A Guide to Evaluating the Best Boat Transport Companies

Paige Strickland Paige Strickland · Updated: April 10, 2023 / Published: April 6, 2023

Whether you use your boat for water sports and family adventures — or for a relaxing day, just you and your fishing pole on the lake — there’s something so refreshing about soaking up that vitamin D and fresh air while out on the water.

Then, there’s the matter of getting your boat to and from your destination. Sometimes boats need a little maintenance, so you’ll need to drive it to a shop. Or, you may want to dock it somewhere new that you can’t get to by water from your current spot. 

If you’ve never driven with a boat trailer on the back of your vehicle, it can take some getting used to. It takes more caution and skill than the typical drive, especially when reversing and turning. Additionally, equipment to haul your boat may be expensive. 

Luckily, there are alternatives to hauling your boat yourself. The main benefit of hiring a boat transport company is the peace of mind. Boat transportation companies allow you to leave the logistics, and extra equipment, to a professional. 

The following is a guide to help you find the most reliable, high quality boat transport companies — a process that can be relatively simple if you have the right checklist. 

Research the Boat Company’s Reputation

A simple Google search about a boat transport company may dredge up some things to take note of. For instance, have there been many customer complaints filed against this company? Are there forums discussing whether it’s legitimate?

A specific tool to assess the reputations of boat transport companies is the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. The BBB is a highly reputable non-profit organization that provides information about how legitimate a business is. A reliable business may obtain a BBB accreditation seal and a grade based on their trustworthiness. It will also reveal how they handle customer complaints. The higher the score, the better!

Verify They Have the Necessary Legal Requirements

All reputable boat transport companies should be officially licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is the lead federal government agency responsible for regulating, tracking and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles. Improper licensing could result in an impounded transport vehicle, along with your boat that’s attached to it.

The key to checking if a boat transport company is correctly licensed lies in their US Department of Transportation (USDOT) number. Their DOT number should be made available on the company’s website, but if not, you may have to ask for it. When you locate the transporter’s USDOT number, you can enter it into the FMCSA’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Record (SAFER) system. Any certifications and licenses associated with the boat transport company will be shown in this search engine. 

Evaluate the Company’s Experience and Past Shipments

Transparency is an important quality in any business. Boat transporting companies should be proud of their customer reviews. If there’s evidence that the company is trying to hide or delete their reviews, this can be a red flag. 

There are always outlier reviews that skew the perception of a business or service. For this reason, pay attention to trends in past customer reviews to gather an overall impression of the boat shipping company’s quality. If the majority of reviews talk about being concerned or disappointed, this may be an indicator of lackluster services. Specifically, are the customers upset about damaged or mishandled property? Missing items? Hidden fees?

You should also check third-party review apps and sites that are not affiliated with the boat shipping company’s website. See how they respond to customer concerns and seek customer satisfaction. If review sites have lots of positive feedback, this can be a good sign. 

Each boat transporter hired through CitizenShipper has a detailed profile that will reveal the thoughts and feelings of past customers. You can view the following about each prospective shipper before booking:

  • Average rating on a 5-star scale
  • Number of completed transports and cancellations
  • Detailed reviews written by past customers

Confirm They Have the Right Equipment for Your Boats

Before you set off on your search for boat shipping companies, you’ll need to collect some basic information about your boat. Most of this will be measuring the dimensions of your watercraft. You’ll need to know the length, the beam (width), and the height of the boat. You’ll also need to know the weight of your boat, which should be located in the manual or the manufacturer’s website. After collecting this information, it’s best to double-check the measurements yourself rather than solely rely on the manual. This is a necessary step to be sure boat transport companies have equipment with the capacity to haul your boat

Choosing Between Open and Enclosed Boat Transport

Enclosed Boat Transport

Enclosed boat transport is exactly what it sounds like: a trailer that has four walls, enclosing your boat while on the road. There are several reasons someone might consider using an enclosed boat trailer:

  • You can ditch loose tarps and external tie downs.
  • It protects your boat from weather damage (sun exposure or  weather damage due to snow or rain). 
  • An enclosed trailer provides more security and a lesser chance of theft while unattended (if the trip is longer, the transporter may need to make a stop along the way or find lodging). 
  • It protects your boat from grime and rocks kicked up from the road
  • Any loose accessories or parts can be securely stowed in the trailer alongside your boat. 

Enclosed transport trailers come in various sizes and styles that can suit your boat.

While this option may sound super appealing, it also comes at a higher price tag. Enclosed carriers are heavier and less fuel efficient than open carriers. Higher fuel costs means higher shipping costs as well. 

Open Boat Transport

Open boat transport involves carrying the boat out in the open, sometimes on a multi-boat hauling trailer. It’s the most commonly used method of hauling boats because it is the most cost-effective.

