What is the easiest way to haul your inflatable boat? Put the whole thing on a trailer, of course. If you have the space to store it and the time to drive a bit slower (due to towing), inflatable boat trailers are great.
In this detailed guide, you will learn all about how to choose a trailer, what modifications you may need, and how to tow it as well.
Let’s get started!
How to choose a trailer for an inflatable boat
There are several things you need to pay attention to when buying a trailer for your SIB (but not as many as you would need for a traditional boat).
Basic trailer requirements
If you consider any trailer for a SIB, make sure they have:
- a working lighting system that can be hooked onto your car’s for functioning brake lights and turn signals
- fenders above the wheels, which protect the boat from road debris (stones, etc.)
You don’t need active braking on trailers that haul inflatable boats, because they are not heavy.
In order to make sure your boat fits the trailer, you need to consider the length of your boat.
The point is to have the transom still resting on the trailer, with the front still behind the tongue and bow rest.
All trailers are rated for a maximum load capacity.
When calculating the kerb weight of your inflatable boat, make sure you add the weight of everything that will be in/on the boat while on the trailer:
- fuel (7 pounds per gallon)
- water (8 pounds per gallon)
Inflatable boats are much lighter than traditional fiberglass boats, so load capacity should not be an issue.
Trailers are made of either steel or aluminum.
What is the difference?
Steel is stronger, heavier and usually cheaper. The downside to trailers made out of steel is that they will rust, being since steel is a ferrous metal. This becomes especially problematic with salt-water.
Aluminum is lighter, not as strong. It will corrode like steel, but will not rust. It is usually more expensive.
Which material should you choose?
If you plan on launching your boat into salt-water directly from your trailer, you should go for an aluminum trailer. There are other water launching options though, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Trailer support system
There are 2 ways a boat can be supported on the trailer: on bunks or on rollers.
- Bunks: Bunks are longitudinal pads to support the soft hull over a long length. They are meant to cradle your boat with even weight distribution. Bunks (also called bunkers) are usually made of marine-grade plywood and covered with marine carpet.
- Rollers: While loading and unloading your boat becomes easy, there are many tradeoffs. The weight of the boat is concentrated on the rollers, so the boat’s material can develop little indents where it sits on the roller. They don’t cradle the body of the boat at all.
Trailers with bunkers are better for transporting inflatable boats.
Now that you’ve read about the aspects you need to consider, let’s have a look at the best inflatable boat trailers I have used or come across.
Flat deck trailer for your inflatable boat?
Flat deck trailers can work well, even though they are not designed specifically for hauling boats.
There are just a few things you need to be mindful of:
- You need to deflate your keel when using a flat deck trailer of course.
- If the tubes are left fully inflated, the transom will be sitting in the air. This may become a problem if you leave a heavy motor on the transom since it can cause extra wear not just on your transom, but also the rubber where your transom meets the tubes.
To remedy this, let some air out of your tubes, you that the transom sits on the solid part of the trailer.
- You may need to install a bow rest (bow stop). This is attached to the tongue of the trailer and supports the front of your boat.
Cheap inflatable boat trailer
If you don’t want to spend $1000+ on a trailer for your SIB either, this boat trailer kit at approximately $550 is your best choice.
This is the Ironton Personal Watercraft and Boat Trailer kit, here it is on Amazon.
Yes, you read that right. It is a kit, which means it arrives disassembled in 2 boxes and you need to put it together yourself.
This budget trailer is perfectly suited for moving a SIB around:
|Ironton boat trailer kit|
|Deck Size L x W (in.)||77 1/4 x 40 1/4|
|Overall Size L x W x H (in.)||126 3/4 x 52 1/2 x 16 1/4|
|Wheel Size (in.)||12|
|Load Capacity||610 lbs|
|Ship Weight||216 lbs|
|Warranty||1-year Limited Warranty|
This trailer is made out of steel, but it is not galvanized. This means that you cannot use it to launch your boat into the water, otherwise, it will rust and become unusable very quickly.
The great thing about this trailer is that it is very easy to customize. You can choose where you want to place the bunkers and what angle the bunkers should, so it will fit any small boat.
Installing extras, like ratchet straps and transom tie-down straps is easy as well.
It does NOT come with a bow rest for some reason. You can buy one separately if needed, like this one.
I helped a friend put one of these together, we finished in about 5 hours. The instructions were good, but there was a wiring problem since the frame does not ground the wires because the metal-to-meal contact in the rear is poor due to the thick paint they use. As a result, the lights didn’t work.
There is an easy fix though: you need to run a ground wire from the back bar to the front ground point. This completes the circuit.
This trailer is popular so it goes out of stock often, check it here.
Here are a few extras you might need if you opt for this trailer:
- Trailer jack to lift the tongue up and down with ease
- Trailer winch to pull the boat onto the trailer easily
Folding trailer for inflatable boats
The biggest disadvantage of trailers is that they take up a lot of space in your driveway or yard.
But not folding trailers!
Have a look at the Ironton Folding Trailer Kit, it is also available on Amazon here.
It can be used as a flat-bed trailer to get your inflatable boat from A to B, and when you don’t need to use it, you can simply fold it away and store it upright.
Great way to save space.
Just like the Ironton boat trailer above, this comes as a kit, so you need to put it together yourself.
