When purchasing a personal watercraft, it is important to remember that these vessels of fun cannot be driven on the road, which means you will need a way to transport them back and forth to the beach or any body of water. Many individuals become so excited at the purchase of their PWC (personal watercraft) that they forget that they will need a trailer equipped to transport the PWCs.
PWC trailers are a must-have and choosing one can seem complicated and overwhelming at first. This is because there are many different options available and the best trailer for you will depend on what your needs are.
When you first lay eyes on trailers for your PWC, you will notice they come in single, double, and even larger options. You can go with a traditional style, or you can choose a painted one. There are really many different options out there for you. Whether you are looking for the basic get me in and out of the water trailer or the spruced-up trailer, you can definitely find it.
In this guide, we will review the different things you need to consider as you choose the right PWC trailer.
Size of the Trailer
The size of the trailer you need will depend on the actual hull size of your PWC. When it comes to fit, you want your PWC to sit on the trailer without the rear of the PWC hanging off by more than just a couple of inches. It is important that the length of your trailer can accommodate the vessel to provide support to it. If the trailer is not sufficient in length, you may end up with a PWC in the middle of the road on your way to the ramp.
Ideally, you should choose a longer trailer of around six feet or so. The bunks should support much of the hull as this will allow for better support and control. If you are unsure of what trailer best fits your PWC, check with your local trailer manufacturer who can assist in answering questions and making suggestions.
Weight of the Trailer
The size of the trailer is important but so is the weight. When talking about weight, we are not talking about the actual weight of the trailer itself but the weight rating of the trailer. It is important to ensure that the trailer is of the proper weight rating to handle your PWC(s) so that you have maximum control of the trailer when you drive.
As you assess your PWC for its weight, make sure that it is fully fueled up as the fuel will add a substantial amount of weight to the PWC. An incorrectly weight-rated trailer will not properly hold your vessel and can lead to accidents on the road.
Ideally, you want the trailer’s maximum weight to be rated higher than the total load weight, as this will allow you some extra wiggle room.
Frame of the Trailer
There are several different types of frames available for you to choose from and the material of the frame will depend on what it is you are looking for.
One of the first choices is aluminum. These types of trailers last a long time and are lighter than some of the other options. They do not rust, which is why they are a popular choice amongst PWC owners. Since they are resistant to rust, they often demand a much higher price than other options out there on the market. A unique benefit to aluminum is that it is built with an I-beam, which allows you to hide the wiring and brake lines on the trailer.
Another choice, which is most commonly chosen is steel. This option usually comes either powder coated or painted. These are commonly chosen because they are considered very affordable. While they are economically viable options, they are prone to rust, which means you will need to do more trailer maintenance than you may need to do with other options.
You can also choose galvanized steel, which is a good choice when you want a steel trailer but you do not want to have to worry about preventative maintenance all the time. Galvanized steel can still rust but it is much more resistant to rust than traditional painted or powder-coated steel. The biggest downside to galvanized steel is that it will lose its shine over time. You will need to keep it polished to help restore the shine.
No matter which type of trailer frame you choose, you want to choose stainless steel hardware, especially for saltwater applications as they hold up well in these conditions. Other choices will corrode quickly and you will spend a lot of your maintenance time replacing the nuts and bolts.
Any one of these trailer frame materials is a good option and will hold your PWC and allow you to travel to and from the ramp with it. The decision will ultimately come down to your preferences and budget.
Suspension of the Trailer
Trailers have a suspension system installed on them to help with going over bumps and taking turns with a PWC attached to it. It is important to pay attention to the suspension that you do choose as there are two main types.
The most common and affordable option for a suspension system is a leaf spring. This suspension system is made up of thin steel plates that are stacked upon each other. The flexibility produced by the thin plates is what absorbs shocks. Leaf springs are able to be repaired or replaced should something happen to them, which is another reason why people tend to choose this system. With that said, they do require maintenance. If you plan to have a trailer with more than one axle, leaf spring suspension systems are best because each spring will operate independently of the others to provide the most comfortable ride and even wear on the trailer tires.
The second option is a torsion beam suspension system. This is a better suspension system, but it is also a great deal more costly. In a torsion suspension system, the axles are attached with an adjustable ride height and use a rubberized suspension. The inside of the axle housing will appear with four rubber cords that work to absorb shocks and provide suspension to the trailer. As the wheels on the trailer move up and down, the cords are compressed and provide you with a smooth ride.
What makes a torsion system better is that the torsion axles are made from galvanized steel and do not have any metal-to-metal contact, which means corrosion is unlikely to occur and is less of a worry. Since the axles are attached to the frame of the trailer, repair is impossible and the entire system needs to be replaced when there is an issue. With that said, very minimal maintenance is required for this suspension system.
Axles for Your Trailer
As we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, there are trailers with varying numbers of axles. How many you need will depend on what you plan to use the PWC trailer for.
Different axles are used to support different weights, so there is not just one answer to the question of how many you need without further evaluation of your needs.
Tandem axles or more than one is one of the preferred choices for PWCs as they offer better stability control, are much safer than their counterparts, and offer you a smooth ride on the road. Tandem axle trailers do come with a higher cost and maintenance requirements, but they are worth it, in the end, to not have to worry about much. They are an ideal choice if you can fit them into your budget, want to increase the number of PWCs you have at any point, or want something that will hold its value. The biggest downside to a multi-axle trailer is that your loads must ALWAYS be level and even or you risk uneven tread wear on the tires.
