What You Need To Know When Buying a Boat Trailer

Posted on: August 16, 2021

When you bought your boat, did you walk into your store (hopefully Woodard Marine) and point at the one you thought looked cool and say, “I’ll take that one?”  Of course not. Or maybe you did and regretted it later.  The point being, you took time, researched, and found the one that best suited you, your needs, and your situation -- right? Right. So, what we’re going to do today is educate you on: 

  1. The different types of trailers
  2. What to look for in a boat trailer
  3. And then answer some frequently asked questions
Boat on trailer in grass

Let’s get things going, shall we? First --

Types of trailers

Despite what you may think, all boat trailers are not created equally.  Each one is for a specific size, with particular intentions, for certain types of water.  The four most common types of trailers are: 

  • Bunk Trailer
  • Roller Trailer
  • Float-on Trailer
  • And Keel Rollers

Allow us to break down each for you--

Bunk Trailer

Bunk Trailers are probably the simplest of all the trailers. Deriving its name from the felt-like boards (bunks) used to protect the keel -- the bunk trailer is commonly used to tow boats no greater than 20 feet in length. 

The advantage to a bunk trailer is its aforementioned simplicity. Because of this, it’s relatively affordable and has fewer moving parts equating to less lifetime maintenance. 

A major con is the depth that the trailer must be submerged in order to load and unload the boat. Not only will this cause wear and tear to your trailer’s axle, brakes, hubs, and springs -- it will restrict locations you’ll be able to launch your boat. 

Roller Trailer

If you’re looking for ease and the ability to launch your boat on a small ramp or low tide -- the roller trailer may be the right fit for you. A roller trailer is composed of cylindrical rollers allowing the boat to be rolled onto the trailer as the trailer enters the ramp or is backed in the water.  


The pros to a roller trailer are not only the convenience of use. Because the trailer doesn’t have to go deep into the water, it will limit the lifetime wear and tear on components like your axle, brakes, hubs, and springs. 


Unfortunately though, with ease comes complexity. And by complexity, we mean parts. With all of these parts, it means there is a greater chance something may go wrong. Additionally, convenience does have a cost, essentially meaning a higher price tag. 

Float-On Trailer

Are you thinking about a pontoon or are you like Quint from Jaws and need a bigger boat? Then we may suggest for you a float-on trailer?  A float-on trailer is perfect for those who need a saltwater boat or the pontoon mentioned above. When it comes to usage, it’s very similar to a bunker trailer because of the need to submerge it quite deep into the water.  And since the way to load and unload the vessel is by floating onto the trailer, hence the name -- the trailer needs to go pretty darn deep. 

A great advantage to the float-on trailer is that it limits the amount of damage a boat will be subjected to when loading and unloading.  

The disadvantages are cost and, like the bunker trailer, how deep the trailer needs to go, that it will require more maintenance throughout its life.  

Keel Rollers

Last up are keel rollers. Keel rollers are not an actual trailer. Instead, they are added to existing trailers to reduce risk to the boat and provide more ease when loading and unloading.  

As mentioned above, the pros to the keel rollers are the safety they provide the boat.

However, they are not standalone trailers and require you to purchase or already possess a standard trailer.  

What to Look For in a Boat Trailer 

If your boat were to create a dating profile in search of the perfect trailer -- sure, looks would be important, but there are some essentials this trailer must-have, such as: 

  • Size
  • Weight

In this section, we will go through each of these and tell you what you need to know about these “attributes.”  

Size

What is probably the most obvious factor to consider is that the size of your boat will determine the size of your trailer. The type of boat you're buying will also influence your trailer size. Like a pontoon boat, some larger boats will require more space between the back of the vehicle and trailer. This will protect both in the case of tighter turns. 


A good rule of thumb is that a single-axle trailer can accommodate 22 feet long and approximately 3,300lbs. 

But again, all of this is contingent upon the type of boat you own and where you’ll be launching. 

Weight

How much your boat weighs will determine how many axles your trailer will require. You also need to consider whether your trailer will only be used as a transport for your boat or will it be a bed for the boat during hibernation (winter). 

If you’re thinking about keeping your boat on the trailer during the off-season, we recommend looking into something more durable such as aluminum or galvanized steel. 

Lastly, and most importantly -- know both the weight of your boat and the trailer for the sake of your vehicle’s towing capacity. You don’t want to find out the hard way that your Honda Civic can’t tow a pontoon. 

Summary

When it comes to finding a trailer, it ultimately comes down to what type of boat you own, where it will be used, and how it will be used. Hopefully, we’ve provided you a bit of an education about boat trailers. We suggest you use this as a guide when you’re shopping for a new or used trailer. 


And as always, if you have any questions -- contact the experts at Woodard Marine today. Let us help you find the perfect boat trailer for you and your boat. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do boat trailers need plates?

A: Great question. The short answer depends on where you are. That’s why we provided this link that will show you all of the license plate requirements for all of the United States. Sorry, Canada. 

Q: What size trailer do I need for my boat?

A: As mentioned above, finding the right size trailer for your boat depends on the size of your boat, your intentions for the trailer, and where you’ll be launching your boat. We suggest contacting us, and we can set up an appointment to ask you a few questions. 

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