The Trailer Laws

Just as every state has its own speed limit, so, too, do states have their own laws regarding boat trailers. Fort he person who has just brought their boat and trailer to a new home in a different, that’s going to require, quite possibly, a change in the trailer in order to become legal.



The good news is that most states (47, including the District of Columbia) do not require a wide-load permit so long as the width is within 8’6” (102 inches). We’ve had reports from Trailering Club members about being pulled over by law enforcement because the guideposts on the trailer exceeded the 8”6” rule. Granted, this is rare but it has happened.

The exceptions to this are:

New York 8 feet (96 inches)

New Jersey 8 feet (96 inches)

Hawaii  8 feet (96 inches)

North Carolina 10 feet (120 inches) Boats up to 10 feet wide can be towed without a permit and watercraft up to 9’6” can be towed at night.

If your boat has a wider beam than what is allowed in your state, you’ll need a wide-load permit. BoatU.S. members can get a discount for these through Mercury Permits: US.

If you are pulling your boat through a number of states en route to a destination, you’ll need a wide-load permit for each state through which you travel. Please note: So long as you are simply passing through the state or visiting, you aren’t going to be required to change the trailer setup to accommodate each state law.


Seven states have no laws regarding trailer brakes and weight

  1. Kentucky – No brakes are required on a boat trailer, but you must be able to come to a stop within 40 feet on a level surface when the tow vehicle brakes are applied.
  2. Oregon– No brakes required on a trailer carrying 8,000 pounds or less, but must be able to stop from a speed of 20 mph within 25 feet. If carrying more than 8,000 pounds, the trailer must be able to stop at 20 mph within 35 feet.
  3. Missouri– No brakes are required on a recreational boat trailer.
  4. North Dakota– no brakes are required if the boat trailer is attached with safety chains when pulled at speeds higher than 25 mph. If the boat trailer doesn’t have safety chains, then brakes are required.
  5. Wyoming– No brakes are required, but must be able to stop at a speed of 20 mph within 40 feet on a level dry surface.
  6. Massachusetts– Brakes aren’t required.
  7. Kansas – No brakes required, but must be able to stop at a speed of 20 mph within 40 feet.



The weight a trailer carries is the deciding factor as to whether are required. This varies from state to state but most (35) require brakes for boat trailers carrying 3,000 pounds or more. Below, we’ve listed the allowable weight a trailer can carry before brakes are necessary. Of that number, a few, like Florida and Pennsylvania require residents to have brakes on all axels if pulling a tandem or triple axle trailer. Check with your local Department of Transportation or State Police to be sure you’re legal.

1,500: Idaho

2,000: Mississippi, Ohio

2,500: Georgia

3,000: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington West Virginia, Wisconsin

4,000: Delaware, North Carolina, Rhode Island

4,500: Texas



Content Courtesy of BoatU.S.
Category: Day Cruising