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Boat Trailer Guides

Boat Trailer Guides: Which are the Best?

Loading up your boat from the water can be tricky. You must have the perfect tide, wind, and ramp conditions to get it right on the first try…or do you?Boat trailer guides help you center your boat on your trailer, letting you easily float or drive your boat right on. Why is this such a big deal? Besides saving you time and frustration, it also means you can finally take your boat out by yourself. You won’t need a second set of hands to help position the boat—it can just be you, your boat, and all the fish you’re about to catch. Boat trailer guides also keep you from ramming your boat into your trailer’s roller brackets or frame on an especially windy day, preventing costly and avoidable repairs.There are 3 types of boat guides:
  • Bunk-style: wooden boards (covered in marine-grade carpet) that run along the length of your boat trailer. Most durable, best for those with large boats.
  • Post-style: tall posts, typically steel covered with PVC, that attach to the rear of your trailer and extend out of the water. Most visible, best for steep ramps and fully submerged trailers (be wary with big boats).
  • Roller-style: shorter steel posts covered in thick rubber that attach to the rear of your trailer and extend out of the water. Durable and somewhat visible, best for protecting boat.
Each type of boat guide comes in a variety of sizes and can adjust to fit your boat perfectly.Below, we’ll dive further into each type of boat guide so you can determine which one is best for you and why.
Boat Guides Chart
Bunk-Style Guides

Bunk-Style Guides

IN A NUTSHELL: Most durable; great for large boats (like deck boats, cabin cruisers, center consoles, etc.) and power loaders

Bunk guides are for you if:

Bunk-style guides have several advantages over the other types. If you have a large or heavy boat, this is your best option because bunk-style guides are the most durable, which means they're best equipped to handle your heavy boat without cracking under pressure.Bunks' durability makes them especially perfect for rough and windy conditions. When loading up your boat in strong winds, it can be hard to center it without knocking into the side of your trailer. Because bunk guides run the length of your trailer, they keep your boat centered during the entire loading process. So, if on an extremely windy day your boat were to make contact with the bunk guides, they'll hold up much better than post-style—which are known to break under enough force.Bunks' durability also makes them the perfect choice for "drive-on" or "power-loaders," who use the motor to load and unload their boat. While this method may not be allowed at many ramps, it's still a common practice that many experienced boaters are comfortable with. If this is you, bunk-style guides are the way to go because they won't break as easily, and their carpet will hold up better as it's designed for friction.

Bunk guides aren't for you if:

Bunk guides run horizontally along your trailer, so they don't provide much of a visual cue when your trailer is submerged. Post-style guides provide better visibility (but you'll trade off in the durability department).Bunk guides are also not great for protecting your boat. While they are covered with carpet to help prevent scratches, they don't provide much cushioning for your boat should it come into contact with the guides. If you're worried about damaging your boat and want the best possible protection from scratches and dents, we recommend going with roller guides.


CE Smith Bunk Guides

CE Smith Bunk-Style Guide-Ons

What We Like
  • 60" length helps keep large boats centered when loading
  • Tilts to accommodate different hull sizes
  • Marine-grade carpeting protects boat's finish
  • Includes all hardware for easy installation
  • Made in USA
Post-Style Guides

Post-Style Guides

IN A NUTSHELL: Most visible; best for steep ramps and smaller boats (bass boats, dinghies, personal watercrafts, etc.)

Post-style guides are for you if:

Post-style guides extend out of the water even when your trailer's fully submerged, so you can easily center and load your boat even when you can’t see the trailer. If you regularly launch on steep ramps and lose sight of your trailer in the water, this is the perfect option for you. Some posts even come with LED lights to help with safety and visibility at night (or you can add them separately).Big boats are more likely to crush or damage these posts, so we recommend guide posts for small or medium-sized boats. If you have a large boat and would feel more at ease with a visual cue, you can still use guide posts, they're just not our preferred option.Post-style guides are great if you boat alone and need visual assistance when loading up from the water or backing your trailer in for storage. They also make it a breeze to reverse an empty trailer and get it into tight spots. The best guide posts are made of PVC and steel, which are stronger together than either PVC or steel/aluminum alone. If you want the best of both worlds (a visual cue and convenient self-alignment), you can pair PVC/steel guide posts along with bunk guides.

