March 7, 2022
What to Look for When Purchasing a Used Boat Trailer
boat trailer graphic

Are you considering purchasing a used boat trailer for your water beauty? If so, you might wonder what to look for when purchasing a used boat trailer. A boat trailer is an essential item to own if you own a boat! It eliminates relying on boatyards and haulers for transport, launching, and storage. Owning a boat trailer also means having the freedom to hit the water whenever you want! A boat trailer is a must-have if you own a boat and don’t live near the water!

After investing money into a boat, it can. While initially, a used boat trailer might look like it can save you money, there are several key things you should consider before purchasing one.

Here we discuss what to look for when purchasing a used new boat trailer.

What’s The Law?

Before you begin your hunt for a used boat trailer, it is best to know what state laws impact your buying options. Carefully read your state’s towing rules and regulations before making a purchase. For example, many states require boat trailers have brakes. You do not want to invest in a boat trailer and later learn you need to embark on the expensive journey of retrofitting it with brakes!

Look Over Everything and Know What You Need

There will be several questions you want to ask yourself to help you know if the trailer will meet your needs. For example, will you be boating in saltwater or freshwater? Will you be traveling long distances? Once you have found a suitable size and make of trailer for your boating needs, take a look at it in-person to examine it for signs of age, wear, and tear.

While you can’t expect a used trailer to look brand new, excessive wear will cost you more in the long run, and at that point, it can be better not to buy it.


As previously mentioned, it is important to check your state’s trailer brake laws and ensure the trailer you are inspecting has brakes installed. Typically, if the boat trailer has brakes, they will either be electric or surge. Examine the brakes to determine if they need replacing.

There are pros and cons to both electric and surge brakes. Electric brakes can increase safety measures as you can start braking your trailer before breaking your vehicle. However, electric brakes will not survive saltwater boating.

If you primarily do saltwater boating, your best bet will be surge brakes. Surge brakes survive the harshness of saltwater better than electric brakes. However, while surge brakes are more reliable, they are also more complicated and require more maintenance than electric brakes.


Thoroughly look over the frame and note any visible corrosion and rust. If excessive rust and corrosion are causing holes in the frame, you might want to pass on this used trailer.

Trailer frames are typically built with galvanized steel or aluminum. Steel or painted steel generally is more expensive and heavier but is an ideal choice for freshwater use. Aluminum creates a lighter frame and is ideal for saltwater use.


When inspecting the wiring of your potential boat trailer, you ideally want to see heavy grommets and chain protection where ever the wires enter or exit the trailer’s frame. In addition, regularly launching a boat in salt water can cause extra damage to the boat trailer’s frame. Check to see if the owner enjoyed saltwater or freshwater boating. Salt water is hard on wiring and can cause damage faster.

Replacing the wiring can be a pricey and frustrating endeavor, so if the wiring looks faulty or the pieces protecting the chains look flimsy, you might want to pass on the trailer.


There are two main options for trailer springs: torsion and leaf. As with everything, there are benefits and downsides to both options. Torsion springs provide a smoother ride and typically require low maintenance. However, it’s a pain when you have to complete maintenance for them.

Leaf springs will provide a smoother ride on uneven, bumpy, or dirt roads, especially if the trailer has multiple axles. In addition, they are easier to repair compared to torsion springs.

Axle Number

Boat trailers come with single and multiple axles. You don’t always need multiple axles. Single axle trailers are less costly, require less maintenance, and can be easier to maneuver manually.

If you are traveling long distances, a multiple axle trailer might be ideal for you. The multiple axles enable the trailer to track better on the road. The multiple axles also make the trailer safer if you blow a tire.

The Lights

Check the turn signals and brake lights to ensure everything is in sound working order. While a broken turn signal could be as simple as a burnt-out light, it could also indicate an underlying wiring issue.

Tire Diameter Matters

The size of the tires on the trailer is an important factor. Don’t believe me? Well, consider this, if you were to drive for an hour at highway speed with 13-inch tires, each tire would spin 10,000 times more than a 15-inch tire.

Why does the number of rotations matter? Well, the more your tire rotates, the more friction it creates and the more heat it makes. Both heat and friction will increase the wear and tear on the trailer. More wear and tear means an increase in maintenance costs and potential problems.

When checking the tires, make sure they are the correct diameter and actual trailer tires instead of car tires. Trailer tires are not the equivalent of car tires. Having thicker walls, trailer tires reduce the sway and support the extra weight of the boat.

What’s The Capacity Plate?

The capacity plate tells you what the axles can handle, AKA how much weight the trailer can transport. If you can’t find the capacity plate, don’t worry. Used trailers often have very worn capacity plates, if the capacity plate is still there at all.

While there might not be a capacity plate present, you can still determine the trailer’s axle capacity with this simple trick.

Measure the axle diameter.

Reference the following guide.

1.75-inch diameter means the trailer axle capacity is 1 ton (2,000 pounds)

2.375-inch diameter means the trailer axle capacity is 3,500 pounds

3-inch diameter means the trailer axle capacity is 5,200-7,000 pounds

These measurements do not mean that the trailer axles can handle a boat that weighs that much because the axles also support the weight of the trailer. So make sure to subtract the trailer’s weight from the maximum number of pounds the trailer is capable of holding.

Cheap Doesn’t Equal Better

It is very tempting to buy the first seemingly incredible boat trailer deal that you come across. However, it is a huge mistake to purchase a used trailer-based solely on the price. If you are hunting for the cheapest trailer you can find, you will often end up with a broken trailer or a trailer that doesn’t fit your boating needs.

You might save money short term, but you will be paying more long term.

Read The Fine Print

You want to ensure everything is in order before you pay the seller and walk away with your new (used) trailer. Skip problems at the DMV by checking you have all the information you need to transfer the title. You must walk away with a legible VIN that matches the ownership paperwork.

While a missing or incorrect VIN could be a simple mistake, it could also signify a dishonest seller. If this happens, you are better to walk away from the trailer – no matter how great the deal might appear.

Save yourself money and time, not to mention a headache, by ensuring the seller has the paperwork in order before giving them your money!

Hopefully, you now know exactly what to look for when purchasing a used boat trailer and feel more confident looking at trailers for your boat! If you have found the ideal used trailer to meet your needs but still require repairs or parts, reach out to us at Rocket Marine. We not only offer high-quality boat trailer parts but an experienced repair team to help you along the way. Maybe after reading this article, you realize you’d like to save the time and energy of finding an ideal used trailer and just purchase something new? We have you covered with top high-quality aluminum and galvanized trailers.

Here’s to helping you get out on the water!

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Published: March 7, 2022
Author: Rocket Trailers
Categories: Uncategorized