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Outdoor Empire Top Picks & Reviews
- Best Manual #1: Fulton F2 Two-Speed Trailer Winch
- Best Manual #2: Camco 5000 Winch
- Best Manual #3: Reese Towpower Trailer Winch
- Best Manual #4: Goldenrod Dutton Lainson DL2500A Hand Winch
- Best Electric #1: Megaflint Reversible Trailer Winch
- Best Electric #2: Bravex Reversible Trailer Winch
- Best Electric #3: Powerwinch RC30 12v Boat Winch
- Best Electric #4: Powerwinch 912 Boat Power Winch
|Category||Best Manual||Best Electric|
|Pulling Capacity||1,500 lbs||4,000 lbs|
|Dimensions||8 x 6 x 10 inches||9.5 x 11.5 x 9 inches|
|Weight||3.9 lbs||36 lbs|
|Includes||- 20-foot tow strap |
- clip-style hook
|- built-in light
- 40-foot aircraft-grade steel cable
|Warranty||1 year||1 year limited|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Manual Boat Trailer Winch #1
- One-piece handle for added durability
- Adjustable handle length
- Includes strap and mounting hardware
- Set up can be a bit difficult
- Replacing the strap requires disassembling the unit
For years, one trailer winch was the same as another. With plenty of elbow grease a handle, gears, and a strap, you were good to go. But not anymore. Fulton has revolutionized the trailer winch with a two-speed manual winch like no other.
This winch is a fully enclosed, dual-drum design that takes the hard work out of moving heavy boats. With a capacity of 3200 pounds, it can handle far more than many users can move manually.
However, thanks to the two-speed easy-shift feature, a turn of the dial will have that boat moving in no time. When in low gear, large loads can be easily moved with far less effort.
The one-piece aluminum handle is rust-resistant and can be adjusted to one of four lengths between six and nine inches. The handle can also be set up for either left- or right-handed use. Also, a 20-foot strap and all the necessary mounting equipment are included.
If you need a heavy-duty manual winch that takes the effort out of moving even a large boat, the Fulton F2 should be at the top of your list.
2. Best Manual Boat Trailer Winch #2
- Easy to install
- Double gear drive and heavy-duty crank for easier use
- Treated to resist corrosion and UV light
- Heavy-duty gears will not strip under strain
- Zinc coating on the main body not as stylish as other options
- Lower weight rating than others in the same category.
Camco is a Greensboro, North Carolina–based manufacturer with over 40 years of experience producing a wide range of industrial products. A small sample of their products includes outdoor equipment including towing accessories.
This winch has what you need to effortlessly move you mid-sized boat for years. Weighing only eight pounds and measuring 8.1 inches x 6.6 inches x 5.6 inches, it will fit most trailers without modification.
With a 2,000-pound rating and 2-inch-wide, 20-foot-long tow strap, you will have the power to retrieve heavier units at a variety of ramps. The combination of a heavy-duty crank and double drive gear will make the task at hand almost effortlessly.
With rugged gear construction and a zinc-coated body strap treated to resist UV light, this winch will tackle inclement weather without flinching. With less need for maintenance, the winch will last longer and allow you to spend more time on the water than many competitors.
If you need a mid-range winch that is suitable for saltwater use, this is one of the best available.
3. Best Manual Boat Trailer Winch #3
- A sturdy winch that includes a large, easy-to-use handle
- Treated to resist corrosion
- Low maintenance
- Easy to install on most trailers
- The hook is a bit small
- Lower weight rating than many similar winches
Reese Towpower, a division of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Horizon Global, specializes in producing quality towing accessories. Their line includes receiver hitches, ball mounts, locks, couplers, jacks, and trailer winches.
This manual winch is rated for loads up to 1,500 pounds and comes pre-rigged with a 20-foot tow strap and clip-style hook, so it is ready to mount and use out of the box.
Everything about this winch says durable. The body is coated with zinc to reduce corrosion. This also makes it suitable for use in saltwater. It features a full-length drum brushing treated with oil to reduce maintenance. The contoured handle allows for a comfortable grip even when wet.
