fitting your trailer to your pontoon boat

Fitting Your Trailer to the Pontoon Boat

When selecting a pontoon trailer you must know the length and approximate weight of your pontoon.

Length of the Pontoon Tubes Length should be easily determined and you will want a trailer about 4’ to 6’ longer than the pontoon tubes. For 20’ pontoons you’ll want a trailer with a 24’-26’ overall length. The reason you need a longer trailer is the swing radius at the front of the tubes. If you put a 20’ pontoon boat on a 20’ trailer, in a tight turn there won’t be enough trailer tongue, the front of the tubes could hit the back of the tow vehicle.
selecting the right trailer for your pontoon boat pontoon trailer
A Perfect Fit 5 ' of overhang in the stern.
 A big heavy pontoon on a single axle trailer
bunk legnthBunk length is not critical and the overall length of bunks varies by trailer manufacturers. Most will leave 3’-5’ of the front nose cone unsupported. A trailer for a 20’ pontoon may have 15’-16’ bunks. The nose cones on pontoons angle up like the bow of a canoe and cannot be supported. prontoon trailer bunk

The stern should not have more than a couple of feet overhanging.
About fitting the boat to the trailer. The pontoon below is the deluxe Bennington Q series on a custom 6” frame trailer. The owner didn’t scrimp on this package. The trailer is extremely well made and braced, BUT the trailer is 8’-10’ too long for the boat. It’s a triple axle so weight distribution probably isn’t a problem, but it seems that the selling dealer or the customer might have noticed all the trailer sticking out the front. When traveling with a 27’ long pontoon an extra 10’ sticking out the front just seems wrong.
improper fitting pontoon trailer improper fitting pontoon trailer
The trailer above has a Bennington sticker on it, to match the boat. Bennington did not make the trailer the dealer added the sticker. If the owner needs warranty or parts when he calls Bennington he’ll find out they didn’t make the trailer. Hopefully the trailer manufacturers name will be on the original bill of sale. I’m not a “fan” of white trailers, they show dirt easily and sooner or later you’ll see small rust spots, but it does match the white fiberglass front of the pontoon and looks gorgeous at least when its new.

Here’s another trailer that’s too long, it’s for a Quest 14’ pontoon that’s closer to 12’ long. The boat is on a trailer designed to fit a 14’-16’ pontoon. The customer probably ordered a 14’ trailer only to discover his boat was shorter.

On a small boat like this having a bit of extra trailer in the front can make launching easier. Because the boat is lightweight, balance won’t be a problem
What is the weight of your pontoon? (including the engine) Boat weight can sometimes be difficult to determine. The manufacturer usually gives a weight in the sales brochure but it’s often without the engine. You can usually make an estimated guess. Most modern 20’ pontoons with full furniture will weigh 1800 to 2000 lbs. Engines can be 200 to 600 lbs. The reason you’re trying to determine the weight is to make the decision for a single (two tires) or tandem axle (four tires) pontoon trailer. Many single axle trailers only have a capacity of 2000 to 2200 lbs. For storage purposes an overloaded trailer might work but if you are traveling you’ll want a trailer that will adequately carry the weight of your pontoon, fuel, and gear.
A Couple of Other Considerations Will you be using the trailer primarily as a storage trailer? Will your marina be picking up your boat and storing it on your trailer or will you be pulling your own boat and traveling with it? You can sometimes save money on a storage trailer: single axle versus tandem, no brakes, bias ply tires, etc. If you’re towing with your family in the vehicle and traveling 50-100 miles you might want a tandem axle trailer with brakes, radial tires, etc. If you’re traveling, you must pay attention to the trailer you’re buying. Many sellers of pontoon trailers offer storage trailers without consideration of how you’ll use it.
Single Axle Trailer Generally speaking four tires on the road are always better than two. Once you buy a single axle trailer it’s difficult to add an axle. You can buy kits to add an extra axle, but you also need to change the fender and sometimes the way the additional axle will attach to the frame. If in doubt, buy the tandem axle to begin with. You’ll never be sorry to have four tires on the ground.
Brakes or No Brakes Brakes add about $500 to the cost of a pontoon trailer but they should be considered. Particularly if you have a smaller tow vehicle or a large, heavy pontoon. A 3/4 ton pick-up may have enough extra braking capacity to stop a 1500-2000 lb. trailer. A mid size SUV probably doesn’t have enough additional braking capacity to stop a 2000 lb. load. Being able to avoid getting pushed into an intersection by your pontoon boat in a quick stop might be worth $500.
Triple Tube Pontoon Boats I go into depth elsewhere about the special needs of triple tube pontoon boats. The important consideration for fitting is the length of the center tube. The latest thing in triple tube pontoon design is having a center tube longer than the outside pontoons.
triple tube pontoon boatThe engine usually extends beyond the transom and you may have as much as 5’-6’ of center tube and transom extending beyond the back of your trailer. If you have such a pontoon, you may need a longer trailer. This is the type of thing that can be overlooked on a new boat purchase. When picking up your new boat walk around the boat on the trailer. Before you tow it off the dealer’s lot, make sure it fits. If there is a question get the salesman in your tow vehicle and run the boat and trailer down the road a few miles. I cannot overemphasize the lack of knowledge about fitting modern triple tube pontoons among some marine industry professionals.