A Few Tips on How to Drive a Pontoon Boat

By Andy Whitcomb

Aug 16, 2021

Pontoon boats are versatile and fun. The perfect boat for a relaxing stroll with the family and a great fishing day. Here are some tips on learning to driving one.

Summer is here and everyone is having a great time, probably near or in water. Many are enjoying boating as part of the festivities. One of the most popular boat types is the pontoon boat. Because it is a wide, flat platform on 2 or 3 large aluminum tubes, some capable of 10 or more passengers, it is often thought of as a party boat. However, they are versatile enough to be used for skiing or fishing. If you are renting one at the lake for the first time, perhaps you’re wondering how to drive a pontoon boat. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Regarding how to drive a pontoon boat for beginners, it is relatively simple and very much like driving any other boat. How to drive a pontoon boat on a lake will be easier than on a river, due of course to the likelihood of current issues. Because of the relatively large flat space and stability, it may seem like you are stepping on a parade float and feel the uncontrollable urge to wave at everyone. However, even though the answer to the question, “are pontoon boats easy to drive?” could simply be answered “yes,” there are several requirements.


The first requirement for how to drive a pontoon boat for beginners or even experienced boaters is safety. Go through a standard safety checklist. Make sure you have all of the necessary life jackets, signaling equipment, tools, and a fire extinguisher. And you’ve double checked the weather forecast too, right? Because, even though these boats are stable and have railings, they ride high are best suited for calm waters.

Start Slow

Familiarize yourself with all of the controls and warn all PDF-wearing passengers to find a seat, which may be quite plush on some versions. Put the key, attached to a kill switch lanyard, in the ignition, untie all ropes and shove off. Ease forward on the throttle and keep in mind that boats don’t exactly have brakes. To stop moving forward, you’ll need to put it in reverse. Before venturing very far, warn your passengers and give this a try now, so that you start to gain a feel for the cushion you’ll need for halting forward progress.

Have Fun

Take advantage of the features of your pontoon. Most come with a canopy for some shade or escape from that passing shower you missed in the forecast. And because pontoon boat operation is rarely a solo event, while getting the feel of how to drive a pontoon boat, delegate a bit. After all, you are the captain and someone needs to stay alert and at the wheel. Someone else can locate the coolers in the ample storage space and bait lines as you try to set up a good drift for walleye.

Do you need a license to drive a pontoon boat? That depends on boating requirements in your state. Learning how to drive a pontoon boat is not difficult but it is wise to do a little research ahead of time and go ahead and take an online boat safety course before any major outing on the water. That way, you’ll be sure to be waving to everyone for the right reasons.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.