Buying a Trailer

What to look for in buying a trailer?

by Conrad & Judy Kreuter

Q: Dear Boat Talk: Instead of docking my boat this year, I would like to trailer it. What should I look for when buying a trailer? MB, Bayshore, NY.

A: Dear MB: Trailering your boat gives you access to different cruising or fishing grounds. Making sure you have the proper trailer for your needs will allow you to have a pleasant experience when launching and retrieving your boat from the water as well as when driving on the highway.

One of the major factors in determining what type of trailer you will need is the weight and size of your boat. To determine the weight capacity of the trailer, you must add the weight of the boat hull, motor, fuel capacity multiplied by 6, estimate of the weight of the extra gear on board plus added accessories such as T-Tops, anchor windlass, etc., and a small fudge factor of about 100 pounds. This total weight calculation should be rounded off to the next highest standard weight rating of the brand of trailer you have selected. For example, if your total weight calculation is 2400 pounds, and the trailer manufacturer only makes a 2300 or 2800 pound model, you should go with the larger weight capacity trailer.

Bunk or roller trailer? Bunk trailers are float on type trailers. This means the trailer must be fully submerged so that the boat can be floated onto the bunks that are straight carpeted surfaces. These trailers are great for lakes and those places where tide variations are small, or for smaller lighter boats under 16 feet. Roller trailers have multiple rubber rollers that make launching and retrieving less difficult as the boat rolls onto the trailer rather than sliding as with bunks. A line from the winch is attached to the bow of the boat to pull the boat over the rollers onto the trailer. Because the rollers are on arms that flop back and forth the roller trailer will generally center and align the boat upon the trailer.

Painted or Galvanized? A galvanized trailer is treated to prevent or reduce corrosion caused by immersion in salt water. A painted trailer uses paint for its protection. Once a small scratch appears in a painted trailer, salt water will eat away at the metal parts rapidly. Painted trailers should be used in fresh water applications.

Brakes or no brakes? New York State law requires that trailers with over 3000 pound capacity must be equipped with brakes. For those of you with fewer than 3000-pound capacity trailers, brakes can be added.

Brakes make the load easier to stop, especially if you have a large boat and a smaller tow vehicle.

Quality and sizing. Look for a trailer constructed of heavy gauge materials, which will last longer and support the boat without distorting the hull. Sizing the boat to the trailer should be done by the trailer dealer. This process insures the rollers conform to the boat bottom, and that the load is adjusted to place the proper amount of weight on the tongue. Tongue weight is important so that the load travels straight and true down the road.