Why would you spend thousands of dollars on a pontoon boat, and then not cover it?
It’s a question I ask myself constantly when seeing other pontoon owners who don’t bother to spend just a little extra money. When you buy a pontoon boat cover you can keep your boat not just protected from adverse weather conditions, but also other risks such as vandalism and theft.
Think about it for a second.
Weather is constantly changing through the seasons, and your boat will be subjected to humidity and temperature changes that can really damage it, especially in those cold winter months. Cold weather and rain can lead to expansion and contraction, as well as the gel coat on the boat becoming oxidized and faded.
You’ve also got other factors to consider. For example, my friend’s pontoon boat wasn’t covered in his garage and one winter a family of street cats moved in, scratched the seating to pieces, and left fur, rotten food debris, and detritus inside. It was a nasty surprise when he took it out of storage next.
Not only that though. A covered pontoon is an invisible pontoon (well, almost). By fitting a boat cover to your pontoon it’s out of sight and out of mind to many potential thieves and vandals so get it covered, and you have an extra layer added to your peace of mind.
Buy a pontoon boat cover and there’s every chance you can increase the life span of your boat so that it doesn’t depreciate in value. By protecting your boat with a cover, you can not only enjoy it for many more years to come, but also have an investment asset that you can sell on for more money in the future.
It just makes sense.
But I do understand why some people might not bother.
Most of the pontoon boat covers that come with the boat you buy aren’t up to much, and pretty hard to secure down.
Whilst your factory standard boat cover might be garbage, don’t let that put you off buying a higher quality new one. The ones I recommend are all best of the best, with easy to affix snaps, and made from high quality durable materials.
So, without further ado, let’s go take a look at the best pontoon boat covers on the market, all of which I have used, or have canvassed feedback on from other boat owners that I know.
My Personal Choice: Vortex Heavy Duty Cover
This is what I use.
Because it’s really, really, durable and it doesn’t’ cost the earth either.
Want to see for yourself? Check out the Vortex cover on Amazon.
In my part of the world, I need something that’s going to stand up to the punishment that our local weather system metes out, and the Vortex is exactly that.
It is 100% waterproof. Not water-resistant, but waterproof. There is a massive difference here. I need a fully waterproof cover, and the tough 600D fabric is exactly that.
Despite it being thick, it’s still relatively easy to cover the entire boat. Admittedly you might need some help to do a really good job, but that’s made a lot easier with the elasticated base which lets me stretch it over all parts of my boat.
It also has plenty of straps.
That also differentiates it from many others on the market at a similar price. Don’t ask me why, but some brands seem to scrimp on the straps – perhaps it’s a financial decision? But the Vortex doesn’t suffer from that complaint, with 12 straps that are enough for a really secure covering.
For me that’s important, as whilst in the main I don’t advise having your pontoon cover on whilst driving, this one is secure enough for that to not be a problem when getting hit by the wind on my trailer.
I’ve had mine now for 3 years. The warranty is set to 5, but I don’t honestly anticipate having to activate that, purely due to how good and reliable it has been so far.
Best Budget Choice: Yescom 600D Oxford Blue Cover
Don’t let the current reviews on Amazon put you off, I love this cover.
The best feature would be the elastic that goes around the cover. This lets you get the cover on really tight (with a little help from a friend) with some buckles that go over the top. Honestly, it takes no time at all to put it on and is very simple to fit, taking around half the time of other boat covers I have seen in action.
If there’s one downside to it, it would be the low number of straps. For a really secure fitting, I would want more options, but then that’s just me. I like things to be 100% contained and covered.
It also comes with a carry bag which you don’t have to pay extra for, is lightweight, and above all, VERY CHEAP! Click here to view Amazon prices.
Best Features Choice: StormPRO Pontoon Boat Cover
And how about a cover with more features than you shake a stick at?
Then the StormPRO cover is for you as it has some subtle differences when compared to the other covers I am reviewing in this buyer’s guide.
Primarily that focuses around the dual vents which help to reduce wind lofting which can damage your cover and boat, plus helps to release any trapped moisture.
You are going to pay more for this, but it’s awesome, and in truth, I would have bought this if I had seen it before I purchased my Yescom cover three years ago.
Buy this cover and you’re going to save a lot of time in cleaning up your boat once the summer comes around again. 100% recommended, so go check it out on Amazon to see for yourself.
