The Ultimate Guide for Preparing a Boat Transportation Checklist

Cagri Sarigoz Cagri Sarigoz · Updated March 8, 2023

Did you know that, according to the Making Waves NMMA Policy Brief, 77% of boat owners in the US were middle-class Americans? Additionally, 95% of boats on the water were smaller than 26 feet, including sailboats, personal watercraft, and powerboats?

If you’re among the many Americans who are boat owners, or you’re thinking of becoming one, then you might be curious about how to ship your boat long-distance in the US.

When you don’t have the information you need, this can be stressful, considering the cost and logistics of doing so.

Fortunately, with a transportation checklist and the right boat transport tips, you can ship your boat affordably and without any stress.

In this article, we’ll cover what steps you have to take to ensure that your boat is safely relocated. Finally, you can get your boat wherever it needs to be, easily. Read on to learn more.

What You Need to Ship Your Boat

Whether you’re hiring a boat transport company or shipping your boat yourself with your car, the boat shipping company or individual needs a motor carrier or a USDOT number, commercial driver’s license, cargo and commercial liability insurance, and a suitable vehicle.

Motor Carrier Number

If you’re hiring a company to do your boat shipping for you, they might be required to have a motor carrier number, also known as an MC number. This is an identifying number that certain companies that cross state lines are required to have.

The specific companies required to have the MC number are for-hire carriers that are transporting federally regulated commodities or passengers.

If they’re only hauling cargo that isn’t federally regulated, however, they aren’t required to have this number.

To make sure that the company you’re working with is legitimate, ask them if they ship the cargo required for the motor carrier number. If they don’t, then you should move on and ask them if they have a USDOT Number.

USDOT Number

The USDOT Number—short for the U.S. Department of Transportation number—is a unique identifier and interstate operating authority which is assigned to a moving company that completes interstate moves.

The specific companies required to have the USDOT Number are moving companies that are transporting passengers or hauling cargo across state lines.

In addition to having this number, they have to comply with regulations laid out by the Federal Government and be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA.

Generally speaking, most companies will have either a USDOT Number, a motor carrier number, or both. But what if you’re doing the moving?

Getting Your Own USDOT Number

If the cargo you’re carrying weighs more than 100,000 pounds, you need to get your own USDOT Number. Because you’re an individual and don’t run a moving company, you don’t have to apply as a commercial carrier.

Instead, you’ll label yourself as a “registrant” when you apply. Depending on the route, you might not even need the number, so check for free by calling the Department of Transport before registering.

There are also exemptions available if you only plan on moving your boat every once in a while. There are specific requirements you need when doing this, which we’ll cover now.

Commercial Driver’s License

To tow a substantial vehicle, such as a boat, you need a full driver’s license. Depending on the state and interstate regulations, you might need a state permit or non-commercial class license to transport your boat long-distance in the US.

One license you might need is the Non-Commercial Class A License. With this license, you can carry any boat or other vehicle that weighs 10,000 pounds or less on a truck that weighs 4,000 pounds or more.

The other license option is the Non-Commercial Class B License. With this license, you can carry any boat or other vehicle that weighs 9,000 pounds or less on a truck that weighs 4,000 pounds or more.

Cargo and Commercial Liability Insurance

In most states, the vehicle insurance you already have your vehicle is enough to cover you when you transport your boat. However, some states require you to fill out additional forms or use a surety bond.

Check with your state and the ones you’ll be traveling through to find out what you need in terms of coverage.

A Suitable Vehicle

Finally, you need a suitable vehicle when preparing to transport a boat. It needs to have a towing capacity that meets the trailer’s GVWR, or gross vehicle weight rating. Additionally, the hitch assembly should also meet the trailer’s GVWR.

The tow ball size has to meet the actuator/coupler requirement that’s based on the trailer’s capacity. As for the tow ball height, it needs to measure between 18 and 21 inches from the ground to the ball centerline.

Finally, if the surge brake isn’t equipped, you need a 4- or 5-pin pigtail connector that’s flat. If it is equipped, you need a 7-pin flat pigtail connector.

Transportation Checklist

Now that you know about what requirements are needed for either the shipping company moving your boat or for yourself, we’ll review the transportation checklist for transporting your boat. This is especially important to do if you’re hiring a mover.

Movers are responsible for the move itself; not for ensuring your boat is in the right condition for the move. So follow all these tips before shipping your boat.

What You Need to Stow Away

You need to stow away windshields, lights, cushions, screens, canvas, outriggers, flag masts, propellers, antennas, horns, hailers, and anchors. Any additional items that extend outside of your boat’s height or width should be stowed away.

Additionally, any batteries or electronics should be turned off, disconnected, and stowed away.

Note that if your boat is on the smaller side, you might not be able to stow everything inside it. In this case, pack up some boxes to take with you in your car.

What You Need to Lock

All your cabin doors and cabinets should be locked. This way, they won’t accidentally open up during the move, dislodging some of the objects you’ve stowed away and put other drivers on the road in danger or accidentally causing damage to your boat’s interior.

What You Need to Drain

You need to remove all of the drain plugs from the hull, after which you should drain all fluids from pumps, air conditioners, water systems, etc. Keep in mind that in the colder winter months, putting AV antifreeze in your boat’s systems can prevent damage.

All the water tanks in your boat should be empty. In the fuel tank, you need a minimum amount, ideally, full less than a quarter’s worth.

When Tarping Is Necessary

If your boat is on the delicate side, you might need to put a tarp over it so the debris on the road doesn’t chip your boat’s paint away. You also want to make sure the windshield can resist a buffeting wind.

To check this, make sure the screws aren’t corroded and that the seal is tight.

Checking the Trailer

In addition to taking the right precautions with your boat, you also need to check that the trailer you’re using has a sound structure. This means that the lights should work properly, there aren’t any cracks, and the brakes (if required) work properly.

The trailer should also have the necessary registration, have a spare tire, and meet all the requirements for travel after the annual inspection.

Check out the tires, too. Any air pressure, dry rot, or wear issues are red flags to watch out for. If there are any gouges, bubbles, or cracks, this is a sign that you should replace the tires.

Take Photos

Before you ship the boat or have a company do it for you, take pictures of your boat from all angles. This way, if any damage occurs while it’s being transported, you can use it to avoid litigation regarding any damages that weren’t your fault.

It also might be worth having the boat inspected by a professional before shipping it. This will make the move not only safer but also protect you in case of litigation.

Looking for a Boat Transportation Company?

Now that we’ve reviewed the boat transportation checklist and what you need to ship your boat, you might have decided that you’re looking for a boat transportation company. If this is the case, you should look no further than CitizenShipper.

At CitizenShipper, we’re experts when it comes to boat transportation.

We also shipping services for hard-to-ship items, such as boats. To learn more about how we can help you with these services, get transportation quotes now.