Keeping your pride and joy on a boat lift is a good move, since lifts eliminate the need for bottom paint, the danger of sinking in the slip, and the scummy watermarks that form in many marinas. But lifts are also both problematic, and expensive. If you’re looking for a better boat lift, there’s a good chance one of these three new models from Shore Station, HydroHoist, or Sunstream will fit the bill. But, which one is the best boat lift? Let’s find out.

Shorestation hydraulic boat lift

See the cable spools? Nope - the ShoreStation Hydraulic Overhead boat lift eliminates them.

ShoreStation Hydraulic Overhead Lift  – This new boat lift stormed onto the scene at the 2014 Miami International Boat Show, where it won an NMMA Innovation Award. The ShoreStation solves a number of common lift problems, by using hydraulics and short cables that don’t need to be wound, instead of cables on a spool. As a result, “springing” the cables (when the steel cable becomes un-wound on the spool and jams) is eliminated. As are those grinding, squeaking noises that usually accompany the turning of a cable spool. And since the hydraulics are plumbed to a tandem power unit, the fore and aft cables always raise and lower at the exact same speed; no more running one motor then the other, to try and keep them even. The best advantage of the ShoreStation, however, is speed. This thing raises and lowers amazingly fast—with a one-minute launch-time it’s five times faster than most existing boat lifts—so you don’t have to stand there and wait for five minutes every time.

The ShoreStation’s power needs are also taken care of, by incorporating a 24-volt DC Flexpower system. It’s all self-contained—forget about paying thousands of dollars to run wires to the dock—and a solar panel keeps the batteries charged up. The system comes with a 15 year cable warranty, in 4,000 to 15,000 pound capacities, is framed in aluminum, and has aluminum and poly bunks. We’d say the ShoreStation is a hands-down best winner right off the bat, but there is a down-side: these lifts are thoroughly expensive. Prices vary quite a bit depending on the exact rig you need, but an average 4,000 pound lift will cost you around $6,000 and a 15,000 pound model can go all the way up to $20,000.

See the Shore Station in action, in our 2014 Shore Station Hydraulic Boat Lift: First Look Video.

hydrohoist boat lifts

Low-profile pontoons on the HydroHoist mean water depth is less of an issue.

HydroHoist Shallow Water 5000 and 7500 – One common problem for lift owners is water depth. You need not only enough water to float your boat, but also enough to accommodate the lift. For slip owners with marginal water depth levels, that means you could be left high and dry at low tide or during a draught. That’s why HydroHoist introduced the Shallow Water 5000 and 7500. These lifts float on polyethylene tanks, which are designed longer than usual, with a lower profile. As a result they need just three feet of water to operate, while most other pontoon-style lifts in this class need about four or five feet of water.

Like other HydroHoist lifts the Shallow Water (which will cost you around $7,000 installed and ready to use) is designed to keep all of your hardware, as well as the boat, above the waterline. The shallow water models are limited in scope, however, with capacities of 5,000 and 7,500 pounds, only. And at 16’9”, they’re several feet longer than deep-water models.

sunstream tech package

You want a smarter boat lift? Sunstream delivers.

Sunstream Tech Package – The new Tech Package from Sunstream, also introduced at the Miami show, isn't a single lift; it’s a system that works with and improves Sunstream’s entire line. Essentially, it’s a brain for your boat lift—turning the device into a “smart” lift. The Tech Package, which is being installed in all new lifts currently being shipped, doesn’t cost anything extra (though you do have to pay a $399 activation fee to start it thinking). It allows you to interface with your lift via a smart-phone app (iOS or Android), giving you the ability to remotely control the lift, receive diagnostics and security alerts, monitor tanks, and even tie into security video.

While it may seem a bit odd at first to have a boat lift that’s smarter than your boat, this does solve a number of problems. You can get the lift running ahead of time, cutting the usual wait; the security benefits are obvious; and since the lift records a history of events, maintenance problems can be nipped in the bud long before they interrupt a day of boating. In fact, the app’s “Dealer Dashboard” allows the dealer to troubleshoot the lift remotely, eliminating the need for many service calls. In the long run, that could save you money.

Down-sides? The lift has to be within range of a WiFi hotspot in order for that big brain to communicate. And, the more complex things become the more things tend to be prone to failure; while we see no obvious weaknesses in the system, we all know how apps can act sometimes.

So, which is the best boat lift? As usual, each of these products has its high points and its low points, and which one will be best for your purposes depends on the type of boat and slip you have. But all of these three new boat lift beauties have their own distinct advantages—and now that you know what they are, you can pick the one that’s best for your needs.

For more information on how to keep your boat out of the water when it’s moored, read Is Dry Stack Storage Right For You?