You’ve likely trailered your boat a few times in the past. After all, you need to get it from your home to the water whenever you want to set sail. However, you now need to ship your boat across the country because you’re moving. That means you need to know how to ship a boat safely using a trailer.

That’s where this article comes in.

We’re going to run through the key steps you need to follow to connect your boat to your trailer and the shipping vehicle so it can be transported safely.

Step No. 1 – Determine the Appropriate Weight for the Hitch

Your boat and trailer attached to a vehicle with a trailer hitch. Hitches are rated in classes, running from Class I to Class V. The following are the maximum weight designations for each class of trailer hitch.

  • Class I – 2,000 Pounds
  • Class II – 3,500 Pounds
  • Class III – 5,000 Pounds
  • Class IV – 12,000 Pounds
  • Class V – 18,000 Pounds

The combined weight of your boat and trailer must not exceed the maximum weight the hitch can support.

Step No. 2 – Check the Hitch’s Tongue Weight

Tongue weight matters almost as much as the hitch’s gross towing weight (GTW). The tongue weight tells you how much of the combined trailer and boat’s weight can be loaded directly onto a vehicle’s hitching mechanism. Generally speaking, you need to have a tongue weight that is between 10% and 15% of the combined weight of your trailer and boat.

For example, if the combined weight of your trailer and boat is 12,000 pounds, you’ll need a Class IV hitch with a tongue weight of between 1,200 and 1,800 pounds.

Failure to account for tongue weight leads to instability when shipping your boat. Sway occurs, which increases the possibility of accidents.

Step No. 3 – Find the Right Vehicle for the Job

Several factors affect which vehicle you choose for the job. These include the weight of the boat and trailer and the locations you’ll ship the boat through. A small car or pickup truck will likely be restricted to using a Class I or II hitch because the vehicle itself can’t handle weight beyond what those hitches support.

If you need to use a Class IV or V hitch, you’ll need to choose a large pickup truck, SUV, or van.

In terms of location, a four-wheel-drive vehicle will be required if you need to ship the trailer and boat across mud or sand. A diesel-fueled vehicle with plenty of low-end torque may be necessary if you’re shipping the boat and trailer over hills or mountainous regions.

Check the vehicle’s towing capacity before trying to ship a boat with a trailer.

Step No. 4 – Hitching the Trailer to the Vehicle

You have chosen the towing vehicle, the boat is on the trailer, and the hitch is set up and can support the weight. Now it’s time to put all the parts together. The exact method you’ll use to hitch your trailer to the vehicle will vary depending on the specific vehicle and hitch in question. The following quick tips are generally applicable in all circumstances.

  • Align the trailer’s ball with the hitch and gently lower the hitch over the ball
  • Close the hitch latch and insert its safety pin
  • Cross your trailer’s safety chains before attaching them to the back of the tow vehicle (crossing ensures the tow apparatus can support the trailer’s tongue weight if the hitch fails)
  • Attach the trailer’s safety line to your towing vehicle if your trailer has brakes
  • Plug the trailer’s lights in and run a check to ensure they’re all working

Step No. 5 – Drive Safely

With everything connected, the next step to consider is safe driving. This is the most challenging part of the process, as it requires a great deal of skill and concentration to ship a boat with a trailer for extended distances. The following are some quick safe driving tips when towing.

  • Towing mirrors give the driver a better view of the road behind
  • Making wide turns helps to avoid clipping curbs and obstructions
  • Check that your trailer and boat are even and level before shipping
  • Plenty of room is needed between the tow vehicle and any vehicles in front of it
  • Make sure your shipping company employs only safe, qualified drivers

Make Shipping Easier – Use a Professional Service

Professional boat-shipping services make the entire process much simpler. Instead of having to worry about your boat and trailer making it to the end destination safely, you get to have the work done quickly and easily.

Boat transportation companies offer several services that protect your vessel during the shipping process. For example, the company may offer shrink-wrapping services that protect the boat from moisture during shipping. Many offer overland and interstate shipping services too, taking the difficult task of driving long distances off your plate.

Of course, hiring a professional shipping service comes at a price, which is determined based on the distance traveled and the type of service you choose. View A-1 Auto Transport boat shipping prices to get a general idea of what you should expect to pay.

How to Get on the Move Faster

Positioning your trailer and vehicle correctly is often a challenge, especially if you’re working with limited space. Attempting to reverse your vehicle toward the trailer can lead to collisions if you’re not careful.

Thankfully, a solution to this problem exists in the form of the Trailer Valet.

This is a clever, remote-controlled hitch you attach to your trailer so you can move it around when it isn’t connected to your vehicle. It helps you maneuver your trailer in and out of difficult spots, allowing for easier storage and the ability to move your trailer to your vehicle safely. Use one of these handy devices if you have limited space to work with and if you want to reduce the possibility of collisions happening between your towing vehicle and trailer.

Safety First

Safety is your key priority when shipping a boat with a trailer. You need to ensure that the hitch is capable of doing the job, as well as using a vehicle that can support the combined weight of your boat and trailer. Hooking the trailer up to the hitch is an important process that must be completed correctly before setting out. And the driver will need to follow some key safety rules to account for the increased weight of your vehicle.

Hiring a professional service to do the job for you is recommended in most cases. They can transport your boat safely on a trailer, in addition to being covered by insurance if something goes wrong. Having access to a Trailer Valet also helps you maneuver your trailer around in tight spaces, meaning your boat is protected during the often-tricky process of loading and unloading from the vehicle.