Launching a boat off a boat trailer is shown in this photo.

The Complete Runabout Boat & Trailer Towing Guide

Basic Boat Towing

Towing a boat behind your car, truck or another vehicle can be a hair raising experience if you’ve never towed before. Towing a runabout boat that looks like it’s bouncing all over the place behind your vehicle is more than a little unnerving.  Especially if you don’t even know your runabout boat weight or the boat weight with the trailer. You could be pushing the boundaries of what weight your vehicle can tow without even knowing.

When I first towed a boat, I was a little freaked out, I’ll be honest.  But, I found out the weight of the boat and trailer that my vehicle could tow, and made sure my gear was in my truck, not in the boat.  I’ll get into gear more, but for now, let’s take a look deeper into towing a runabout boat.

Boat Towing Licensing And Trailer Legalities

A Boat Launch Sign
Boat Legalities

Here in Ontario, you only need a valid driver’s license to tow a trailer of up to 4,600 kgs (10,141 lbs).  However, there are a bunch of things that you need to make sure you have in place before that trailer gets on the road.

Signal Lights

Any trailer that is towed behind a vehicle must obey the same laws as a vehicle, being an extension of that vehicle.  In other words, the trailer must have the same capabilities to show braking and signaling intentions of the vehicle which is towing it.  Therefore, the connections for the trailer lights to your vehicle should be in good working condition.  If you don’t have one, you’ll need to make sure you have a trailer hitch kit installed to your vehicle so the trailer lights will work properly.  That way you’ll be safe on the road and other drivers will know what you’re doing.

Secure And Legal Plate

Just like a car, your trailer will need to have a plate.  You’ll have to run down to the motor vehicles office and submit either written ownership or a printed one.  Typically the bill of sale works or is required for licensing. Depending on where you live, you may also need to provide a certificate of inspection showing the trailer is in roadworthy working conditions.  Check with your local MTO or motor vehicle officials for what you need to do in your specific state, province or territory.

The license plate typically also requires that there be a light shining on it.  This allows other motorists, including police, to be able to read the plate when it is dark outside.  This is usually built into the trailer, where the license plate attaches.

Safety Chains

There are always supposed to be a single, long or pair of safety chains that cross each other in an X pattern.  These chains attach (loosely) the trailer to the towing vehicle.  The point of the chains is that should there be a failure with the hitch, that the chains will hold the trailer to the vehicle until an emergency stop can be made.  Many people do not use these safety chains properly and you can often see sparks flying up from the chains hitting the pavement below. This usually happens when someone connects them with too much slack.

Reflectors

Reflectors are not mandatory, but really smart when it comes to a boat trailer.  This is especially true if your boat trailer will be sitting in any kind of parking lot at night.  I remember a few years back, a buddy of mine had a little runabout and we were out on Lake Simcoe for the day.  We got back just as the sun was going down and went to my friend’s truck and trailer to bring it to the ramp so we could pull the boat out.

The trailer had a smashed section in the corner.  One of the boat rollers was mangled. It looked like someone clipped it in the parking lot at the marina where it was parked for the day while we were out on the boat.  The trailer was black, and not easy to see at night. No reflectors are on it anywhere other than the lenses for the signal and brake lights.

You can guarantee that the next week my friend had his trailer covered in reflective stickers

Tie Downs

An aluminum runabout is tied down to its trailer in this photo.
An aluminum runabout is tied down to its trailer in this photo.

You can’t just set the boat on the trailer and be done with it.  You actually need to secure the boat. This is especially true for smaller runabouts.  The wind can be a powerful thing when you’re driving down the highway at speed. So, having your boat secured to the trailer with tie downs is not only smart, it’s actually a legal requirement in most places.  And it never hurts to keep a few spare tie-downs around, just in case one breaks while you’re traveling.

Runabout Basics – Towing A Runabout

A runabout, by definition, is any small motorboat which seats between 4 and 8 people.  Generally, this means 20-35 feet (6-10.6 meters). However, there is no absolute rule set in stone somewhere that reads ‘Hear ye, hear ye, let it be known a runabout is no more than 35 feet!’.

