Need advice on buyin canoe/kayak trailer

Because of a bum shoulder I can’t lift over my head. I have a Ford Freestyle that can hold a 10 foot boat with the front seat down, but forum readers advise against buying a new 10’ boat and hauling it that way. Don’t like inflatables, so I need a trailer for my 12’ Pungo and 12’ solo Pack canoe. I only use one boat at a time, so a one boat trailer is fine provided I can switch from kayak to canoe and back again. How about some guidance from experienced trailer owners?

Harbor Freight Cheapos
I bought the 4x8 foot folding trailer with 12 in wheels from harbor freight for about $250. It comes in a couple of boxes and takes about a day to get it put together and all. Comes with a cheapo light kit.

Does not come with any decking - just a metal frame when you are done. I used a few 2x4s and some inexpensive padding and it works great. I recently upgraded to be able to carry 2 boats by adding a couple of vertical 2x4s. I like it better that way because the plastic hull is stronger at the sides and I think it rides a little better that way.

Zip me an email if you’d like me to send a picture or two.


Look for a …
small, used, boat trailer.

The local boat shop, local paper, craig’s list, etc.

Sometimes you can find one for about $200. Figure new tires around $80 more.

It’s easy to build crossbars on it, and it gives the boat protection, as the trailer is not shorter than the boat. Also, in my experience, the shorter the trailer, the harder it is to back up. The short ones are quite touchy to steering input.

I can take some pics of mine, and send them to you if you want. Just drop me an e-mail.


trailer for a few canoes/kayaks
I have Trailex 250 that I found cheap on Craigslist. Carries 2-3 canoes/kayaks (250 lbs weight limit) very well. It is a softly sprung flexible unit so it rides well with almost no bounce. Empty, it is extremely light. It is so light that I can move it from back of yard to front with little effort. I can even lift the back of the trailer off the ground with a couple of canoes on it to reposition it.

The flex in this trailer can be disconcerting at first. With that flex, the boats are often swaying a little when you look through the rear view mirror. (I have visions of NT tailgating me with two canoes on top of his Mini, with the Mini just out of view under the swaying canoes.)

After a few hundred miles you accept that the swaying is just the trailer flexing, not the trailer moving all over the road.

I like the RackandRoll best as a small canoe/kayak trailer but couldn’t bring myself to pay their price. Finding a used Trailex in excellent condition, cheap, clinched the purchase- The Trailex, while cheaper, is also somewhat expensive at list price.

After having used it for four out of state gatherings this summer and fall, I’m very pleased with the Trailex.


SlickRyder MUT
I have a four-canoe SlickRyder trailer that I use for canoes and kayaks. I have had it for about 6 or 7 years and have used it on many trips including fairly long distance highway trips. Like ret603 mentions for the Trailex, the SlickRyder has a lot of swaying from side to side when you are heading down the road, and that can be disconcerting. Last spring, I noticed a crack had formed in the tongue and this may have been caused by the flexing. I’m not sure. I am glad I noticed it though before heading out on a long distance trip. SlickRyder sent me replacement parts right away, but it is still disconcerting that the crack formed to begin with. I like the trailer because I can unbolt the cross arms and store it in my garage between the cars.

cracked aluminum trailer tongue

A friend has a RackandRoll that he drives up and down the East Coast with a load of 4-5 skin-on-frame kayaks. He had the tongue break and had to have a sleeve made up to get back home.

It’s probably the nature of flexible aluminum trailer tongues to be at risk of this failure. I don’t think the Trailex is any better and if I had to guess, would think it is weaker than RackandRoll.


Cracked tongue
The SlickRyder is painted steel, not aluminum. It is kind of scary when you think of the consequences of failure. I now check all parts frequently.

I’ve been tempted to look into a sturdier trailer with a wider wheel base.

I probably shouldn’t weigh in here, but
If you can fit the boat in your vehicle, (even with some of it hanging out the back), why the heck do you want the extra cost and care of a trailer.

I used to carry two 9 foot rec kayaks in the back of my older model small Jeep Cherokee with the hatch back open and the back seat down.

I now can carry one of those same boats in the back of my little Ford Escape with the back seat down.



I also use a Harbor Freight
trailer and have hauled it thousands of miles with no problems. Here are some photos of it:

Several others here have made some really excellent trailers also. Do a search here on trailers and you should get a lot of info. I also just got an old boat trailer for free and presently I’m almost finished converting it to a kayak hauler. It should be lighter than my utility trailer.

Kayak trailer
Another Harbor Freight user. I can weld as one hobby but I can’t buy the materials to build a frame as inexpensively as from them.

However I like as little of my boats exposed beyond the rear of the trailer as possible. My solution was to add about 6 ft. to the hitch. I then built a T type frame as with professional trailers to carry 4 and up to 8 boats. The frame and hitch itself are welded but bolted to the trailer frame. The whole assembly comes apart in about 20 minutes if I wanted to use the trailer for another purpose.

If someone wanted pictures I would be happy to email them.

Next spring I will probably build an even longer one to better protect the investment. Another plus is the trailer makes a great portable winter storage. I just suspend the boats from the crossarms with nylon slings for long term use.

one suggestion, which is open to rebuttal, is to be careful on how strong the springs are. If you are only hauling a light load, as in one or 2 boats, then stiff springs will mean the trailer will bounce a lot, coming clear of the road in some instances. Lighter springs will let the trailer ‘ride’ over the bumps more smoothly.

Removal of a leaf or two may make the difference.

good luck


Top loading
I dont know the height of your vehicle but i use a system for top loading that is pretty easy. I have loaded a 70 lb fishing kayak on a 4x4 pu with shell solo. I use a tail dragger cart with a tag line. To unload, I attach the cart to the stern and attach the tag line to the cart and the vehicle. The tag line length is critical. It has to be tight with the wheels on the ground and the yak on the rear saddle. Lift the bow off the saddle and place on the ground next to the vehicle easing up on the tag line. Remove the tag line and you are good to go paddling. Reverse for loading. Caution; if you are on a ramp, park the vehicle facing downhill. It changes the loading angle and is easier/safer.

My daughter uses the Harbor Freight 4x8 trailer but is hauling 4 kayaks. I would go with the smaller one and extend the tongue. Get the 12" wheels.

'cause sometimes…
I need to transport four boats,or cut one leg out of a long shuttle. Hard to get all that up on the rack.

Or when I take three boats and one of them is “big bertha” the 86# tandem.


It ain’t cheap
but looks very nice:

modifying suspension on trailers

Most utility and power boat trailers are sprung for heavy loads. With a couple of canoes, kayaks or a small wood boat they may/will bounce all over the road. If your boats are tupperware or royalex the shock probably won’t do them any harm and you will just have to adjust to seeing the bouncing in the rear view mirror.

I have a wood lapstrake sailing skiff fastened with clench nails and rivets. It came (used) with a boat trailer that bounced severely. I was afraid of damaging the skiff during transport from the shock so I had a friend redo the suspension. He has modified many trailers and on mine he welded on motorcycle springs with shocks in place of the too-stiff leaf springs. Rides like a dream now.

Have heard of removing some of the layers in leaf springs, but this was the way he suggested and I went with his experience.


So are you
Clabaugh ???



Pimp my Kayak Trailer

Loads of advice here in this recent thread, original poster. Enjoy, and plenty of pic links, too.