How To Tow A Pontoon Boat

Guides

So you've landed on this page. You obviously want information on how to tow a pontoon boat. 

Well, you've come to the right place. This guide will provide you with in-depth information on how to tow your boat. 


It's really important you get this right BEFORE you buy a boat or if you're already a boat owner, you should follow these best practices to ensure a safe trip. 

The last thing you want is to damage your car/SUV or both your car and boat. 

Ideally, you should know your car/truck towing capabilities before purchasing a pontoon boat especially if you plan on towing it. 


You don't want to buy a boat only to realize you haven't got the right vehicle to tow it which can be a nightmare and this has happened to one of our readers before (we'll keep them nameless) 


I should also mention that if you're really stuck, you can always hire someone to tow it for you but for the purposes of this guide, we'll assume you have the capabilities to tow. (don't worry, we'll also discuss what vehicles can tow boats below too)


In this article, we'll go through the following: 


  • How to tow a pontoon boat 
  • Pontoon boat towing checklist 
  • How to put a pontoon boat in the water
  • how to pull a pontoon boat out of the water
  • Pontoon boat ramp
  • Can a minivan tow a pontoon boat?
  • Pontoon safety



We'll also provide video guides below to help with this too in case you are having difficulties in figuring out the right way to tow a boat. 


Now, something to keep in mind. Obviously, the standard practices of towing a boat will vary based on the car/truck you have and the size and weight of the pontoon boat you're towing. 


Unfortunately, people have emailed us with pictures of the damage to their boat and truck as a result of trying to pull too heavy. 

We don't want this to be you so please take the right steps and follow safety procedures. 

Safety is far more important to both yourself and other people on the roads. 


Okay, safety disclaimer completed. Let's dig into it. 


How To Tow A Pontoon Boat 

First things first, you'll need the right trailer. When you buy a boat, you can get this information from the buyer but ideally, you'll buy a trailer with the pontoon boat so this shouldn't be an issue. 


If you haven't got a boat trailer for towing yet, simply google search "boat trailers + your specific pontoon boat model" and it should throw up the best trailers to get.


Once you have the right trailer, you can get ready for towing. 

If you'd prefer video instructions, this is just below the written instructions. 


Follow these steps below:

  1. Make sure you have the right hitch and ball. Your dealer can advise you on what is the right one as well as your vehicle's towing capacity. (This is something that should be done a the very beginning.)
  2. As a safety precaution,(if you have a removable draw bar), you'll want to make sure the lock pin is in place and make sure the nut on the bottom of the ball is tight. 
  3. Lower the tongue with the jack until all the weight is on the hitch.
  4. Lock the coupler and make sure the safety pin is inserted. 
  5. Hook up the lights and safety cables
  6. Raise the jack until it's off the ground and make sure it's locked into place. 

You can check this video for a visual representation of this in action. 


This video will take you through hooking up your pontoon boat to your vehicle, trailering the boat to it's destination safely, putting the boat into the water and removing the boat from the water. 


Also, there is a checklist below for you to use as a guide before towing your pontoon boat. 



Pontoon Boat Towing Checklist 

Here is a simple checklist to follow when towing your boat. 

  • Tire Pressures 
  • Bearings Greased 
  • Lug Nuts Tight 
  • Front And Rear Tie Downs Secure 
  • Safety Cables And/Or Chains Secure
  • Trailer Jack Is Up & Locked Into Place
  • Coupler Locked & Pinned 
  • Boat Key 
  • Verify Lower Ground Clearance 
  • Ensure All Lights Are Connected & Working 
  • No Loose Items In Boat 

These are best practices and very important to check before towing your boat. 


Once you pass this checklist and are happy with every item, you can then begin to tow your boat. 

It's very very important to not skip any step. 


Things like bearings greased get skipped over quite a lot but don't be that person. 


We want you, your passengers and everyone on the road to have a safe driving experience so always ensure things are in order. 


You can use the above checklist as a guide. 


Please, however, be aware that some trailers have unique instructions for hooking them up to your truck and unique safety features so you must be aware of this too. 


Pontoon Trailering Safety (How To Tow A Pontoon Boat)

Now, that everything is hooked up and secure and you're happy that it's good to go, you'll want to plan your journey.


You could take a similar route everyday but when towing a trailer, this becomes a completely different route.

 

You need wide clearance and plenty of space. If you plan on getting gas, it's best to get it before towing the boat.


However, if you want to get gas while towing, you'll need to make sure the gas station is easy to manoevuer in and out of and you'll want to watch your clearance too. 


useful tip: Make sure you put the gas in the right place. (i.e. not a filler for oil or water) but rather inside the fuel tank of the boat. 


This seems like common sense but on some pontoon boats, it's actually an easy mistake to make especially if you're new to all this. 


Okay, you have filled your boat with gas and have arrived at the docking area. 


How to put a pontoon in water (Launch Procedures)

How to put a pontoon in water

Now, the fun part. We're almost ready to enjoy our boat but still some steps to take. 


As a complete beginner, this can seem like a daunting task. It was for me when I started but it doesn't have to be. 

 

Ideally, you should have someone with more experience to help you with this. 


Usually, there are people you can ask who are unloading their boats to give you a hand and help out with safely putting your pontoon in the water. (not always the case but most people are helpful or so we like to think...)


