Decide On a Pontoon Boat Trailer with This Breakdown
Choosing the right trailer for your pontoon boat is almost as important as choosing the boat itself. This is the equipment you'll use to load and launch. It will be what your boat sits on during the winter for, depending on your region's climate, what could be several months. It will be what carries your pontoon on long hauls. But before purchasing, there are lots of details to consider.I've broken the trailer down into component features. Each one can vary based on the make and model of trailer, so be sure to investigate these features on any trailer you're considering buying.
Your Boat's WeightGross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the total weight the trailer can support. Be sure you've taken into account the entire weight, including the engine and fuel. The average pontoon boat's weight can vary, and you want to know what type of trailer can handle yours in particular. The weight will dictate how many axles you'll need in order to properly support it.
Types of Trailers
Single axle trailers are generally more cost-effective than multi-axles. They're easier to move and can turn tightly into hard-to-reach spots like garages or storage facilities. You can even move them by hand manually if you need to shift to reach something that's blocked in your garage. Obviously, they require less maintenance as there are fewer tires and axles to tighten. This video demonstrates the features of one single axle trailer example:
Multi-axle trailers (more than one set of axles) lack the dexterity of the single axle trailer, but they're much better equipped to handle long hauls and wear and tear on the road. They're more stable, and will keep you and your boat safe if you lose one tire to a blow-out. Here's one example of the multi-axle option:
A tandem axle trailer (which has two sets of axles) is sufficient for most pontoons. My folks own an Avalon Entertainer and carry it with a 25' 2014 tandem MFI Trailer. MFI makes good quality trailers and come in all varieties and sizes. Take a look at this tandem axle trailer to get a sense of what they look like:
Also known as scissor trailers, these type of trailers make it so your pontoon is saddling the trailer, not sitting directly on it. The main reason you might consider having this type of trailer is that you want to launch in shallow waters, but I say it's best to locate a marina with a deeper launch instead. The other reason is having the flexibility to move a variety of pontoons. If you ask around, you'll find that most 'tooners prefer bunk trailers (more on that later). Center lift trailers have bad road stability when it comes to long hauls. If you're a novice and unfamiliar with trailering, you face the real risk of your boat tipping. This video will give you a thorough walkthrough to the scissor trailer concept:
SuspensionsIf you're looking for a smooth-riding trailer that absorbs shock on roads full of potholes, you might want to consider one of these types of suspensions.
Leaf SpringThe most commonly used is a leaf spring suspension. These are more easily repaired than torsion axles, but in turn, require more maintenance. However, they do have better shock absorbency.
Torsion AxlesThis is basically a rod inside a square tube used as a spring. These require a bit less maintenance. However, when they need repairs they're more difficult.
RadialMost people I know prefer radial over bias-ply tires. This is for multiple reasons, but the main takeaway is that bias-ply tires have narrower footprints, which means less grip on the pavement. Radial tires are wider and grip the pavement better, on top of being better constructed and longer-lasting overall.
Bias-plyAs I mentioned, most prefer radial tires, but bias-ply are all right for local trips and if you're not doing too much trailering. They have a sidewall flex to the tread, which means your tires can slip, and they're generally not built to be as strong as their radial counterparts. The only upside is that they tend to be cheaper.
Gliding On and Off
BunksThere are two types of bunks: Dry bunks and carpet bunks. Regardless of whether they're carpeted or not, trailer bunks are typically made of long pieces of wood. Using treated wood was once very common, but due to the change in methods of treating lumber, most manufacturers today won't use treated wood. Previously, wood treatments contained copper sulfate and were known to tarnish pontoon tubes. The threat of discoloration outweighs the effort to occasionally replace the wood. So, make sure the bunk won't damage your pontoon in any way before purchasing.
Bunk WrappingCarpeting is an inexpensive and affordable way to cover the bunks. It's generally lightweight and can easily be applied with staples. This DIY process is fairly straightforward and I've helped my dad reapply carpet to bunks numerous times. A good quality trailer uses a 14 ounce carpet which has a rubber back. This is very durable and marine grade, typically applied to bunks to assist heavier boats that would tear normal carpets.
Some prefer not to have their 'toons sitting on carpeting for long periods of time, since carpet can still absorb some water and retain moisture. Instead of leaving your boat on a carpeted surface, you can install plastic glides or "caps" to your bunk trailer. This helps glide the trailer on while also keeping it off the carpet. It's a great pontoon trailer accessory to have!