Boating is great, but it is necessary to safely get your boat from land to water. For most of us, this requires towing it to and from home or storage. But even those of you that are lucky enough to live on water front property may sometimes find a need to tow your boat. So here I’m going to share some of the most important specifications you need to take into consideration in your new purchase.
The first and most important thing to take into account is the weight capacity of the trailer. It is absolutely essential that the trailer you have will properly carry your boat. Don’t try to put a boat that is too long or too heavy on a trailer that is too small for it. Of course there is some standard of deviation in the weight limits of the trailer, however, putting a boat on a trailer that is too heavy for the trailer can work the axles too hard putting undo strain on the tires and rest of the trailer. Eventually you can find yourself in a really difficult situation – out in the middle of nowhere with a broken boat trailer and no way to pull your boat. Not only that but it is federal law to ensure that the gross vehicle weight (the weight of the trailer, the boat, the gas in the boat – which weighs about 6 pounds per gallon – and anything else that you plan to store and tow on the trailer) does not exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Many experts say that you should only load the trailer to 85% of the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The GVWR is required to be displayed on the trailer, so you should have no problem finding it. It is important also to know that the Gross Axle Weight Rating is not the same thing as the GVWR. If you have only one axle they will be the same, but if you have a tandem trailer the GVWR will be twice the GAWR. Just a side note while we’re on this subject, be sure you get the proper class hitch for your boat and tow vehicle & never exceed the weight capacity of it.
The next thing to take into consideration is whether or not to buy a single axle or tandem axle trailer. This is entirely personal preference, there are not regulations regarding this choice. However, tandem axle trailers, though usually more expensive, handle better and make more of a difference as the boat gets larger. Tandem axle boat trailer tires are larger than single axle boat trailer tires, which makes for a smoother ride. There is also the point to take into consideration that in the event of a flat tire, there it will be easier to handle a tandem axle trailer over a single axle one.
Another decision you will need to make is whether you want a bunker (or submersible) versus a roller trailer. Bunker trailers can be more difficult to maintain, and the ramp angle is steeper. But these trailers are easier for beginners to use. Some submersible trailers even tilt for an even steeper launch angle making launch easier. However, these are only feasible for the smallest boats. Roller trailers should only be used by very experienced boaters. An inexperienced boater can very easily let the boat roll off too quickly causing wreckage to the boat, and endangering other people in the water. Even though roller trailers are more expensive (typically by around 20%) they are much easier to maintain than bunker trailers and are great for those experienced with them. The best trailer of course is if you can find one that has rollers in the center of the trailer (around the keel of the boat), and pads elsewhere. This way the rollers help in launch as well as to put it back on the trailer, but it is not as slick sending it off faster than is manageable.
Brakes for your trailer are another factor to take into consideration. Many smaller capacity trailers don’t have brakes, and don’t need them, but salesmen will push them anyway. Most areas require brakes on trailers with a GVWR of 1500 lbs or more anyway. For smaller capacity trailers, I would suggest that whether or not you put brakes on it depends on your towing vehicle. If you have a rather large towing capacity vehicle compared to your tow, you will probably be fine without brakes on the trailer as well. But if the tow weight is much closer to the towing capacity of the vehicle, perhaps it is a good idea to get trailer brakes just for safety. In choosing trailer brakes there are 2 different types; electric brakes and surge brakes. Electric brakes are hooked up to the tow vehicle to work when the tow vehicle is braking so they slow the trailer simultaneously with the tow vehicle. Surge brakes work when pressure from the trailer is put onto the hitch so anytime the vehicle is slowing whether or not the brake is being applied in the tow vehicle, the trailer brake is working. Either brake is just as good as the other. Just be careful they don’t get submerged in the water too often and for too long or they will short. Many of the new models have worked to take care of this dunking problem; however they are not perfected yet, so always be aware.
A last decision to make with choosing a trailer is deciding between a painted or galvanized steel trailer. Galvanized steel trailers typically cost significantly more, however they will withstand salt water. Paint & steel quickly corrode in salt water.
And that’s it! Hopefully you will find this information helpful in picking your first or next boat trailer!
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