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Boat Transport Guide for Shipping a Boat Within the United States

When it comes to boat transport— whether a sailboat, yacht or dinghy — there are many reasons to transport a vessel. Maybe you’re celebrating your retirement with a move to Florida and want to bring your sailboat to the South. Or you’re in the market for a new yacht and the best deals can only be found at a boat show on the other side of the country. Or your fishing boat needs specialized repairs in California and you live in the landlocked state of Nevada.

Whatever the reason for transporting a boat, it’s a job that requires expertise and care. Hiring a professional boat transport service is the right way to safely transport your boat to its destination. However, if it’s your first time looking for a boat transporter — or even if it’s not your first time — you likely have questions about the cost to ship a boat, requirements, necessary preparation and more.

Additionally, finding the right transporter can be a challenge. Instead of seeking out professional boat transport services, let them come to you using a transportation marketplace!

CitizenShipper is a cost-effective professional boat transport platform full of vetted, experienced boat haulers capable of shipping boats of any size to any state.

There are many variables involved with transporting a boat across the country. However, the vast majority of boat transports are completed using one of four methods. Your budget, distance of the transport and type of boat you're shipping are just three factors that determine the right option for you.

Table of Contents:

How Does Boat Transport Work?

Paperwork Needed for Boat Shipping

Types of Boat Trailers Used for Boat Transport

Can You Move A Boat Without Owning A Trailer?

Preparing Your Boat For Shipment

How Much Does Boat Transport Cost?

Qualities To Look For in the Best Boat Transport Companies

How to Get Boat Hauling Quotes?

Why CitizenShipper is the Best Choice for Finding a Boat Transporter

How Does Boat Transport Work?

boat transport company citizenshipper

There are many variables involved with transporting a boat across the country. However, the vast majority of boat transports are completed using one of four methods. Your budget, distance of the transport and type of boat you're shipping are just three factors that determine the right option for you. Keep in mind your boat needs to meet Department of Transportation requirements to be transported without special permits:

  • The boat can’t be wider than 12”
  • It can’t be taller than 13.6” — some boats have removable parts to meet this requirement.

Boats larger than these dimensions can be shipped on the road but they’ll need special permits because they cover a significant area of the road.

Method 1: Transporting a Boat on a Trailer

If you’re considering hiring a boat transportation company to haul your vessel, the most common approach is to tow it on a trailer. The type of trailer that a hauler uses depends on several factors, including its weight limit, length and the type of boat it’s designed for.

Why Hire a Boat Transporter?

Boat trailers are expensive and have limited utility for most boat owners. Unless you plan to regularly transport your boat, it’s more economical to hire a professional.

Beyond being the more cost-effective approach, consider the challenges of boat transportation, especially if it’s a large vessel. Boat haulers have years of experience and have seen just about every scenario. They’ll know how to handle driving through a storm, or what to do when a strap snaps while out on the road.

Another reason to hire a boat transporter is the increased insurance coverage. Your boat will be covered by cargo insurance while it’s in transit. That means any damage that occurs while it’s being shipped is covered — that’s not the case if you’re transporting it yourself.

Cost of Hiring a Boat Transporter

The final cost of hiring a boat transportation company is determined by several factors. Here are just a few of the factors that determine how much you’ll pay:

Size and type of boat — Larger boats require special equipment, expertise and permits. Distance of the trip — transporters usually charge per-mile; the longer the trip, the more you’ll pay.

The value of the boat — Valuable boats cost more to insure and may require special precautions, which can affect the price tag.

Time of year — The summer and holidays are commonly the busy seasons for boat haulers, so they charge more during these times.

Pick-up and drop-off location — If your location is off the beaten path, transporters may need to significantly deviate from major routes. They’ll pass any costs along to you.

Method 2: Transporting Your Boat By Waterways

Another approach is simply driving your boat to its destination. This is only possible if the starting and ending points are on connected, navigable waterways.

Method 3: Transporting Your Boat by Ship

This method is typically reserved for international boat transportation. If it’s impossible to deliver the boat by ground — for instance, a trip across the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans — you can use a massive ship to transport it. This method usually costs tens of thousands of dollars, and frequently more.