The runabout first showed its face as a wooden, varnished vessel, back in the 1920s.  You can get a really good view of a classic wood runabout in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  There is a boat chase scene where a boat gets mangled by a propellor of a large Freightliner. It’s quite the fight aboard a runabout!

What Kind Of Vehicle Can Tow A Runabout?

Towing a runabout boat generally takes a small truck or larger.  I imagine a Jeep would likely have no issues towing a runabout, but it would really depend on the actual weight of the boat and trailer and the actual weight towing capacity of the vehicle in question.  Take a look a little further in this article where I get into common runabout boat weights.

10 Most Popular Trucks That Can Tow A Runabout

An illustration of a pickup truck is shown.
A well-hitched pickup truck is shown in this illustration courtesy of OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Here is a chart I put together with the top ten trucks according to JD Power, and also their towing capabilities.  Take a look and let me know what you think about these results in the comments below. The popularity is based on 2018 model-year sales, according to JD Power.

Popular Truck Payload And Towing Capacity

Truck TypePayload Capacity (Imperial)Payload Capacity (Metric)Towing Capacity (Imperial)Towing Capacity (Metric)
Ford F-1503,270 lbs1,483 kg13,200 lbs5,987 kg
Chevrolet Silverado 15002,250 lbs1,020 kg12,200 lbs5,534 kg
Ram 15002,300 lbs1,043 kg12,750 lbs5,783 kg
Ford F-Series Super Duty7,640 lbs3,465 kg35,000 lbs15,876 kg
Toyota Tacoma1,440 lbs653 kg6,800 lbs3,048 kg
GMC Sierra 15002,240 lbs1.016 kg10,200 lbs4,626 kg
Ram Heavy Duty7,680 lbs3,483 kg35,100 lbs15,921 kg
Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD/3500HD6,112 lbs2,772 kg23,100 lbs10,478 kg
Chevrolet Colorado1,574 lbs714 kg7,700 lbs3,492 kg
Toyota Tundra1,730 lbs785 kg10,200 lbs4,626 kg
This table shows the trucks popularity for 2018, according to JD Power. Each truck's payload capacity and towing capacity are shown in both imperial and metric.

When we look at the average runabout weight including the trailer, the only tracks on this list that might have an issue are the Toyota Tacoma and the Chevrolet Colorado.  These will have an issue if you add a lot of gear and a full tank of gas and people into the equation. Add water weight for when you pull the boat out of the water and depending on the weight it might be close to or even above the maximum the vehicle is intended to haul.  Always double-check the actual weight and add a buffer for safety. I like to keep my buffer at 1000 lbs or 453 kg. That way, I know I can add a person or some gear without really worrying about being overweight for my vehicle. But how much does each weigh?

Runabout Boat Weights

The weight of a runabout will vary quite a bit depending on a few key factors.  

  1. When was the boat made?
  2. What was the material the boat was constructed of?
  3. How much equipment is installed on the boat?
  4. How much does the motor weigh?

The first, the age of the boat, has a lot to do with re-painting.  If the hull was repainted or added varnish to the wood et cetera. Believe it or not, but an extra coat or two of paint can add 50 lbs or more to a boat.  So, if the boat is really old, it’s likely to have seen a few extra coats of paint or stain over the years.

This leads us into the most obvious factor and that is what the boat is made of.  Old wood that has been stained and re-stained over the years is going to weigh in a lot heavier than a newer fiberglass boat.  If the entire hull and interior are all lavish stained wood, then the boat is going to weigh considerably. The old classic runabout boats look incredible but might be a bit much to try to tow all over the place.  Depending on the size of the boat and the size of your pocketbook, of course.

The equipment you have installed on your boat will also affect the weight.  If you have a newer boat, the toys and accessories can be seemingly endless.  However, the hulls and construction of newer boats make them much lighter than their predecessors. 

