Boat Transport and Shipping

When you buy a boat that’s not close to home, it may be necessary to get some help with boat transport. Fortunately, there are plenty of boat haulers out there and boat shipping isn’t difficult to arrange. How will you set up that boat delivery? It depends to some degree on the size of the boat since boat movers commonly ship a boat over the road, while yacht transport is often done via the waterways. In either case, there are some basic steps to boat and yacht relocation:

Steps in the Boat Shipping Process:

  1. Determine the best boat transport option for the size and type of craft, whether that’s shipping over land, via a yacht transport ship, or on its own bottom with a delivery captain.
  2. Detail the shipping requirements the boat movers will need to know, including the timeframe, locations for pick-up and delivery, measurements and dimensions of the boat, trailer requirements that may exist, and your budget.
  3. Shop for boat shipping companies, yacht hauling, and delivery services as appropriate, and compare their quotes.
  4. Contact the boat delivery specialists you have chosen and set up the dates. Then share the logistical information with the marinas, boat storage facilities or other businesses that may be involved to coordinate pickup and drop-off of the vessel.
Boat Transport and Shipping Options
Boat Transport and Shipping Options

Determining the Best Boat Transport Option

Most boat shipment can take place over land. This is commonly the most cost-effective, fastest, and safest method. In order for boat haulers to trailer down the highway without special permits and road surveys, a boat usually has to meet the following requirements:

  1. Under 12’ wide
  2. No higher than 13’6” including masts, keels, and trailer height
  3. Located in and brought to an accessible area with at least 14’ of overhead clearance

If your boat fits these parameters, then boat hauling over land is most likely your best option. When it comes to yacht delivery for larger vessels, shipping the boat over water may offer a better alternative. There are many yacht delivery captains and services that maintain entire crews, but determining final prices can be challenging because you may also have to plan the costs of fuel, transient mooring, the crew’s return travel, and food and provisions. The contract should also clearly indicate who is responsible for additional costs that may arise due to weather delays or mechanical difficulties. As you choose a boat delivery service or crew, check their references and make sure the proper insurance is in place, as well.

Boats over 40’ in length, especially those headed for distant ports or overseas, are often placed on yacht transport ships. This means getting in touch with a freight forwarding service (an ocean transport intermediary, or OTI) or a common carrier (called a non-vessel operating common carrier, or NVOCC). These services deal with shipping carriers on a regular basis and know how to reserve the space aboard a ship, often have contracts with shipping companies already in place, and can complete all the necessary paperwork.

Boat Shipping Requirements

If your boat isn’t already sitting on its own trailer, boat haulers will use the dimensions of your boat to determine the equipment they need to use and the price they will charge – so it’s very important to make sure you have the correct specifications. Even if it does have a trailer, this information may be necessary because some boat transport companies will keep the boat and trailer together and place the entire package on a larger trailer along with other boats. To ensure the service provides can give you an accurate quote and that the job goes smoothly, make sure you have all the specifications for your boat plus specific pick-up and drop-off locations nailed down prior to contacting them.

Shopping for Boat Shipping Services

Just as you shop around for your boat, now it makes sense to shop around for a boat mover. Getting several estimates is a good idea and will allow you to identify the most affordable option. Don’t make a decision based purely on price, however. Your new boat is important and you want to ensure that the boat transport specialists you entrust it to are professionals who will take care of it like it was their own. Checking references is the best way to research a boat shipping services’ reputation. You’ll also want to be sure to verify that they have sufficient insurance coverage.

Boat Transport Contracts

Reputable professional boat shippers will have standard contracts that cover all the bases. An important factor that many people forget about is making sure that the other pieces of the puzzle are in place before the boat is shipped. The marina (or other locations) at either end of the shipping process need to be informed of the pick-up and delivery. It’s also important to make sure there’s sufficient space for loading and unloading of the boat, which requires both access by road and overhead clearance (often of 14’ though this may vary by shipper and by boat).

Final Boat Delivery Considerations

In certain circumstances, there are a few final considerations to be made prior to boat transport. One issue that may arise when you buy a used boat with a trailer online is that you can’t inspect it prior to shipping. Since you can’t really confirm the mechanical condition of the trailer in this case, it’s best to inform the shipping company that the trailer needs to be hauled, too, as opposed to being towed on its own wheels.

Another unusual circumstance can arise when an on-water delivery gets derailed by uncontrollable circumstances, like a crew member falling ill or a hurricane barreling up the coast. Because of issues like these, it’s a good idea to save all the information you initially gathered when researching boat transport so you have the contact names and numbers for some back-up close at hand.

Although the vast majority of the time shipping a boat goes smoothly, like anything in life there are occasional bumps in the road. But if you do your research thoroughly, contract with a reputable company, and prepare properly, chances are you’ll be enjoying your new boat in no time.


What do I need to do to prepare my boat for shipping?

Before the boat shipping can commence, pictures of the boat should be taken to document its condition. All gear aboard needs to be removed or secured in such a way that it can’t move around during transport. Hatches, doors, and windows also need to be secured and, where possible, locked in place. Bimini tops and other removable structures should be taken down and securely stowed. Batteries should be disconnected, and if possible, removed. Finally, the fuel, holding, and water tanks should all be drained and drain plugs should be removed from the hull.

Boats can be professionally shrink-wrapped to help protect them during transport.
Boats can be professionally shrink-wrapped to help protect them during transport.

Should I have the boat shrink-wrapped prior to shipping?

If you have the budget for shrink-wrapping the boat, it will go a long way in protecting the interior and keeping things like seats, carpets, and windows clean. In any case, you have to expect a boat that’s been hauled down the highway to arrive dirty. However, shrink-wrapping prior to boat transport can make a huge difference. It can also help prevent theft of items inside the boat.

Does my boat insurance cover my boat during shipping?

Policies vary and yours may, but many don’t. Even though the boat shipping company will carry liability insurance, it won’t necessarily cover the value of your boat. You should ask ahead of time and consider purchasing additional coverage if necessary.

How much does it cost to ship a boat?

This ranges widely, depending on the distance of the trip and the size of the boat. An overland boat transport ranges from a few hundred dollars for a short haul to several thousand dollars going cross-country. Yacht transport can range up to tens of thousands of dollars, especially if the yacht delivery is international.

Do I need to be at the pick-up and delivery?

In most cases, you don’t need to be at the pick-up or delivery as long as the boat has been properly measured and prepared. However, if you can’t get to the boat to prep it for transportation, you can often pay the shipping company for “white glove” services. This means they will do the preparation, as well as the hauling.

Written by: Lenny Rudow

With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld,, 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.


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