It is also large enough to provide the necessary torque. It’s high-carbon SAE 1050–compliant gears will withstand many seasons of heavy use. Weighing in at only 3.9 pounds and dimensions of 8 inches x 6 inches x 10 inches will allow hassle-free mounting on most small trailers.
4. Best Manual Boat Trailer Winch #4
- Heavy-duty winch with solid construction
- TUFFPLATE zinc finish for increased corrosion resistance
- Dual speeds
- 2,500-pound capacity
- Does not include a tow strap or cable
- Mounting hardware not included
- Some users have reported a rough finish on the drum surface, most likely a result of zinc overspray
If you need a moderately sized winch that is also budget friendly, the DL2500A is worth a look.
With a weight capacity of 2,500 pounds, this winch is heavy enough to handle most average-sized recreational boats. With solid-metal construction and a weight of 16 pounds, there is no doubt this winch will withstand heavy-duty use.
With a TUFFPLATE zinc finish for added corrosion resistance, it is even suitable for saltwater use.
This winch is equipped with two-speed settings. High gear allows for faster cranking at a 17.3:1 ratio. Low gear drops the ratio to 5.4:1. When in lower gear, users will find moving heavier boats much easier than similar single-speed models.
The extra-long handle is 9.5 inches in length for increased leverage. The ergonomic handle with finger grooves will allow for secure use even when wet. The handle can also be removed for transport and quickly reattached when needed.
If you are looking to replace a worn-out, inferior winch but do not want to spend your whole paycheck, the DL2500A is the perfect answer.
5. Best Electric Boat Trailer Winch #1
- Increase power when compared to similar models of the same size
- Large 6,000-pound capacity
- Includes remote control, mounting plate, and extra-long power cord
- Dual-brake system for added safety
- Has limited run time before it needs to cool off
- At 27 pounds, this is a heavy winch
If you have a larger boat or have difficulty operating a manual winch, it may be time to switch to an electric model, which means you need the Megaflint Reversible Trailer Winch.
This winch is one of the more powerful marine models available. With a total maximum capacity of 6,000 pounds, your average recreational boat will offer little resistance. The enhanced motor design boasts a 30% increase in power compared to other 6,000-pound models.
The dual-direction operation allows you to power the cable both in and out, providing a controlled release when under load. Operation time under full load is six to eight minutes, followed by a five-minute cooldown period.
Also included are the necessary mounting plate, rocker switch remote control with 16-foot cable, 20-foot power cable, and 30-foot metal tow line. It also includes two braking systems: dynamic and mechanical friction.
If you are looking for a heavy-duty electric winch that includes all the features you need and then some, look no further than the Megaflint Reversible.
6. Best Electric Boat Trailer Winch #2
- Affordable price, allowing you to purchase an electric winch for the same as a high-end manual model
- Dual mode allows hand crank operation should power be lost or unavailable
- Low-noise design
- It does not always include tow cable (check ad details before purchasing)
- Mounting hardware not included
Even if you have an average-sized boat, there are advantages to having an electric winch. If you are older or suffer from injuries or disabilities, there may be no other option. The Bravex Reversible winch is perfect for this situation.
With a 2,000-pound pulling capacity, this winch will make short work of the average mid-size recreational boat. Because it is reversible, users have full control of the load, whether launching or retrieving — a nice feature to have when using steep or poorly designed ramps.
Plus, this winch is dual operational as well, meaning that should the power fail or be unavailable, the winch can be switched to manual and used with a standard handle.
Also included is the mounting plate, 20-foot power cable, emergency hand crank, and remote-control cable.
For a quiet, smooth-operating electric boat winch, check out the Bravex Reversible.
7. Best Electric Boat Trailer Winch #3
- Heavy-duty design
- Very good user reviews
- One-year warranty
- Includes LED lights for use at night
- No reverse setting
Powerwinch is a leader in supplying winches, capstans, windlasses, and related boating equipment. Based in Colorado, they offer a wide range of American-made products.
The RC30 is a heavy-duty marine winch with a maximum capacity of 11,000 pounds. Coupled with a 40-foot aircraft-grade steel cable, it can pull even large recreational vessels cleanly and smoothly.
