Choosing the Right Type of Boat Lift

types of boat lifts

A boat lift is a device designed to secure a boat above the water, either at a private dock or at a marina. Keeping a boat on a lift offers a number of advantages over keeping it tied at the dock and in the water.types of boat lifts

The first is security. You’ll never have to worry about a line coming loose or the boat being smashed against the dock by wakes or a storm, or by the boat sinking at the dock if the bilge pump fails. The opportunity for marine growth is limited when the boat is kept out of the water, so you may not have to apply bottom paint.

You’ll also be protecting the boat and drive from corrosion, especially in salt water. A boat stored on a lift is less subject to hull staining and dings and scratches, so a lift can even add long-term value to the boat. A boat lift fitted with a roof or canopy will help keep the boat clean and protected from sun fading. Keeping a boat at the water is also much handier than launching from a trailer before each outing.

Here’s some basic information on the most common types of boat lifts.

Types of Boat Lifts

  • Bottom Standing Lifts
  • Piling Mount Lifts
  • Floating Lifts
  • Shore Mounted Lifts

Explore Different Boat Types

Selecting a Boat Lift

A boat lift is rated by the weight it can accommodate, and lift capacity ranges from about 3,000 pounds to more than 15,000 pounds. That boat weight needs to include fuel and water and the gear you keep on board. A number of other factors need to be considered when selecting a lift:

  • Boat’s length and beam;
  • The depth of the water where the lift will be installed;
  • Whether the bottom is soft or firm

Boat lifts installed in salt water should be made of corrosion-resistant materials and use stainless steel fasteners. A professional boat lift installer will inspect your site and your boat and make a recommendation on the best lift for your situation. You should also be aware of any local regulations or home-owner policies concerning lifts.

choosing the right boat lift


Bottom Standing Lifts

A bottom-standing lift is installed adjacent to the dock and is supported by its own legs, which rest on the bottom. A bottom-standing lift is a popular choice when the bottom is firm and even, and when water depth is between two feet and nine feet. If the bottom is soft or uneven it may be challenging to install the lift level and secure. The lift may be raised and lowered manually by turning a large wheel, or by an electric motor which of course requires that power is available at the dock. The most expensive lifts use hydraulics to raise and lower the boat, a system that’s faster and quieter pulleys and cables. In cold climates, a bottom standing lift will need to be removed from the water during winter and reinstalled during in the spring, so you’ll need a place to store the lift and usually hire professionals to pull and install the lift.

Piling Mount Lifts

A piling mount boat lift is attached directly to a fixed dock or to pilings. This, of course, requires a dock or piling structure strong enough to support the lift and the boat, and often requires the custom installation of pilings, which can get expensive. Water depth or the bottom structure is not an issue with a piling mount lift. These lifts usually require electric power to function.

boat lifts


Floating Lifts

Floating lifts support the boat on metal or plastic chambers filled with air. The chambers are flooded and sink below the surface to release the boat and stay submerged while the boat is in use. When you return, position the boat over the chambers and electric pumps displace the water with air, the chambers float and the boat is lifted above the water surface.

Floating lifts are most-common in larger marinas with floating docks, and on fresh-water impoundments where the lake level can fluctuate during the season. A floating lift requires electric power, and because the chambers are always in the water they are exposed to marine growth that may need to be cleaned off occasionally.

Shore Mounted Lifts

A shore mounted lift is really a ramp that extends from the shore into the water. You drive the boat onto the ramp, and then usually use a winch and line attached to the bow to pull the boat up the ramp over the shore and out of the water. This installation requires a shoreline that rises gradually from the water, but can be relatively inexpensive and easy to install and maintain.

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