No matter how old your boat is, chances are that you have spent thousands of dollars on it. As such, it makes absolute no sense to not protect as best as you can from bangs, scrapes, dings, and scratches. Whether you’re frequently docking it or are in heavily populated waterways where other boat owners might not be as careful as you, it pays to attach pontoon boat bumper guards.
In this guide I am going to tell you everything you need to know, including what the best pontoon boat bumpers are. Continue to read on to find out:
- What size you will need
- How many you will need
- The types of pontoon boat fenders there are
- Which pontoon bumpers you need to buy
- Which dock edge pontoon fenders are best
I will start off giving an overview, so you know the basics, and then after that you can read some pontoon boat fender reviews, with product recommendations to suit all scenarios for all sizes of boat, with pads for corners, sides, and dock edge purposes.
1. What Size Fenders Are Best for Your Pontoon Boat?
Choosing the right type of bumper guards for pontoon boats actually isn’t that simple, and it’s easy to get it wrong. I want to make things as clear and as easy for you, so you buy the best pontoon fenders straight off the bat.
What it boils down to is actually how long your boat is.
The more length your boat has, the larger the pontoon bumper pads should be. Here’s a well considered rule that you should follow and stick to:
What Size You Need: Always have one inch of diameter for every five foot of boat length.
In a real-world example, let’s say you have a 20-foot boat, then you want to buy pontoon fenders that are at least 4 inches in diameter.
2. How Many Pontoon Fender Bumpers Will You Need?
Don’t buy any less than three. That’s the very bare minimum, with one being attached to the fore, one at the aft, and then the final one at the widest part of your boat.
But… if you really want to protect against all bangs, scrapes, dings, and damage that can occur, then double-up.
If that seems excessive, follow this rule which is commonly considered best practice:
How Many You Will Need: For every 10 foot of waterline you have, get one fender.
Using that rule above, if you had a 20-foot pontoon boat, you would buy 4 side fenders in total, with two on each side.
3. The Different Types of Boat Fenders Available
This is the primary area where confusion arises, simply because there are so many different types with so many different names. Don’t let this confuse you, I am going to make it really simple.
|Type||Description||Do I Recommend?|
|Side Fenders||Designed to fit onto pontoon side railings, they are made from highly-durable material, and can withstand a lot of punishment whilst protecting your boat.||Yes! These are 100% recommended as they will help to protect the side railings and framework that appears on all pontoon boats. Click here for my recommendation.|
|Fence-Saver Fenders||These are longer in depth than other pontoon boat bumpers as they drop all the way down to protect the aluminum railings found on this type of vessel.||Yes! These are a must if you want to protect your fencing. They attach very securely and come with straps for added reliability. Click here for my recommendation.|
|Corner Fenders||You would buy these to replace pontoon boat corner bumpers that are old, damaged, or lost. They are designed to blend seamlessly into the design of your boat.||Yes! They are ideal pontoon bumpers, but when you buy make sure you get the correct ones to fit your boat. Taylor Made make awesome ones, here’s my recommendation.|
|Cylindrical Fenders||These are commonly used on small boats. Cylindrical in shape, they have little eyelets on to thread rope through. They can be threaded length ways or will hang.||No! They will work, but I don’t recommend them as they are complex to arrange and require more maintenance.|
|Ball Cylinders||Most of the time you will see these being used on powerboats and commercial fishing boats. They are attached using just the one line per fender and are hollow.||No! For pontooners these are going to be too large and can move around a lot, and honestly won’t look great on your boat.|
|Transom Fenders||Designed to protect the transom of your boat, you will commonly see these being attached to swimming platforms if on a pontoon. They are not designed to fit onto rails.||No! Quite simply, you’re going to struggle with them as they are very large, can split, and aren’t easy to store on your pontoon boat when not being used.|
|Flat Fenders||Modular by nature, you can buy as many as you like and fit them together to suit your boat’s configuration. They stick flat to the side of your boat once attached.||No! For me they tend to be cheap and nasty looking and can tear as well. They are not as robust as other pontoon fender bumpers on the market.|
4. What Pontoon Boat Bumpers You Need to Buy & Why
The table of different pontoon boat fenders seen above should be enough, but if you want some more detail, I wanted to get into each one individually, explain why I recommend them, which product you should buy, and what makes them the best.
The best pontoon bumpers are the ones that are specifically designed and manufactured for your type of boat. The design and construction of a pontoon has a width that is same from the rear to the front. They are not designed in the classic boat shape.
When you add in the complication of aluminum fencing and rails, you’ve got a lot of boat there that is at risk from being damaged due to collisions, scrapes, or when docking.
Because of that there are not many companies who actually make this type of bumper.
The recommendations for pontoon boat bumpers shown below are all taken from the table above. They are designed to fit snugly with cleats and clips, with no need for drilling into the railings or any other form is disruptive installation method. Instead, they will hang securely or be clipped to your boat railings and fence.
Side Pontoon Fenders
To protect the square railings and side framework on your boat, you simply buy these. My recommendation as part of this review would be the Taylor Made brand, as they are specifically designed just for pontoon boats, and all sizes.
You can buy them online at Amazon, (get 2 on each side for every 10 foot of side panel) where you can also read the specification and some of the reviews that have already been left.
I love them, as I do all Taylor Made pontoon fenders. They are made with marine grade vinyl material that is also UV resistant so should stand up well to be exposed to harsh sunlight during the summer months, with no degrading.
What some people don’t understand is that they have air inside of them and are hollow. They can start to deflate over time, just like any inflatable would. But that’s fine, because there’s a valve on the product to let you blow them up again.
