7 Qualities to Look for in a Good Boat Trailer

November 4th, 2019 by

7 Qualities to Look for in a Good Boat Trailer

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, there are over 12.5 million registered boats in the United States. With so many registered boats, the market for the right boat trailer can get a little confusing.

Finding the right boat trailer for sale is crucial to avoiding damage and ensuring your boat is transported safely. Set sail with us as we go over the 7 most essential qualities to look for in the right boat trailer.


1. Weight

One of the first and most important considerations when buying a new boat trailer is weight capabilities. To measure the amount of weight a trailer can carry, we use the Gross Trailer Weight Rating, or GTWR (sometimes called GTW).

This is a measurement of the total mass of the trailer when it’s loaded with the boat, fluids, and cargo. The GTWR must also take into account the weight of the trailer itself. It is, therefore, important to purchase the right type of boat trailer for your boat type.

According to a document by the Society of Automotive Engineers (a copy of which can be purchased here), there are four weight classes of a trailer hitch.

  • Class I — up to 2,000 pounds
  • Class II — up to 3,500 pounds
  • Class III — up to 5,000 pounds
  • Class IV — up to 10,000 pounds

When purchasing a boat trailer, you must first determine the appropriate class as defined by the GTWR. The next step is to speak with the trailer manufacturer to ensure the amount of weight exerted on the tow hitch (often called the tongue weight) is correct. This should be no more than 10 to 15% of the total GTWR.


2. Axles

When purchasing a boat trailer, you will have the option of either a single axle or a multi-axle arrangement. Put, the number of axles corresponds to the number of wheels the trailer will have. A single axle will have one rear wheel at either side, while a multi-axle will have two or more.

The advantage of a single axle arrangement is that it’s cheaper — both to purchase and to maintain. A multi-axle setup, while often more expensive, offers increased safety and stability. Losing a tire in transit with a single axle boat trailer can be dangerous, while a multi-axle boat trailer will cope better at the moment should a tire blow out.


3. Boat Trailer Material

While it might seem like a lesser concern, the material used in the type of trailer’s construction and finish of your boat trailer can make a world of difference. The first consideration you should make is the type of excursion you are planning with your boat trailer.

Freshwater tends not to damage boat trailers too heavily. Saltwater, on the other hand, can lead to increased corrosion in certain trailer frames.

With this in mind, choosing the right material is crucial. A painted trailer is excellent for freshwater use. However, if you intend to submerge your boat trailer in saltwater when loading and unloading, more durable material is required.

There are two choices for saltwater or corrosion-resistant boat trailer material: aluminum or galvanized steel. You’ll pay more for an aluminum trailer frame, but they will last longer.

Regardless of the material chosen, be sure to rinse and wash your trailer after each use thoroughly. This will protect it from corrosion and ensure longevity for your boat trailer.


4. Suspension Tires

We’ve talked about the axles on the trailer, but an additional consideration is the associated suspension. In this category, you have two choices – leaf spring or torsion axle suspension.

Leaf spring suspension consists of stacked, curved springs that are attached either above or below the trailer’s axle. The leaf spring alternative is cheaper and easier to repair. Plus, it offers a more even weight distribution. However, repairs can be needed more frequently, and the ride can be rougher on uneven road surfaces due to a lack of damping.

Torsion axles are sometimes offered as an upgrade to the standard leaf spring suspension. They consist of rubber cords inside of the axle, which is then mounted directly to the trailer’s frame.

This is a maintenance-free alternative that eliminates metal-on-metal contact with a rubber barrier. This reduces wear and makes the entire setup more durable while increasing rigidity and handling.

The downside of torsion axle suspension is that it’s not repairable and costs more to replace than leaf spring. Also, unlike leaf spring suspension, an impact on a single wheel will not be distributed throughout the rest of the suspension. This can result in a bent axle, which can, in turn, damage the trailer frame.


5. Tires

When considering tires, ensure you are using specialist trailer tires. A tire specifically made for a boat trailer will have ST on the sidewall, along with the type of tire it is. The choice is between radial and bias-ply.

A bias-ply tire is cheaper and has a tougher sidewall due to crosshatch construction. While good for infrequent use, bias-ply tires tend to transmit tire flex onto the tread. This, combined with a narrow tire footprint, can result in an increased chance of slipping or sliding.

A radial tire runs cooler, has a wider footprint and an overall longer tread life. The belt construction on the inside of the tire is made from steel. This results in a stronger tire overall. The radial tire is a better choice if you plan to use your boat trailer often or take it on long trips.


6. Brakes

There are two main choices when it comes to brakes: electric and surge brakes. For reference, most US states require brakes on a boat trailer with a GTWR of 3000 pounds or more.

Electric brakes, while cheaper to buy and maintain, are not recommended for use for trailers submerged in saltwater. They offer the ability to brake the trailer before the towing vehicle, which is useful for traversing hills. But overall, they’re not recommended vs surge brakes.

Surge brakes utilize a disc rather than a drum setup. They’re popular and safe choice for most boat trailers. Surge brakes can be submerged in all types of water without damage. In addition, the disc brake setup sheds water more reliably than drum brakes.


7.  Support

The most important thing when buying a support system for your boat trailer is to ensure it is custom-made to fit your boat. Anything else can result in damage to both the boat hull and the boat trailer. There are two types of supports: runners or bunks.

Bunks are covered with specialized plastic runners or a carpeted texture. These work best on steeper launch ramps and provide excellent support for your boat while in transit.

Runners are a better alternative for shallower launch ramps, or where your boat can be power-loaded. An important thing to note with runners is to ensure the boat is properly secured. Due to the ease with which boats can be unloaded onto runners, an improperly secured boat could slide right off the trailer.


Bon Voyage

Whether you’re fishing, racing or just cruising on the open water, the right boat trailer will make your journey safer, easier and more enjoyable. Be sure to consult our guide before making a purchasing decision, so you know you’re getting the right boat trailer.

Are you in the market for a new boat or boat trailer? Check out our boat inventory for all your power boating needs.

Posted in Boating, Fishing, Trailer