We talk a lot about riding your pontoon boat here on this blog. Sure, it’s a lot of fun, but how do you get your boat to the water? What about transporting it back home? You need a pontoon boat trailer for those jobs. What kind of trailer would work for your boat?
To pick the pontoon boat trailer for you, we recommend you keep these considerations in mind:
- The type of trailer (scissor trailer vs. bunk trailer)
- The material it’s made of
- Its cost
- Whether it includes lights and brakes
- The types of tires
- The suspension
- The max weight the trailer can hold
That’s a lot to remember, we know. Luckily, we’ve organized all the information you need to know about finding a pontoon boat trailer in one convenient place right here. Keep this guide in mind whether you’re buying your very first trailer or you have a new boat and thus need a bigger trailing option.
What Are the Types of Pontoon Trailers?
There are two types of pontoon boat trailers: scissor and bunk trailers. A scissor trailer fits on either of the pontoon tubes. It has a slight, slim frame that lets it go under your deck and raise the boat up. These lifts also go by the name fold-down trailers. They’re not tritoon-friendly since they can only grip two pontoon tubes, not three.
Compare that to bunk trailers. While scissor trailers have a narrower profile, it’s just the opposite with a bunk trailer. These feature a wide, flat base that lends them more stability. They have dual bunks that go along the pontoon tubes and pull your boat up. Bunk trailers go by nicknames like float-on or drive-on trailers because of their ease of use.
What Are They Made of?
Manufacturers will use metal for pontoon boat trailers, but it’s not the same kind of metal across the board. Here’s the options you have as you begin shopping for your trailer.
If you really care about the looks of your trailer, then a painted steel one ought to suit your tastes. The manufacturer will paint the steel whatever color you like. You might get it painted to share the same hues as your pontoon or do something else entirely. That choice is yours.
Steel has a lot of durability, but once you paint it, it loses some of that lasting power. For instance, paint doesn’t stick around forever. Through wear and tear and exposure to saltwater, your once-pretty paintjob can fade and chip. You then either have to contact the manufacturer for a fresh paintjob or do it yourself. Even if you went the latter route, you’d have to ensure you have the exact shade of paint, which is a gamble.
If you like the toughness of steel but you’d prefer to go without any paint, then get a galvanized steel pontoon boat trailer. This has a zinc layer over the steel to reinforce it. Sometimes the steel gets covered in a type of galvanization solution. This process, hot dipping, occurs after welding the steel pieces together for the trailer.
Steel might last you for years, but it’s not completely rustproof, not by far. You can get the trailer wet and even expose it to saltwater and you might not notice any ill effects right away, but the metal will eventually rust.
Your third option is an aluminum pontoon boat trailer. They weigh and cost less compared to steel trailers, making them much easier to transport. They’re just as easy on your wallet.
Aluminum rusts and corrodes less compared to steel, even in saltwater conditions. That makes it cost-effective and smart. That said, aluminum doesn’t have the strength or durability of steel. You may have to use a trailer made of this metal for lighter pontoons only.
How Much Does an Average Pontoon Trailer Cost?
A pontoon boat trailer is by no means a cheap purchase. Even if you choose a lightweight aluminum one, you’ll still pay somewhere in the ballpark of $1,500. The more features you get, like brakes or lights, the more you’ll spend. A trailer like that might cost you $2,500, so you’re tacking on an extra thousand dollars for your troubles.
While you can get a pontoon trailer for under a thousand bucks, this is often a bare-bones trailer that might not last you as long. It’s much better to save up and spend a bit more money on a trailer you’ll have for years.
Does Your Trailer Need Lights and Brakes?
Okay, so let’s get back to brakes and lights on a trailer for a moment, shall we?
Do you need lights? No, but they help, especially if you’re trailering your boat early in the morning when the sun hasn’t fully risen yet. In other dark conditions, lights will also make navigating into and out of the water much less stressful.
If you do get lights for your trailer, make sure they’re LEDs. They’ll last longer compared to many other light types. You also want waterproof lights with tinned copper wiring. With this, even if you get the lights wet, and even if that water is saltwater, you won’t blow your lights.
What about brakes? We wouldn’t go without them. Some states mandate pontoon trailer brakes depending on the weight of the axles. If you’re looking at a trailer and it doesn’t have brakes, then we’d recommend you keep looking.
You have two brake choices to pick from: surge and electric brakes. Surge brakes use hydraulics and function independently of your towing vehicle. Once you slow down your truck or car, the surge brakes will gradually roll to a stop as well. You should get into the habit of stopping long before you have to so you can accommodate for that delay.
Also, keep in mind that surge brakes aren’t legal in all states. Check your local state laws before buying them. If you must have the ability to adjust your brakes in the towing vehicle, then you can’t use surge brakes.