Best Rated Cover on Amazon: EmpireCovers Aqua Armor Pontoon Cover
Full disclosure, I have not used or seen this boat cover in action, but the reviews on Amazon make it stand out so much that I felt I needed to feature it today.
Of all the cheap pontoon covers available to buy, this one has the best online reviews, and whilst you will pay a little more for it, it seems to be the people’s choice on Amazon – and who can argue with that?
Why should you choose it though?
Well, according to the reviews online, it’s very sturdy, fits very well, stands up to bad weather, is easy to manipulate, and comes with long straps for enhanced tightening.
That sounds pretty standard in all honesty, so why is it more expensive?
It’s all down to the 1,200D polyester. Yep, you heard that right, twice as much thickness as the other covers I am reviewing on this page.
That alone makes it an excellent purchase, as the primary feature you should consider when buying a pontoon boat cover is the durability of the material, and this one ticks those boxes and then some.
It quite simply offers a level of protection that other budget covers can’t.
The Best No Frills: Brightent Pontoon Cover
You want something cheap with no frills?
Then I think this could be what you are looking for.
It’s called the Brightent pontoon cover and comes in three different sizes, so if you do decide to buy, make sure you order the correct one.
Whilst it’s not a lot of money, it still has outstanding Amazon reviews on a reasonable high average score.
However, it would be remiss of me not to highlight some of the online comments from people who have purchased it so that you can make your own mind up.
Common themes from buyers tend to focus on the how long it lasts, with reports of tears and rips inside of 12 months. Now I can’t personally say whether this is a big issue or not, it’s simply what I am seeing online.
So please do your own due diligence before purchasing.
But, it would be unfair of me to not highlight some of the more positive comments about it too. Those positive comments tend to focus on the ease of fitting, the reasonable price, and how it manages to keep the water from seeping into the boat.
What Size Cover Should You Buy?
In my own experience, it’s better to buy a pontoon cover that it bigger than what you actually think you might need.
Because with a longer one it means you can cover the top of the outboard and at front of the deck too.
Whilst many of the covers that you see for sale might say it’s designed to fit a 24-foot boat, but yours is just a 19-footer, don’t let that worry you. It’s to go over, rather than under, and you can pull them tight anyway.
The covers in my best selection and reviews above will all fit standard pontoon boat sizes, but always go a foot or two more than you actually need. It will give your boat a far better level of protection.
Also consider the color. I don’t recommend that you buy anything in a really bright color as I’ve seen examples where the ink has bled into the upholstery of the boat when damp.
How to Take Care of Your Pontoon Boat Cover
If you do decide to buy one of the best pontoon boat covers featured in this guide, then make sure, just like your boat, that you take care of it. It’s an investment to protect your boat, so make you protect the cover itself too.
Here are some very brief tips on how to take care of your cover.
- Treat with 303 protectant spray (see on Amazon) each year, it will last for years
- Don’t keep the cover on whilst driving, the wind can rip them
- Always replace any missing snags before it’s too late
- Don’t let water, snow, dirt, or leaves accumulate on the cover
- Use boat cover support poles so water or snow won’t make the cover sag
How to Fit a Pontoon Boat Cover
If you have never installed or fitted a pontoon boat cover before, then I would recommend that you watch this excellent YouTube video below. It shows you how to arrange the cover over the boat, how to pull tight making sure to make the most from the coverage, and the best way to pull and secure the strapping.
Finally: Custom-Made Covers
And just one final consideration; custom made covers.
I know one local pontooner who actually had a local canvas company make a custom cover after their manufacturer-made one was destroyed in a hail storm. It cost him a lot of money, but 3 years on it’s still doing the business and has no tears or issues. You can see a photo of it below.
I believe it cost around $1,000 to have made and comes with an 8-year warranty so do shop around for a quote with custom boat cover companies if you want something 100% tailored to your pontoon.
Q&A on Pontoon Boat Covers
Since publishing this post I’ve had a lot of feedback on Facebook from boaters wanting to know a little bit more. I’ve put some of their questions below, with answers either from me, or other pontoon boat owners.
“I am getting ready to purchase a new 18-foot Quest pontoon boat. One of the options is to spend another $900 on a mooring cover and installation? I don’t plan on having a lift and awning for the boat in the next month or so. Are there any better or cheaper options to protect my pontoon boat from the elements or is it best to bite the bullet and have the mooring cover installed at the marina before they deliver to my home?”
