This topic came to mind after reading another thread in which a new purchase morphed into a discussion about the size of the motor. I am not sure if this exists already, but I thought it would be a good spot for owners to communicate their regrets or mistakes when purchasing their boat. Thus it could serve as a more concise reference instead of having to scour through hundreds of threads. For example, I added the extra wide captains chair on my 2014 2350 RBR. I love the chair, but it narrowed the walkway between the chair and the bar counter enough that I wish I had gone with the normal sized chair.
You'd likely pick up some speed and performance with a stainless prop.Golly I hope I am not in the wrong place but working through the menus is cornfuzin' So formerly regrets but not necessarily now:
This is a review of a 2018 Bennington 24SLX custom tritoon boat purchased in July 2017. We saw a model of the boat at the dealer and build ours from the ground up. I had done quite a bit of research before purchasing, having been to boat shows and test driving boats from various dealers. The main reason we purchased the Bennington was to please my wife. A tritoon is not my first choice of boats for the kinds of things I like to do although I have nothing against them. With any boat, or car for that matter, my two main criteria are performance and value for the money. One factor I did consider was dealer location. We are located directly on Kentucky Lake and the closest serious dealer is in Murray KY who sells only Bennington boats. I have nothing but good comments about the dealer who was very easy and pleasant to work with. The mistake I made was to take my wife to look at the boat there. Her criteria have more to do with color and status, the Bennington being the Cadillac of pontoon boats. Dealers with several other brands were closer to Nashville, still another 45 minutes further away. Having a dealer closer in case of repairs was desirable.
It’s too late for regrets so this is more an analysis and review. My main criticisms of the boat have to do with value for the money and performance. The boat is nice looking but compared to two other very similar boats I could have saved $4000 and $7000 respectively. I could eat features to save money. In terms of value it appears that Bennington tries to save a few dollars here and there and our boat had some design and construction issues. For starters the Bennington lacked blocks to hold the doors open and can use more cup holders strategically placed. Cheap enough. The Bennington layout my wife picked is the traditional L-shaped seating across from the console. You have to lift a seat to access a cutout for a wastebasket for which I haven’t been able to find one that fits. Couldn’t they have supplied a $2 basket that fits? To access the storage nearest the side gate you have to lift the seatback which lacked a pull handle. I fixed that with a strap from my wife’s purse. Most pontoons/tritoons have an outside access door for that location. The idea of having seats is for people to sit on and not having to get up to get stuff. The seat nearest the rear of the L-seating had the blocks underneath holding the seat in place installed on the wrong side so when the boat slowed down anyone seating there would slide forward along with the seat. The dealer ordered blocks which I installed in the correct location. Another annoyance which the dealer claimed was a Bennington feature was the lack of a cut-out in the boat cover where the front struts for the Bimini locks into place. Thus if you had the Bimini up you could not zipper shut the cover allowing water, birds or whatever to get under the cover. Other companies did not have this design and provided the same Velcro cut-outs around all three strut locations. I had to pay a canvas shop to fix this problem. There appeared to be stitches marking for such a cutout and I wonder if they just rushed the order or tried to save a bit on materials and labor. After only about 3 trips out with the Bimini up I noticed wear marks on both sides where the Bimini snapped into place. The dealer had these reinforced under warranty.
Probably the biggest irritation is the Enviro-fill fuel system. If fueling at a gas pump the problem isn’t that great except that one needs to keep holding on to the nozzle else it fall out with any jarring. Filling from a gas can is a real pain. We fill our boat at our dock or in the drive-way from 5 gallon gas cans. The design of the intake is such that the gas backs up and pours on the side of the boat or inside the boat. Using a gas can with a flexible pull-out spout just doesn’t work because the spout gets pinched. The two other boats I liked and several others had large intake openings in the rear of the boat where one could stand on the rear deck and pour directly into a wide opening. The solution provided by Bennington is a small plastic funnel about 6” long that inserts into the opening. However, trying to pour gas in this manner still generates a lot of back-flow spillage and is a slow process. The solution I developed is to buy a large skinny funnel at Wal-Mart, heat it to provide more bend and insert that. I will provide more detail and photographs under the technical section. I paid for the LED lighting feature on the Bimini struts. I should have paid more attention but in looking at the blue light feature on other boats I thought the Bennington would be more extensive that it really is. It turned out that only one roof strut had something like 4 lights on it, so while cute did not provide a lot of light to see by. Had I known this I would not have wasted my money on this option. It would have been nice to have lights on at least one other strut. The mid-toon floor storage is nice and does have a bilge pump but it still picks up water and the bilge pump is not automatic. This limits what can be stored there. I noticed that other builders had the same issue. I don’t know why they can’t build a channel to have water flow to the outside as it enters the cover area.
As far as performance goes, the boat does 38 mph with my wife and I on board and neither of us is large. I suppose I expected it to go faster what with the publicity videos making it look like a bass boat planning out of the water. We replaced a 24’ pontoon with a Yamaha 115 that ran really well and I guess I was expecting this tritoon to go considerably faster. Well, with the Yamaha 150 this boat gets the toons about 1/3 to 1/2 out of the water at 5800 RPMs with one skinny wife on board doing the driving. The boat has a 15X15 ¼ aluminum Yamaha prop. The dealer said we would only get about another 3-4 mph with a 200 but there would be other issues involved as well. We were able to get 43 mph plus change out of another brand boat of similar size with a Yamaha 150. My brother has a 24’ boat of a different brand with a 250 hp engine and hits 55 mph. Part of the problem is that Bennington does not use lifting strakes on the outside of the toons. Most other manufacturers do use them. This gets the boat out of the water higher and faster and thus adds more speed. Another review on this site specs a 2012 Bennington with 6 lifting strakes. Did Bennington drop this option? I couldn’t find it on their build site and the dealer didn’t mention this as an option. The advantage to the Bennington is that it turns a bit quicker. I would pick speed over faster turning. While I wasn’t expecting bass boat performance and 38 mph is nice, speed is thrilling especially when running on a lake 186 miles long AND if going faster was a principal criterion for switching to a tritoon.
So in summary the Bennington is a nice looking boat and runs fine. I don’t mind build issues that can be remedied but when paying a premium price construction errors are disappointing and one expects more thoughtfulness to convenience features. There is no excuse for the poor fueling system. Had I know how awkward it turned out to be I would have tried really hard to dissuade my wife from buying the boat. I know it sounds like bitching and moaning but having owned several boats I have toned down a bit and accepted the deficiencies of my decision making ability – all boats eat money and none are perfect. AND my wife is happy. She does all the driving with a smile on her face.
My bilge pump has both an automatic and a manual setting.The mid-toon floor storage is nice and does have a bilge pump but it still picks up water and the bilge pump is not automatic. This limits what can be stored there. I noticed that other builders had the same issue. I don’t know why they can’t build a channel to have water flow to the outside as it enters the cover area.