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A boat winch might not be the most advanced or complicated marine device that you own, but it’s easily one of the most important. Getting your boat in and out of the water and loaded onto a trailer is no easy task, but with a properly installed boat trailer winch, the task becomes quicker, and much safer.
The modern boat winch comes in two distinct flavors: manual, and electric. Manual boat winches are lever operated and require you to use your hands to winch your boat out of the water. An electric boat trailer winch does the exact same thing, but with electrical power rather than human strength.
Both have their pros and cons, but there’s more to choosing the best boat winch for your needs than opting for an electric or manual model. There are all kinds of variables to take into account, from your boat’s dimensions and weight, to the load capacity that a certain model has.
To make life easier, we’ve put together a list of the best boat trailer winch products on the market, along with a short buying guide that outlines the main features that you should be looking for when shopping around. So, without further ado, let’s look at the best boat winches currently available!
The Fulton F2 Two boat winch is arguably one of the most celebrated manual boat winches on the market. Ideally suited for trailer mounting, this winch has huge pulling power, smooth action, a no-maintenance nature, and a very reasonable price tag. It’s not hard to see why it regularly tops the best sellers lists.
This sleek looking manual boat winch is made from a smart one-piece aluminum frame with a tough aluminum handle. It features an all-enclosed design which keeps the elements out, but keeps all of the good stuff in. Nothing should ever require oiling, lubricating, or replacing because of this. All of the components are corrosion resistant, and can handle the negative effects of salt water and harsh marine conditions.
This winch has two cranking speeds which can be engaged by smoothly turning the handle. The different gears are engaged by spinning the handle at a higher or lower speed. Talking of which, the actual handle is adjustable and has four different mounting heights, and it can be mounted on either side of the winch for easy operation.
In terms of installation, the Fulton boat winch has an E.I.S Easy Install System which includes a standard mounting bolt pattern, all necessary mounting parts, an easy to follow instructions. If you’re looking for a solid winch that you can easily use, assemble, and mount, that comes with a long 5 year warranty, then this is the winch for you.
Crank Type: Manual winch
Pulling Capacity: 3200 lbs
Strap: Heavy duty 20 ft winch strap
Warranty: 5 year limited warranty
The Reese Towpower 74329 is arguably the best boat winch in terms of sales. It has plenty of satisfied customers writing positive reviews for this little winch, and though it doesn’t have the pulling capacity of many others, and it does lack certain features, it does have one, huge plus point: it’s very cheap to buy. Yes, this the best option for boaters on a budget, providing that they need to haul weights weighing less than 1500 lbs.
Constructed from strong steel and finished with a zinc plating that resists corrosions and keeps the elements from damaging the winch’s internal components, Reese’s Towpower is quite a tough unit.
On the inside, it features high carbon steel gears (set at a 4:1 gear ratio) that maximize your pulling power, working in tandem with a smart self-activating brake system that improves control. Permanently lubricated bearings are fitted to the drive shaft to keep you rolling and rolling without worry.
It also boasts and ergonomic handle for easy cranking, a 20 ft long hauling strap with a hook attachment, some mounting components (but not all), and everything else you’d need to get pulling from the moment this boat trailer winch arrives on your doorstep.
All Reese products ship with a warranty of at least 1 year, and all components meet SAE 1050 specification. That’s incredible value for a winch that costs under $40.
Crank Type: Manual hand winch
Pulling Capacity: 1500 lbs
Strap: 20 ft hauling strap with hook
Warranty: All Reese products are covered for a minimum of 1 year warranties
The Dutton-Lainson DL2500A is a solid boat winch. In fact, it’s a great manual winch for a wide range of horizontal pulling activities. It has a large pulling capacity which makes it ideal for larger boats. In terms of value, this product is very well priced and offer big performance for a relatively small price tag.
Goldenrod’s DL2500A is made from high grade components, including zinc plated Tuffplate. The result is a super strong and sturdy device that can resist the elements, competently haul heavy loads, and won’t wear out in a hurry. It features a 9-1/2” quick attach handle with a comfortable ergonomic grip, which allows for fast and smooth operation, with well-engineered gears for the ultimate pulling power.
The gearing relies on a sophisticated dual drive shaft system which can engage high and low speed cranking, allowing for less effort to be used to pull heavier loads. The first gear ratio is 17.3:1, and the second higher gear ratio is 5.4:1. There’s also a freewheel function for easy line removing and strap changes.
Each kit ships with a clamp kit to help install cables onto the winch drum, but no straps are included. Mounting hardware also isn’t included. What is included, however, is a comprehensive 5 year limited warranty. Also, for those who prefer to invest in American products, this boat trailer winch is officially made in the U.S.A.
Crank Type: Manual winch
Pulling Capacity: 2500 lbs
Strap: Not included
Warranty: 5 year limited manufacturer’s warranty
The Powerwinch 912 is the king of electric winches. It’s a 12v DC that can lift a seriously heavy weight, making it the ideal winch attachment for any tow vehicle or trailer. It’s a premium product, and it has a price tag that reflects its premium nature. However, if you’ve got goods to haul horizontally that weigh up to 11,500 lbs, or need to lift something vertically that weighs up to 4,000 lbs, then this is the only tool for the job.
Powerwinch is a well-established company with a reputation for building solid and reliable winches. This model, the 912, is no different. It has a heavy-duty construction with a number of exciting features. It has a smooth power delivery for easy pulling, with a button push operation and an optional freewheeling setting for steady bailing.
