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Custom Trailer Basics: Building Blocks

The same care and diligence that goes into ordering a custom high-performance boat also should go into ordering a custom trailer for it. Your trailer investment can be substantial and in many ways as important as your boat investment.

You already know this if you’re an experienced go-fast powerboat owner. But if you’re not—or if you’ve never ordered a custom trailer before—you need to educate yourself. You don’t have to become an expert in trailer construction, but there a few things you’ll want to learn.

What follows are some of the basics consider.

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From transporting your boat to showcasing it at major events such as Desert Storm, a custom trailer is an important investment. Photo courtesy/copyright Jeff Helmkamp/Jeff Helmkamp Photography.

Aluminum Or Steel
You’re going to end up with a simple choice—aluminum or steel—for the foundation of your trailer. The metal best suited to your application rests on the environment—freshwater or saltwater—in which it will operate.

If you are planning on doing most of your boating in saltwater, I highly recommend an aluminum trailer. Aluminum will not rust and is lighter than steel, which matters when it comes to towing.

On the other hand, if you mostly run in freshwater and/or have easy access to a marina forklift and do not see yourself using the boat ramp, a steel trailer may be the better call.

Trusted for years and being a stronger metal, steel-built trailers are rigid structural beasts. But as in all things, there are trade-offs. With that stronger, heavier metal comes added weight that you will need to tow behind your truck. For instance, two equally prepared steel and aluminum 40-foot trailers have a weight differential of 444 pounds.

One more thing to be aware of: Should you decide to sell your boat, it is possible a perspective buyer who boats in saltwater will see the steel trailer as an obstacle in the sale.

Hitches and Capacities
Think about your current tow vehicle. Is it capable of towing your trailer and boat fully loaded with some additional capacity to spare? If it isn’t, you should understand that not only is it seriously unsafe to tow something over capacity. It is illegal.

Worst case? A new or pre-owned truck that’s up to the job could be in your future. 

For a lighter, shorter boat, a traditional tag-a-long, bumper-pull trailer is the way to go. As vessel size increases, a gooseneck and/or fifth-wheel may be a better-balanced option for you while also allowing greater maneuverability in tight spaces. Moving to the gooseneck or fifth wheel also can increase the capacity of the trailer.

On the subject of capacity, it’s worth considering how often and how far you may be trailering. Are you just towing locally to and from the ramp or marina? Do you have intentions of hauling your boat to distant poker runs and other events far from home? Will you be hauling your boat from one region of the United States to another?

If the latter scenario sounds more likely, you may benefit from “up-rating” your trailer, meaning that you opt for greater capacity axles, a higher load-range tire and moving to electric/hydraulic-controlled disc brakes on all axles. Safety should be your number one priority and ensuring that both you and anyone else in your tow vehicle arrive at your destination is of the utmost importance.

Other Worthy Options
Although “looking good rolling down the interstate” plays a big role in today’s custom trailer options—you never can have too much bling—a couple of essential “options” should never be overlooked. One is a spare tire and wheel. The other is a brake controller.

There are two kinds of powerboat trailer owners, those who have experienced a trailer flat and those who will. Having a properly prepared spare tire at the ready will help get you back up and running in no time.

On the subject of brakes: If your boat is light you could get away with surge brakes. However, an electric/hydraulic-controller synchronizes your tow vehicle with your trailer to provide the smoothest and most reliable braking.

Customization beyond essential options is limitless. You could start by purchasing spare hubs and tool boxes for long-haul convenience and security. You could add custom wheels, as well as have your trailer color-matched to your boat. The sky is the limit.

But beyond the bling, some of your most useful options are additional lighting and boarding ladders. Ladders make it easier to enter and exit your boat when it’s on its trailer. Additional lighting, even of the fancy colorful LED kind, makes you more visible on the road. And that’s never a bad thing.

A reputable trailer builder will guide you through all of this and more. If you’re new to the custom trailer world, that builder will take it slowly and methodically. But the more educated you are before you get there, the more efficient the entire ordering process will be—and the better-suited the finished product will be to your needs.


Editor’s note: A new contributor to speedonthewater.com, Jon Smiley, left with MYCO’s Ronnie Moran and former key MYCO representative/investor Bill Tweedie, heads new business development and outside sales for MYCO Trailers.

Related story: MYCO Trailers’ Tweedie Retiring, New Team Members Named