Boat Shipping Guide #2: Challenges

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated: March 8, 2023 / Published: July 14, 2020

As our marketplace grows and grows, we’ve seen a big increase in demand for boat shipping. To be a boat transporter, all you need is a willingness to travel long-distance, a responsible attitude to boats big and small, and a little expertise. It’s exciting work: Less competition means more money in your pocket, and as your experience grows, so does your market share. It’s a boom time for boat shipping, so here is some basic advice on how it works, and how much you can earn.

This is part two of our Boat Shipping Guide series.
For part one, click here: Preparation.
For part three, click here: Equipment.


Common boat shipping challenges

Weather can make people want to transport their boat. It can also make transportation harder. Check the forecast for the day of shipping. In some midwest areas and northeast states, inclement weather can make it very difficult to load or unload your boat without help.

If you’re picking up or delivering a boat at a marina, make sure the trailer is more than partially submerged. Ideally, the vessel should float off your trailer easily, or float on.

If this is your customer’s first time using a boat shipper, let them know the following before you set off: Your boat will be traveling at 60 mph into a 14 mph headwind, and that’s on an average day. The customer should be aware that the hull may get a little muddy after a long drive. But it’ll come off quick enough in water!


Gear and supplies on a boat can add more weight than you might expect. Exceeding the maximum weight rating will void the manufacturer’s warranty and may cause damage to the trailer and boat, so be careful you know how much weight you’re carrying.

The material of the boat is a good indicator of weight. A 40-foot aluminum houseboat will weigh about 32,000 lbs, but the same craft built of fiberglass can weigh around 44,000 lbs. Weight affects the type of trailer you need, and whether your state will charge you for carrying it.


Problems can occur if the boat-owner has given incorrect measurements for the boat.

Height issues can often be the most challenging, and also the most expensive. Maximum legal height for cargo on interstates is 13’6”. (This is measured from the ground to the tallest part of the vessel.) DOT states that any load whose height can be reduced must be reduced. And beware: an average trailer adds 18” of height, so a boat must be 12’ tall or under.

Many states have restrictions for trucks with oversize loads – like boats. In Connecticut, for example, oversize load trips are allowed only between 9:30 am and 3:30 pm, Tuesdays through Thursdays. Many oversize loads require police escorts between state borders. An escort of two state troopers costs a $1,500 flat fee. (New York and Massachusetts have similar restrictions.) Across all states, a boat that is over 12′ wide will need a certified escort. For more information on state restrictions, permits and costs, find it here.

When giving your quote, factor in that the average state fee is around $75. Don’t pay, and the default penalty is a 365-day bar from filing for permits, a $5,000 fine, forfeiture of vehicle and trailer and even jail time. So don’t try it!

Boat Shipping Guide
Source: Boating Magazine

Here are some additional notes from experienced boat transporters:

“The State of Georgia requires a certificate of insurance naming the state as an additional insurer.”

“If you need permits make sure to write directions – ‘north’, ‘south’, etc. – or the permit can be rejected. Most permits are good for 5-7 days.”

“You can never pull a wide load before or after a holiday or within big city limits during rush hours.”


Pricing your services

For new boat transporters, this is the most important question. What you can charge will depend on four main factors: 

  1. Distance – How far is the boat going?
  2. Boat size – Size is also indicative of weight, putting a strain on your vehicle as well as limiting your route to roads wide enough to support your load.
  3. Permits – These depend on boat size and weight.
  4. Equipment – Will the customer provide a trailer or do you need your own?

You can charge more for bigger boats that need to go further. You can multiply the number of miles by your desired rate to get a ballpark figure.

When providing a quote, consider adding in your insurance costs. Even if your customer has boating insurance, the conditions of extended shipping likely aren’t part of their coverage. You’ll need a base insurance policy for transportation, and cargo insurance is also very helpful. 

Here are some recent examples of boat transport quotes on CitizenShipper, charging roughly $1.00 to $3.00 per mile, depending on the factors outlined above.

Boat Shipping Guide - pricing

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For part one of our Boat Shipping Guide, click here: Preparation. For part three, click here: Equipment.