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Paperwork Needed for Boat Shipping

Deciding the method of boat transport is just the first step. Before any ship can be transported, there is paperwork that needs to be completed.

There are three major documents you must prepare before a boat can be shipped. Both you and the shipping company need to have copies of these documents.

Bill of Lading

The bill of lading is essentially proof of the agreement between you and the transporter. It details what is being shipped, the destination and other pertinent information.

Copy of the Boat Title and Bill of Sale

Provide proof of ownership to the boat movers. This is most important for boats that were recently purchased.

Your ID, Passport or Driver’s License

You’ll be required to provide some sort of identification to the transporter.

Types of Boat Trailers Used for Boat Transport

Different boats have different trailer requirements. For the average boat, a flatbed trailer will suffice but larger boats or yachts require more specialized trailers. Here's a quick rundown of the different types of trailers that boat transporters use. loading a boat transport trailer citizenshipper

Bunk Trailer

The bunk trailer is ideal for transporting smaller boats — usually those with a length of less than six meters. It’s typically the least expensive type of trailer but is limited in the size and types of boats it can accommodate.

Roller Trailer

The roller trailer doesn’t need to go very deep into the water, reducing its wear and tear. The trailer uses cylindrical pieces to support the boat’s weight.

Float-On Trailer

This type of trailer operates just as its name would suggest: you back the trailer into deeper water, disconnect the boat and let it float out into the water.

Lowboy Trailer

This is a term used for trailers that haul all sorts of items. You’ll want to hire a transporter with a lowboy trailer if your boat is particularly tall. Because there’s a section of the trailer that’s dropped closer to the road, it provides additional clearance.

Hydraulic Trailer

The hydraulic trailer cuts down on the amount of time it takes to load and unload a boat. Using hydraulic mechanisms, the trailer also makes launching and blocking easier. These trailers are pricey, so you may pay more if you’re hiring a transporter with this type of trailer.

Can You Move a Boat Without Owning a Trailer?

If you plan on moving a boat — especially if it’s because you’re selling the boat to a buyer that’s located hundreds of miles away — purchasing a trailer is a waste of money. If you don’t have a lot of space to park a trailer when it’s not being used, you’ll end up paying a pretty penny to have it stored.

The good news is that it’s very easy to move a boat without purchasing a trailer. We recommend using a marketplace like CitizenShipper to find a boat shipping company located near you.

Experienced boat haulers have expertise in the field and provide their own equipment — oftentimes the cost to pay a professional to move your boat will be less than the price of a trailer. That way you can just pay a professional to load up your boat and take it to its destination without the cost and hassle of a trailer.


Transporting your boat has never been easier:

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Preparing Your Boat for Shipment

Boat transport requires a lot of planning ahead. You need to take measurements, remove items from the boat and research transportation companies. When you know how to get your boat ready for shipment, you ensure that it'll arrive safely at its destination.

Know Your Boat’s Dimensions

The first step when you're preparing for boat transportation is knowing your vessel's measurements. This information is required by boat shipping companies because it affects the route and final cost you'll be quoted.

Even if you aren't hiring a transportation company it’s important for you to know the boat's dimensions. That way you can plan the route ahead of time and secure any necessary permits before you're transporting the boat.

You should take the following measurements:

  • The width of the boat.
  • Length from the bow to the stern.
  • The boat’s height.

While measuring the width and length is relatively straightforward, the height of your boat requires a little more nuance. To measure the height, start from the bottom of the keel and measure to the highest permanent part of the boat. Once you have the measurements, you're ready to move on to the next step in the preparation process.

Item Removal

Remove all personal items from the boat before shipping. You should also remove any items that could be damaged during transport. These could include:

  • Antennas
  • Anchors
  • Screens
  • Electronic items
  • Flagpoles
  • Flag masts
  • Outriggers
  • Propellers
  • Cushions or removable furniture
  • Fishing equipment.
Tie Down Loose Items

Now make sure everything is good to go for transport. Here’s a checklist to keep handy:

  • Keep at least a quarter of a gas tank in the boat
  • Drain the boat’s water tanks and secure engines.
  • Lock or tie any hatches, lock doors — lock or tape windows from the outside.
  • Ensure all water systems and pumps are drained.
  • Unplug any electronics.
  • Provide the boat movers with a set of spare keys.
  • Keep large objects padded and secured so they don’t move and become damaged during the transport.
  • Clean your boat with hot water to prevent the spread of quagga or zebra mussels.
Take Photos

The last step before sending your boat off on its transportation journey is to take photos as a record of its condition. The reason is for you to easily verify the boat’s condition and for you to have visual evidence in case damages occur during the trip.

