Are Pontoon Boat Trailers Universal?


Pontoon boat on trailer

Pontoon boats are a lot of fun. They have a lot to offer the inland waterway boater. But getting your pontoon boat to your destination requires the right equipment. With such an expensive boat you need the right trailer to haul your investment. But, are pontoon trailers universal or do you need a specific sized one for your boat?

Pontoon boat trailers are not universal. You need a trailer that is the correct size for your pontoon boat. You also need take into consideration the weight of your boat. There are single axle, tandem axle and triple axle trailers each suitable to different sized pontoon boats. If it very important you get the correct sized trailer, with the correct axle count, for a pontoon boat as it will avoid damage occurring to the boat during travel.

Are there universal pontoon boat trailers?

There is no one-size-fits-all trailer that will suit every type of pontoon boat. The type and size of trailer you need for your specific pontoon boat will depend on the size of your boat and its weight.

The 2 most important factors when choosing a pontoon boat trailer will be:

  • The size of the pontoon boat.
  • The weight of the pontoon boat.

The size and weight of your boat will determine the type of trailer you need for your boat.

The size of pontoon boat affects trailer size

The size of your pontoon boat will determine what size of trailer you need.

Common practice dictates that you add 3 feet to the length of your pontoon boat to determine what size trailer you need. So, for example, if you have a 20 foot pontoon boat you should use a 23 foot trailer – 20 foot (boat length) + 3 foot = 23 foot.

The weight of pontoon boat affects axle count

Next you will have to determine how many axles the trailer must have so it can adequately support your particular pontoon boat.

Pontoon trailers come in 3 axle types:

  • Single axle.
  • Tandem axle (double axle).
  • Triple axle.

For most pontoon boats a tandem axle trailer will work perfectly. Although single axle trailers work for boats up to 20 foot I would not personally take an expensive pontoon boat on a long journey on a single axle trailer. But, that is just my personal view and many owners of 14 foot – 20 foot pontoon boats use single axle trailers regularly to haul to their boats over long distances.

For boats between 20 foot and 28 foot a tandem axle trailer will do the job nicely.

Once you go above a 28 foot pontoon boat you will need the extra support offered by a third axle and if you own a big pontoon boat you must use a triple axle trailer.

Now that you know what size of trailer you need and how many axles it should have it’s time to look at the two different types of pontoon boat trailer available in the marketplace.

The two types of pontoon boat trailer

There are two basic types of pontoon boat trailer. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

The 2 types of pontoon boat trailer are:

  • Scissor trailer.
  • Bunk trailer.

Let’s take a quick look at these trailer types now to see which one is a better fit for you and your specific pontoon boat.

Scissor pontoon boat trailers

Scissor trailers are also called up/down trailers due to the way they function.

Scissor trailers fit between the pontoons underneath the boat leaving the pontoons hanging outside the sides of the trailer. The trailer supports the boat via direct contact with the bottom of the deck as it sits on the crossbeams of the trailer.

A scissor trailer is by far the easiest way to trailer a pontoon boat, both into and out of the water, but it offers less security and stability when travelling over land (than a bunk trailer).

Because the pontoon tubes are on the outside of the trailer the boat is less “contained” within the trailer. This can lead to rocking and jostling during travel especially at higher speeds on highways.

A scissor trailer is an excellent choice for pontoon boat owners who live close to the water they frequently boat on, as loading the boat onto and off the trailer is really very simple. Another great aspect to using this type of trailer is that you can use it in very shallow water.

If you have no experience trailering pontoon boats then a scissor trailer may be the way to go.

Scissor trailers come in different sizes for all sizes of pontoon boat but are not suitable for tritoons because the middle pontoon makes it impossible to haul the boat.

Bunk pontoon boat trailers

The bunk trailer is also sometimes called the float-on trailer because of the way it functions.

A bunker type of trailer offers a lot of security for a pontoon boat because the trailer fits directly under the pontoons. This means the trailer is supporting the entire weight of the boat with the pontoons sitting directly over the trailer wheels.

This extra support (compared to scissor trailers) means there is a lot less movement on the trailer and this leads to a more comfortable drive for those in the towing vehicle.

The downside to using the more stable bunk trailer is that it is more difficult to load and offload the pontoon boat. The pontoon boat must be aligned correctly to the trailer when loading it and this requires a little more experience and patience than the scissor style trailer.

Additionally, bunk style pontoon boat trailers are wider than scissor trailers – as the boat is fully contained on the trailer.

The importance of getting the right trailer

Getting the correct trailer for your pontoon is incredibly important. Pontoon boats cost a lot of money and they represent a rather hefty investment. The last thing you want is for damage to happen to your boat simply because you trailered it wrongly.

Most of the trouble that occurs to a pontoon boat due to trailering issues is because the trailer is too small for the boat, rather than the other way round. A trailer that is too small leaves too much of the pontoon boat exposed to possible damage.

It is unwise to have too much of the pontoon boat hanging unsupported off the end of the trailer  Although it is an all-too-common sight on the highways at vacation time, you don’t want to have your boat’s pontoons extending past the end of the trailer as this is a recipe for disaster.

Not only will your boat be much more likely to get damaged if it is hauled on the wrong size trailer when you are towing it it can also cause problems when launching the pontoon boat at a slip.

Trouble finding trailers for large pontoon boats?

Some pontoon boat owners who purchase a used boat that is 24 foot + rarely get a trailer with their boat purchase.

Large pontoon boats are usually kept in the water and are docked all year round. Even in areas with fluctuation in water levels, or that experience winter ice, large pontoon boats will rarely be stored out of the water simply because they are so big. To protect the boat pontoon boat lifts are usually used at a stationary dock making it easy and safe to leave the boat docked at a marina permanently when not is use.

This means that large new pontoon boats are usually delivered directly to a slip after purchase and therefore no trailer purchase is needed. This may save the original purchaser money but it causes a problem for the next buyer.

If you have been trying to buy a 24 + foot pontoon boat and finding it difficult to get one that comes a trailer then you are aware of this problem.

It can be difficult to locate a good value trailer at the right price and this often leads a used pontoon boat buyer to settle for a trailer that is too small for their boat.

Don’t do this!

If you find yourself in a situation where you have bought, or wish to buy, a large used pontoon boat but can’t find one that comes with a trailer, you have 2 options:

  1. Bite the bullet and pay the extra for a correctly-sized trailer. And be prepared to buy a new one if you can’t find a used one.
  2. Pay boat movers to relocate your boat and leave it in the water all-year-round.

If you plan to trailer your pontoon boat when it is not in the water be sure you not only get the correct size trailer but that it also has the correct number of axles.

Pontoon boats over 21 foot will definitely need a trailer with at least 2 axles while large boats, and tritoons, may require a 3-axle trailer.

How to select the correct trailer for your pontoon boat

We covered the subject of selecting the correct size of trailer for your pontoon boat in a previous article and I recommend you read that for the easy steps you can follow to select the correct size and type of trailer for your specific pontoon boat.

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