Best Carpet for Boat Trailer Bunks in 2023
CE Smith Boat Trailer Bunk Carpet Roll
Cuda Boat Trailer Bunk Carpet
Attwood Trailer Bunk Padding
A boat trailer is essentially for any boat that’s going in and out of the water during the year. If you need to get the boat out for storage and travel, a reliable boat trailer can make all the difference but every part of it has to be up to snuff. That means quality bunks.
Bunks are the wooden panels or beams that offer support to your boat when it’s in transit. The bunks are carpeted to provide not only support but to ease the boat on and off of the trailer as well. They prevent scratches, dings and dents and help keep your boat looking its best. So while a trailer bunk may not be the most luxurious or interesting thing in the world, it needs to do its job or your boat will suffer. And that means it needs quality carpeting.
Technically you can use any carpet in the world on a boat trailer bunk. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be good. Remember, your trailer is getting wet. It will likely be sitting out in the sun and the rain a lot, too. Good trailer bunk carpeting, like any boat carpet, can handle all of that without fading, rotting or wearing too thin.
Choosing the Best Boat Trailer Bunk Carpet
How you use your boat trailer and the type of boat you have are major factors in picking a good carpet. Likewise, your personal tastes and budget come into play. The fact is a lot of boaters don’t care that much about a boat trailer bunk carpet. You just want something that works, and that’s reasonable. So balancing the cost with the effectiveness is always something to keep in mind.
As with almost any product, you’ll have to decide between brand names like CE Smith and SeaSense. Then there are no-name products that may have been imported from parts unknown but are substantially cheaper. Make sure you’re checking reviews as well as relevant info like material and thickness and so on.
Why Do I Even Need a Carpet on a Boat Trailer Bunk?
This is a fair question and it’s one a new boater might be tempted to ask. There are two main reasons to have a quality carpet on your boat trailer bunks. The first is to allow some padding for your boat on the trailer. It offers just enough resistance to prevent your boat from wobbling against the wood and metal parts. That means your boat is less likely to get scuffed or dented as it moves on and off the trailer.
The second function is to ease the movement of the boat on and off the trailer. Imagine trying to slide your body easily along the bare metal frame of the trailer, just grinding the two of them together. It wouldn’t be pretty. Marine grade carpet is synthetic so it acts as a dry lubricant, essentially. Your boat moves much more easily, and safely, as a result.
As you have seen, not all boat trailer bunk carpet is made equally. You have some choices in material that each have their potential benefits and drawbacks. Typically you’ll find these carpets made using two materials more than anything else. These are all ideal for padding, strength and dryness. Those are all factors you need to keep in mind. If you have a soggy carpet that tears easily, it’s clearly not doing its job.
Polyester Bunk Carpeting: Sometimes called PET polyester which stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate. This is often a pricier option than plain rubber-backed no-name carpet but it’s also higher quality. This is marine grade, durable and rugged. It should be durable enough to stand up to the job. It’s fairly water resistant and also wicks away water quickly. Of all the marine carpeting you can buy, this is likely going to be able to resist the rays of the sun the longest. It also resistant stains better than other materials.
Polypropylene Bunk Carpeting: This is very similar to polyester carpet. That said, polypropylene is better at resisting water. When it does get wet it will also dry faster. Unfortunately, it is less resistant to UV radiation than something like polyester so, over time, it will break down more. Most marine carpet is made from polypropylene. If you buy marine grade carpet not made of polypropylene double check that you know what it is made from. Nylon carpeting or other thin materials will likely not stand up to the wear and tear required for this job.
Others: It’s rare but you can find alternate materials out there for bunk carpeting. It doesn’t have to be polyester or polypropylene to be good. For instance, some carpet is made from recycled plastic waste. This could have a mix of plastics in it but it can be very high quality and also off an environmentally friendly option as well.
In addition to the material used to make the carpet itself, you’ll also have options for backing materials.
Rubber Bunk Carpeting: This is a solid choice for the benefits it offers with installation and also padding. Rubber bunk carpets have a rubber mat on the back, similar to the carpets you might use on a patio or even for a welcome mat. That means the part facing out will still be one of the other materials, but it’s backed with rubber. Not only does that ensure that they’re waterproof, it makes installing them a lot easier. The rubber holds in place well with a good grip on your trailer. Also it offers a good amount of padding between your trailer and your boat. That means you’re less likely to see scrapes and dings from loading and unloading your boat on the trailer.
