Choosing a Pontoon Boat Trailer
After selecting the boat itself, buying a trailer is a challenge many pontoon boat owners face. Let’s begin with the frame. Trailers may be built from steel or aluminum. Aluminum costs more, but it’s naturally rust-resistant and it weighs 15 to 20 percent less, which means better fuel economy and less wear on the tow vehicle. Steel frames, which are less expensive and much more popular, have to be treated to resist rust. A painted finish is the least expensive option but also the least durable. Galvanized the most expensive finish for steel and the most resistant to rust. Powder-coated steel takes the middle ground in terms of price and durability.
Steel frames may be built from hollow, box-section rectangular lengths, or from steel with a C-shaped section. C-channel steel is better, because it has no hidden spaces where moisture can hide and promote rust. Box-section steel can also be colonized by rodents, wasps, and other nest-building critters.
Pontoon boat trailers may have one or two axles. Single-axle suspension is cheaper and fares better off-road. Tandem axles can carry heavier boats and track better on the highway, but they’re also heavier, cost more new, and cost almost twice as much to maintain the brakes and tires. Make sure that the axles have grease fittings (“zerks”) or sealed bearings. If the boat and trailer together weigh more than 1,500 pounds, the trailer must have brakes. These can be hydraulic and self-actuating, or electric, powered by the tow vehicle’s brake light circuit.
Peek under the frame. Leaf springs are a sandwich of curved metal pieces (usually three layers) that connect the axle to the frame. These are easily fixed on the road, but prone to rust if exposed to salt water. The other option is torsion springs, which are twistable rods of steel hidden inside the axle. These are more resistant to rust and they provide a smoother ride.
Cheap electricals are prone to malfunction due to frequent immersion and will cause you untold grief. Make sure the wiring is securely fastened to the frame and protected by conduit or split loom tubing, and that all connections and splices are protected with heat shrink tubing. Stop/turn/taillights should be immersible LEDs, not old fashioned bulb-and-socket units.
If you have a choice, choose radial over bias-ply tires: they handle better on the highway. Bigger tires promote longer bearing life and give a smoother ride, but they raise the frame, requiring the trailer to be backed further into the water before the boat can be floated off.
Most pontoon boat trailers support the pontoons on carpeted bunks. These work well for smaller boats and calm lakes. Trailers that support the boat on rollers aren’t quite as stable at highway speeds, but they make launching and retrieving the boat much easier.
To learn more about trailers for pontoon boats, talk to a Bennington dealer near you.