The included wireless remote-control unit allows operation from a far greater range than wired remotes. With a simple push of a button on the pocket-sized remote, your boat will be on its way to the trailer.
The entire body is coated with zinc for increased corrosion resistance. Although the cable is not pre-treated, it is relatively easy to treat it with a can of spray lubricant.
This is an excellent choice for owners of large boats or those who launch from steep ramps.
8. Best Electric Boat Trailer Winch #4
- Extended runtime between cooling periods
- Adding a block or pully doubles your capacity
- Quick eight feet per minute retrieval rate
- One-year warranty
- Freewheel operation when deploying, reducing control of the load
- May be overkill for many small boat owners
This is the largest, strongest winch in our review. With a total capacity of 11,500 pounds, it has almost double the power of most competitors. Add a pully or block at the bow eye, and you can double this power.
This is enough power to pull even a large recreational boat with little resistance. There are few trailer models this winch cannot handle.
Powered by any 12-volt power supply, this winch can be coupled with any standard automobile or marine battery for ease of operation. With a gear ratio of 450:1 and a retrieval rate of eight feet per minute, your boat will be loaded in no time.
Unlike many smaller models, this winch will run longer before overheating and requiring a rest period. Even if the entire 40-foot tow cable is extended, most boats will be on the trailer before you reach the cool-down period.
Whether you own a larger, heavier boat and have been searching for a winch that is up to the task, or simply want to purchase the best winch available, the Powerwinch 912 fits the bill.
Manual vs. Electric Boat Trailer Winches
In some cases, the choice of a manual or electric winch comes down to personal preference. In others, it is a matter of cost or physical ability. No matter the reason why you are looking to purchase a winch, it is important to know the differences between the two models.
Manual winches are operated by turning a handle. A ratchet system allows you to stop at any point without permitting the boat to slip back into the water. Any manual winch will multiply your strength and enable a single user to move a much heavier load than would be possible by hand.
The larger the winch and lower the gear ratio, the more pulling power available. Some models have dual speed settings. These models offer a high-speed setting with a higher gear ratio that allows the empty cable or light loads to be retrieved quickly.
When switched to the low setting, the same winch operates at a reduced gear ratio and increased strength, although it also reduces the speed of retrieval. Manual winches utilize either a tow strap made of nylon webbing, a steel cable, or heavy-duty rope connected to a large hook.
Each of these products has its weight capacity and it is important to select one that matches the capacity of your winch to avoid failure and possible injury.
- Less expensive
- No need for external power supply
- Less chance for mechanical failure
- Physically taxing
- Reduced pulling capacity
Electric winches utilize a rugged DC motor rather than a hand crank. This motor is powered by the tow vehicle’s power system or an auxiliary power system such as a generator or power bank.
Because the winch is relying on a mechanical system and not human power, they can achieve amazing pulling capacities. While there are small units that produce 2,000 pounds of pulling power (about the same as manual models), the larger, more powerful units can exceed 10,000 pounds of pulling power.
Some models also include a reverse setting. When this is used, the load is controlled during the release and retrieval. This is a valuable safety option when launching larger boats or when using a steeper ramp.
It is important to research electric winches before purchase or use. Some models can only operate for a limited period under maximum load before requiring a cooldown period.
Possible accessories include an extended length power cable, remote control unit, dual-speed setting, and mechanical braking system.
- Greater pulling capacity
- Excellent for larger boats or steep ramp areas
- Good choice for those who are not physically capable of using a manual winch
- Most expensive
- Must be connected to an external power supply
When buying a winch, it is important to select a model that will match your needs. You need to consider where you will be using the winch, the boat(s) it will be used with, and your physical abilities. Here are a few of the features you need to look at when comparing different models.
Winches are rated based on their weight capacity. Choosing a winch with too low a weight rating may fail when under load, which could cause damage to the winch, your boat, or even you. Choose a winch that is too heavy, and you will be wasting money.
The general rule of thumb is to select a winch that is rated at least 75% of the combined weight of your boat, motor, fuel, and gear. It is not necessary to have a winch rated for 100% of this combined weight due to the buoyancy of a boat on the water.