Rubber carpeting is often well-priced. The major downside to choosing rubber carpet is its longevity. Though it can be durable in the moment as you move a boat on and off a trailer, over time it will break down. UV radiation from the sun has a strong effect on rubber carpeting. In time you may notice it starts falling apart on you. The only peace of mind is that it didn’t cost you an arm and a leg to begin with. But it can still be a hassle to have to replace it in a few years.
Alternative Backing: Rubber may be the most common backing material for bunk carpets but it’s not the only option. There are various synthetic composites, acrylic and so on that you’ll find. You want to make sure you’re finding something that offers durability and also resistance to the elements. A good backing will aid in installation by offering some grip to hold the carpet in place as well. If it’s too stiff, it can make installation difficult in terms of molding the carpet to the bunk itself, so keep that in mind.
You need to make sure that whatever carpet you get is marine grade. Otherwise it will begin to rot, fall apart, and smell fairly quickly. You’ve probably seen a few trailers around that use indoor/outdoor carpet that you might see on the deck in someone’s yard, or even stuff that looks like astroturf. It’s really cheap and that makes it seem appealing, but it just doesn’t last. You’re using this to protect your boat’s hull. Make sure it’s the right material for the job.
What is PVS Carpet?
If you Google the best carpets for boat trailer bunks you’ll find several sites explaining the different types you can buy. One of the kinds mentioned is sometimes PVS. If you’re at all familiar with synthetic materials this will probably make you raise an eyebrow. Likely you’ve never heard of PVS carpet before and with good reason, it’s not a thing. They may be referring to PVC but even PVC carpet isn’t really a thing. You can get PVC carpet tiles if you like, but none of this works for boating or boat trailer bunks. Stick with polyester or polypropylene carpeting that is designed to be marine grade. That’ll serve you well.
Most trailer bunk carpet is not very thick. Maybe a quarter of an inch. You’ll find that having thicker carpet is often a better idea because if it’s not thick enough to do the job then why bother? For that reason you may want to invest in a more plush carpet. That said, don’t break the bank buying stuff just because it’s thick. A lot of boaters will simply double up the carpet they buy. Two layers gives you a half inch of padding, and that’s typically good enough to do the job.
Check what reviews say if you’re not sure. Some carpet can be deceptively thin or squish down easily. But sometimes if it’s too thick it makes installation more difficult. You need to wrap this around the bunks and the thicker it is, the harder that can be if it’s not really pliable. The best carpet is one that can balance everything to be thick enough and flexible enough to be useful.
Once function is taken care of, form is your next concern. Some boaters don’t care what color their trailer bunk carpet is. It’s there to do a job, not look nice. But some of us do want it to look good and go with an established color scheme. If that’s the case, you may need to do a little hunting.
Many trailer bunk carpets are only available in very basic colors. Black and gray are the most common. That said, higher end carpets can come in varying shades of blue and red and so on. Just keep in mind that the brighter the color the more potential there is for it to get discolored over time. If you don’t clean it regularly you run the risk of some noticeable stains on lighter colored carpets.
This is a big factor for people buying trailer bunk carpet. You look at it and you think “why should I be paying more for this?” And the fact is, these carpets are often more expensive than regular indoor or indoor and outdoor carpet. So you do need to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it’s worth it for you financially.
We definitely recommend using quality boat trailer bunk carpet. It may cost a few dollars more than old carpet scrap but it’s worth it. These are designed to be durable in ways normal carpet is not. More than that, they’re also designed to handle wet conditions better. They dry out quickly so you don’t develop mold and bacteria and a nasty smell as easily. Finally, they have the padding you need to help protect your boat properly.
All of that being said, boat trailer bunk carpeting is like anything else. You’ll find some stuff that’s very premium and very expensive. Then you’ll find some that’s much more affordable. Make sure you check out all the features, benefits and intended uses before deciding if it will work for your boat. We’ve offered a range of choices and some will probably be better suited to your specific boat and trailer set up than others.
Pay attention to dimensions. This is very important when buying online because it can get tricky. You may see one carpet advertised at $30 and another as $70. The $30 one is made of the same stuff, it’s just as thick, and it looks great. Then you buy it and realize it’s less than half the size of the other one. Measurements must be accurate for this job.