For over a decade, we’ve been connecting customers with boat transporters to rave reviews.

Review from stacey-kelch
Stacey Kelch
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Great service allowing people to pick and choose the transport services they need that best suites their situation. Highly recommend Citizenshipper.
Holly Glidewell
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Very fast quotes! I've always had a great experience using citizenshipper transport service!
Shane J Dahlen
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We worked with Michael Combs for our shipment and he was SUPER helpful every step of the way, did a GREAT job for us, was VERY communicative, and even our customer that Michael delivered our shipment to commented on how great it was to work with Michael on his end of the transaction, as well. We would certainly recommend working with Michael and we will again, too, when we have another shipping need come up!
Mike Smith
Mike Smith
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Fair pricing. Great number of opportunities. Very happy with the service.
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How Much Does Boat Transport Cost?

How Much Does Boat Transport Cost

One of the most important factors when determining how you'll move your boat is cost. How much does it cost to hire a boat transporter?

Generally you can expect to pay between $1 and $2 per mile. Shipping a larger boat or one that requires special handling may cost you over $3 per mile. There are a few major factors that affect the cost of transporting a boat


The size of the boat is one very important factor transporters use to determine the final price of the transport. The smaller the boat, the lower the transport cost. Weight, width and length are all factored into the final shipping cost. That’s why it is important to measure your boat and know its dimensions before searching for quotes.


If your boat requires a speciality trailer, it will increase the cost of boat transport. Transporters that use simple trailers typically charge less than those with enclosed or high-end trailers.


Boat transport costs are determined per mile. For example, if you ship your boat to San Diego, CA from Memphis, TN you’ll pay more than shipping it to Louisville, KY.


The time of year that you have your boat transported also affects the cost. The weeks leading up to and at the end of summer are the most expensive. If you can plan the transport around these peak times, you can save money.

How Much Does Yacht Transport Cost?

Yachts are synonymous with luxury and high-end living. They’re also typically very large vessels. So it’s no surprise that shipping a yacht will be more expensive than the average boat transport. The price tag for yacht transport runs between $15,000 for short haul trips to hundreds of thousands of dollars if you are transporting it internationally.

The trailer for yacht transport is known as a semi boat trailer. The trailer has this name because it’s large enough to hold the weight of a large boat or yacht.

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Is Long-Distance Boat Transport Possible?

Long-distance boat transport is possible if you plan ahead and research boat haulers that offer cross-country shipping. One of the best ways to find a transporter offering long-distance boat transport is to post a listing on CitizenShipper.

  1. Post details of the trip like when and where you need to boat picked up and dropped off, the size and weight of the boat and any other special details.
  2. Transporters place bids, driving down prices because they’re competing for your business.
  3. The reverse auction system takes much of the work out of finding a transporter, because the drivers come right to you.
  4. You can chat with drivers, read reviews from previous customers and browse detailed profile pages so you’re 100% comfortable with your choice.
How Do You Transport a Large Boat?

Transporting a large boat is similar to transporting a yacht. Usually a semi boat trailer or a flat rack trailer are needed.

Transporting a large boat in the United States usually costs around $15,000. But the final price you pay depends on factors like distance, the value of the boat, the insurance you choose and how large the boat is.

Qualities To Look For in the Best Boat Transport Companies

towing a boat

When it comes to hiring a boat transport company, hiring the right one may feel like a daunting task. Qualities that you should look for when choosing the best company include:

Boat Transport Experience

The best boat moving companies have experience. They have a proven record of successfully providing domestic boat shipping services. Transporters with a history of international boat transport are even more experienced. Experience should not only be about years in the business but also the number of shipments made.

