Skip to Content

What is Pontoon Draft & How Does it Impact Them

Pontoon boats are great for recreational activities on water. If you are new to the Pontoon world, you probably must have heard about Pontoon drafts. You might be wondering what is the draft of a Pontoon boat?

With a Pontoon boat, the draft refers to how deep your boat is floating in the water. There are different kinds of boats available on the market. Each of these might have a different kind of draft. The draft can determine whether you can use your boat in shallow waters or much deeper waters like the ocean.

I know it can seem a little tricky to grasp at first and you might have a hard time picking what kind of draft you need for your boat.

But fret not, I’m here to answer all of your queries about drafts and how they affect your Pontoon boat. So, without further ado, let’s get right to it.

What Is Pontoon Draft?

A Pontoon Draft is a measure of how deep your Pontoon goes underwater, while it is floating. There are mainly 3 different kinds of drafts: Shallow Draft, Deep Draft, or Shoal Draft.

You measure the draft of your boat by measuring the distance between the lowest point that sits in the water, to the surface of the water.

Shallow draft boats are great for taking out in small rivers or places with very little water. These boats have drafts that go only a few inches under the water. So, they don’t need too much depth.

On the other hand, deep-draft boats have a much longer draft. For that, they go much deeper into the waterline than shallow draft boats. These are good for oceans and seas.

A shoal draft is a kind of like a mix of these two and it usually refers to when a boat has a shallower draft than a boat of a similar size. You might use shoal draft boats to use near shoals or shallow waters.

Pontoons are famous as shallow draft boards. This is what makes them popular, and great for use without having to travel to the sea. You can pretty much use them anywhere you want.

On the flip side, a sailboat or a speed boat would usually have a much deeper draft and is a deep draft boat.

How Does Pontoon Draft Impact A Pontoon?

The draft of a boat determines where you can use your boat. Pontoons are known for their shallow drafts and hence they are great for shallow waters. They have a flat bottom hull, with their buoyant tubes. Thus, they usually never snag on anything below the waterline.

Traditional boats or deep draft boats will usually face a lot of trouble when traversing through shallow water. You can even damage the hull if the water isn’t deep enough. With the Pontoon boat’s low draft, this isn’t a problem at all.

Since Pontoon boats are made with Pontoons or those balloon-like things at the bottom, they are very buoyant. It’s almost as if they float on top of the water instead of sitting in it like other deep drafts boats do.

Only a small fraction of the boat is underwater and so Pontoon boats can easily traverse through very shallow water bodies.

This means that the low draft of the Pontoon boats allows them to be used in inland waters. This is what makes them so popular for people who love to do recreational activities on inland water.

Even with much bigger Pontoons, the draft isn’t too much. They have a flatter design and the buoyant quality of the Pontoons make them very easy to slip into shallow waters.

They also have a very lightweight aluminum or fiberglass frame, so that there isn’t too much weight pushing them down.

For instance, even a Pontoon with an 18-inch draft can traverse easily through as little as 2 feet of water. You can easily beach your pontoon for a shore barbeque or picnic.

There is perhaps one downside of having the low draft of Pontoons. Since they can be used in rather shallow waters, inboard engines can get damaged if the boat runs aground.

There’s also the risk of your jet engines sucking up silt and debris from the waterbed. This isn’t usually a concern with boats with deeper drafts since they can easily trim up their outboards.

How Much Does Pontoon Boat Draft?

A Pontoon boat usually does not draft a lot. They are known to be shallow draft boats. They will usually lie just on top of the water, instead of completely in it. You can expect drafts to be about 16 inches. This is an estimate, and the draft differs according to load and whether your motor is on.

There are two instances to consider when it comes to measuring draft: when your pontoon boat is draft down and when it is draft up.

When you have a completely trimmed down motor and a fully submerged prop, your Pontoon is draft down. If the motor of your boat is trimmed up and its prop is out of water, that means the Pontoon is draft up.

Usually, for an 18 to 20 feet Pontoon, the draft will be about 16 to 24 inches when the boat’s prop is down. With the prop out of the water, however, it can be as little as 10 inches.

For bigger boats of about 20 to 24 feet, the draft is usually 20 to 24 inches with the prop down and only 12 inches with the trimmed up outboard and prop out of the water.

When it comes to Tritoon boats, it can be harder to give an estimate because they have an extra Pontoon tube in between the regular ones.

This middle pontoon usually goes lower than the side pontoons, thus giving your boat a deeper draft. You can check the manual or manufacturer’s guide for details.

How Does Load Affect Your Pontoon’s Draft?

The load on your Pontoon can also affect the draft. The estimates given above are usually for a balanced Pontoon. If you have a very light load on your boat, then the Pontoons will float higher in the water, thus reducing the draft. Similarly, if you put too much weight on the Pontoon, the draft will increase as the boat sinks deeper.

The heavier the load, the more you will affect your draft. Since you probably got the boat for its low draft, to begin with, avoid going overboard with too much weight so as not to affect the draft too much.

You should also be careful about distributing the weight. If the front is heavier, then your boat will nosedive and have a higher draft on the front than in the rear.

You will see that the lowest point of your Pontoon will usually be the rear and draft measurements usually refer to how deep the rear sits on the water.

The Pontoon should always be deeper in the water at the back of the boat and higher in the front, to avoid a nosedive. So, keep that in mind and try to have an even weight distribution.


Well, now you know what is the draft of a pontoon boat and how it affects your boat. You can now plan trips and activities even with shallower waters because you know your draft isn’t going to be too deep. So have fun and I hope this cleared all your confusion about Pontoon drafts.

Thanks for tuning in and wishing you to have a blast on your next Pontoon event.