I would most definitely recommend that you get it. It’s worth every penny to protect your boat interior, and if you don’t buy it now and decide to do in the future then you could end up spending thousands on a custom-made cover – unless you choose one of the cheaper Amazon ones shown above.
Just think about how much the interior of your new pontoon boat has cost, let’s say around $3,000. With that in mind, why not spend the extra £900?
There are so many people who will spend thousands on a new pontoon boat but won’t purchase a cover. Get the cover!
“I’m using a tarpaulin to cover my pontoon in winter because I am a cheapskate! Does anyone have any good designs for a PVC tree to keep pontoon cover up at a pitch? Looking for something cheap and effective that the boat cover can sit on top of.”
Some pontooners might recommend that you use milk crates stacked on top of each other in the play pen area to give the cover some pitch to it.
That can work, but the corners of the milk crates will tear the tarpaulin unless you fit some pipe insulation on the edges of the top crate.
A better idea which I saw on Facebook was where this guy created a PVC frame from tubing which can be collapsed down and re-connected year after year. You can see his design in the image below.
“I live in the Midwest as you know we can get some pretty rough winds! What do you recommend when a storm is coming, should I take the boat cover off?”
Most pontoon covers will not handle being towed on a trailer at 70 miles per hour. So, if winds are going to more than that I would take it off to save the cover but give it plenty of time to dry out before putting it back on.
If you do leave the cover on in a storm it could come loose and damage your pontoon.
Also take off any loose seats and gear and get that all packed up into your house.
I would then let some air out of your trailer’s tires just enough, so the rims aren’t sitting on the ground. That will make it harder for the boat to roll and put the trailer tongue on the ground.
Also, if possible put it as close to a structure as possible and auger to the ground and add extra straps boat to trailer. You can purchase cargo straps and screw down in ground anchors and secure the boat.
Doing the above will help to reduce the amount of wind getting under the rig.
“I am just about to buy one for my Avalon, but before I take the plunge can you tell me how long pontoon covers are meant to last?”
This depends on a number of factors including the quality of the cover, how you maintain it, and the local weather plays a massive factor. Winters hurts them as do extreme sun.
Plus, if you don’t keep the tent poles in right and let it fill with water or trailer with it loose then it definitely won’t last as along.
I have seen cheap covers last years when well taken care of and expensive covers deteriorate in a year or so when not looked after properly.
Keep you cover clean and use a 303 protectant on it and it should last you for a few years at the least.
“Has anyone successfully taken an aftermarket boat cover and added snaps so that it worked like a cover built for that boat?”
I don’t personally know any pontoon owner who has done this, but did see someone on Facebook report back with their own findings which went something like this:
“I was going to purchase a generic cover from Overtons for $350. I added the costs of the poles and vents $125, plus the cost of the snaps and machine to install them $150, some minor sewing by someone $100. That equals some around $725. I paid $900 for a total custom one, with better fabric than what Overtons had.”
“What do method do you use to clean your boat cover?
There a many different ways you can do it. I personally clean my cover myself using a steam cleaner and dawn dish soap – then rinse it all off really well afterwards. This works great if you’ve got tree sap or mold developing on the cover.
There are some pontooners who take their covers to a laundromat. Some laundromats near marinas and docks will clean them, protecting any material water resistance.
To do this you might have to pay around $35 which is very cheap annual maintenance on a $1,500 cover.
“Any ideas on how to keep a pinhole on your boat cover from getting any bigger? Not sure if it is from fireworks as our lake neighbors do have several 4th of July firework celebrations. It could be something else, but I don’t want it to get any bigger.”
There is a product called Tear Mender that works great for this and it’s also waterproof and available to buy on websites such as Amazon.
I’ve used it to fix snowmobile covers and then tow them in open trailers down the expressway. It never lets go and works very well.
It will darken the fabric a little even though it’s clear when it dries.
“My pontoon boat cover has become very dry and brittle so am looking for any tips to soften it up a little bit before I try Scotch Guard. What do you suggest?”
To be honest, it might be too late and is probably time that you bought a new cover.
But before you do that, try seeing if a 303 protectant will help, or any sort of vinyl conditioner for that matter.