Because the open boat transport method is more common, there’s pros and cons associated with it. It’s often easier to book and transporters may also offer a wider range of flexibility for pick up and drop off dates. That being said, in seasons of high demand the opposite may also be true. 

The primary downside to open boat transport is the grime and debris that may get on your boat from exposure to the elements. Rain, snow, mud, or flung rocks may come in contact with your boat.

Check if Their Pricing is Within Your Budget

There are several things that will determine the price of shipping your boat, the primary factors are:

Size — One of the primary factors of cost will be the size and weight of your boat.

Distance to Destination — Some boat transport companies calculate their costs with a combination of size and distance. For example, the average cost for a small, 9-foot boat average’s at a little over $2 per mile. A larger boat that’s 12 feet or more costs $3.25 per mile on average. 

Season — Boating is especially popular in the summer. For this reason, boat shipping companies are higher in demand. On the other hand, if the transporter is hauling your boat through adverse weather conditions like snow in the winter they may also raise their prices.

Additionally, look into the insurance policies that boat transport companies offer. Liability insurance will not cover your boat in transport, so the transporter will need cargo insurance. If the insurance policy cannot cover the total value of your boat, you may need to buy additional coverage. 

Compare several quotes to ensure you’re picking the best package deal.

Be Wary of Significantly Lower Prices

In some cases — like researching boat shipping companies — it’s okay to be a bit of a skeptic. If the price range a boat transporter is offering seems too good to be true, it just might be. As the world of the internet becomes more complex and sophisticated, so do online scammers. It would be devastating to pay for a service that never comes, or in the worst case, does pick up your boat but never returns it. 

Look out for fake boat transport companies that:

  • Copy the layout of existing websites (similar logos, domain names, branding or images) but have discrepancies or flaws in grammar or spelling 
  • Request payment through unsecure payment methods or through an online currency like Bitcoin 
  • Request additional payments that weren’t agreed upon
  • Offer prices that are suspiciously low compared to similar companies in the boat shipping market

Ultimately, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, search for another option that reflects your budget and checks out. 

Assess the Customer Service of Boat Transport Companies

Communication is the key to smooth boat transport. The last thing you want is to be left on hold during a time when you need assistance with your boat. Check to see what type of customer service features boat shipping companies offer. For example, is the only option an automated chat system on the page, or are you able to call and speak with a real person?

CitizenShipper customer support agents respond 324% faster than the industry average, available to answer your questions at any time.

All CitizenShipper transporters also have access to an internal messaging system. If you have any questions prior to booking, you can discuss them directly with the prospective transporter. Additionally, after booking, you can check in with the transporter to receive pictures and updates at any point during the transportation of your boat. 

How Do You Get Free Quotes From Boat Transport Companies?

Remember those measurements you took before? Those will come in handy here. On CitizenShipper’s online marketplace, you can create a free listing for your boat and receive quotes from prospective boat transportation companies in minutes!

Just provide the following basic information about your watercraft: 

  • Type of boat you want to transport (power/motor boat, fishing boat, sailboat, or another type)
  • Year, make, model 
  • Length, width, height weight
  • Photos
  • Pick up and drop off locations
  • Pick up and drop off dates 
  • Any other details that will help your transporter make a safe and efficient delivery 

The more detail you add to your listing, the more refined match CitizenShipper will find for your boat transportation needs. This also speeds up the quote process!

Next, the quotes will start rolling in. When compared to traditional methods, boat transport companies hired through CitizenShipper offer competitive rates. This is due to the marketplace bidding process. 2,500+ transporters are competing for your business, and check for new transport gigs daily. They want the shot to haul your boat, so they’ll offer their best efforts and prices!

As an added bonus, CitizenShipper presents you with a pool of prospective boat transport companies that meet your specific criteria. This saves you hours, or even days, of sifting through services that aren’t quite what you’re looking for. 

Smooth Sailing Delivery 

The ultimate goal of a boat shipping company should be to make your experience stress-free, safe, and reliable. Hiring a boat transporter through CitizenShipper is a way to guarantee just that. 

Every transporter hired through CitizenShipper goes through a carrier vetting and background check processes. This ensures your boat is in good hands. As an added layer of security, CitizenShipper offers a Booking Assurance Guarantee that protects you from fraudulent transactions and provides driver replacement assistance in the rare case of cancellation.

You can enjoy peace of mind knowing your boat is in the hands of a shipper that is confident in transporting boats, no matter the size or style. CitizenShipper has accumulated 100,000,000+ miles driven by qualified transporters, and it’s only up from here. 

To kickstart your boat transport journey, create a free listing today, and receive quotes in minutes!