Trailer Boats

Boating is a popular recreational activity that the whole family can get into. Trailer boats are fun, versatile, range in size and type, and furthermore can be towed. This article touches on the various types of trailer boats and discusses some other considerations such as towing.

Buying your first boat

So what is the perfect trailer boat? The decision obviously depends entirely upon the size, function, and storage choices you have in mind for your boat. And then there’s the cost factor! At the end of the day, most people will want the best boat they can afford. But what makes one boat “better” than another?


If you’ve already made the choice to look at a boat that can be towed on a trailer, then you’ve already somewhat narrowed your options. Most trailer boats are within the range of 3m – 8m. Anything smaller would tend to be transported as a roof-topper – whilst something larger would become an impractical, towing load.


Owning a trailer boat means you can consider storage options such as parking it at home. Most boats are either too tall, or too long for the garage and therefore stored in the open. Many councils have regulations restricting boats from being parked over the verge so check what maximum width and length you can park legally on your property. Most people also like to cover their boat, if only to keep cats, leaves and strangers away. Simple vinyl or canvas boat covers do the job adequately, but if you plan to erect a permanent roof structure alongside your fence line , check for any council restrictions first as many will not approve it. An advantage to storing a boat at home is the ease of access for washing, servicing and loading/unloading. As for costs, home storage means you save excessive marina pen costs ($1 - $6K per year depending on location).


Boats between 3m – 8m can be runabouts, specialised fishing boats, specialised wake skiing boats, dive boats, bow riders, cabin cruisers, and centre console designs. Each of these designs will come in fibreglass, or aluminium constructions and some hulls will be designed purely for inshore use, whilst others will be designed to suit offshore conditions. The choices are varied and will subsequently lead to the size, seating capacity, engine size, features and options – and again, cost!


These boats are commonly made with aluminium and hold between four and eight people. Also known as ‘tinnies’, these small motorboats are well suited to various recreational activities such as fishing, water skiing or just going cruising along the river. Runabouts are designed to be used on calmer waters and not in the chops and swells of the ocean.

Fishing boats

Boats dedicated to the pursuit of fish need to be large enough to have four or more anglers plus equipment such as fishing gear, baitwells and ice boxes, etc. They are often equipped with depth sounders and navigational gear. Bigger fishing boats usually have sleeping berths and a toilet with the capacity for overnight stays on the water. These boats are designed to simply make searching, hooking and landing fish as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Wake skiing boats

These boats are similar to bow riders except they are more underneath the water. The shape of the hull and the configuration and location of the engine, propeller and drive shaft allow these boats to throw a large wake for wakeboard skiers to cross. These boats provide strong acceleration which is needed to ‘pop up’ skiers from the water. The boat’s design also allows for crisp turning circles making recovery of a downed skier - quick and simple!

Dive boats

These boats are more custom designed for scuba diving and snuba diving (shallow water diving using long snorkels). They usually feature a large flat area similar to a crayfish boat and a cabin towards the bow. Near the gunnels, there are tank holders and storage areas for scuba suits and equipment. Most dive boats are stern driven and allow divers to enter the water from the back of the boat during anchor.

Bow riders

Boats in the bow rider class are becoming very popular mainly thanks to the spacious seating in their open bow (front) area. Deigned for recreation, most bow riders also offer swim platforms at the stern (back), making it handy for swimmers and snorkelers to sit on before entering the water. Sterndrive power is predominantly the norm, although outboard engines and even jet engines are becoming quite popular for those wanting extra power and speed.

Cabin cruisers

Cabin cruisers offer a similar ride to a bow rider, but with the closed deck above the bow area allows nice sleeping quarters. Bigger boats may also offer toilets, sink and sometimes a cooking section. Some other options include a sunpad, swim platform and a tow line hook for skiing, tubing and wakeboarding. Cabin cruisers are usually powered by sterndrive engines, however outboard engines are becoming increasingly popular.