5 Examples Of Current Model Runabouts Weights And Specifications

Yamaha AR210

This boat can seat 10 (not comfortably), realistically 6 people.  This is a new boat, sleek and powerful. The boat is intended for water sports and fun out on the water.  The boat is set up as a bowrider, but due to size and capacity, it classifies as a runabout. Being new, this boat is not made of wood like the classic runabouts of the past.  The trailer sold with the boat is a tandem axle. This boat sells for a starting price of $ 45,799.00 USD. The specifications are below.

Yamaha AR210 Boat Specifications

Boat Length: 21’ 3” / 6.48 m

Beam: 8’ 6” / 2.59 m

Dry Weight: 3,228 lbs (1,464 kgs)

Fuel Tank: 50 gal / 189 L

Seating Capacity: 10 person/ 1,860 lbs / 843.7 kg

Trailer Specifications

Boat Height on Trailer: 10’ 4.5” / 3.2 m

Boat Height on Trailer with Tower Folded: 7’ 10.7” / 2.4 m

Length on Trailer: 24’ / 7.32 m

Dry Weight Boat on Trailer: 4,224 lbs (1,916 kgs)

Beneteau Flyer 23 Sundeck

This boat comfortably sits 4 but can carry up to 6 people before it becomes overloaded.  This is a day/night bowrider with a mini cabin inside. The boat has a ton of features, which the price (starting at $90,920.00 USD) reflects.  Here are some of it’s specifications:

Beneteau Flyer 23 Boat Specifications

Boat Length: 23’ 5”

Hull Length: 22’ 10”

Beam: 8’ 2”

Draft Min/Max: 1’ 5” – 2’ 11” / 0.5 m – 0.9 m

Air Draft: 5’ 10” / 1.77 m

Dry Weight (Light Displacement): 5,100 lbs / 2,314 kg  

Fuel Tank: 90 US Gal / 340 L

Fresh Water Capacity: 21 US Gal / 80 L

Seating Capacity: 10 passengers

Marine Toilet Blackwater Tank: 23 US Gal / 88 L

Trailer Specifications

Not included with the boat, but assume about 1,000 lbs / 454 kg – 1,600 lbs / 726 kg depending on the trailer.

Stingray 216cc Deck Boat

Deck boats can still technically fall into the category of runabout as this is again just about being a powerboat with a specific capacity.  Deck boats are quite popular in warmer areas like Florida. If you’ve ever seen the television show Dexter, and if you’ve seen the star of the show out on his boat, then you’ll know exactly what a common deck boat looks like.  The Stingray 216 is a bit smaller than the boat shown on the show Dexter, but it’s got the specifications for our runabout guide, so let’s dive into those specs, shall we?

Stingray 216CC Boat Specifications

Boat Length: 21’ 8” / 6.6 m

Beam: 8’ 5” / 2.57 m

Max. Depth (with standard windshield): 7’ 11” / 2.16 m

Dry Weight (w/typical engine): 3,150 lbs / 

Capacity: 10 persons or 3,050 lbs / 1,587.6 kg

Fuel Tank: 57 US Gal / 216 L

Water Capacity: 13 US Gal / 49 L

Cooler Capacity: 28.6 US Gal / 108 L

Livewell Capacity: 17 US Gal / 64 L

Boesch 620 Acapulco De Luxe Century Edition

A gorgeous wood hull designed boat from Switzerland, this beautiful cruising powerboat is luxury defined.  And no doubt the price will reflect that. With a capacity of 6 people, the boat comfortably sits 4. The boat has a built-in engine, so no outboard motor is involved with this boat.  Here are a few specifications of this particular vessel:

Boesch 620 Boat Specifications

Boat Length: 21’ 4” / 6.5 m

Beam: 7’ 3” / 2.2 m 

Draft: 1’ 9” / 0.54 m

Weight: 2,976 lbs / 1350 kg

Fuel Tank: 31.7 US Gal / 120 L

Capacity: 6 persons

Finnmaster Cabin P7W

Another amazing boat from Europe (Finland actually), the Finnmaster Cabin Pilot 7W is the perfect fit for a weekend in Northern Europe.  The hard cover lets you stay out of the elements in case of inclement weather, as can often happen in the European waters. Sleeping up to 4 people, this boat is great to take out the family for the weekend.  Again, let’s take a look at some of the specifications of the Finnmaster CP7W.

