ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Boat Trailering Safety Tips and Checklist

Updated on April 24, 2013
Get on the water quickly by following these boat trailer safety tips.
Get on the water quickly by following these boat trailer safety tips. | Source

Trailering Boats Safely

Safe boating begins with safe trailering. How many times have you seen an abandoned boat and trailer on the side of the road? Chances are good the boat owner didn't properly check his or her trailer, or didn't secure the boat correctly. Luckily, you can easily avoid embarrassment and damaging your property by selecting the correct trailer and following a basic safety checklist.

See how the boat and trailer are leaning back? This trailer probably does not have enough tongue weight.
See how the boat and trailer are leaning back? This trailer probably does not have enough tongue weight. | Source

Marine Trailer Lights

Boat trailers are at least partially submerged when you launch a boat. While all trailer lights can survive a light rain, submersion is a different story. Non-marine trailer lights will fail after getting water in them. Marine trailer lights are designed to experience submersion and will not fail you after a dip in the lake.

Choosing the Correct Boat Trailer

Boat trailers are not one size fits all. You must carefully fit your boat to the correct trailer and fit the trailer to your towing vehicle.

  • Make sure the weight of your boat, its full fuel tank, and any additional gear is less than 90% of the trailer's maximum load weight. Many boaters choose a trailer based only on the boat's weight, but it must carry a boat with all needed gear and a full tank of fuel.
  • Make sure the towing vehicle and trailer have compatible hitches and brake light/turn signal couplers, if needed. Sometimes people use a ball hitch on their vehicle that is too small. The cup portion of the hitch fits over a too-small ball, but it does not latch securely in place, which can cause the trailer to come free.
  • Pay attention to the trailer's tongue weight. Add the weight of the fueled boat and the trailer together. Only 7%-10% of this weight should rest on the tongue. If the tongue weight is insufficient, the trailer will sway dangerously during towing. If the tongue weight is too great, the trailer may drag on the ground.
  • Check your state's trailer licensing requirements. Many states do not require trailers under a certain weight, typically about 2,500 lbs, to be registered. Also, check your state's trailer light and brake requirements. In most states, trailers that weigh less than 3,000 lbs, including the boat's weight, do not require brakes. Registration, brake, and light requirements are usually set by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles, so just check with your local DMV for more information.

Check your Trailer before Departure

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Flat trailer tires - please don't get on the road with these!Properly inflated trailer tires.If you see this kind of rust, replace these parts before towing your boat anywhere!
Flat trailer tires - please don't get on the road with these!
Flat trailer tires - please don't get on the road with these! | Source
Properly inflated trailer tires.
Properly inflated trailer tires. | Source
If you see this kind of rust, replace these parts before towing your boat anywhere!
If you see this kind of rust, replace these parts before towing your boat anywhere! | Source

Gunwale Tie-Downs

Gunwale tie downs are a quick and easy way to hold a smaller boat to its trailer. Investing in a specially-designed gunwale tie down makes strapping your boat in far easier, especially if you are tying it down alone.

Pre-Departure Trailer Checklist

Before setting out on the road, do a quick trailer walk-around to make sure it is safe and in good condition.

  • Ensure all tires are properly inflated. Also, get down and look at your tires. Sometimes they can appear inflated, but a closer examination reveals cracking and dry rot that can cause problems on the road.
  • Make sure brake lights and turn signals work properly.
  • Make sure you use two safety chains to connect the trailer and towing vehicle in case the trailer slips its hitch. Both chains need to be in good repair and rust-free. Either chain should be capable of holding the entire weight of the boat and trailer. Be particularly careful if you use plastic-encapsulated chains. If water gets inside the plastic coating, the chain can rust and you won't be able to tell easily.
  • Secure everything in the boat by placing it the boat's built-in storage or tying it down. Even objects you think are heavy can bounce out of a boat when it is trailered.
  • If you are trailering a sailboat, make sure the mast is stepped, or removed, and secured to the boat's hull.
  • Make sure winch cables and clips are rust-free.
  • Properly secure the boat to the trailer. You must keep the boat from sliding back and from popping up if you hit a bump. Boats and trailers are set up differently, so you need to figure out what works best for you. Generally, you need two aft straps and to straps somewhere forward of the boat's midpoint. Smaller boats can use a long gunwale strap across the boat's midsection, as shown in the video.
  • If you have an outboard motor, tilt it up to prevent it from hitting the ground while you drive.
  • Run through a required safety equipment gear check to make sure you have everything you need, such as PFDs, your registration documentation, and fire extinguishers, before you leave.

Have you ever experienced a boat trailer accident?

See results

Safe Trailering

Having your boat pop off its trailer is not a fun way to start the day, nor is losing your trailer on the road when the whole trailer pops off. You can avoid these common boat trailer mishaps by always checking your trailer, cables, chains, belongings, and boat tie-downs before getting on the road. It takes a few extra minutes, but it is time well spent and can keep you from ruining your day or damaging your property.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Hawaii

      If you ever need some cheap thrills on the weekend, you can just go sit at a boat ramp and launch! It's funny and scary. Thank you for stopping by and voting!

    • Tom Schumacher profile image

      Tom Schumacher 

      5 years ago from Huntington Beach, CA

      Nice hub! Too often I find people unaware of safe and proper protocols for transporting their vessels to and from the boat launch. Case in point Voted up for informative.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Wilderness - If you're ever bored on a Saturday, just head down to the boat ramp! It can be pretty good entertainment for free. And you're right, so many boat/trailer mishaps are 100% preventable.

      Jellygator - Hooray!

    • jellygator profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Woot! I don't trailer our boat and wouldn't have known this stuff, but I'm glad to see that my husband has hit on every single one of these points when we go out. (I'm so proud of him! LOL)

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I've seen boats dropped in the road, dozens of trailers without working lights, and boats pulled with the motor down.

      Some great tips here, and if people would do these simple things they wouldn't have near the problems.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! A too large trailer is difficult to secure the boat to, as you probably know. The poor boat just bounces around!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      You did a great job on boat safety. We have a boat but too large to trailer. Thanks for sharing all these helpful tips. Vote UP.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)