our deck boat offers!”

“We continue to see increasing demand across our product portfolio,” added Esteban Siegert, vice president of sales and marketing at Crest Pontoons. “Boating is a great, safe alternative for families to disconnect from everyday stressors and spend quality time together. We expect more families to join the boating community in the next 12 months. Demand for higher horsepower and larger boats continues to outpace general demand. We foresee the trend to continue into 2021. We will see a defining trend into new innovations, especially those that promote comfort and ease of operation.”

Technologically Advanced
Lastly, industry leaders pointed out that pontooners are after high-tech features for their boats. With an increasingly technology-driven world, it makes sense that boaters would want the same conveniences on their vessels.
“As technology and connectivity continue to become an integrated part of everyday life, pontoon consumers expect that experience on their boats as well,” pointed out Garrett Koschak, the global product manager of Manitou Pontoons. “Manitou offers digital dashboard layouts standard on all of our models, giving customers access to a fully integrated experience at the tip of their finger.”

“We continue to see more demand for the triple pontoons that can handle higher horsepower engines and perform well in larger bodies of water,” added Riddle, who is also the president of Coach Marine Group. “Our first-time buyer has returned and they are arriving at the dealerships well informed on product features. They are expecting higher quality construction and best value as well as ‘smart features’ built into the design of the furniture and console. Today’s buyer is comfortable with digital technology and taking advantage of more advanced features available, such as with our NMEA2K backbone which is standard on all of our pontoons.”

“The desire for more high-tech options continues to be the focal point of the requests for JC TriToon Marine,” agreed Joe Sparks, vice president and general manager of JC TriToon Marine. “The overwhelmingly positive dealer and consumer response to our industry-leading innovations presented last model year is pushing for even more high-tech features in the future. We have aligned ourselves with Positron Corporation in Elkhart, Ind., which has given us access to the latest high-tech innovations and manufacturing techniques. This also provides us the opportunity to make the operations of our boats the safest, most reliable and most enjoyable in the industry. Our goal is to use the latest technologies and materials to continue to raise the bar on true innovation, safety and comfort.”

So there you have it, folks. Now let’s get out there and see what new 2021 models align with our preferences and these trends!


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