Single-axle trailers are going to be much easier for you to use, especially if you go to the beach daily. They are smaller, easier to maneuver and park, and are overall just convenient for most individuals. They are best if you are planning to transport just a single PWC as that is all it will hold. You will find that they are cheaper than a double-axle option, but it really comes down to how many PWCs you have.
Within the number of axles you need, you will also need to decide between a drop or straight axle. A drop axle works to reduce your ground clearance, which allows for much easier launching from the ramp and stability of the overall loaded trailer. Straight axles provide you with a good amount of clearance and are a good choice for individuals who plan to go in rougher terrain areas.
Bunks or Rollers for Your Trailer
Your PWC needs to be supported when it is on the trailer and the way that is accomplished is with either rollers or bunks.
Rollers are more convenient than bunks as they roll with the PWC to make it easier to load and unload your vessel but they are often very expensive to replace and they can break or stop rolling making it a challenge to get your PWC on and off the trailer. If you do plan to choose a trailer with rollers, it is vital that you secure and tie down the PWC EVERY time you take it out on the trailer as it could roll off otherwise.
Bunks are a common choice and are usually carpeted. They provide your PWC with the support it needs for its hull. You will find that the carpet starts to wear and tear over time and you will need to keep an eye out for damage. A damaged bunk can lead to a damaged hull. The carpet will need to be repaired or even replaced at some point in the lifetime of your trailer. Many people do choose to line the bunks with plastic or PVC to help ease the wear and tear.
Brakes for Your Trailer
Your trailer’s brakes are your stopping power and something you do not want to take for granted, especially carrying such a heavy load on them.
It is important to pay attention to your local state, city, or county laws as some require you to have brakes if your trailer weighs more than 3,000 pounds. In general, a light load can usually be stopped with the brakes on your tow vehicle and your trailer may not need any.
However, brakes are always a good idea, so you do not have to forego them just because you have a light load.
When it comes to brakes for your trailer, you will have four types to choose from, which include drum brakes, disc brakes, hydraulic surge brakes, and electric brakes.
Drum brakes are a choice that some trailer owners like due to their affordability. Drum brakes require a lot of maintenance, so this is something you want to be cautious about, especially if you do not like to do the upkeep routine.
Disc brakes are a bit more expensive than drum brakes but they tend to be easier to maintain and they are resistant to corrosion and rust. Disc brakes stop you quicker than drum brakes will.
Hydraulic surge brakes are commonly used on most trailers and are probably the type you will run into more than not. These types of brakes are activated when the momentum of the load changes or when the tow vehicle starts to slow down. This system is self-contained, so there is no hooking it up to the tow vehicle; however, it does take longer for these brakes to stop the trailer.
Electric brakes work right along with the tow vehicle, so there is no delay like there is with surge brakes. When you press the brake, the trailer brakes. If you do choose electric brakes, you want to make sure that they have been rated for marine use. You will need to make sure you keep up with maintenance on these brakes as well to avoid issues with the electrical components.
Tires for Your Trailer
The tires on your trailer are important and should NEVER be overlooked. Traditional tires should never be used on your trailer as they will not provide you with the support or safety you need to haul your PWC.
You should only use tires that are approved for trailer use and you want to ensure that the tires can handle the load you plan to put on the trailer. You can find the maximum weight load on the sidewall of the tires.
All trailer tires range in size from 8 inches to 13 inches and have a maximum lifespan of about 7 years, but should be looked at for replacement after 3 years.
Everything Else to Consider
There are some smaller components that you need to consider when you purchase your trailer as well. Just because these do not have their own subtitle does not mean they are any less important than the above.
1. You do need a way to attach the trailer to your tow vehicle.
The best way to do this is to utilize a ball tow hitch and a coupler. The coupler on the trailer will attach to the ball hitch that is on the tow vehicle. On the coupler is a lever that holds a cotter pin and a hole. The pin is used to secure the lever into a closed position. Most people do not like to leave the cotter pin in place as it is not secure. You can replace the pin with a padlock to help offer better security.
2. Safety chains are a good addition.
While you do not necessarily need safety chains, they are always recommended as they help to add another layer of security when you tow your trailer. Should the coupler fail or become disconnected from your tow vehicle, the safety chains will keep the trailer attached.
3. You need lights for your trailer.
No trailer is complete without lights. The best choice for any trailer is LED lights over traditional incandescent lights. LEDs will last a lot longer and are brighter, which makes them easier to see, especially at night.
4. Securing your PWC to the trailer itself.
One of the best ways to secure your PWC to your trailer is through a winch. Most people choose a winch as it helps to load and unload the PWC into the water and makes it very convenient. You can also utilize a safety chain or strap in addition to the winch for ultimate security or in case the winch breaks for some reason.
5. Final elements to think about.
Some of the final things you want to think about for your trailer include a spare tire carrier, tongue jack, composite fenders, and bearing protectors. These will all assist you in properly taking care of your trailer and offer maximum protection when you use your trailer on the road and at the ramp.
The Best PWC Trailer for You Awaits
Now that you know what makes up a good PWC trailer, you can get out there and choose the one that best meets your needs and fits your budget. You definitely do not want to skimp when it comes to your trailer because it is a very important piece to the puzzle. Without your trailer, your PWCs will not make it to the ramp.
While a trailer is probably the last thing on your mind as you purchase your PWC, you will quickly find that you need one. Choosing the best one matters and will make your life much easier.