How To Evenly Distribute Weight On Trailered Boat

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Before you tow your new boat to the water, there are some things to learn about how to keep weight evenly distributed on a trailered boat.

Assuming the trailer can hold the weight and that your tow vehicle can pull the load, distributing weight is easy. Make sure that the boat is centered on the trailer. Secure the boat to the trailer frame. Space out all equipment on either side of the deck and secure loose items before towing.

Every summer, millions of Americans pull their trailered boats to reservoirs, lakes, and rivers to enjoy a day of freshwater fishing and relaxation. And while time on the water can be rewarding, getting your boat to and from the ramp can be challenging. If the load you tow is off balance, or overloads a trailer axle during transport, it can quickly turn a great day into a disaster. Over 450 people are killed in light-duty trailer accidents annually, and many of those life-changing moments involve towing a boat. How can you be sure that your entire load is distributed evenly? Let’s explore that issue and see if we can figure out a few things.

Table of Contents


How Do I Evenly Distribute the Weight On A Trailered Boat?

The first thing that you need to worry about is getting your boat onto the trailer. Try to back your truck and trailer into the water in as straight a line as possible. Once done, try to maneuver the boat slowly toward the trailer. Keep the nose of the boat pointed to the “center” of your towing truck. (I picked the emblem on the back of the tailgate as a guide). If you discover you are off, put the thing back into the water and take another stab at it.

Monitor the winch (if you use one) as it pulls the boat onto the trailer. You want the winch to pull the boat straight onto the trailer. Use heavy-duty straps and tie-downs to secure the boat to the trailer to keep it in place, so it does not shift. Move your truck and boat off the ramp into a parking area if possible. This action frees the boat ramp for other folks who need to launch or retrieve their boats.

Once parked, finish your tie-down procedure. I like to take this time to inspect my straps, looking for any kind of fraying or weakness in the ratchet straps. If I find anything a miss, I replace it immediately.

This is a great time to clean any loose debris/trash from the boat deck (beer cans, bait containers, and the like). Assess the equipment that you have on the boat. (Shift heavier items like gas tanks toward the front of the boat to counter the weight of the motor (boat engines are hefty). Secure all stowables in their compartments and tie down any other loose pieces of equipment.

If you sense that the load is shifting at any time while towing, don’t keep going. Pull over in a safe spot and assess what’s going on. If you can, try to correct the situation. Remember to go slow and make wide turns because you have another vehicle behind you.

Why Does the Weight on A Boat Need To Be Distributed Evenly?

Just like a boat in the water has trouble if too much cargo weight is brought to bear on one side, the same principle applies when on a trailer. If the weight shifts too far one way or another, then the stress of the additional weight could overwhelm the rear axles, affect the trailer brakes, or create problems for other drivers. The off-balanced trailer weight makes steering difficult, so keeping the weight evenly distributed is important. The other guy in the lane next to you might not appreciate having your boat collide with their car.

Towing anything is about having a trailer and the load it carries following the tow vehicle in as straight a line as possible. When your truck goes forward, you want your boat trailer to do the same. Most jurisdictions have rules and regulations about boat towing, especially how much cargo capacity you can have, and how the load is distributed on a trailer.

What Should I Know To Make Sure The Weight Is Even?

There are a couple of essential things to know when trying to figure out ways to balance cargo weight so that it is properly distributed on a trailered vehicle.

Know The Weight Limits

First, you must ensure that your tow vehicle and single trailer are up to the task. You should determine the trailered weight of the load to ensure that it meets the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) and the GAWR (gross axle weight rating). Remember that total weight is not just about the boat and trailer, but tongue weight and cargo weight factor in.

Exceeding a trailer’s weight limits is asking for trouble. If the vessel weight were to shift and overwhelm the capacities of the trailer frame (or the hitch fails), it could be a disaster for your boating trip. Remember that both trucks and boat trailers have these ratings for a reason, and the safety of everyone on the road is why these guidelines exist.

Most boat trailers have gross vehicle weight rating restrictions (capacities) listed on the VIN sticker or nameplate. Remember to include the weight of a motor, fuel, and any additional gear you have in your estimate. The general rule of thumb is not to exceed 80% of the max weight ratings for optimal safety.

Know Your Truck and Trailer

Staying within the weight limits isn’t all you need to be concerned about boat towing. You need to know your trailer.

Tire Pressures Matter

Make sure the boat trailer has adequate tire pressure. A low-pressure tire will not provide the stability you need and could cause the boat’s weight to overload a rear axle.

Get the Right Hitch For the Load

An adjustable hitch and sturdy ball mount are important because it is the connection point between your boat trailer and the tow vehicle. Just like trailers have weight capacities, so do trailer hitches. Make sure that you are pulling a heavy trailer’s weight with a hitch that has the capacity to do so. Most manufacturers suggest that if you are pulling more than 5,000 lbs owners should use a weight-distribution hitch which can more effectively balance a loaded trailer over all four tires of the tow vehicle.

Check Your Vehicle

Braking systems should be properly maintained and hooked up correctly. Most boat trailers have surge brakes, but they won’t help you at all if they aren’t hooked up. You should periodically check to ensure that all directional lights, brake signals, and trailer lights are operational. Side view mirrors can be installed to offer adequate visibility and need to be used, especially if you’re towing a pontoon boat or larger vessel.