Bunk Trailer or Roller Trailer? What's the Difference?

Should I get a Bunk Trailer or Roller Trailer

The age old question of bunk trailers vs. roller trailers has been a hot debate among games-men and fishermen alike for ages. People will usually have a preference for one over the other, and if you ask why then you should get ready to catch an earful. The truth is they both have some distinct advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Do you expect to be launching at low tide? How high is the water at that point? Do you expect to have some assistance or are you rolling solo? Perhaps you simply want the best all around choice, and I will let my personal opinion on that be known at the tail-end of this article. So let's jump into it, bunk trailers or roller trailers? Which is better?

boat trailer bunk vs roller launch

What is a bunk trailer?

Before discussing the pros and cons in this bunk trailer or roller trailer debate, I think it's important to define specifically what it is that we're talking about. A bunk trailer is a relatively simple trailer design that can support a boat and get it launched into the water. Bunk trailers have less moving parts which means they are much cheaper to buy and maintain. The vast majority of trailers I see out and about are bunk trailers.

What is a roller trailer?

A roller trailer is the next evolution of trailers. The price point is a lot higher, and there are many more moving parts that will require maintenance. If that's the case, why would you ever want one? Well... Convenience mostly. If you're launching a boat by yourself a roller trailer can make it an absolute snap. Retrieving the vessel presents a bit more of a challenge since you will require a winch system to do so.

boat trailer bunk vs roller parked

Advantages and Disadvantages


As I mentioned, a bunk trailer will not only cost less to purchase initially it will require less money to maintain it in working order. A roller trailer has plenty of moving parts that will give out sooner or later while a bunk trailer seems to just keep on going no matter how much wear and tear you put on it. If you're looking for the long-lasting option a bunk trailer will have you sold in no time.

I've had my fair share of discussions about whether or not bunk trailers actually save cash due to the friction that is applied to a boat when launching. If you end up needing to redo your paint job, it can easily overtake what you saved when buying the bunk trailer. Luckily there are plenty of lubricants or sliding trailer pads you can buy to reduce the amount of friction that your boat is experiencing.

While you're lubing up the trailer, why not give your snaps and zippers a once over without our freshly launched boat zipper and snap lube and make stowing your boat and its components a breeze?

boat trailer bunk vs roller stowed

Ease of Use when Launching

With the aforementioned lack of friction, it isn't a long shot to assume that a roller trailer is far easier to use. Simply hit a release button and marvel as your boat basically launches itself. We are living in the future now! Bunk trailers do require a bit more elbow grease to get into the water. In addition, it's nearly impossible to get a boat launched from a bunk trailer when the water levels are too low.

Bunk trailers require you to submerge at least the rear axel which can cause more of that undue wear and tear, particularly if you're launching into salt water and even more so if you aren't hosing down the trailer soon after it's done being submerged. Salt water is some corrosive stuff which can literally eat your bunk trailer, and that's no joke.

Keep your trailer safe with Better Boat's concentrate salt remover. It doesn't only work on the outside of a boat or trailer, you can even use it to flush the engine so you'll never need to worry about your boat during storage.

Ease of Use when Loading

This is really where the bunk trailer shines. While a roller trailer will require you to winch up and wind the boat back onto the trailer, a bunk trailer allows "drive-on". That is 100% what it sounds like. You submerge the trailer and drive the boat right back onto it. After the amount of effort that went into launching the thing, the least they could do is let you end the day easily once you're all worn out from boating, right?

boat trailer bunk vs roller old

Manufacturer requirements

By this point you're probably like "Heck yes roller trailer!". Well before getting too excited about that possibility, you might want to check with the manufacturer of your vessel. Some boat manufacturers require the use of a bunk trailer. While it shouldn't be a deal-breaker it can certainly be a littler disheartening. Don't let it influence you too heavily, bunk trailers are absolutely fine and you're buying the boat for the boat, not for the trailer.

My Personal Opinion

An observant reader will likely notice my personal opinion leaking through in each section, but please keep in mind that it is just that: an opinion. With that stated, I won't hesitate to tell you that roller trailers are by far the superior option if you have the capital to buy one and maintain it properly.

I'm a man who likes to be comfortable, and getting waist-deep into the water while pushing and shoving my boat in before I can just enjoy a leisurely ride? That ain't it, chief. If you love your bunk trailer then more power to you! We all have our own preferences, and that includes me.