Finnmaster Cabin P7W Boat Specifications

Boat Length: 23’ 7” / 7.2 m

Beam: 8’ 6” / 2.59 m

Draft: 1 ‘ 8” / 0.5 m

Dry Weight: 3,748 lbs / 1,700 kg

Capacity: 7 people (sleeps 4)

Engine Weight: 503 lbs / 228 kg

Fuel Capacity: 52 US Gal / 197 L

Water Capacity: 10.3 US Gal / 39 L

Wastewater Capacity: 12.4 US Gal / 47 L

Runabout Trailer Weight

Using the examples above, we can extrapolate a few trailer weights.  For example, the AR210 shown above has a combined boat and trailer dry weight of 4,224 lbs (1,916 kgs), and the boat by itself has a weight of 3,228 lbs (1,464 kgs). Therefore, we can see that the trailer weighs 996 lbs (452 kgs).  And from this, we can generate an assumption:

A standard galvanized steel trailer for a 20’ – 22′ boat weighs approximately 1,000 – 1600 lbs (453.5 – 725 kgs).

Weight Of Boating Gear And Equipment

Whenever you’re considering towing a boat and you’re wondering about weight, don’t forget about the gear.  You can very easily overload the boat with gear and find yourself in some hot water. Whether it’s from a blown trailer tire to the actual weight of the trailer being more than your vehicle should pull, it can be a costly learning experience.

The best thing to do when transporting a boat is to keep the gear inside your vehicle, and not in the boat.  All bulky gear should be offloaded from the boat before the boat even goes on the trailer. This way, you are not adding extra weight to your trailer by adding gear.

This can be a real issue if you are towing a larger runabout and you’re bringing a bunch of people with you.  Say you and a few buddies are going out fishing on your runabout. The fishing gear for 4 guys plus a cooler with food and so on and before you know it, you’re adding a couple of hundred pounds of extra weight.  Weigh smart, pack light and keep the gear in the vehicle until the boat is on the water. Likewise, remove the gear before the boat leaves the water. A simple set of rules to stop problems before they start.

Weight Of Gas Tank

Wondering what a full tank of gas weighs?  Here’s the answer. Start with the tank weight empty, just estimate this unless you know for certain.  Most plastic tanks are between 2 and ten pounds, depending on size. If it is a larger tank or a metal tank, it will weigh more.  Then multiply the capacity of the gas tank by the weight per pound or per kg. See the following chart for some examples.

Gasoline Weight Chart - Imperial Measurements

Quantity of GasolineWeight of Gasoline
1 US Gal6 lbs
10 US Gal60 lbs
25 US Gal150 lbs
50 US Gal300 lbs
100 US Gal600 lbs
This chart is a standard weight chart for common petroleum gasoline. The units are in Imperial measurements.

Gasoline Weight Chart - Metric Measurements

Quantity of GasolineWeight of Gasoline
1 Litre0.74 kg
10 Litres7.4 kg
25 Litres18.5 kg
50 Litres37 kg
100 Litres74 kg
The metric gasoline weight chart shows some common amounts of gasoline in liters and the equivalent weight in kilograms.

As you can see, a full tank of gas can add a significant amount of weight to your boat.

Weight Of Water

Now, if you have a water holding tank or well on your boat for fishing, or maybe even just a few jugs of water to bring you the hydration you’ll need out in the hot sun, it’s always good to know what water weighs.

1 A gallon of water (3.78 liters) = 8.4 pounds (3.81 kg)

For those of us living in a metric based country:

1 Litre of Water = 1.008 kg, or basically 1:1 (how convenient!)

How To Find Out A Boat And Trailer’s Actual Weight?

A v-hull boat is freshly loaded onto its trailer in this file photo.
A V-Hull Boat Freshly Pulled Onto Its Trailer

The first and most obvious place to find the actual weight is to have a copy of the owner’s manuals for both the boat and the trailer.  Then verify both pieces of equipment are empty of accessories and that weight should be fairly accurate.

