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How to Use a Boat Trailer

By September 20, 2021Boat

Most people who own a boat transport it to and from the water using a boat trailer. Renting or buying a trailer is probably the best option for you as well. As long as the trailer matches your tow vehicle and they are both set up correctly, towing your boat trailer should be a relatively stress-free process. However, here are some precautions, suggestions and tips to ensure you pull your boat trailer safely to avoid any issues.

Knowing how to pull a boat trailer begins with the right tow vehicle

If you are new to trailering a boat, first determine your vehicle’s towing ability. Check its tow rating, gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combined weight rating, and gross axle rating. Remember that the tow rating does not account for passengers and cargo. Depending on the size of the boat or trailer, you may need a truck to tow them.

You may also want to add towing mirrors to improve your visibility. These mirrors will allow you to see more of your boat and trailer. You need to be able to have a full view of the car behind you. If you cannot, you should upgrade the mirrors.

What precautions should you take while towing a trailered boat?

The number-one rule for towing a trailer is to take it slow. You cannot drive as fast or the same way you would without a trailer. You need to take your turns wider and give yourself much more room for braking by leaving about five car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Also, keep an eye on the trailer’s tires so they are not close to the edge of the road, where they could slide off and cause you to lose control. If you feel your trailer begin to sway, avoid slamming on the brakes. Merely lift your foot off the accelerator to slow down. If you must use your brakes, apply them slowly.

How to put a boat in the water

Before you launch your boat:

  • Put the plug in the boat and double-check it.
  • Remove the trailer tie-downs, straps and any engine supports.
  • Load your gear while the boat is still behind your vehicle.
  • Make sure you have a life vest or flotation device for each passenger.

While the boat is in the water:

  • Back your trailer down the ramp so your boat’s engine is in the water without floating off the trailer.
  • Run the blower to evacuate the engine compartment.
  • Set the kill switch to “Run.”
  • Start the boat with the drive mechanism in “throttle only.”
  • Unhook the boat.
  • The vehicle driver can slowly back the boat down the ramp until it is floating. Then the boat driver can give it a little reverse throttle to slip the boat off the trailer.

How to load a boat on a trailer

At the end of a day on the water, you will have to retrieve your boat. The process starts by slowly approaching the launch-ramp dock so the vehicle driver and passengers can go ashore.  As the tow vehicle is backing down the ramp, move the boat into position.

  • The driver should back the trailer into the water as straight as possible and at a depth that allows the boat to float over the rear two-thirds of the trailer bunks.
  • The driver should then be in position near the tongue to help get the boat on the trailer.
  • Idle the boat over the bunks, aligning the bow peak with the trailer bow stop.
  • When the boat bumps the bow stop on the winch post, the helper can fasten the winch strap to the bow eye, use the winch to pull the boat up to the winch post, and secure the safety chain.
  • Tilt the motor up, and the vehicle driver can slowly pull the boat and trailer up the ramp.
  • Pull the rig away from the ramp to unload gear and prepare the trailer and boat for the trip home.

Additional boat retrieval tips

As you remove the boat from the water, it should not stay afloat to the trailer’s bow stop. That means you have backed the trailer too far down the ramp. Conversely, if the boat only floats onto the back third of the trailer, you need to back the trailer a little deeper. Once you have determined the “sweet spot,” note where the waterline falls on the trailer wheels or fenders, so you will know where to stop the trailer next time.

Make sure you have adequate insurance on your boat, trailer and tow vehicle

The insurance professionals at White Cloud Insurance can help you protect your boat, trailer and vehicle. We will work with you to find the coverage that provides the best protection for you. We are an independent insurance agency in Miami, Florida, so call or visit us for all your insurance needs. Use the convenient contact form, call us at 305-556-1488 or send us a message at