Have you ever wondered whether or not you can tow your pontoon boat with the cover on it? Maybe you’re just needing to transport it a short distance, or maybe you’re planning on towing it across your state to your summer vacation spot? Either way, it’s important to know if it’s okay!
The quick answer is Yes… you can definitely tow your pontoon boat (or any boat) with the cover on. However, to tow safely as well as tow without damaging your pontoon cover you need to ensure you have the correct type of cover that is also the correct size as well as enough straps to keep it secure.
So now that you know that it’s possible, keep reading to find out how to do it right!
By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.
Why Tow Your Pontoon Boat With a Cover
So now that you know that you can indeed tow your pontoon boat with the cover on, let’s talk about why you may want to tow with the cover on in the first place as opposed to towing it with the cover off.
First, as you may know, boat covers are a pain in the butt to take off and put back on! So if you are only needing to tow it several miles to a new storage location, etc, then I highly suggest that you just leave it on. As long as you have it reasonably secure and are not traveling at high speeds, you should be perfectly fine.
The real debate as to whether or not to leave your cover on when towing is when you are planning on traveling for long distances and on major highways (freeways).
With that being said, if you can ensure that you can do it safely, then I recommend that you keep your cover on when towing, and here’s why:
- Keeping the cover on will protect your boat from bugs and other debris that could be damaging to its interior.
- By keeping the cover on, you can basically use your boat as an additional means of storing gear, luggage, coolers, etc.
- If you secure the cover correctly, there’s a chance it could make your boat more aerodynamic, which can help with towing as well as gas mileage. This is only an opinion, it’s possible that the cover could cause additional drag.
- Finally, if you are not planning on using your boat when you arrive at your destination, you save yourself the headache of having to put the cover back on the boat.
The Right Pontoon Boat Cover
There are a couple of ways to go about this:
- Use your custom-made pontoon boat cover that came from your pontoon dealership or that you bought separately (can run anywhere from $700-$1600).
- Use a cheaper “Trailerable” Boat Cover
Using Custom-Made Covers
Custom-made covers have the highest chance of standing up against the high winds of highway travel as well as protecting your pontoon boat from disposable covers.
Well-made custom covers are taut. They are not loose and they don’t billow. Billowing and whipping will rip your cover, or even worse, make the cover fly out into traffic which is super dangerous.
However, you stand to lose the most when you drive with a custom-made cover.
The cost of a custom cover is so high (anywhere from $700-$1500), that tearing or otherwise damaging the custom cover could mean expensive repairs for the cover, and perhaps even expensive covers for your boat if you get water damage from a bad cover.
It’s for this reason that many pontoon boat dealerships flat out tell you not to travel with the custom cover on.
Not all custom covers are made alike–some snap down onto the hull (these are probably the best for travel) so that the wind is not traveling underneath the cover.
All that being said, some people do travel with their custom-made cover–while others have had bad experiences trying this. So, you have to use your own judgment on whether the cover is strong enough and secure enough to stay put.
Is There Such A Thing As a Travelable Pontoon Boat Cover?
Some boat covers are specifically designed to be pulled by a trailer. Check out this example from Seal Skin on Amazon:
Essentially, what makes a cover “trailerable” is whether it is strapped down. These straps prevent the wind from picking up the cover and taking it away. Additionally, “trailerable” covers should be made of strong enough materials to withstand 70mph+ winds while driving.
Be warned, though, you get what you pay for (often), and these cheaper travelable covers aren’t likely to be as high quality as the custom-made boat covers made for your pontoon boat.
The benefit of buying a cover specifically for towing this on a trailer is that if the cover rips, you aren’t out $1500. It’s hard to think of anything costing over $200 as “disposable”, but when it comes to protecting your boat, $200 isn’t that much.
All that being said, you could just spend $20 on cleaning supplies to wipe up the dead bugs on your pontoon boat, too. It all realy comes down to a judgement call.
Do You Need A Pontoon Boat Cover While Towing?
You do not need to have a cover while towing your pontoon boat, and in fact, many dealerships caution boat owners from using a cover because the cover or the boat can be damaged. Even though some people do in fact tow their pontoon boat with a cover, many pontoon boat owners do not.
In the world of boat covers, you basically have three choices. You have custom, semi custom, and universal covers.
Types of Covers
Custom and semi-custom covers will usually state that they are approved for trailering due to their custom fit, not to mention that they are usually made of stronger materials that are meant to handle the elements, including strong winds.
You’ll also find some universal boat cover brands claiming that their covers are trailerable, but these covers are loose and are prone to whipping which will rip the cover. If you are viewing these covers as disposable protections for your pontoon boat that might match your expectations more closely.
You can mitigate some of that whipping by carefully ratcheting down the cover.
If you plan on towing your pontoon boat for long distances, your custom-made cover will probably give you the best protection because these custom-made covers fit the best and are made from higher quality materials.
Your next best option is a semi-custom boat cover. While these types of covers are not custom made for your boat, they are custom made for the type of boat that you have and usually come in 1ft increments. They won’t give you the snug fit that a custom cover will, but they will fit much tighter than a universal boat cover.
A universal cover is made to fit a wide range of boat types and sizes, including 20 ft center consoles, as well as 24 foot pontoon boats. They typically come in 2-4 foot increments in length and are large and baggy, making them a poor choice for trailering your pontoon boat over long distances.
However, if this is the type of boat cover that you are looking for, make sure to check out another article of mine where I discuss the best pontoon boat covers.