If you’re looking for a folding trailer for inflatable boats, this one is a good option:
|Ironton Folding Utility trailer kit|
|Deck Size L x W (ft.)||4 x 8|
|Overall Size L x W x H (in.)||135 x 62 1/4 x 18 1/2|
|Wheel Size (in.)||12|
|Load Capacity||1170 lbs|
|Ship Weight||253 lbs|
|Warranty||1-year Limited Warranty|
This trailer is made out of un-galvanized steel as well, so you cannot use it to launch your boat.
Also, as this is not a boat-specific trailer, there is a considerable amount of DIY involved before you can put your boat onto it. You will need to build bunks and secure them onto the bed of the trailer. You may also want to build a bow stop to secure the front of the boat as well.
This one is a bit cheaper than the previous boat-specific trailer, check out the current price here.
Galvanized steel inflatable boat trailer
This C.E. Smith boat trailer is made out of galvanized steel, which means it is rust-proof. You can launch your boat directly into the water off of this trailer.
It costs more than the Ironton boat trailer though, but has everything you need to get your boat directly into the water.
|C.E. Smith Galvanized Steel Watercraft Trailer|
|Deck Material||Galvanized Steel|
|Frame Material||Galvanized Steel|
|Deck Size L x W||11 ft 8 in x 4 ft 6 in|
|Overall Size L x W||140 in x 54 in|
|Wheel Size (in.)||8|
|Load Capacity||800 lbs|
|Ship Weight||212 lbs|
|Warranty||1-year Limited Warranty|
This trailer is good for boats of 12 feet in length. You can also get it with a longer tongue if your boat is longer. This extends it by 2 feet.
Check the availability of the trailer here.
Aluminum trailers for inflatable boats
If you are looking for an aluminum trailer for your inflatable, you will need to pay considerably more than the basic options above. Think $1500 plus…
In fact, if you will only be towing inflatable boats, you probably don’t need one. Unless you are bent on water-launching your boat.
In this case, there are a few companies that build aluminum boat trailers:
Your inflatable boat will probably cost much less than an aluminum boat trailer though. Just saying.
How to position an inflatable boat on a trailer
You need to be mindful with how you position your boat on the trailer. You don’t want it flying off, bouncing around or swaying sideways on every bump and wind gust.
It goes without saying that the boat needs to be balanced on each side. It cannot be heavier on either side when laid into resting position on the trailer.
Once placed on the trailer, you will need to make sure it stays put.
To make sure your boat does not bounce up-down when driving over bumps, bolt a ratchet strap to the trailer on one side, and something you can hook it into on the other. You will want to do this at around 1/3 the boat’s length from the front.
You want to be super safe, so you can add another ratchet strap at 1/3 from the rear, with a hook on the other side.
You can get this ratchet strap pack on Amazon for $20 dollars.
Securing the stern with transom tie-downs
To secure the stern of the boat, it is a good idea to use transom tie-down straps. They are a quick and easy way to secure the stern on each side.
Make sure the ones you get are stainless steel so they do not rust, like these transom tie downs.
Mind the tongue weight
The tongue weight is the weight being placed on the hitch ball at the front of the trailer.
You need to be careful with how you position your boat, as too little or too much tongue weight will cause problems.
- Too much tongue weight will cause impaired handling and excessive rear tire wear.
- Too little tongue weight will cause the trailer to sway from side to side as you can see in this demonstration.
The rule of thumb is that the tongue weight should be 8-10% of the total weight of the trailer and its load.
Launching your boat
Launching a boat off a ramp (or another suitable area) is relatively straight forward. You simply back into the water and release the boat as can be seen here.
You need an aluminum trailer to do this though, or a galvanized steel one. Galvanization is a process that protects steel from corrosion and rust. Of course, aluminum and galvanized steel boat trailers are a bit pricey.
Your low-budget alternatives to launching your boat into the water from the trailer are:
- If your boat is light enough, you can simply carry it.
- If it’s a bit heavier, it will have a transom, onto which you can fit launch wheels. Check out my detailed guide on launch wheels to find out why they are the best thing next to sliced bread.
- Get a launching trolley. It’s not as convenient as launch wheels, but it’s a good option.
Personally, I prefer using launch wheels on my Newport Vessels boat. Installing it was an easy upgrade, and it works like a charm no matter where I use it.
There is some work you will need to put into making the trailer fit your inflatable boat, but once you do it, you’ll never look back.
Check out this forum as well, it has lots of mods and interesting solutions to problems people faced when setting up their trailers.
Here are some quick questions I had before I got my trailer.
Do you need a separate license to tow an inflatable boat trailer?
Since trailers used for inflatable boats are short and light, you generally don’t need a separate license to tow them.
You should check your state’s laws though.
Do you need to register the trailer?
Check your local laws, as some states require official registration of all trailers.
But even if your state does not, it is still a good idea to do so.
There are 2 reasons:
- In case your trailer is stolen, it is much easier to administer the theft of a registered trailer. Trailers can be traced easier if registered.
- You might travel to another state where trailer registration is required.
Do you need brakes on an inflatable boat trailer?
You will want to check your local laws, but typically, brakes are required on trailers that will have a total weight of over 3000 lbs.
With inflatable boats, this is not an issue. The combined weight of the trailer and boat will rarely exceed 1000 lbs.