Installation Made Easy
Don’t make a relatively simple job harder on yourself. Check your measurements before you look at any carpets. Measure the length and the width of your bunks and make sure you have an accurate number. You’ll need to do some math here too, probably. Are you totally wrapping them, or just part of the way? You’ll need to make sure you have enough carpet for the full coverage you require.
Measurements can be tricking when buying bunk carpet online, but not for the reasons you may think. The fact is, sometimes you don’t get what you bargained for. There are more than a few reviews out there for carpets that were ordered one size but delivered another size. Width is almost never an issue, but length can be sketchy sometimes. For that reason we also recommend ordering at least a foot more than you think you need.
During installation you want more length and more width. That’s so you can wrap the carpet around the board. But if you’re relying on the length to be precise down to the inch, you could be disappointed. We recommend paying a few dollars more to ensure the length is there. We’ve heard of people losing as much as 8 inches from one length to another when they were supposed to be the exact same size. That’s not your fault, of course, but it is a hassle. You could wait and see, and then try to get a refund or a replacement if things go wrong. But that means you’re still waiting to have the problem fixed and, in the meantime, you have no carpeting on your bunks.
The easiest way to affix marine bunk carpet is to staple it in place. Staples are fast and effective and relatively cheap. Just make sure you’re using stainless steel staples. You don’t want them rusting away after the first time they get wet. Your carpet will come free in no time if that happens. Half inch stainless steel staples are ideal.
You may want to use a combination of glue and staples to hold the carpeting in place. Just remember that glue can make it harder to replace later if you want to keep the same bunks just re-carpet them. Also, glue can cause lumps if it’s not applied smoothly. Something to keep in mind. Gluing carpet down can cause bunching and if it’s not perfectly smooth and even from one end to the other it can cause trouble. Also, some glues can end up holding moisture which can lead to the wood or carpet rotting faster and smelling bad. The other concern is that not all glue is designed for marine applications so it may come loose if you choose the wrong kind.
Use a sharp cutting tool when you’re cutting the carpet to size. Cheaper carpets have a bad habit of fraying and coming apart along cuts, and this is made even worse if the cuts are not smooth. A very sharp box cutter or utility knife often works best. Be especially careful if the carpet is very stiff when cutting such that your blade sticks. Make sure you’re cutting away from yourself in case you hit one of those smooth grooves and the knife slices through quickly.
Extras After the Installation
If you’re worried about having difficulty getting your boat on and off the trailer, there are some tips and tricks to make it work as well. Bunk slicks are plastic runners that you bolt right onto the carpet. They allow your boat to slide on and off much easier. Most places that sell bunk carpet also offer slicks. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and are easy to install. As always, just make sure you get the right size.
Some boat owners swear by using bunk slicks and others think they’re a waste of time. There’s no right or wrong answer to that so try them if you want and see if they help. It won’t cause any trouble if you don’t use them, though.
If you don’t want to invest in bunk slicks, there’s the old fashioned wax approach as well. A bit of liquid turtle wax rubbed into your carpets will make them slick and smooth for moving the boat. You can also use some spray silicone as well. You’ll need to reapply this after taking your boat on and off about 5 or 6 times though, since it does wear off.
Marine Bunk Carpeting Maintenance
If you’re spending all this time and effort getting carpets, you should take care of them. Outdoor carpet has a rough lot in life and it can really take a lot of abuse. Especially with a boat gliding across it a few times a season, then sitting out in the sun and rain all day. You should take steps to ensure you don’t need to go through all of this again next year.
Make sure you’re checking for wear and tear on a regular basis. Just give your carpets a quick check to look for any frayed edges or worn patches. If it’s bad enough, you’ll need to replace it.
Keep your boat bunk carpet clean. When they’re dry you can use a vacuum on them to suck up any dirt and dust that has accumulated.
Once the loose stuff is gone, you can wash them with a hose or water from a bucket. Just don’t pressure wash the carpet as that kind of force can cause damage. If you have some troublesome stains, there are cleaners meant for outdoor and marine carpeting. Or, in a pinch, you can use some vinegar as well. It’s not toxic and shouldn’t cause damage to the material. You can use a brush to scrub the carpet clean but make sure it’s not too harsh. A soft brush or even a medium is all you need.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know what kind of boat trailer bunk carpets are out there, don’t stress over it. Make your measurements, find the kind that you think works best, and that’s all there is to it. The sooner you have some quality carpet on the bunks, the sooner you can get back to enjoying your boat.