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Thursday, November 02, 2023

8 Tips for Loading a Boat on a Trailer

Loading a boat on a trailer is simple, but requires proper positioning, floating, and winching techniques. Follow these tips to safely and efficiently load your boat for transportation.

Whenever you want to put in or take out your vessel, you want to take your time to ensure everyone is safe and your boat maintains its shine. Learning how to properly load your boat on a trailer is crucial. That is why we’ve provided some tips for loading a boat on a trailer that will help you along the way.

Here are some essential tips to help you load your boat before your tow vehicle happily takes it back home.

#1 – Have Your Crew Get Off First

Before the boat touches the trailer, ensure your crew is let out at the docks first. You want to both reduce the weight on your boat, get your vehicle driver ready, and reduce the chance of any safety issues. The boat driver can then focus on how to best guide the boat into the ramp area without distractions or excess weight. 

#2 - Properly Position the Trailer

As the vehicle driver, you'll want to ensure the trailer is positioned properly in the ramp area. The ramp angle plays a crucial role in this process. Your goal for getting your boat on perfectly before even worrying about the winch strap is to get the back third or rear two-thirds of the trailer submerged. That will ensure the boat can safely float over most of the trailer bunks, but it shouldn’t put your truck or tow vehicle driver at risk. 

#3 - Set the Brakes

Once the tow vehicle is in the right spot, the tow vehicle driver should put the vehicle in park and engage the parking brake. Never skip this step. You don’t want to end up on social media because you forgot to set the brake and are now chasing your truck into the water. Having the parking brake engaged stabilizes the trailer and prevents it from moving unexpectedly.

#4 - Float the Boat

Slowly back the trailer down the ramp until it's deep enough for the boat to float over about 2/3 of the trailer bunks. This allows the boat to be positioned securely onto the trailer with minimal effort. You should be able to gently idle forward. Don’t power load your boat! If you engage in power loading, you’ll rev the engine and likely kick up any debris on the trailer to the waiting boats around you.

#5 - Winch the Boat

As the boat approaches the trailer, attach the winch strap to the boat's bow eye. The boat driver should then carefully guide the boat onto the trailer, using the winch to help pull the boat into its proper position. The winch post and trailer guides can also assist in ensuring the boat aligns correctly. Even if you have a manual winch strap, take your time. This is a simple process that only requires double-checked connections and some patience.

#6 - Tow Out of Water

Once the boat is secured with the winch and safety chains, the tow vehicle driver can slowly pull the trailer and boat out of the water. Be sure to also attach the transom straps to keep the boat stable during transportation. Again, slowly pull the boat to ensure it is positioned properly along the trailer guides. You don’t want to risk any issues in the ramp area or when you’re further down the road in the staging area for unloading.

#7 - Unload Gear & Drain

Before heading too far into the parking lot, unload any gear from the boat and ensure to drain any bait wells or areas with water to prevent transporting invasive species. You’ll want to be sure all your items that can get loose when driving down the road are secure. Be sure your prop thrust and engine are properly set in their travel guides as well.

#8 - Don't Forget the Hose Down

After loading the boat, it's crucial to give it a quick hose down. This helps to remove any invasive species, dirt, or salt and prolongs the life of your boat. This is also ideal for your paint. Many boat enthusiasts forget how fragile paint can be after too many excursions. Keeping it hosed down with freshwater extends that lifespan, so you don’t have to request an expensive paint job during the season.

Finding the Right Angle

The positioning of the boat is crucial. If you position the boat carefully, it should float easily onto the bunks. But if it only goes a third onto the trailer, you need to back up more. If it goes past the trailer, you need to pull the trailer out a bit.

This will take some time to get right. You may want to visit a local boat ramp with next to no traffic so you can get used to loading and unloading in the ramp area. Your trailer will be unique, and you want your driving, towing, and securing skills to be high quality whenever you’re at a busy location. 


Loading a boat onto a trailer might seem like a daunting task initially, but with the proper knowledge and practice, it can quickly become second nature. Give yourself the freedom to practice (maybe even during the off-season) and be patient. 

The vast majority of fellow boaters at ramps will help you out if you ask because they’ve all been there before. Take a breath, and you’ll do just fine! 


What is the best way to load a boat on a trailer?

There is no 100% surefire way to load your boat. How you do it will depend on your unique boat size, type of trailer, and driving skills. As long as you properly position the trailer, float the boat correctly, and use tools like winches and safety chains, it will turn out all right.

What is the first thing you should do after loading a boat onto a trailer?

After loading, it's essential to secure the boat with safety chains and transom straps, followed by unloading gear and draining any water to prevent transporting invasive species. This is proper etiquette and helps extend the lifespan of your vessel.

How deep should the trailer be for loading a boat?

Ideally, you want about 2/3 of the trailer bunks submerged underwater. That should allow the vessel to float correctly onto the trailer in a workable position.

How should a boat sit on a trailer?

The boat should sit evenly on the trailer bunks, ensuring even weight distribution and stability during transportation. With suitable straps and chains in position, you shouldn’t have to worry about any movement as you drive away.

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