How to Launch a Boat

When launching a boat, many just don’t know what to do or how to do it, which can lead to delays and frustration. Not all launches are created equal. Be sure to walk down to the ramp before you try to launch the boat to inspect the ramp, surface material, depth and any obstacles that might be in your way.

What Depth Should The Ramp Be?

Depending on the size of the boat, the necessary boat ramp depth may vary. Generally, a depth of four feet at the foot of the ramp, or where the ramps ends in the water, is sufficient. Boat owners must be vigilant, as water levels may vary seasonally, in droughts or after heavy rains.

What If My Exhaust Pipe Gets Submerged?

Ramps with incorrect ramp angles or low water levels require you to backup further toward/into the water than usual, which could cause your exhaust pipe to become submerged. Don’t worry; this is alright. The pressure from the exhaust will keep water from seeping in. But do not shut the vehicle off. Your engine must be running to keep water from flowing into the exhaust pipe.

How Far Should I Backup a Boat Trailer?

Depending on the boat ramp slope, it may be necessary to backup further than usual. If your vehicle has four-wheel drive, it’s wise to engage it before launching a boat. Stop backing up when the boat has begun to float off the trailer bunks. Those launching in salt water should rinse off anything it contacts. If you have to reverse far enough where your entire rear axle is submerged, you should consider a different boat launch.
Click here if you need help learning how to back up your Phoenix Trailer.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Launching a Boat

  1. Before backing up to the ramp, ensure that everything you need has already been unloaded from the vehicle.
  2. If equipped, engage your vehicle’s four-wheel drive.
  3. Check for adequate clearance between the ground, hitch, trailer, and vehicle before launching.
  4. Undo the tie-down straps on the transom. Don’t unhook the boat winch, which will keep the boat from floating away before you’re ready to launch.
  5. Don’t forget to insert the drain plug!
  6. Prepare the dock lines and fenders before you launch, too.
  7. If you have a partner, now would be a good time for them to hop into the boat. Ask them to look for obstacles you may not see.
  8. Back up slowly towards the ramp, using your mirrors or looking out the back window.
  9. If you’re alone, set the parking brake and exit the vehicle to ensure the boat is floating off the bunks and is deep enough. Do not shut off the ignition.
  10. Disconnect the winch line from the bow before you enter the boat. If you have assistance, have your partner do this while you stay in the car, applying the brake.
  11. You may either use the bow and stern lines to pull the boat towards the dock, or you may shove off the trailer as you enter the boat to start the engine and idle towards a dock so you’re out of the way. Or your partner can reverse the boat gently away from the trailer and towards the dock.
  12. Drop the boat bumpers and secure the boat on the dock with the dock lines.
  13. Slowly pull the trailer out of the water and enjoy a day on the water!


Launching your boat is the final step to enjoying a great day on the water. If you’re nervous, hang out by the launch and learn from some experienced boaters. Take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for a little help.
Now, see our tutorial on how to pull your boat out of the water to ensure a smooth and safe exit.
Phoenix Trailers is not responsible for any damage to persons, or property—be careful. Please see our terms of service.

Words From

Happy Customers

I am now on my third Phoenix trailer and could not be more happy with the product. I have never had one problem with any of my trailers. I'm overly impressed with the product from Phoenix trailers and would certainly recommend to any boat owner out there.
— Nate Smith, World water-ski record holder and two-time slalom champion
Top Of The Line

Service & Warranty

We warrant boat trailer frames tip to tail for two years from the date of purchase against defective material and workmanship. Many components have an extended warranty. Our welded frame trailers have a five year warranty. We backup each trailer that we produce with the finest customer service department in the trailer industry.