Marine News from the Great Lakes

What To Look For When Purchasing A Boat Trailer

Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2018
By: Megan Straw-Meisler, Sales & Marketing Director of Loadmaster Trailer

Boat shopping is a fun, albeit daunting, task. Which boat is right for my family? What options do I need versus what options do I want? Do I need a full cabin; how will I actually use the boat?  Will I do overnight trips? How many motors and what style should I get for our use? All of these are common lingering questions everyone searching for the ideal boat asks themselves.

What is not as common, but just as important, are questions from potential boat trailer purchasers. Common questions should include: What style boat trailer is right for my boat? From what material should I have the trailer built? Do I plan to ramp launch or am I going to have my marina hoist my boat on the trailer? Which are better: bunks or rollers (or screwpads for sailboats)? How do I know the trailer will fit my boat correctly? Would a used trailer be okay or would it harm my boat?

Most of the answers for the questions you ask yourself when looking for the perfect boat boil down to your use, desires, and wants, while most of the answers to the trailer questions come from knowledge and expertise. I am here to offer some educated information that may just help you out in that regard.

Similar to car shopping, in most cases in the boat trailer world, you get what you pay for. I emphasize the word MOST. As with many consumer goods, boat trailers range in price, strength, customization, and safety. No two boat trailer companies use the exact same material and options, so how do you know which is right for you and your boat?


Most boat trailers are made of one of three materials:  Aluminum I beam, Tube Steel, or C Channel steel.

Aluminum I beam is often what most people think of needing if they plan to use their boat in saltwater. This is true, most aluminum trailers hold up well in a saltwater environment. However, many of the companies building aluminum I beam trailers tend to also be the more mass-produced-style trailer that is bolted together with limited hull or keel support. Additionally, they use galvanized cross members and axles so, where those make contact with the aluminum I beam frame, it can cause electrolysis due to two unlike metals. Aluminum is lighter in weight so it often bends, bows, or flexes too. However, there are a couple of companies that do build all structurally-welded aluminum trailers, which are much stronger and often more customized!

Tube steel looks nice and sleek, often aesthetically pleasing to the eye. However, water gets trapped inside a tube steel frame so it will rust from the inside, out. When this occurs, there is no way to fix or repair the structural integrity of the trailer. For this reason, although they look smooth and sleek on the outside, they do have a “shelf life” due to corrosion. Also, accessing any of the wires, electrical, etc. is very challenging since it is all located inside the frame. However, tube steel trailers are stronger and heavier than aluminum trailers. For saltwater use, most galvanized tube steel trailers have to be bolted together as the tubes come pre-dipped.

C Channel steel trailers are strong and structural without any worry of internal rusting, however, some people do not prefer the look of the channel being exposed. If wired and assembled correctly, there is no concern for water damage as all components should be sealed! Additionally, for saltwater use, C Channel steel trailers can be hot dip-galvanized after they are welded and constructed to make the entire frame and all the wheels protected from the salt water environment.

Bunks Vs Rollers

Properly fitting “v”-shaped bunks are the best style support system for almost all boats’ hulls. Rollers can cause damage to the gel coat, fiberglass, or wood, and causes stress cracks or damage to the stringers.

Bunks that are flipped up on the end, out wide, so that your boat is resting on roughly 2” of wood, is less than ideal for proper hull support. Most sailboat hulls desire the majority of the weight support to be around the keel, which this style doesn’t accommodate. Not to mention it makes loading the boat on the trailer very challenging.

A properly fitting boat trailer will provide keel support down the center, to make loading the boat on the trailer much simpler, as well as outer bunk supports for extra protection and strength, and key support.

As mentioned, all trailer companies use different components, options, brakes, etc. on their trailers so it can be challenging to know which is right for you. I always recommend asking questions, getting educated, and checking with your state to find out what braking systems are legal as well as any other restrictions your state may have.

Good luck on the search!  Always ask questions, seek answers, and ask for referrals!
Happy Boating! I hope to see you on the water!

Have a question on trailering or boat trailers? Please feel free to email me at [email protected].

tags: Trailers, Boating 101

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