These pontoon boat fenders will fit very snugly against the side of your railings, and you can strap them under the deck or above the tubes using the accessories that come with the package – two long straps and plastic side buckles.
Handy Hint: For an average sized pontoon boat of 20 foot, I would recommend that you buy two for each side of your boat, making 4 in total.
A pair on each side works very well, especially if you tend to dock in a perpendicular fashion and don’t want to damage your tubes or bow.
They do take a little bit of fiddling around to get right, and first time you attach and install them it might take you 20 minutes. But once you’ve done it once, it’s a job that will take just a few minutes in the future.
If you find yourself wanting to remove or mount them quickly (and some people do prefer to store them when not in dock), then I would recommend that you buy the compatible rail mounts as well.
Fence Saving Pontoon Bumpers
I personally could not do without these, no matter how much you think you might need them. I have seen enough crumpled and bent fences to last me a lifetime, so it pays to protect your investment with some of these.
Again, I recommend Taylor Made pontoon fenders for your fencing, but a slightly different product this time which is the Fender Saver on Amazon.
Exclusively designed for the needs of pontooners, they fit just right between the tubes and deck, giving great protection to the fence and rails. They can be securely clipped and attached to your fence to stop anything else coming into damaging contact with the aluminum.
Made from a hard and solid plastic, they are hollow just like the Taylor Made pontoon fender I recommend for your boat sides. Because they are filled with air, you don’t drill them to your railings, but instead strap or hang them in place.
They are sold as individual fenders, so again, if you had a 20-foot pontoon, I would recommend that you buy 4 in total, with a pair for each side of your boat.
Best Pontoon Boat Corner Bumpers
The best pontoon boat fenders for the corner of you boat is again a Taylor Made product. Now most of you won’t need to buy these, as they tend to be something that already comes with your boat.
However, they can become damaged, lost, or even ripped off over time, especially when docking. Take a look at the Taylor Made Corner Fenders on Amazon.
You will need different fenders depending on the configuration and design of your boat. Don’t make the mistake of buying the wrong ones.
The bumpers that I recommend will easily mount and attach in a permanent fashion to the aluminum corner on your boat, providing an air-cushioned impact when docking. The Taylor Made product above comes with everything that you need including all fasteners.
They are the same, in other words there is no right or left configuration. You will need to buy one for each corner, and simply reverse it up or down to fit either a left or right position.
If you haven’t got any on your boat right now, then buy them now.
You genuinely won’t regret it as no matter how experienced or careful you are when docking, little accidents will happen from time to time – for example, I bet you’ve dinged your car at least once in your life when reversing? The same applies to your boat. It will happen at some point!
You can see an example of what I mean in this photo above!
You can click here for more information on this product, click here.
5. Dock Bumpers for Pontoon Boats
And finally, what about pontoon dock bumpers?
These are not attached to your boat but are instead fixed to the actual docking area where you leave your boat. There are plenty of dock edge pontoon fenders on the market, but which are the best?
Here are my recommendations, all of which are affordable, easy to attach, and actually work.
Dock Edge Boat Saver
These pontoon dock bumpers can also be used on pilings, not just dock edges. It’s basically the same as having pontoon front bumper and side pads on your boat, but instead fitted to the dock.
Made from tough vinyl PVC, with UV inhibitors and fungicides, these dock bumpers on Amazon have an air cushion inside that lets air release slowly when pushed against. You can either set them up to be placed in a vertical or horizontal position.
Thy literally take minutes to fit and come with stainless steel fasteners which you hook on the mounting groove. It’s a dead simple solution that anybody can attach and fit.
Corner Dock Wheels
If you have ever come into a dock a bit too hard and fast (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?) then corner dock wheels could be just what you are looking for.
How they work is very simple; they will roll you away from the dock edge, stopping your pontoon from being damaged on the dock edges.
The best corner dock wheels I have seen in action are the Kuga ones on Amazon. With a heavy galvanized bracket and pre-drilled holes, they take just minutes to install and will prevent your boat from suffering direct damage from an unintentional hit.
As with the fenders you fit onto your boat, I would recommend that you buy these in pairs for every dock side that you bring your pontoon into regularly.
Handy Hint: You will need a hand pump to inflate these dock wheels. You can buy a small pump on Amazon which will let you inflate them in seconds.
Finally: How to Attach Pontoon Boat Fenders
As discussed in this guide, there are various different types of pontoon fenders on the market. Some of them will come with instructions packaged, but even then, it’s not always immediately clear how you should attach them properly.
Handy Hint: No matter which ones you buy, make sure you also purchase rail hangers and adjusters. It will make your life so much easier when on the water.
If your package doesn’t come with instructions, or attachment accessories then you can buy after-market hangers, clips or cleats (see some here) for your pontoon bumper guards. Rail fender mounts and adjusters are also available to buy online.
I’ve put an extensive guide on how you can attach, fit, and adjust your pontoon bumpers. To find out, read this guide to attaching and fixing.
Pontoon boat fenders are an essential accessory if you want to keep your boat in tip-top condition. No matter how safe you are, there’s always other boaters you need to protect yourself against too.
By using them, you can help to keep the value or your boat from depreciating and reduce the amount of money you have to pay for expensive repairs and parts.
Don’t be put off by thinking that they are complicated, or not knowing what size you will need. Re-read the guide above, that will tell you how many you need and at what size. And then the attachment process is dead simple, anybody can do it. If in doubt, use the search function on Pontoonopedia; there’s a wealth of information from experienced pontooners ready to help you with their written how-to guides.
It’s a no-brainer.
Go gets yours now.
Handy Hint: Prolong the life of your boat fenders with an effective cleaning process.