Everything You Need to Know About Boat Lifts

Everything you need to know about boat lifts

Whether you’re a new boat owner or are looking for a new boat lift, there is a lot that goes into the different kinds of boat lifts, how to use them and how to find the best one for your situation. An adequate boat lift for your boat can protect your investment over time, reducing the need for costly maintenance and repairs. 

Learn how boat lifts can be beneficial as well as everything you need to know when buying a boat lift.

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What Is a Boat Lift?

Boat lifts are pieces of equipment that raise your boat out of the water. When a boat is in a lift, it’s left suspended above the water’s surface. While traditional boat lifts use a manual crank and pulley system to raise the boat, many boat lifts today are motorized machines so the process is less strenuous. Modern boat lifts make lifting a boat as simple as pressing a button. With this device’s increasing popularity among the boating community, you’ve likely seen or even used a boat lift before. 

When boat lifts were first invented, they required several people to operate. Early lifts used davits, or cranes, to lift the boats out of the water, which was difficult and time-consuming. Eventually, the cradle system did away with the davits, making the process simpler while providing more support for the boat. Another important development was the switch from steel to aluminum, as aluminum is less conducive to rust and can support significant amounts of weight while not being heavy itself.

Over time, aluminum has remained a sturdy material for boat lifts, and updates to the cradle system have made the lifts more efficient and effective. With boat lift technology continuously improving, they’re a beneficial device for most boat owners.

The Benefits of Boat Lifts

The concept of a boat lift is simple — it suspends the boat above water. Despite the simplicity, boat lifts offer crucial benefits for boat owners. If you’re unsure about why you should use a boat lift, consider these benefits as reasons why a boat lift is worth having.

1. Protection From Corrosion and Algae

When your boat is stored in the water for long periods, the underside of the hull and any parts submerged become highly susceptible to corrosion and algae buildup. Depending on the body of water the boat is sitting in, you may also have to deal with barnacles, zebra mussels or other unwanted aquatic life clinging to your hull. While algae and barnacles will inconveniently require a thorough scrubbing and cleaning, corrosion is a bit more serious and would require more extensive maintenance or repairs.

Corrosion algae

Proper cleaning and maintenance for these issues can get expensive and time-consuming. If left unaddressed, corrosion and algae buildup will ruin your boat. Storing your vessel in a boat lift that keeps the boat above water levels helps prevent these issues from occurring and can save you significant amounts of time and money in the long run. 

2. Prevention Against Damage and Scuffs

Many boat owners who don’t own a lift simply keep their boat tied or anchored to their dock or the shore. Without the support of a boat lift to stabilize your boat during storage, rough waters and tide changes can push and pull the boat into the dock. In addition to cosmetic damage like scrapes and scuffs, your boat and dock can both withstand serious damage from the boat knocking around. Any flood or storm debris and winter ice floating in the water could also cause scrapes and scuffs.

With a boat lift, your vessel is securely supported above the water to prevent it from rocking or floating into a dock or another nearby structure. Keeping the boat raised above the water also helps protect it from objects floating nearby.

3. Securing Your Boat

Keeping your boat lifted out of the water helps keep it from sinking or floating away, as long as you use the lift correctly. This benefit gives you the ultimate peace of mind that, even if you leave your boat lifted at the dock, it’ll stay safely suspended in the air.

Types of Boat Lifts

There are various boat lifts available with unique features to accommodate different boat types and sizes as well as ocean, lake and river bottoms. Here are some common boat lifts you may see along the shore.

Types of boat lifts

Cantilever Boat Lifts

Cantilever boat lifts are one of the most common types of lifts because they’re relatively easy to maintain and can lift boats farther out of the water. These boat lifts use a cable to pull two H-shaped structures into a vertical position, leveraging the boat out of the water. Cantilever lifts are ideal for shallower water, as you’d be able to pull your boat farther out of the water than if it were in deep water.

Hydraulic Boat Lifts

Hydraulic boat lifts are powered by a battery, allowing you to raise and lower your boat with the push of a button. These lifts are thought of as premium because they’ll move your boat quickly and won’t make much sound when doing so. Many hydraulic lifts can be controlled with a remote, further adding to their convenience.

Freestanding Boat Lifts

While most boat lifts can connect or attach to your docking system, freestanding boat lifts provide another option. They’re designed to stand alone and can be used with different bed surfaces like muddy lake beds or rocky river beds. Another benefit of freestanding boat lifts is that they can be removed easily since they’re not attached to anything, ideal for cold climates where you’re not boating all year.