That would leave you with electric brakes. These aren’t great either, as they can corrode and rust if you happen to get them wet. If you do go the electric brake route, then, triple-check you get marine-grade brakes. Even if these get a bit of water on them, they won’t short out or risk electrocuting you and any other passengers. That’s definitely a good thing.
What about Tires?
Since your trailer will roll along with your towing vehicle on the road, it better have tires. You have two types of tires for your trailer: bias ply or radial tires.
Bias ply tires don’t cost much money, but you generally get what you pay for. As an example, there’s sometimes slippage with bias ply tires because the tread includes a sidewall flex. That’s why you should only use bias ply tires if you’re going to a lake right around the block or maybe 10 minutes away. Don’t outfit your trailer with these tires for any kind of long-distance driving.
Your other option, radial tires, are better in many ways. They’re built for durability, for starters. Radial tires also have superior grip and traction, even on pavement. With their wider shape, they make for a safer option when driving. You can go just about anywhere with radial tires on your trailer, but do know these tires aren’t completely impervious to damage.
What Kind of Suspension Should You Choose?
Like with most other features of a pontoon boat trailer, you get options when it comes to the suspension. You may pick from torsion axle suspension or leaf spring suspension. Either way, don’t go without. Suspension has shock absorption qualities and promotes a more comfortable ride. Considering you’re towing your pontoon boat on your trailer, you don’t want a lot of bumps and divots, now do you?
Let’s talk more about your suspension options now. Torsion axles get galvanized so they can withstand saltwater without corroding. Manufacturers make the trailer more secure with a welded crossbar. If you get a trailer with torsion axles, you should notice less rattling and noise as you drive with your trailer attached to the towing vehicle. They also require little maintenance, just a bit of wheel bearing lubrication from time to time.
Then there’s leaf spring axles. If you ever need to change out just one axle, you can do so without having get the whole thing welded all over again. That’s not the case with torsion axles. Leaf spring axles also tend to cost less money. If you have a multi-axle trailer, leaf springs will wear down the tires evenly. That keeps you from having to replace one or two tires early because they took the brunt while driving.
How Will You Know if Your Boat Is Too Heavy or Just Right?
You should never just eyeball a pontoon boat trailer and assume your boat can fit right on with no problem. Not only can you break a $1,500 or $2,500 trailer by acting recklessly like this, but you could severely damage your boat, too.
Instead, you need to know the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR of your pontoon boat. This takes the fuel and engine weight into account as well.
Your trailer will have a max weight it can support before you risk instability and possible breakage by driving with this setup.
Now, you’re probably wondering, how does one even go about figuring out the GVWR of their pontoon boat? You can rely on a handy calculator like this one here. It’ll tell you your pontoon’s total weight capacity.
To use the calculator, measure each pontoon tube, obtaining the width, height, and length. You’ll have to convert those to feet if you didn’t measure them that way in the first place. Then, multiply those four numbers together to get the volume. Express this in cubic feet.
Let’s say your pontoon tubes measure two feet wide, two feet high, and 18 feet long. That makes the volume 72 cubic feet (18 x 2 x 2). The weight limit for your boat would be 4,492.8 pounds. To get that, the calculator takes the volume of your boat and multiplies that by 62.4. That’s the average water weight.
Here’s another one. Your pontoon tube still has a width of two feet and a height of two feet, but now it’s 22 feet long. Again, by multiplying those numbers together, we get a volume of 88 cubic feet. If you multiply that by 62.4 for the water weight, that leaves you with an overall weight limit of 5,491.2 pounds of weight capacity for your pontoon boat.
Sometimes you don’t even need to do all this math. If you check your owner’s manual, you might be able to find the max weight capacity in there. You can also check in with your manufacturer, unless of course, you bought your pontoon boat used. In that case, then the calculator we linked you to above will indeed make a big difference.
What do you do with the max weight capacity once you know it? Keep it in mind. As you browse around online or at boating stores for your pontoon trailer, check the max weight the trailer should support. If your boat is within that weight requirement, then great! You know you’ve found a trailer that can safely support your boat.
When you want to bring your pontoon boat to a lake, pond, or even a nice bay, you need a trailer. You load your boat up, attach your trailer to your towing vehicle (often a car or truck), and then hit the road.
If you have yet to buy a trailer for your pontoon boat, this article should provide the basis for you to find a great one. You have to think about which type of trailer you want for your boat as well as the material (galvanized steel or aluminum). You should also check the lights, brakes, tires, and suspension. Finally, and most importantly, your pontoon boat must be within the max weight capacity the trailer can hold.
Although they’re not cheap, pontoon boat trailers are an integral part of owning and using one of these amazing vessels. Once you have a trailer of your own, you can take your pontoon just about anywhere.