You can read reviews and message boards on boating websites to get an idea of a company’s past performance.

Insurance Policy

Boat transport companies should have a good insurance policy. This creates peace of mind that your boat will be transported in the condition you left it in — and if it’s not, that you’ll be properly compensated if there are any damages.

The Right Licensing

A quality boat transport company has the required licensing authorizations to ship boats. They should be registered with the Department of Transportation and with the Federal Motor Carrier Authority. They will most likely post evidence of these licenses and registration on their websites. If it’s not easily discoverable on their site, you can contact them for more information.

Good Communication and Customer Service

The best boat transportation company demonstrates superior communication throughout the entire process.

  • They’re transparent about the fees and pricing information upfront.
  • They give you updates throughout the journey.
  • They have excellent customer service skills.

What is the Best Way to Transport a Boat?

The best way for you to transport a boat depends on a number of factors. Carefully consider your budget, the time of year, the location and the size of the boat before arriving at a decision.

Do It Yourself

Buying your own trailer and hauling the boat yourself is another option. This is best for boat owners who expect to need to transport their vessels frequently — and have the space to store a boat trailer when it’s not in use.

Hire a Transporter

If you’re purchasing a ship from a boat show or out of state dealer, you should consider hiring a professional boat transporter. You probably won’t need to regularly transport your boat, so buying a trailer is impractical and an unnecessary expense.

There are two approaches to hiring a transporter.

  • Call around the traditional moving companies to get quotes.
  • Use a marketplace like CitizenShipper where the boat haulers come to you, bidding on your job with competitive rates.
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48 completed shipments so far
This was the best experience I ever had working with transport company; and that's saying a lot, since I have been using other companies for years. Harrison, you're the man! Always responsive, always polite! Thank you so much for helping me in such short notice.
Giga International Co Ltd

How to Get Boat Hauling Quotes?

The easiest way to get boat hauling quotes from a traditional transport company is to fill out a form on their website. This form will ask for information about your boat and its destination. Based on the several factors — boat size, value of the boat, and its final destination — you’ll receive a quote from the company after a certain period of time.

When it comes to CitizenShipper, you create a shipment listing with your boat’s information and its destination. You then get quotes from drivers across our network — typically within a matter of minutes. Then, you can read reviews of the driver and chat using an internal messaging system. Keep in mind that the most inexpensive quote may not be the best person for the job — the most experienced and well-equipped boat haulers tend to charge a little more for superior service.

Why CitizenShipper is the Best Choice for Finding a Boat Transporter

Traditional boat shipping companies can be expensive and confusing. There are hundreds of boat transportation companies on the internet and deciding which one is right for you can be overwhelming.

CitizenShipper makes it easier to find a boat transporter and save money at the same time.

The process is simple:

  • Create a shipment listing with your boat’s information.
  • Boat haulers on our platform will see your boat listing and submit bids.
  • You can review and compare bids from different transporters.
  • While you consider the best choice for your needs, you can read driver profiles and browse reviews from past customers.
  • Once you’ve selected a transporter and paid the CitizenShipper success fee, you can take your communication off platform and arrange the details of the trip.
  • You can track your shipment with scheduled updates from your hired transporter.

With CitizenShipper, every transporter undergoes a stringent background check. Additionally, drivers are encouraged to post pictures of themselves and their equipment so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it really free to list a boat transport shipment?


Absolutely. There are no "listing fees" involved. You don't pay a dime before negotiating the cost of boat transport with the driver you choose to hire.

How much does it cost to transport a boat?


The cost of boat transport varies, depending mostly on the mileage. When drivers send in their quotes, it'll be up to you to choose whatever sounds reasonable. Typical rates are between $1 and $2 per mile, but this can skew higher on shorter trips. Some shipments are more expensive than others: yachts, for example, require more space and care so they often cost extra to transport.

Select and ship your boat with peace of mind

  • All boat transporters are background checked for felonies and DUIs
  • Boat carrier and shipper addresses and contact information are verified for additional protection.
  • Photos of boat transporters and their vehicles help confirm who and what to expect.
  • Detailed boat transporter reviews provide insight and transparency to the selection process.

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