Floating Boat Lifts

Floating boat lifts are exactly what they sound like — lifts that float on top of the water. Floating boat lifts can float next to a traditional dock or seamlessly connect to floating docks. Because they float, these lifts are great for deeper water or beds that make lift installation more challenging. They’re also pretty versatile, as they can accommodate a variety of boats.

How to Use a Boat Lift

Boat lifts are considered a machine, so it’s important to understand the proper way to use these machines to ensure safety. You need to know how to operate the lift, lower your boat into the water and how to park your boat in the lift when returning to shore. While different lifts will be operated differently, here are some basic steps to keep in mind:

Launching boat

  1. Boat lift operations: The main difference in how boat lifts operate is the mechanism used to raise and lower the boat. Let’s say you have a hydraulic lift. You may have a control switch or up and down buttons. Regardless, to lower the boat, you’ll use the “down” control, and to raise the lift, use the “up” control. No matter the lift you choose, it’s best to read the owner’s manual for specific operating instructions.
  2. Launching your boat: Whether you have a hydraulic lift or a traditional lift, launching your boat typically takes two people to ensure the process goes smoothly. If you’re driving the boat, the other person should operate the lift. As they lower the cradle into the water, the boat will begin to move freely. This is when you’ll guide the boat off the lift and away from the launch. Make sure the boat is completely off the lift before operating it.
  3. Parking your boat: Parking your boat requires careful maneuvering. As you’re nearing the dock, consider your speed, the wind and waves, all of which could cause you to miss the lift or potentially hit another boat or dock. Approach the dock slowly with short touches of the throttle to maintain adequate speed. Your lift operator should ensure the lift cradle is low enough in the water so you can safely position the boat over it. Once you’re in the lift, your second person should raise the boat high enough to allow everyone to safely exit it.

Launching your boat tends to be the easiest part, while parking can be a bit more of a challenge. While the process can feel overwhelming at first, you’ll soon gain experience and be able to use your boat lift like a pro. It’s also helpful to communicate with the lift operator so you’re both on the same page and know what the other person needs. If you need some help guiding the boat into the lift, ask the lift operator or other passengers to distribute their weight.

Boat Lift Safety Tips

Safety on the water is essential for any boating activity, and operating a boat lift is no different. Boat lift safety begins with proper use and maintenance of your lift. Maintaining safety throughout the boat lift process ensures you and your passengers remain safe while also protecting your boat, dock, lift and others surrounding them. Here are a few boat lift safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Follow the weight limit: Every boat lift has a recommended weight capacity. This includes the weight of the boat and any passengers or gear inside it. Capacities are in place to help ensure the lift is used properly. Exceeding the weight capacity can result in a broken lift, as it’s not designed to support excessive weight. Abiding by the recommended ratings ensures the lift can properly support the boat and will operate as it should.

Boat weight capacity

  • Perform routine maintenance checks: Since boat lifts sit in the water, they’re prone to wear and tear over time. Performing regular maintenance on your boat lift helps keep it in safe operating conditions. Routine maintenance checks can help you catch small problems before they become big issues. For example, cables are known to snap without warning, though routine checks may help you identify cables that are at risk of breaking and need to be replaced.
  • Understand proper positioning: Proper positioning of a boat in a lift has a lot to do with the boat’s weight. Excessive weight in the front or back of the boat can damage the respective cables if the boat is sitting too far forward or back in the lift. It’s best to ensure weight is evenly distributed throughout the boat. Additionally, make sure you’re positioning the boat in the center of the cradle to evenly distribute weight in the lift.

Boat lift safety also ties into dock safety, as they’re often connected, so be sure to practice safety in all areas of boat use.

What to Consider When Buying a Boat Lift

Different types of boat lifts will be ideal for certain boats and water conditions. The best boat lift for any situation will vary depending on a number of factors. To ensure you’re buying a boat lift that will adequately meet your needs, keep these considerations in mind.

1. Location and Structural Strength

Where you plan to install your boat lift will be a determining factor in the structural strength you’ll need for this mechanism. Every body of water has calm and rough areas, and some locations on the water are more prone to one or the other. 

As you can imagine, rough water locations will inevitably lead to more wear and tear on the lift, requiring something more heavy-duty. For locations where water is moving fast, waves crash or water is generally rougher, look for a boat lift that’s reinforced with a thicker structure. Stronger arms, mechanisms, bolts and bushings offer more support and bracing for those rougher areas of water. These lifts provide more support for your boat and dock, helping you save on maintenance costs.


