Helpful Tips on Towing a Boat for the First Time
Are you ready to take your new Lund boat or pontoon on the water, but you’re not sure how to go about towing a boat? Use our tips to get your watercraft safely to your destination.
If you’ve never towed a boat, the prospect can be intimidating. You have to know how much your car can carry, what class your boat is, and how to put it all together.
Towing a boat isn’t hard once you get the hang of it, but it’s definitely an adjustment. Driving with your boat behind you is another thing to think about, do you know how to safely tow something at high speeds?
If you don’t have a boat but want one or need some tips on how to tow your current boat easier, read on!
Know Your Towing Class Level
If you want to buy a big boat and think you’ll go out often enough, you may need to trade your car for a bigger model. Small cars and light pickup trucks can haul about 2000 pounds, which is a small Jon boat or skiff.
If you want a pontoon, you’ll need something a little bigger.
These towing capabilities are different classes. Class one cars and trucks can haul up to 2000 pounds. Class two, populated by vans, SUVs, and mid-range pickups can tow around 3,500 lbs.
Big pick up trucks, like those with an extra axle, are class three, towing up to 5,000 pounds. Much more than you’d need for a normally sized pontoon.
Classes go up to 18,000 pounds for normal cars, but it’s unlikely you’ll tow something that big in your lifetime.
Calculate the Tongue Weight
You should never tow anything more than ten to fifteen percent of your gross towing weight. Calculate your gross towing weight by taking your GCVW minus the weight of your tow vehicle or truck.
If you tow outside 10-15% your attachment will sway behind you. This endangers your boat and other drivers on the road.
Get a Hitch Ball
You can’t tow a huge boat on a golf ball-sized hitch. You can buy attachments for your hitch that’ll fit your boat trailer best.
Double Check Your Lights
Lights on a trailer are essential and mandatory in most states. If you’re towing a pontoon, the body of the boat will block your taillights. Make sure drivers behind you know what you’re doing by getting additional wired tow lights.
You can sometimes buy these with your trailer or get them on Amazon. They’re not expensive and you can get pulled over for not having them!
You owe it to the cars behind you and your family to give other cars the most information possible when you tow.
Secure Everything on the Boat
When you’re towing at high speeds, everything needs to be tied down inside your boat. This includes seat cushions, life vests, accessories, pillows, forgotten sunglasses, etc.
When you hook up your boat to the tow hitch, go up on it and do a search. Make sure everything is stored under the seats. If you have seat covers that velcro or tie-in, double check that they’re secure.
Make sure everything is in a container or under a seat. Kids can help with this while you’re packing the car or fiddle with the hitch.
If you have a lot of stuff stored, make sure it’s evenly distributed on the right and left sides of the boat. You don’t want your vessel tilting while it’s on the hitch.
Check Your Tires
Granted that you have the appropriate towing class, your car or truck can handle towing a boat. That is if everything with the car is in good shape.
Before you attach the hitch, make sure your tires are all even and the correct pressure. If they’re not, fill them to the appropriate PSI.
The same goes for your trailer tires. They won’t do you much good if your car has to work twice as hard to pull along flat tires.
There are speed ratings for your trailer as well, usually, it’s under 70 MPH. As a courtesy to others on the road, stay in the slow lane on the highway.
Being behind a towed boat obstructs drivers views and they’ll want to get around you. Let them! It’s the safest thing for everyone.
Adjust Your Mirrors
When you tow a boat behind your car, you want to see the back of the trailer in your side mirrors. You can buy mirrors that extend or clip on to existing mirrors for this purpose.
These extended mirrors will help you see the car behind you and not just the wall of your boat.
Check Your Brakes
Any car you drive needs to have working brakes, but it’s especially important when there’s more force behind your car.
The normal rule is that you should be at least three seconds behind the car in front of you, calculated stopping time. To see if you’re on track, watch a car in front of you. Start counting seconds when they pass a mile marker to when you pass it.
With a boat, this number should be four or five seconds. Another reason we suggest driving in the far right lane when you tow.
Some states have trailer brake laws, depending on the trailer weight and car type. Ask your boat dealer about this, they should know what’s up!
Towing a Boat
Now that you know the basics behind towing a boat, you can start searching for the perfect big-boy toy. Remember you may need to trade your car up if it’s a lower class.
Look for boats that have features like removable windshields, which cut down on resistance and bug splatter.
If you still don’t have an idea, talk to your boat dealer. They sell trailers along with or separately from their boats and will tell you whatever you need to know.
Don’t be afraid to ask!