It boasts a pulling capacity of 11,500 lbs, but that can be adjusted by using a pulley block for added line strength. The line speed is 8 fpm, and this winch doesn’t use a nylon strap like most others. Instead, it uses a steel winch cable with a diameter of 7/32 inches.
As far as electric winches go, this one is a real premium product. But it’s worth the money. If you have heavy objects to haul and you don’t feel like hand cranking them yourself, then this device is worth more than its weight in gold.
Crank Type: Electric winch
Pulling Capacity: 11,500 lbs
Gears: 1 gear
Strap: 40 ft steel cable
Warranty: 1 year manufacturer’s warranty
Lastly, we have another offering from the electric winches segment. This time, we’re looking at the Bravex electric boat trailer winch. It’s not as strong as the above-mentioned model, but it has a very respectable pulling power of up to 2,000 lbs, with enough strength to roll out objects weighing up to 6,000 lbs. It’s strong, compact, and incredibly useful, all for a very cheap price tag.
The actual device is powered by a strong 12 volt winch motor that offers 30% more power than other similarly priced and spec’d machines. It has a smooth winching action, and can comfortably pull weights of up to 2,000lbs without fuss.
One of the best features of this winch is the fact that it’s dual directional. It can pull and roll-out (pulling and spooling) with ease, which is a very useful feature. It has a sophisticated electric automatic braking system, a low noise output, and a generic design that makes if compatible for a wide range of winching applications.
If that wasn’t enough, this little winch actually has a dual personality: it can also be manually cranked by hand. It might seem like a pointless feature, but having the ability to hand crank a winch in case of a power failure or another emergency could be a very useful thing indeed.
This electric (and manual) boat trailer winch ships with a 2 year warranty from the manufacturer, but it doesn’t cover the steel cable since that’s considered a consumable item.
Crank Type: Electric winch with manual function
Pulling Capacity: 2000 lbs
Gears: 1 gear ratio
Strap: ¼ inch galvanized steel cable
Warranty: 2 year warranty (not including steel cable)
The Best Boat Trailer Winches: A Buying Guide
A boat winch is a clever tool that is used to pull your boat onto a trailer. They do this by using either a hand-cranked or motor-driven mechanism that uses a series of gears to wind your hauling wire around a drum while keeping tension on the object being pulled.
A winch can be used for a wide range of applications, but when it comes to a boat trailer winch, it’s specifically designed for hauling your boat onto a trailer, and nothing more. Once your boat is up on the trailer, it needs to be secured with trailer straps and a safety chain. Once again: the winch is only for getting your boat to where it needs to be!
It’s an essential tool and every boater with a trailer should have one. But which one do you need? Which one is right for your boat or your needs? Here’s all you need to know.
Manual Boat Winches
Manual boat winches are hand cranked devices that use a turning handle to spool a line around a drum. These winches often come equipped with a strong ratchet lock to stop your line from unrolling and undoing your hard work. Generally, these devices are quite simple and cheap, with little more technology in them than a strong handle and a gearbox. Manual boat winch mechanisms are best for smaller boats.
The best manual boat trailer winch types will have a number of gears to make hand cranking a much easier task. Single-speeds are fine, but why struggle when gearboxes exist?
Electric Boat Winches
An electric winch is a more convenient boat winch which uses a powerful electric motor to pull a steel cable around a drum. Since it relies on electrical power and not human muscle, these winches can pull much heavier weights with ease. Unfortunately, they do require a car battery to use but that should be no problem considering that these winches are usually attached to trailers, which in turn are attached to cars.
Take note though: it has been know for these electric winches to drain car and boat batteries if they’re operated without the vehicle running!
The best electric boat trailer winch setups operate in both pulling and floating directions (a reverse option), and come equipped with a manual hand cranking handle in case of power failure or emergencies.
What Size Winch Do I Need For My Boat?
There’s no set winch for a particular boat size, however, boat winches are rated by what weight they can pull. In short, you’re going to want a winch that can pull your boat’s weight and a bit more. Anything less will be useless to you. There’s no chart that tells you what winch you need for your boat length: it’s all about weight, and only weight.
If your boat weighs 1000 lbs, it would be wise to find a boat winch that can pull 1,500 lbs. The reason for this is that there’s more to your boat than its gross weight. The motor will weigh extra, as will any equipment that you have stowed on board. It’s always a good idea to go for a winch that’s rated for a higher weight capacity than your boat has, because other factors can contribute to a winch’s pulling ability: the angle of a launching slope, or the amount of fuel you have on board, to name a few.
Besides, the cost difference between a lower winch capacity and a higher winch capacity isn’t much. Err on the side of caution and get a higher capacity than you need.
Another important feature to consider is whether you search for a winch with a Nylon strap or steel cable. The two types have very different properties.
Most straps are made from a woven Nylon material. They’re very similar to the seat belts found in a car. Overall, they’re very strong and durable, and they are easy to use and won’t hurt your hands if you need to manually handle them. They aren’t as strong as steel cables, but as long as you’re only towing a small boat then a strap-type boat winch will be fine.
A steel braided cable is much stronger than a Nylon strap, and while stronger might appear to be better, it’s not always the case. Cables are larger in size, so they take up more space on your winch’s drum. That means the overall pulling length won’t be as long as if you were using a strap type.
Cable is also heavier, which makes it harder to crank. This will consume more power from a battery, and demand more muscle power if you’re manually cranking. Still, steel cables are much stronger and they can be doubled using a pulley block to maximize their pulling strength.
Joe Appleton is an outdoor enthusiast who loves everything from bushcraft and hiking to wild camping and boating. If he’s not out in the woods, you’ll find him out on the water.