As for calmer locations on a body of water, the same level of structural strength isn’t as necessary. Calm water creates less of a beating on the lift, dock and boat. If you’re in a calm water location, standard-built boat lifts should be sufficient. Keep in mind that some additional strength won’t hurt and will only provide value and quality to your setup. 

2. Water Depth

Water depth can make a significant difference in whether you can get your boat on or off the lift. In locations where water depth is consistently low, certain boat lifts may stick out of the water too much, making it impossible to access your boat. The same can be said of deep water, as certain lifts won’t raise your boat high enough.

If the water depth in your location is consistently low or high, look for a lift that’s designed for those depths. In other instances, water levels may rise and fall significantly, which can make finding the best lift a challenge. In these cases, consider how a floating dock could be beneficial, as it would rise and fall with the water levels, providing boat access in any tide. 

3. Slip Width

A boat slip is like a parking space that’s cut out of a dock for your boat. They’re most common in marinas or if you have more than one boat because the dock runs around multiple sides of the vessel, offering extra protection and helping prevent bumping. If you’re keeping your boat in a slip, you need to ensure the boat lift you’re buying is the correct width for the existing slip. This is as simple as taking a few measurements ahead of time. 

Choosing a lift with the right slip width will save you significant amounts of time and hard work. It also ensures the lift will fit right the first time, rather than needing to rework it.

Slip width

4. Boat Size

The size of your boat is a huge determining factor when buying a boat lift. You need to be sure your boat will fit in the cradle and that the lift will be able to properly support the weight of your boat. Some boat lifts can accommodate a variety of different types of boats, while others are designed specifically for certain vessels. For example, pontoon boats typically require specific lifts.

You’ll want to consider the make and model of your boat as well as the dry weight and the weight of additional gear, fuel and propellers. These numbers will help you choose a lift with the right size and cradle shape to accommodate your specific boat. Be sure to also consider the boat’s length, as you want to ensure the lift is long enough so neither end of the boat hangs over the lift too far.

5. Flotation Tanks

Flotation tanks provide support and stability for a boat lift in deeper water. Boat lifts can sit on top of the tanks to help hold them up. If your boat lift setup requires flotation tanks, be sure to consider the material they’re made of. Metal tanks should be avoided, as they’ll inevitably corrode and need to be replaced. Polyethylene tanks offer the most value, as they can last the longest and are least likely to leak.

Also, pay attention to the shape of the tanks — many are either cylinders or square. Square tanks tend to cost less and are ideal for calm waters. Cylinder tanks, though they cost more, can provide better stability.

Flotation tanks

Boat Lift Accessories

Boat lift accessories can help improve your lift and the way you use it. There are many options, allowing you to customize your lift depending on your needs and preferences. Here are a few accessories boat owners often get:

  • Canopies: Canopies are one of the most common boat lift accessories. They hang over the boat lift, covering your boat and protecting it from precipitation, sun and birds. While you may put covers on your boat for long periods of unuse, canopies offer great coverage when you don’t have boat covers on and provide an extra layer of protection when you do use covers.
  • Guides: Guides are aides that assist you when launching or parking your boat on the lift. From bow guides to full-length guide systems, guide-ins can increase the safety and ease of navigating your boat.
  • Lights: Consider adding floodlights to your setup to increase visibility in dark conditions. Whether you’re heading out for an early morning on the water or are docking after dark in the evening, lights can help you safely maneuver your boat.
  • Solar panels: Whether you’re using lights or your boat lift is battery-powered, solar panels are a great accessory that will help power your setup. This is a beneficial alternative to running electricity down to your dock, too.

Boat accessories

EZ Dock Boat Lifts

The newest boat lift from EZ Dock, the Aegis 7, uses a boat lift tank system with polyethylene precision-molded tanks to raise and lower your boat into the water. The air pumps are capable of lifting boats up to 28 feet long and 7,000 pounds in weight. The bunk is able to be customized to a variety of different hull configurations. Its bearing surfaces are high-strength with corrosion-resistant machinery to provide a reliable lift and minimize maintenance issues.

This easy-to-use boat lift is just one of many products EZ Dock offers for docking your boat. From boat ports to kayak launches, EZ Dock simplifies how you can gain access to the water.

Get Your Boat Lift From EZ Dock Today

Whether you have a traditional dock system or an EZ Dock floating dock system, our boat lifts and ports can be integrated with your dock to provide easy boating access. Our boat lifts will help protect your boat and docking system so you can enjoy the simplicity of boating with a reduced risk of damage for years to come.

To learn more about our boat lift products, contact us today or find a distributor near you!

Get your boat lift