Centre console

In a class of its own, centre consoles are built to take the rougher offshore waters in pursuit of bigger fish such as game fish. These ‘open’ fishing boats allow anglers to walk around the edge of the boat and fish at any vantage point unhindered. Many centre consoles accommodate a second storey view which is accessed by a ladder. Similar to the standard fishing boat, centre condoles also feature depth sounders, baitwells, ice boxes and rod holders.

Construction Materials

There are two materials commonly used in the construction of recreational trailer boats being fibreglass and aluminium. When comparing fibreglass with aluminium in regards to advantages and disadvantages, we could open up Pandora’s Debate box and a whole article could be dedicated to this topic alone.

Positive qualities of a fibreglass construction include a general resistance to rust and corrosion. Fibreglass can also be moulded into just about any shape, therefore catering for many modern designs. Positive qualities of an aluminium construction include toughness and durability. As well as being strong, aluminium boats are relatively light making some potential advantage for towing, launching and retrieving. Weight in general, as well as hull flexibility is a factor in how a boat will ride sea conditions so construction materials play an important part in the boat’s handling and you should ideally get a test ride out on the water, or watch footage to see the boat in action before you buy remembering to choose a boat that is designed for the waters you will predominantly use it in. Some commonsense should alert you to avoid buying a flat bottomed punt for example, if you’ll be using it in coastal offshore conditions!


Knowing how you will transport your boat legally and safely to its launching destination is a major factor. You must know the towing capabilities of the vehicle that will tow the boat and this towing rating (measured in weight) should be recorded in the vehicle’s handbook. If it is not listed, you need to contact the manufacturer. Each state and territory has differing regulations governing towing and it’s very important for boat owners to ensure that your rig complies completely with local regulations. These regulations may include things like maximum boat lengths and heights as well as various kinds of braking set-ups according to weight. 4WDs and AWDs are an excellent choice of tow vehicle because all 4 wheels are used to drive the vehicle forward. Other features such as high engine torque, higher ride and better suspension means that 4WDs are far better equipped to handle the task of hauling a boat out of the water up a slippery ramp.

When towing a boat, you will experience a decrease in your braking and accelerating capabilities, so you should adjust your driving accordingly. If you have not had much experience towing, there are specialised towing courses available providing insightful information and practical skills which can help you gain new skills and confidence.

And because trailer boats are so portable, many boat owners will eventually find themselves towing their boat on holidays so take this into consideration when selecting the size of your boat and also look at trailer options. Double axle trailers offer more stability when driving at highway speeds, are more responsive to braking, and are far safer if you have a tyre blowout. The double axle also allows a better weight distribution so if you travel a lot, tow offroad or will load up your boat to store camping gear, firewood etc, the tandem trailer may have some distinct advantages for you if you can afford the extra cost.

A single axle trailer will be significantly cheaper. Off the vehicle it is far easier to manoeuvre a single axle trailer by hand than a tandem trailer so for home storage this is often the better choice. Most small – medium trailer boats come standard with a single axle so the majority of trailer boat owners stick with this option unless towing long distances frequently.

Although it may seem obvious to wash off salt water to avoid corrosion, many people don’t start off with good habits which means wheel bearings, couplings, safety chains, springs, shackles and U bolts prone to rust and damage. If you don’t wash and check your trailer after every outing, at least make sure that you regularly check and test the trailer’s braking, winch systems and other electrical systems such as tail lights.

Where to get more information

With the many choices available and issues such as towing legalities, boat usage and resale value, you can understand the ample research time needed. There’s still a lot of issues that we haven’t covered in this article – many of them too subjective for us to cover here such as aluminium versus fibreglass, inboard versus outboard, two stroke versus four stroke and brand comparisons such as Quintrex versus Stacer. You could go to boating yards with an open mind and a list of questions. Test drive boats, obtain advice from friends who own boats. Read boating magazines and research more on the internet. At the end of the day, don’t hold off to save up for the “perfect boat” – the perfect one is the one you own! So no matter what boat you end up with – old, new, big, small, the boating lifestyle is fun.

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Created: June 2008
Revised: September 2009
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