Boat Shipping Guide for Transporting Your Beloved Boat Safely

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated February 23, 2024

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The ultimate boat shipping guide for a secure transportation of your beloved vessel.

Boat shipping is a part of life when you own a boat. Unless you live right next to a lake or some sort of body of water, you’ll have to transport your boat somehow. And really, even if you do live next to a body of water, that boat had to be transported from the store to your home somehow. Because boat shipping can be a complicated process, in this article we’ll give you a rundown of everything boat shipping related. Our boat shipping guide will show you the ins and outs of preparing to ship your boat, the types of boat shipping, and everything in between so that you can transport your beloved boat safely.

What is Boat Shipping?

Boat shipping is when you decide to transport your boat — whether it is a small or large boat, or even a yacht — to another location.

Why Do You Need to Ship a Boat?

When it comes to boat shipping there are numerous reasons to transport a vessel. 

Repairs: You need repairs done to your boat but an experienced mechanic isn’t available in your neck of the woods. These repairs are essential to you and your boat’s safety.

Moving: You’ve celebrated your retirement and want to move to a quaint cottage in Maine, but your darling Daisy needs to go with you.

Vacation: Maybe you want to take your boat from one end of the United States to the other because you want to enjoy a Californian summer paradise. 

After Your Purchase: You bought a boat but it’s all the way on the other side of the country. You need a way to ship it to where you live.

Types of Boat Shipping

There are several types of boat shipping. Each one is fairly simple, so let’s take a look at the four types.

Transporting your Boat with a Boat Shipping Company

Hiring a professional boat shipping company costs more money, but it is the easiest and most convenient. A professional boat shipping company takes care of the haul and all the logistical matters. You should just make sure your boat meets the requirements put in place by state governments, and by extension the Department of Transportation.

Your boat must meet these requirements:

  • Cannot exceed 12 feet wide.
  • Cannot be taller than 13.6 feet (but if your boat is taller and it has removable parts on your boat, that keep it under this length, then you’re fine).
  • Make sure the destination area where you are going to pick it up is at least 14 feet of overhead clearance.

Transporting your Boat on a Trailer

This method is the do-it-yourself option. Your boat is small enough to be hauled on a trailer and the distance traveled is short enough that you can easily do it yourself. Simple, dimple! If you don’t have a trailer or the hauling equipment, you can always rent that and get a truck to trailer your boat.

Transporting your Boat on its Bottom

This method is available for those that live near bodies of water and want to transport their boats to another body of water. If you have the time, then it’s a perfectly great way to transport your boat. You can also traverse rivers, not just up or down the coasts, if that’s the case. The only thing you need is time if you want to do it yourself. This is also an option for international travelers wanting to traverse overseas.

Transporting your Boat on a Yacht Transport Ship

A yacht transport ship is usually reserved for those that have ships, very big boats or large yachts. You can use this option for long distances as well — an Anchorage, Alaska to Ensenada, Mexico adventure or a Miami to Spain journey. This option is rare and will cost tens of thousands of dollars. There are boat shipping companies that do this and will handle all of the logistics and paperwork.

Steps to Prepare Your Boat for Shipping

There are things you need to do before you ship your boat. Let’s take a look at them.

Paperwork Needed for Boat Shipping

You need to have certain paperwork handy for the boat shipping company, as well as those government officials that will check to see if your boat is registered.

All you will need is:

  • Bill of lading
  • Copy of the boat title and bill of sale
  • Shipping documents from the shipping company

You should have a copy of these documents, but you should also give the boat shipping company a copy of these documents.

Know Your Boat’s Dimensions

Make sure you know your boat’s measurements. Boat shipping companies require this information in order to get you a fair and right quote. If you are transporting your boat yourself, you still need these measurements handy because there may be restrictions of where your boat can be transported. You should measure your boat for its width, its length from the bow to the stern, and how tall it is, which is measured from the bottom of the keel to the highest permanent part of the boat.

Item Removal

Make sure you remove all personal items from the boat before shipping. You should also remove any items that could be damaged during transport, like: antennas, anchors, screens, electronic items, flagpoles, flag masts, outriggers, propellers, cushions or removable furniture, and fishing equipment.

Tie Down Loose Items

You should make sure you have this checklist checked off before you hand over your boat to the boat transport company.

