Posted on May 25, 2023

What Is Boat Lift Weight Capacity, and How Do I Determine Boat Lift Capacity? 

How much weight can a boat lift hoist? How do I determine what lift capacity I need?

Written by HydroHoist Marketing

An overloaded boat lift can be disastrous for waterfront owners. Luckily, as long as you have the right numbers, it’s pretty easy to determine the weight capacity that you need your boat lift to hold. You’ll need to know your boat’s weight, fuel capacity, and any additional items you plan to carry onboard. We break down the details below.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve probably decided to purchase a boat lift. That’s a great choice! Boat lifts, or boat hoists, can extend the life of your boat and make ownership easier and more convenient. However, you're likely wondering about the weight capacity required for your boat lift.

Since there are various waterfronts, boat lift systems, and boat combinations, there's no one size fits all weight capacity. However, if you’re wondering, “What size boat lift do I need?,”  there is a formula that helps you find the capacity for your unique situation. Calculating the minimum boat lift capacity that you require involves some simple math. 

[Boat dry weight] + [Gallon capacity of gas tank * 6] + [500 for everything else] = [required boat lift capacity]

This information is easier to find than you might think. Read on for more information on the breakdowns of what information you’ll need to bring to your dealer while shopping for your boat lift and how to find the information you need to make the formula work.

Style and Size of Your Boat

The make and model of your boat determine a lot of the information you may need to buy your boat lift. The boat lift’s features, including hull shape, draft, and motor type will affect the shape, weight distribution, and cradle beam length required for the lift. The more information you provide the dealership when you shop for your boat lift, the better. 

The cradle beam measurement is especially important, as it’s the widest part of your boat, and the boat lift needs to be wide enough to accommodate it without causing damage to the boat, lift, or dock. In addition to the cradle length, allow at least four inches of cushion on either side of the cradle beam to give a little room for error when loading and disembarking. If you use guideposts, the recommended cushion should be at least 10 inches on either side.

Boat Weight (Dry and Wet)

Boat weight can mean two different things. To get an accurate estimate, consider your boat’s dry and wet weight. 

The dry weight is the boat’s weight without any added equipment or fuel and can be found in the manufacturer's spec sheet or online. Your boat’s wet weight is the total weight of the boat after all the equipment, fuel, water, and other items have been added.

You’ll need to calculate the wet weight of your boat to get a good estimate of the number that you’ll be plugging into that formula that we started off with. Make your fuel calculations based on the maximum capacity of your gas tank. Allow six pounds per gallon of gas that your tank can hold. For water, allow eight pounds per gallon.

Safety Margin and Other Tips

When it comes to weight capacity, it’s always better to choose a boat lift that can handle more weight than you think you may need. Individual items you bring onto the boat might not weigh much, but the weight can add up after a while. Boat lifts are rated for the exact weight that they can carry and not a single pound more. While you might hear stories about other people overloading their boat lift by a few pounds, damaging your boat or injuring your loved ones is not worth the risk. When in doubt, buy a larger boat lift, especially if you plan to upgrade your boat in the future.

We recommend adding a safety margin to your total weight calculation. A margin of 20% can account for unexpected surprises, miscalculations, or other mistakes that could be costly. While you might not be able to predict everything about your boat outing, you can at least prepare well before and protect yourself from expensive and dangerous catastrophes.

To ensure that you don't add any excess weight or stress to your boat lift system, we also recommend a few tips:

  • Be careful not to park too far forward or backward on the boat lift when loading your boat before hoisting.
  • Don’t let your bunks get too close to the side of your dock, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow.
  • Keep your boat well-maintained to prevent any added weight due to issues like a malfunctioning bilge pump that may cause water retention. 
  • Don’t forget to remove the drain plug from your boat before leaving it unattended in case of an unexpected rainstorm.

Type of Boat Dock

When considering a boat lift system, the type of boat dock you have is also an important factor to take into account. The foundation of your system is crucial, and your boat dock and boat lift systems must work together well. Additionally, your dock’s design should work well with the water you’ll be dealing with. For example, a dock that can withstand choppy and fluctuating waters needs a boat lift that can handle those conditions. 

It’s important to consider whether your boat dock is fixed or floating or if it has a roof structure that your boat lift needs to fit underneath. Other things to consider are your water conditions, such as water depth and whether the water fluctuates dramatically throughout your boating season. Is your system removable to allow for easier changes and seasonal boating, or is it a pile-based dock that stays in one place all year?

Shopping with a HydroHoist dealer in your area guarantees you’ll choose from an industry-leading selection of quality boat lifts. No matter what type of boat or dock you have, HydroHoist has boat lift options for all waterfronts. HydroHoist Boat Lifts are customizable for all types of docks, including fixed or floating dock, marina slip, finger pier, or bulkhead—we have the solution.


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