Post-style guides aren't for you if:

While guide posts are extremely helpful as visual cues, they often lack in one main department—durability. When big boats are combined with strong winds, post-style guides are sometimes known to crack and break when hit at the wrong angle. For this reason, guide posts aren't the best solution for correcting your boat in strong winds/tides, especially if you have a large, heavy boat. Both bunk and roller guides will be more effective for you in this case.And for all you power loaders, driving your boat on your trailer with guide posts is a surefire way to test out their durability. Often times, they'll eventually fail that test. So if you're a drive-on loader, we instead recommend bunk or even roller guides, which will both hold up better to the force of your boat.


CE Smith Post Guides

1. CE Smith Post-Style Guide-Ons with LED Lights

What We Like
  • Pre-galvanized steel tubes covered with thick 2" PVC piping
  • LED lights provide safety and visibility at night
  • 40" tall guide posts are easy to see on small-medium boats
  • Adjustable out to 13" on either side to accommodate a variety of boat widths
  • Made in USA
CE Smith Post Guides

2. CE Smith Post-Style Guide-Ons - 75" Tall

What We Like
  • Pre-galvanized steel tubes covered with thick 2" PVC piping
  • 75" tall posts better for seeing big boats
  • Adjustable out to 19" on either side to accommodate wider boats
  • Made in USA
Roller-Style Guides

Roller-Style Guides

IN A NUTSHELL: Best boat protection; great for any size boat

Roller-style guides are for you if:

If you're concerned about scratching your boat's quality paint job, roller-style guides are the way to go. Their non-marking rubber prevents scratches and damage to your boat's surface.Roller guides are the best of both worlds. Even though they’re less visible than post-style guide-ons, they're still more visible than bunk guides. And like bunk guides, they're durable and can support more weight than post-style guides. As far as loading methods go, roller guides are durable enough to handle either drive-on or float-on loading, as long as you're taking care not to directly hit the guides with your boat (which wouldn't be ideal for your boat or the guides).

Roller-style guides aren't for you if:

As mentioned above, roller guides are not as tall as post-style guides and won’t protrude as far from the water. If having the best visual aid is your top priority, post-style guides are the better choice. And even though roller guides are more durable than post-style guides, they still don't do as good of a job at centering your boat when loading it onto the trailer as bunk-style guides. If your main concern is getting your boat centered on a windy day, bunk-style guides are still your best option.


CE Smith Roller Guides

CE Smith Roller-Style Guide-Ons for standard or pontoon boat trailers

What We Like
  • Galvanized steel parts are hot-dipped in zinc—much more corrosion resistant than types above
  • Black rubber rollers protect boat's finish
  • Adjustable to fit your boat
  • Made in USA
Still have questions?Give our experts a call at 800-298-8924, or contact us online. We're happy to assist any way we can!
Olivia M.
About the AuthorMy journey with etrailer started in Customer Service, where I went through months of product training to make sure that I had all of the knowledge I needed to help our neighbors find a solution to any situation. I helped them with technical questions, troubleshooting, product information, and anything else they needed. Since it has always been my passion to write and express myself through words, I made the transition over to the content side of the website so I could combine my product knowledge and passion for writing.In order to make sure that I am giving you the most accurate, current information, I am constantly doing research and talking with people who are doing what I am writing about every day. I am constantly striving to find out what questions you are asking, and to give you an answer to every one of those questions, plus answers to questions you haven't even asked yet - yes, I'm that good. Plus, I am constantly getting hands-on training with our vendors and asking them all of the hard questions, that way you can have all of the information you need before making a decision.
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