Here’s the checklist:

  • Keep at least a quarter of a gas tank in the boat.
  • Drain water tanks and secure engines.
  • Lock or tie any hatches, lock doors, and lock or tape windows from the outside.
  • Ensure all water systems and pumps are drained, and that everything that is plugged in is unplugged.
  • Give the boat shipping company a spare set of keys of the interior in case of an emergency.
  • Keep the dinghy or large objects padded and secured to avoid damage during the transport.
  • Clean your boat with hot water, as required by the Department of Transportation. If you don’t, you will get fined.
  • And finally, winterize your boat by buying a cover for it or shrink wrapping it. This will protect it from weather conditions like snow, hail, sleet, or rain.

Take Photos

By taking pictures of your boat prior to shipping, you are ensuring that you have proof of the condition of the boat before you send it off for transport. If there are damages that were done during transport, you can file to get ahold of your insurance to make sure you have proper remuneration for the damage.

How to Get an Accurate Boat Shipping Quote?

In order to get an accurate boat shipping quote, make sure you provide the following information:

  • Where you want your boat shipped to and where the boat is being picked up.
  • Your boat’s measurements.
  • The value of the boat (as this will affect insurance costs).
  • The dates you want to transport your boat. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Boat Shipping Company

When it comes to hiring a boat shipping company, it’s essential to hire the right one. After all, your dear Delilah means the world to you. There are qualities to look after when choosing the best boat shipping company.

Read Reviews and Testimonials

  • Do your research and search for positive reviews online. 
  • Join Facebook or social media groups related to boats and boat hauling. 
  • Ask previous customers about their experience with specific boat hauling companies you’re considering.

Check the Credentials and Insurance of a Boat Hauler

  • High quality boat transport companies have the appropriate licenses and credentials to ship boats.
  • They’re registered with the Department of Transportation and with the Federal Motor Carrier Authority. 
  • A good transport company should have a strong insurance policy. While accidents are rare, having your boat covered gives you peace of mind.

Boat Shipping Experience

Boats are delicate vessels that must be taken care of properly, including when it comes to transporting them. 

  • The best boat transportation companies have years of experience hauling boats. 
  • They have a proven track record of successfully providing domestic (and maybe even international) boat shipping services.

Customized Shipping Solutions Offered by Some Boat Haulers

The best boat haulers will offer customized shipping to their customers. When customization is possible, it means the boat shipping company cares about its customers and their vessel. When you use CitizenShipper, you can chat with transporters before booking to make sure every detail is hammered out. 

  • If you want to ship your boat during a particular time of year, the boat shipping company will make accommodations to do so. 
  • Or if you want your boat transported a certain way, it will be possible. 

What to Expect During the Boat Shipping Process?

The best boat transportation company has good communication with you throughout the entire process. The main thing you should expect is that they have excellent customer service skills. The beginning should be seamless and easy. They should give you all the fees and pricing information upfront. During the boat’s journey to its final destination, they give you updates and you can track your boat easily.

When you have communication with your boat hauler, it gives you the peace of mind you need. Communication is important for both parties involved.

What to Expect When Your Boat is Being Delivered?

There are certain things you should do when your boat gets delivered. Don’t just say thank you and have them drive off.

Importance of Inspecting Your Boat Upon Delivery

Inspect the boat when they deliver it so that it is in the same condition as you left it when the shipping process began. Use the pictures you took beforehand to see if there is any damage.

How to Handle Any Issues or Damages

Though it rarely happens, you should call your insurance company and the boat shipping company’s insurance company to hammer out all logistics of payment in the event of damages. 

How Can CitizenShipper Help You Safely Transport Your Boat?

If you’ve reviewed your options and the quotes you get from traditional boat shipping companies are too expensive, there is a better alternative. Traditional boat shipping companies can be expensive. Using a two-way boat transportation marketplace like CitizenShipper can be just what you were looking for. 

Why is a boat shipping platform like CitizenShipper better?

  • It’s more affordable than traditional boat shipping companies because transporters compete for your business. 
  • CitizenShipper has a guaranteed booking assurance that offers payment refunds, driver replacement and no hidden fees.
  • It’s easy to compare haulers’ reviews, ratings and prices, so you can make an informed decision when choosing your boat transporter.
  • All transporters pass strict background checks.

The CitizenShipper Process

The process of receiving quotes and everything that comes afterwards is straightforward and easy.

  • Create a shipment listing with your boat’s information. From there, boat haulers using the marketplace will bid on the job.
  • You will receive quotes from haulers within minutes. Once you find one that meets your requirements and fits your budget, you can book the transport!
  • Before you book, you can chat directly with the transporter to negotiate costs and provide additional details about your boat.
  • You can arrange for regular updates from the transporter. Some even offer GPS tracking.