How To Tow A Boat Trailer: (Guide On Trailering)

When you are trailering a boat, the most important thing is safety. You’ll be traveling with a bunch of boat gear and perhaps a vehicle full of family members.

You want to use common sense to ensure all your lights, hookup points, and brakes are all functioning at 100%. The biggest thing, don’t rush and take your time especially if you’re new to towing a boat.

Trailers And Maintenance

If you are trailing your boat for the first time of the season, you should check all the key components of your boat trailer. Below I have a guide of all the things you need to know.

Trailer Brakes

There are a few different types of brakes that you will see on boat trailers and they need to be checked and maintained.

  • Hydraulic Surge Brakes- These breaks are probably the most popular and are the simplest out of all designs. They work by using an actuating cylinder connected to a fluid coupler. These breaks are smooth and will engage when you break your vehicle and using inertia, will apply pressure to the trailer slowing down. 
  • Hydraulic Disk Brakes – These are more like your breaks on your vehicle using calipers, brake pads, and rotors. This allows for good pressure and works extremely well underwater.
  • Electric-Over-Hydraulic Brakes- These are the newest technology on the market. They are electric and will pump fluid to the brakes…either drum brakes or disc brakes. These are typically found on high end newer boat trailers. These are recommended for longer trips and great for hilly roads.

Tip: No matter what types of brakes your trailer has, you need to maintain and keep them working at an optimal level.

Trailer Lights

You want to inspect your trailer lights to make sure they are all in working order.  Check your Runner lights and your tail lights including the blinkers. 

Make sure everything looks good at the connection to the vehicle. Also, you just need to ensure it’s a light connection and everything is as it should.

Towing Hitches: What class are you?

There are different hitch classes that vary in how much weight they can tow. Please refer to this guide to help determine what you need or what you may already have.

GTW- Gross Total Weight TW- Tongue Weight

Hitch ReceiverGTW (lbs)TW (lbs)
Class 11-¼”Up to 2,000Up to 200
Class 21-¼”Up to 3,500Up to 350
Class 32”Up to 8,000Up to 800
Class 42”Up to 10,000Up to 1,000
Class 5- XD2”16,00 to 17,0002,4000 to 2,550
Class 5- CD2-½”18,000 to 20,00018,000 to 20,000

Get The Feel For Your Boat

When you hook your boat up to your vehicle for the first time you will need a little time on the road to get a good feel for how your vehicle and boat work together.

Understanding The Weight 

As you take your boat for its first voyage down the road, you will feel the weight. You will need to accelerate at a nice easy pace. Take it slow…remember this isn’t a race to the water and safety is more important than hurting your equipment or more importantly other people.

Learn Your Distance 

You need to start slow and get a feel for how your vehicle handles your boat. Learn what it takes to come to a complete stop with steady even brake pressure from different speeds.

Remember to leave a good amount of distance from the vehicle in front of you because you never know who might slam on their brakes. 

Fishtailing: Taking The Sway Out

Different things can cause your boat trailer to start fishtailing. Some of the reason could be the following:

  • Too little tongue weight 
  • Badly worn tires
  • Not enough tire pressure
  • The boat isn’t level after when hooked up to the vehicle
  • Vehicle wheelbase may be too short

Tip: f you notice your trailer starting to sway, slow your speed down and keep the vehicle steady. This will help with the fishtailing.

Can You Tow With A Boat Cover?

Most people I find tow without any covers because high winds can create flapping causing scuffs on your boat but also destroying your cover. If you get to highway speeds, the cover can fray and get ruined.

 I don’t keep my Snap-on cover on because that’s a lot of pressure on those poles and the focus point of the cover which I just don’t like seeing.

 Also, you can pull out your snaps from the cover and even loosen the snap that is attached to the boat and you don’t want to ruin your expensive cover. 

So if the weather is nice, I always tow without any cover at all, especially out of the lake I wanted to dry out and I always leave the cover off until the last minute before I tuck her in for the night.

Best Trailerable Boat Cover

Now, if you choose to tow with your boat covered, some covers fair better than others. Below I listed a couple that will be best for traveling.

Ratchet Covers

These covers utilize straps that you can ratchet down to really get a good tight fit over the boat. This helps with the cover staying put and preventing it from working loose.

Mooring Covers

Similar to the racket covers, these covers are one piece that is strapped down to the sides of the trailer keeping them nice and tight.

Tip: I would not recommend using a snap cover because of the air pressures mentioned above. It can lead to broken poles and ripped snaps.

12 Safety Tips For The Road

  • Take it slow, do not be in a rush.
  • Don’t tow if your lights are not functioning properly
  • Drive at a reasonable speed
  • Do not tailgate or get too close to vehicles in front of you
  • Don’t stress about merging with other vehicles, let them merge with you.

Commonly Asked Questions

How Fast Can You Drive Towing A Boat?

Many states have a 55-60 mph speed limit when trailering. Not to mention higher speeds can potentially wreak havoc on covers.

Do You Need A License To Tow A oBat?

Laws on this can vary from state to state. We live in Miachinganwhere you only need a valid driver’s license but check with the rules and regulations where you live or plan on towing.

Can I Tow A Boat With My Car?

This all depends on what your car towing complicity is and how big your boat is. If your car can pull the size of your boat you still need to install the proper hitch that will fit your needs.

How Wide Of A Boat Can I Tow?

47 of the states allow boats up to 8 1/2 feet without requiring a permit for a wide load. A few like NY, NJ, and Hawaii have an 8-foot limit. The lovely state of North Carolina allows up to 10 feet without any special permits.


As you trailer your boat more, you will get more comfortable with the feeling and handing of towing a boat behind your vehicle. As you gain your confidence, you need to keep in mind that the safety of you and others on the road is the most important.

Have fun and tow responsibly

Project “The Tow King!” Boating

Check out our article on: How To Launch A Boat (6 Easy Steps)

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