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How to Load a Boat on a Trailer? – An Easy to Follow Guide

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

how to load a boat on a trailer

Many boat owners, especially newbies, often find loading a boat on a trailer difficult and tricky, as it is not as simple as pulling an anchor out of the water. Although the process seems to be complicated and time-consuming for one person, you can easily practice loading a boat onto the trailer if you understand certain knowledge and techniques to proceed with this task.

Therefore, knowing the procedures of a proper load can make any boater feel much more secure in their ability to handle the vessel on their own, as well as prevent dangerous and pricey accidents when trailering a vessel.

If you are looking for an article that provides you with a detailed tutorial on “how to load a boat on a trailer?”, this is the perfect place for you. In this discussion, I will introduce simple steps that you can use to load a boat on a trailer by yourself.

Moreover, a list of tips for loading boats on trailers and further notices on trailering a boat in real situations will be highlighted in this article so you and other sailors can practice this process without too much difficulty. Continue reading to learn more!

Tips to Load Boat Onto Trailer


A stress-free boat retrieval, which includes efficiently putting the craft back onto its trailer for a safe ride home, is the ideal way to conclude a day on the water. However, there are several things you need to pay attention to before, during, and after loading a boat on a trailer. Here are some tips for you to trailer your boat successfully:

Creating a list: Would you go on a family trip without double-checking if your car’s tires are inflated, lug nuts are snug, and lights are functioning? Do that with your trailer, and make sure all bearings are greased.

Examining every single part of your towing hitch and tools: Things like hitch, coupler, ball, safety chains, or fasteners should be carefully reviewed and examined to guarantee that they will work effectively. Also, you should select the hitch set that fits the vessel’s weight to avoid incidents.

Tie your boat tightly to the trailer: Even though it seems to be simple, this action is extremely vital. If the knot is loose, your boat will probably slip away during the process and endure several damages.

Paying attention to the boat cargo carrying capacity: If you bought a used boat during the winter and are trailering it to the boat launch for the first time, ensure that the vessel does not exceed the trailer’s capacity.

Bringing a Spare: Spare components are essential, especially when your trailer is more than ten years old. In your car’s toolbox, keep spare bearing equipment, light bulbs, lug nuts, male and female wiring plugs, and extra wires.

Applying craft trailer guides: Trailer guides keep fiberglass and wooden containers from being scraped. When loading your vessel, they can be cushioned with rubber or carpet to preserve surfaces.

Assessing towing car’s tires and brakes frequently: Apply moderate pressure to your vehicle’s brakes on a regular basis. Sudden pauses should be avoided. If you’re driving over a hill, downshift and go slowly.

If the trip is longer than an hour, stop every hour to inspect the wheel hubs. Carrying failure may be near if these are too hot to touch. Before proceeding, pause and let them cool off.

6 Steps to Load a Boat on a Trailer? – Detailed Instructions


After a handful of preparations, it is time for you to proceed to loading the boat on a trailer. Don’t worry about all those struggles you may encounter when you first perform this task. Any fears you have about trailering your boat may be dispelled with a little more effort. Follow this step-by-step tutorial and put a boat on a trailer cautiously:

Step 1: Drop your towing vehicle and go

To recover the rig, drop the tow truck driver off at the end of the dock. Idle out of the path of the ramp. Pull alongside the far end of the dock if you won’t be obstructing others. Meanwhile, tie a line to a bow cleat and another to the stern cleat – this is especially crucial if the wind or tide is strong.

Step 2: Evacuate

Evacuate your passenger from the boat except the one who is in control before you shift your rig into position to reverse down the ramp. Leave the stuff on board; it’ll actually be useful later. Hold the ropes in place to keep the vessel just outside the trailer’s reach.

When the trailer has reversed far enough down the ramp for loading, notify the driver. He or she should park the car, apply the emergency brake, and start the engine.

Step 3: Drive or drag the craft onto the trailer

Without much trouble, many crafts can be floated all of the way onto the trailer. If your boat is big or prone to being tossed around by crosswinds, however, driving it onto the trailer SLOWLY may provide you greater control. Do not set the throttle to “power load” because this would wipe away the material under the ramp’s terminus, causing it to collapse.

Step 4: Winch a boat onto a trailer

In this part, either you or the car driver must take a position on the trailer tongue to hook the winch rope or strap to the boat’s bow eye and fully load the boat onto the trailer. Fasten the safety chain after the bow is snug on the winch post.

Step 5: Pull up carefully

Allow the driver to carefully draw the boat up the ramp, pausing to raise the outboard or sterndrive if required. To get to the loading zone, follow the tow truck.

Step 6: Drain extra water

Drain any livewells by removing the plug. To reduce the possibility of invasive species spreading, you need any liquid in the boat to return to the same source of water it came from.

Doing this action first give it time to drain while you pack your gear into the tow truck, fasten the transom, lower any antennae, or do anything else that has to be done before the boat can begin to be towed and reached the highway. Remember to turn on the trailer lights!

Further Notices While Trailering Vessel in the Wind

Even with experienced boaters, handling a vessel in windy weather is tougher than usual. Since a crosswind or current might make loading more difficult, you’ll want to take some extra measures. Here are some tips for applying in these kinds of circumstances:

  • To get a sense of the situation, look at how other vessels are loading.
  • You might want to approach the trailer upwind so that you’re lined up with the bunks when you get there.
  • It helps to use a bit more force in this situation to swiftly fasten the boat on the trailer bunks before the wind or tide gets you confused.

What Kind of Towing Vehicle Should You Use to Load Boats on Trailer

This is one of the most popular questions when it comes to loading a craft onto a trailer. Our suggestion is that you can either select a four-wheel drive or two-wheel vehicle to perform the loading procedure.

In fact, although four-wheel drive is not required, experienced boat owners prefer it when towing a boat to prevent losing traction at a boat launch. Watercraft ramps are sharp, and slippery materials, such as sand, mud, and aquatic plant growth typically coat them.

That isn’t to imply that a two-wheel-drive car can’t perform the job. You don’t need to hurry out and buy a new vehicle or SUV merely to have four-wheel drive if you’re planning on buying a boat.

To sum up, both two-wheel-drive cars and four-wheel vehicles have their own strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, there are some essential factors to determine which type of transportation is suitable, such as boat and trailer measurements, ground clearance, or tire size. Selecting the right vehicle will make your loading progress much easier!


It is obvious that loading a boat onto a trailer is a difficult procedure as it requires patience and knowledge. However, we hope that the above information and guidelines can help you trailer your craft appropriately without too much effort. Hence, a wonderful boat trip with a smooth vessel loading process is no longer an impossible dream!

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