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How Should Boat Rest on Trailer? – Boat Position on Trailer

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

how should boat rest on-trailer

Many newbie boat owners wonder how should boat rest on trailer units. After all, most watercraft operators transport their vessels from home to the marina and vice versa.

The short answer to this concern is to keep the vessel centered and level on the trailer, distributing its weight across the rear bunks and axles. Ensuring the correct trailer-boat configuration is also crucial.

If you’re wondering about the detailed answer, please continue reading.

Boat Position on Trailer


How should a boat sit on a trailer, especially those who don’t have slots at the marina? To answer your question, the ideal watercraft placement must be centerline on the trailer to distribute weight evenly. If you look at the setup from the front or rear, no side (right or left) must be higher or lower than the other.

Ideally, you will want the vessel to rest squarely on the trailer, with most of the boat’s weight placed on the trailer’s axles. You can maneuver the watercraft until it rests securely and stably on keel roller units.

These requirements might seem like a tall order. So, let’s look at ways to ensure the boat’s proper position on the trailer.

Tips to Determine Boat Position


Ensuring the correct boat placement on a trailer is crucial to safeguarding the vessel, trailer, tow vehicle, and the boat owner/driver. Here are some tips to help you determine the proper boat position.

  • Always read the owner’s manual first, as it usually contains information on how to position the boat on the trailer based on the vessel’s size, weight, and design.
  • Check the bow support system, including the rear and side bunks. These pads should support the boat’s hull without damaging the gelcoat or paint finish.
  • Assess the tow setup for unusual “heaviness” between the tow vehicle and the trailer. Ideally, the trailer’s tongue weight should not exceed 15% of the gross trailer weight. If not, there’s a good chance the boat’s location is too far forward from the trailer.
  • Adjust the bunk pads or keel support components to ensure a more secure fit to the boat and ascertain the vessel is centered.
  • Check your boat from the side and assess if most of its weight falls on the trailer’s axles, not its keel roller.

After positioning the boat onto the trailer, check if the latter is level. Otherwise, the weight will not be evenly distributed across the axles, resulting in instability during transport.

Things to Consider When Placing Boat on a Trailer

Loading a watercraft onto a trailer requires consideration of several parameters, including the following.


  • Trailer size – Ideally, you will want a trailer with a sufficient weight capacity to accommodate your watercraft. A vital metric is the trailer’s tongue weight, which should be 15% of the gross load, maximum.
  • Availability of an assistant – Although you can place a boat on a trailer by yourself, the process could be tedious and challenging. In addition, a bigger boat can make reaching the bow eye more difficult. An assistant will make the process more effortless.
  • Launch ramp characteristics – Some boat ramps have a steep grade, which can make the boat more likely to roll back from the trailer. To circumvent the issue, keep the boat in gear to prevent it from slipping.
  • Wind – Placing a boat on a trailer can be nerve-wracking in strong water currents or crosswinds. You might want to be “more aggressive” on the throttle to maneuver the watercraft to the trailer, approaching it upwind.

Importance of Proper Boat Trailer Positioning


Placing your watercraft onto the trailer in the centerline is crucial to protect it, especially its hull. An off-position boat can suffer from flexed, sagged, or weakened hulls, reducing its seaworthiness.

An improperly positioned boat on a trailer can also cause accidents. The National Road Safety Partnership Program underscores the value of weight distribution in ensuring road safety while towing (be it a boat or other things).

The organization recommends placing at least 60% of the gross trailer weight (including the boat and associated gear) toward the trailer’s front. Too much weight at the trailer’s rear section can produce a whiplash effect, increasing the risk of vehicular control.

How to Properly Rest a Boat on a Trailer

How to load, rest, and fit a boat to a trailer isn’t a complicated process. You can follow the four steps below.

Step 1. Drive the tow vehicle and trailer in reverse toward the water.


Ask an assistant to position the trailer straight along the boat ramp. Reverse the trailer until about two-thirds of it is in the water. This position is crucial for ensuring hassle-free boat entry onto the trailer. That’s how you set up boat trailer units on ramps.

Step 2. Maneuver the boat to the trailer.


Slowly maneuver the boat towards the trailer, aiming for its centerline. Look at the trailer’s bow stop and use this to guide the vessel into position. For safety’s sake, go as slowly as possible by slightly shifting the throttle into gear and back out of gear right away.

Step 3. Check the boat’s position.


Continue maneuvering the boat until its bow hits and is centerline to the trailer’s bow stop. You might want to reverse the watercraft if it’s not straight and give it another attempt until you’re satisfied with its position.

Step 4. Secure the boat to the trailer.


Use the trailer chains and winch to secure the boat before unloading any item. Tie-downs should be placed in various locations to prevent the vessel from shifting during transport.

Tips to Know if a Boat is in the Correct Location of the Trailer


Here are some tips to check if your boat is in its correct location on the trailer.

  • Look at your boat from the front or back and assess if one side is higher or lower than the other (similar to a boat’s “list” on the water). Your boat is secure if the sides are the same height.
  • Assess your vessel from the side and check the height of the boat trailer keel guide. The front should be one to two inches higher than the rear keel guide.
  • Go to the trailer and boat’s rear section and assess the distance between the aft and the keel roller. The vessel should not exceed two inches of overhang from the keel roller’s rearmost section.
  • Check the side bunks, ensuring they touch the hull snugly to prevent shifting when towing the vessel to the marina. Properly adjust the bunks if there’s slight hull movement.

Safety Tips

Although loading boats on trailers is straightforward, boaters must observe several measures to ensure safety for the watercraft, trailer, tow vehicle, and operator.

1. Check the safety features of the trailer.


  • Breakaway cable systems allow trailers to decelerate automatically and stop if they detach from the SUV, truck, or any tow vehicle during towing.
  • A bow rest on the trailer can improve vessel stability and support, especially during transport.
  • A self-centering roller is perfect for keeping boats level, ensuring stability and security in transit.
  • The winch post is adjustable, which enables boat owners to secure their vessels better.
  • Check the tie-downs to see if the boat is securely strapped to the trailer. Make sure the chain and winch are tight and that the boat is not shifting or moving in any way.

2. Ensure correct wheel and trailer tire condition.


  • Assess your trailer and tow vehicle’s tire pressure before towing your boat.
  • Inflate the tires to the correct air pressure by checking the PSI rating on individual tires.
  • Check the tires, wheels, and associated components (i.e., bearing protectors) for signs of wear or damage. Clean them properly or replace them when necessary.


We understand why many novice boaters ask, “How should boat rest on trailer units?” Fortunately, the answer is straightforward. Operators only need to ensure their watercraft is on the trailer’s centerline with ample support on the sides and its weight squarely on the axles.

Getting the boat onto the trailer can be challenging without an assistant and against strong currents or crosswinds. However, we hope our tips made you more confident loading your vessel onto your trailer.

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