Whether you keep boat at a marina or on a private pier, there are lots of advantages to keeping it on a lift. You don’t have to paint the boat’s bottom, you’ll never worry about a line coming loose and the boat banging into the pier, and your boat most certainly won’t sink in the slip. Check out this quick video to see a lift in action, learn a few important tips for lift-keeping a boat, and discover a couple of down-sides, too.


Just how big an issue is that expense? This depends to some degree on just how large your boat is. A small skiff, like the 16 Carolina Skiff center console you see in the video, weighs a little over 1,000 pounds with the motor and a load of fuel. Other than PWC lifts, most boat lifts start in the 2,500 to 3,000 pound capacity range—and you do need to plan for additional lift capacity beyond the boat’s weight, to account for people stepping on the boat, gear, and other things that may increase the load. A 3,000 pound lift will cost between $4,000 and $5,000, plus installation. Jumping to double the capacity only increases the lift’s cost by a few hundred dollars and boosting it from there to 8,000 or 10,000 pounds only increases cost by 10 to 20 percent. So most people opt for a lift with substantially more capacity than they need at the moment, to account for future upgrades.

What if you want to consider one of those faster hydraulic lifts? These models usually range from between $6,000 (for a 4,000 pound lift) and $20,000 (for a 15,000 pound model). You can learn a lot more about this option by reading The Best Boat Lift: Shore Station vs. HydroHoist vs. Sunstream.

The other down-side we mentioned is hurricanes. Boats on lifts are actually subject to just as much damage as those in slips, because scuppers can get clogged with flying debris (and then the boat fills with water), rising water levels can swamp the boat if it’s tied down or float it free if it’s unsecured, and the elevation subjects them to wind damage. Plus, many people get lulled into a false sense of security when their boat’s on a lift, and fail to properly prepare it for the storm. Just like boats kept in the water, the best move is usually to pull the boat before the storm hits and store it on dry land.

If you feel a lift is right for you, whichever type you opt for remember those tips we covered in the video:

  • After a day of boating, as you return to the slip make sure the lift is still at the right height (if you do your boating in saltwater, or rivers that may see water depth variations).

  • Make sure the bunks are high enough to catch the bow of the boat. If they’re submerged too deep, you could drive right through the guide poles and over the lift, then hit your outdrive on the lift’s cross-beam.

  • Don’t push off the plastic guide poles. These are flexible and will give, instead of damaging the boat. Adding a push will usually serve only to knock the boat out of alignment,

  • Make sure the lift gets mounted in a position where you can hit the switch while you’re in your boat. Better yet, get a key fob control—that way you can raise or lower your boat from just about anywhere.

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.