Safety is Always First
Whether you’re towing your boat with the cover on or off, it’s always important to do it safely!
This includes making sure that your boat cover is the correct size for your boat.
If your cover is too big or too small, it could slip off a bit and allow air to get under the cover, which could cause it to rip, or worse…the cover could fly off into the path of another vehicle.
If you intend on trailering your boat long distances at high speeds, always buy the correct size cover for your pontoon boat!
You also need to make sure that your cover is secured with plenty of tie-down straps. This does not include your cover’s tie straps for securing it to the trailer when parked.
In addition to these, you need ratchet tie down straps! The brand that I bought and recommend can be found here on Amazon.com.
In fact, if you got a universal/semi-custom cover for cheaper, then if it came with trailer straps I’d recommend using your own. Several of those straps are not very heavy duty and the force of the wind can tear and rip the straps.
One thing to keep in mind…when strapping down your boat cover for towing, make sure you’re securing your straps to the trailer itself and not your boat.
I recommend placing a strap every one foot in from the front (bow) and one foot in from the back (stern) of your boat. After that, I like to place a strap every 2-3 feet for maximum effectiveness.
Tips For Towing Pontoon Boats Long Distances
There’s a lot to do when towing your pontoon boat. It’s not really as easy as just hitching up your trailer and leaving. Here are some quick tips from those who have gone before:
You likely already have this done if you’re out of the water, but if you haven’t, make sure to secure your bimini so it doesn’t move around while driving. Generally the bimini being down is preferable to prevent wind resistance.
Stow All The Cushions
If you’re driving coverless, or you’re test driving with a cover for the first time, it’s a good idea to stow all the removal parts of the pontoon boat. This could be any excess gear, anything you hang up and forget about, or even those cushions that are removal to be easier to clean.
If you are driving coverless, the wind can pick up those cushions and make a bad day for you and potentially other drivers. Make sure and stow them before travelling at high speeds.
Strap Down The Stern And The Bow
You might think your boat is too heavy to be affected by wind, but that is not true. You need to take extra precautions and strap down the bow and the stern to the trailer, especially if you are travelling long distances.
Don’t consider the winch strap enough for the bow! The winch strap is for pulling the boat onto the trailer, not for securing the bow.
If you don’t strap your boat down well enough your pontoon boat can fall off the trailer, worst case. Best case, though, you can damage and scratch up your hull.
Consider the Tow/Haul Button
If you’re powering down the highway without any curves for long distances without any slowing down or speeding up, the tow/haul button on your truck won’t make a huge difference.
If, however, you’re moving through traffic and having to slow down and speed up, constantly, or if you’re going up and down hills, then the tow/haul button is there to save your transmission and give you more torque. Make sure you have the tow / haul button on in those scenarios.
Beware the Cheap Trailer
The heart and soul of a long-distance trip to the water is your trailer.
If you have a cheap trailer, then you have to think of all the components that you are now relying on to put your very heavy pontoon boat on:
If you are relying on dubious used trailer you got a while back, then remember you are putting a lot of stress on that trailer if you’re towing for long distances.
Expensive pontoon boat + cheap trailer = disaster waiting to happen.
Tools To Maintain Your Towing Vehicle
It’s easy to forget that not only is the trailer and preparation for your pontoon boat super important, but that your towing vehicle is undergoing tremendous stress.
At the minimum, you should have the tools to be able to change a tire for your towing vehicle.
- Spare tire
- Jack that can support your towing vehicle
- Lug wrench
- Wheel chock
- Air compressor
Any other relevant tools can’t hurt either. Bungee cords, duct tape–the usual things that can get you out of a bind.
Extra Trailer Supplies
Your trailer is fairly exposed to the elements and some aren’t as robust as you might hope. It’s not a bad idea to bring some extra supplies in case of an issue:
- Trailer wheel bearings
- Extra fuses for tow lights, etc.
- Spare tire for Trailer
- Grease for the wheel bearings
- Extra trailer straps
Maintain Your Trailer Bearings
As mentioned, your trailer is taking on an exceptional load for a long distance. It’s a good idea to maintain or replace your bearings yearly so you don’t run into any issues.
In fact, one easy way to make sure your bearings are not getting roasted as you travel is to get a cheap infrared thermometer–it’s just as easy as pointing the thermometer at the bearings and pushing a button. Dexter Axle recommends staying within the 140-175F range for your bearings.
Open Rear and Front Gates
Your pontoon boat isn’t really made to be aerodynamic. One thing you can try is opening the rear and front gates and strapping them open. (this applies if your boat cover does not cover these or if you are going coverless). This will allow the wind to pass through and hopefully improve your fuel economy.
Is it Legal to Tow a Boat With The Cover On
I’ve searched everywhere, including online, called boat dealerships, trailer shops, my local dmv, and even asked a Florida HWY Patrol Officer while pumping gas if it was legal to tow a boat with the cover on.
Everyone that I spoke with either said that they really don’t know, or that they’re pretty sure it’s okay. The Hwy patrol officer said that as long as it doesn’t go flying off and cause an accident, that it was okay.
So I guess it’s legal?
Just to be on the safe side, if I were you, I would call your local hwy patrol office and check and see what your state has to say about it.
So now that you know in fact that you can tow your pontoon boat with the cover on, the next thing is to decide if it’s for you or not.
You will find that some boaters feel very strongly about not towing their boats with the cover on, yet some boaters (including myself) feel that it’s perfectly fine as long as you have the right boat cover and secure it properly.
Ultimately the choice is yours!