Boat trailer safety

Learn about towing equipment and how to adjust your driving while towing a boat.

SUV on a road towing a boat

Your boat is a getaway from the everyday. And your boat trailer gives you the freedom to make that getaway wherever your towing vehicle can take you. Before setting out for your favorite waterway, take a moment to learn a bit more about boat trailer safety.

How to choose a boat trailer

Towing safety begins by choosing the proper trailer for your boat's weight and size. Most trailers have a capacity plate that lists the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This figure will tell you if the trailer is rated to handle the total weight of your boat, motor, fuel and other onboard equipment. Make sure your trailer has a capacity greater than your total load — your load shouldn't exceed 85% of the trailer's total capacity.

Also, an ill-fitting trailer can lead to unbalanced loads, as well as hull damage. Choose a trailer that allows your boat's hull to fit snugly on the rollers and other contact points. If you have any questions about fit, discuss them with a qualified dealer.

Finally, you may want to consult the National Marine Manufacturers Association® (NMMA) list of certified trailer manufacturers. Trailer designs from listed companies are required to comply with industry standards and federal safety regulations.

Choosing your towing vehicle

As with your trailer, your vehicle and its hitch should be rated to handle the tow load. Check your vehicle owner's manual for towing information. If you have other questions, your vehicle or trailer's manufacturer can help you decide whether your vehicle and its hitch are up to the job.

Hitching up your boat trailer

The following steps will help make sure your boat trailer is securely fastened to your vehicle and ready for the road.

  • Distribute gear evenly in the boat for a balanced load.
  • Secure boat tie downs to ensure that the boat won't shift during transport.
  • Lower the trailer coupler onto the vehicle's hitch ball and lock the safety pin.
  • Connect safety chains in a crisscross "X"pattern to the frame of the towing vehicle.
  • Connect trailer lighting cable to the vehicle.
  • Check that all trailer lights are working.
  • If applicable, test trailer brakes and brake lights.
  • Check for proper vehicle and trailer tire pressure.
  • Check that all fasteners are properly tightened.

Drive safely while towing your boat

Driving with a loaded boat trailer is a special skill, one worth practicing. You should practice in an empty parking lot and in light traffic before taking to the open road. While you're there, make sure you practice backing up as it is often the most difficult part. Some other things that can help you drive safely while towing are:

  • Get extended side-view mirrors.
  • Take turns extra wide.
  • Give yourself more distance to brake.
  • Place your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel when backing up.
  • Take your foot off the gas when being passed by large trucks to minimize buffering.
  • Readjust the trailer's tongue weight if you notice excessive swaying.
  • Check your trailer's wheel hubs at every stop. If they are hot, your bearings may need to be serviced.

And don't forget to stay safe after you've reached your destination. Make sure you have the boat insurance you need before you're on the water by talking to a State Farm® agent.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

State Farm Fire and Casualty Company
Bloomington, IL

State Farm General Insurance Company
Bloomington, IL

State Farm Florida Insurance Company
Winter Haven, FL

State Farm Lloyds
Richardson, TX

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