However, as soon as you add accessories, maybe some gear or a tank of gas the weight will change.  Also, the manual for the boat may not include the motor if it is an outside mount style of the engine such as an outboard.  If the motor is built into the boat then this will not be an issue, of course.

Also, if the boat is wet, or if the boat is wood and has had a bit of mileage, then the weight may not be accurate and the only way to really know for sure is to weigh the boat.  But how and where should you do that? I’ve got some answers. Read on my friend.

3 Local Places You Can Find Out Vehicle And Trailer Weight

There are a few places where you can go and get a trailer weighed, as I discovered.  I actually discovered the first place last spring when I was cleaning out my garage.  

Vehicle And Trailer Weighing Option One

I had rented a truck to bring a bunch of garbage left behind by the former owner of my house to the garbage dump.  It was one of those community garbage and recycling centers that let locals go and dispose of everything from light bulbs to electronics to compostables and so on.

When I pulled into the facility, I had to drive over a scale that registered my vehicle’s weight.  I asked the nice staff through the window what the weight was and she told me. I drove over and got rid of the garbage.  Once done, I had to go and drive over the scale again and was again able to ask the attendant my vehicle weight. For the garbage I dropped off, it was really cheap considering I had an entire truck full.

Not The Average Way To Weigh

But imagine you just hook up your boat and trailer and throw a couple of garbage bags in the boat.  Then drive on over to your municipal garbage dump and if they charge by weight like the one where I live does then you just ask them to tell you on exit what the weight is.

Next, just take a look at your vehicle’s owner’s manual.  It will say what your car, truck, SUV, etc weigh. Then just subtract the weight of your vehicle from the weight you were told at the recycling or garbage yard.

Now, if you don’t happen to have a yard like I do where they weigh your vehicle, there are other places that also weigh vehicles.

Vehicle And Trailer Weighing Option Two

Another type of place is a metal recycling yard.  There is a lot of these sorts of places around major industrial centers and around almost every city in North America, that I’m aware of.  As long as there is material recycling, there are going to be those companies that pay for scrap. And they do so by weighing vehicles. So, you can always call ahead to one of these places and ask what they’d charge to weigh your vehicle.  The recycling yards typically have a drive over scale like the garbage dump I described earlier.

Oftentimes, these recycling companies will weigh your vehicle for free.  I called 5 of these companies within a one hour drive of my house and 4 of them said they’d tell me my vehicle weight for free.  The one that said there would be a fee said it was $5. And that’s Canadian, by the way. Cheap.  

Their business is based on buying and selling recyclables so they don’t really see weighing a vehicle as a big deal as their scales are drive over and it only takes a few seconds to get the weight.  No big deal for most of them. Bring a container of metal to sell them and they’ll just look at you weird for bringing a boat on a trailer. But totally doable, so to speak.

Vehicle And Trailer Weighing Option Three

A third option is a commercial scale company.  These companies typically operate close to trucking centers.  This is because the big rigs need to be weighed and certified for the weight of a specific maximum.  When it comes to cross border shipping, I’m pretty certain it’s a legal prerequisite.  

I used to utilize one of these companies when I was managing a fleet at a commercial overhead door company.  The commercial trucks had to be weighed so that I could ensure we were abiding by legal regulations when it came to towing lift equipment on a trailer behind our service trucks.

There was a commercial scale company beside a dealership that sold used commercial tractors for the tractor-trailer shipping industry.  They charged me around $25 if memory serves. I had insisted on a receipt as it was a business purchase, and not like my personal boat needed to be weighed.  But my point is that they charged a minimal fee and anyone with a vehicle could go and drive up onto the scale and pay to have it weighed. And these scales are long due to needing to accommodate the large shipping trucks and trailers.

Summary

Weighing your boat and trailer is an important and sometimes challenging task. There are always easy and cheap ways around the issue of weighing your runabout boat and trailer. When you are towing your runabout, or rather when you are towing your runabout boat and trailer, there are a few precautions and legalities to make sure that you’re driving a vehicle that has the towing capacity as well as making sure you’re doing so legally.

If you have enjoyed this article, please leave me a comment below and let me know what else you’d like to see me write about here on Boating Guide.

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