Here's the checklist for putting the pontoon in the water.


  1. Disconnect the trailer lights 
  2. Release the front tie down (short strap attached to trailer) 
  3. Release other tie downs on back and side of trailer
  4. Do NOT release winch cable yet. 
  5. Remove transom saver
  6. Back down the ramp and into the water. 
  7. Make sure to tie a rope from the bow of the pontoon to the dock so when your boat finally is released into the water it doesn't float away on you. 
  8. Release winch cable
  9. Use the bow rope to pull the boat off the trailer through the water (if you have no one to reverse it off the trailer into the water for you) 
  10. Tie the boat to the dock
  11. Go back and remove your trailer and truck from the ramp
  12. Untie rope and move the motor into the correct position
  13. Start up on low revs and make sure everything is working 
  14. Off you go..


When you have all this done, you can enjoy your day on the water. It can be a great time with family and friends especially in the hotter months. 


If you are completely new, getting to this stage can seem like a relief (at least it did for me at first) but once you get the hang of things, it'll become second nature so don't get overly concerned with towing and launching a pontoon. 


Now when your day of fun on the water is done and you want to get the boat back on land, there are steps to take. 


How to pull a pontoon boat out of the water

How to pull a pontoon boat out of the water
Image courtesy of Pontoonopedia


So next important task is safely removing your pontoon from the water. 

This can go horribly wrong when you do it for the first time but it doesn't have to be if you simply follow these steps or watch the end of the video above. 


Here's the checklist for pulling a pontoon boat out of the water:

  1. Back down ramp until bunks are under the water. Don't screw up and go too far though. (keep an eye on the water line and your rear tyres)  
  2. Set Your Parking Brake On Truck 
  3. Then, approach the trailer slowly with the pontoon. 
  4. Make sure the bow of boat is centered with the bunks. (very important)
  5. Tilt the motor up slowly as you approach the ramp and trailer (this will stop your motor from being damaged  (i.e.hitting the ramp etc)
  6. Slowly increase power until the boat meets the stop on the trailer winch. 
  7. Once boat is on the trailer, make sure the ratchet lock on winch is set and attach the bow tie down 
  8. Make sure you've tilted up the engine  before pulling the boat out of the water (this can cause huge damage) 
  9. Then tow slowly up the ramp ensuring the boat is centered 
  10. Now you've safely pulled your boat out of the water. 


Once you have a place to park when you pull the boat out of the water, you can go about setting things up for trailering again. 


You will follow the steps mentioned above for towing your boat. As a reminder, when you pull the boat out of the water, make sure you tie down and items inside the boat. e.g. life jackets etc. 


You don't want these loose items to blow out while on the road. 


Here's a checklist for towing your boat right after you pull it out of the water:

  • Replace tie down straps and motor transom saver
  • check winch and ratchet lock (very important) 
  • check bow tie down 
  • reconnect trailer lights. 
  • Check lights are in working order
  • Make sure coupler is secure 


One thing to remember when you arrive to your storage destination for your pontoon. 

Make sure there is no left over food in any of the cabinets. (this can smell)

Remove any wet towels too. Finally, wash your boat in fresh water with particular attention to the engine. 

We have a guide on how to clean the hull of your boat in the water. You can simply use some of the options there to clean your pontoon. 


Can a minivan tow a pontoon boat?

can a minivan tow a pontoon

We get tons of emails with this very question so let's address it here. The average pontoon boat weighs 2,200 pounds so some minivans can in fact tow a pontoon boat. e.g. Toyota Sienna etc. 


As a best practice, you can simply get the weight of your specific model of pontoon boat and the trailer and then google search your specific vehicle towing capacity. 


Not all minivans will have the capability of towing boats. To ensure you can in fact tow a pontoon boat with a mini van you'll need the following information:

  • Your specific vehicle towing capacity 
  • Your specific boat model weight with trailer 


If the boat and trailer weight falls under the vehicles towing capacity, you're then good to go with towing.


As a reminder, you can get your specific vehicle towing capacity by a simply google search like this " Example Vehicle Towing Capacity". 


Make sure you get the towing capacity figures from the actually makers website as opposed to third party sites.i.e. go directly to the source e.g. Toyota's website, Volkswagen website etc. 


Conclusion 

Towing your pontoon is most definitely something you'll need to learn and do right. 

Following the instructions laid out here is very important for ensuring the safety of you and others. 


However, it's still always best to consult with a professional especially if it's your first time. You want to make sure your boat is tied down and attached properly to the trailer. 


The video above should help guide you in the right direction and ensure you can get the boat in and out of the water with relative ease. 


Finally, not all vehicles are capable of towing pontoon boats and this will depend on the size and weight. 

Make sure before you ever purchase a boat what the towing capacity is for your specific vehicle. 


Otherwise, you'll have to hire a towing company or buy a new vehicle which is an annoying added expense you might not have accounted for. 

Paul L

I enjoy blogging, business & sailing. From Ireland, I've loved sailing from a young age and love to hit the waters whenever I have time. You can check out more info in the about us section. Hopefully you're enjoying the site and if you have any questions, you can reach out (just subject the email with my name) so it'll get sent to me and I'll happily get back to you. Feel free to share photos and stories of your sailing experiences with us too

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