If you routinely launch at steeper ramps or use a trailer with carpeted bunkers, you will need a winch with a rating greater than 75%, however.
Single or Dual Speed
Both manual and electric winches are available with multiple speed options. Manual winches are usually limited to two settings (high or low), while electric winches can offer a range of settings. When set on the high ratio, the winch produces less pulling power but retrieves quicker.
This is good when winding in a tow cable under little or no strain but limits your ability to move larger boats. The low setting will increase the gear ratio, which in turn provides greater pulling power without increasing physical strain. Of course, the retrieve speed will be slower as well.
A single-speed winch will be set at a moderate to low gear ratio which is selected to maximize the winch’s pulling capacity. When a lighter load is applied, less power will be exerted, but there will be little gain in speed.
As the weight load increases, the winch will eventually become harder to crank and more strength will be needed to maintain movement.
Tow Strap, Cable, or Rope
Many winches come equipped with either a tow strap of two-inch nylon webbing, a steel cable, or heavy-duty rope. One end is attached to the winch drum and the other to a metal hook, which in turn is connected to the boat’s bow eye.
If either is supplied with your winch, continue to use similar equipment for the life of the unit. If no strap, cable, or rope is supplied, you will need to purchase one separately. The question is, which one?
Rope should only be used on smaller, lighter boats and with winches with lower pulling capacity. All ropes have a breaking point or maximum load rating, so it is important to select one that has a pulling capacity equal to or greater than that of your winch.
Inspect the rope frequently and replace it if there are any signs of damage or wear.
Nylon straps, which made from the same material as tie-downs and seatbelts, are popular options for many manual winches. These straps are rated higher than rope and will provide a longer life span. Because straps are flat, they lie on the drum evenly, which reduces the risk of binding.
As with ropes, the nylon strap should be inspected frequently and replaced if any signs of damage are observed.
Steel cables are the favored option for electric winches. Due to their increased strength and limited stretch, steel cables are best suited for heavier loads. Although it is less likely you will damage the steel cable under normal use, it is possible to develop a kink if the line twists.
If this happens, be sure to inspect for damage. Cables are also more prone to bind on themselves when rolled onto the drum unevenly. Cables should also be inspected regularly for damage and corrosion.
Although Powerwinch was recently acquired by Carefree of Colorado and is now headquartered at the Carefree facility in Broomfield, CO, they are a newcomer to the marine industry.
For over 50 years they have been producing quality, innovative products designed to increase user comfort and convenience.
Powerwinch trailer winches are among the most powerful on the market. Owners trust them to provide many years of carefree service for even the largest recreational boats. In addition to winches, Powerwinch also offers a wide range of free-fall anchor windlasses, capstans, and parts.
Based in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Fulton has been supplying mariners for over five decades. They are a leader in the manual winch market and offer some of the most advanced features available.
The Fulton line of single speed winches features efficient gear ratios, comfort-grip handles, high-carbon-steel construction, and a zinc finish.
The two-speed models feature shift-lock technology, allowing the user to change speeds without moving the handle position. Fulton’s K Series brake system is a self-activated automatic brake that securely holds the load when the handle is released.
Founded in 1952 and based in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Reese has been a leader in the design and development of heavy-duty towing accessories.
Although their original focus was fifth-wheel systems, which remains a staple of their business, they have built a solid reputation in the marine winch industry as well.
Most of their winches are designed to handle small to mid-range boats (2,000 pounds or less). Each winch is covered by a lifetime warranty. In addition to winches, Reese also offers a range of towing accessories, including hitches, ball mounts, trailer parts, and cargo security systems.
I used #4 before. The gear ratio makes it so easy to pull in the boat. Very smooth action. I just like it a lot. It is overkill for my 15′ boat, but it is just great. This is a well built item. Be aware that when you hand wind a new strap it is going to loosen up periodically until it gets tightened under driving conditions. Check several times while underway and snug it up.
I have just bought Reese Towpower 74329 Trailer Winch. This is an affordable, durable, and comfortable trailer winch perfect for small to mid-sized boats or personal watercraft.